As we all know, for the first few decades of the Tour de France (and likely most other road races at the time) a preponderance of the races actually took place not on paved surfaces but dirt, aka gravel. And recently, as I was replying to another gravel critic complaining about our enthusiasm for gravel, the thought occurred to me: do you think cyclists in the ’40s and ’50s were as much up in arms about the growing emphasis of paved road riding as so many of today’s gravel critics have been to the experience and technology aimed at multi-surface riding?!
As it is each year when we put together our annual “Gravel” buyer’s guide, the sheer obviousness of just how big this still maligned stepchild of road riding has gotten just leaves me amused. For many years we’ve taken the slings and arrows of those who said gravel riding was not a “real” sport, that the bikes were an abomination, that the sport would never catch on, and, best of all, that it had no place in the pages of Road Bike Action.
Sure, this site’s title points to the pavement, but, as we’ve argued before, specific nomenclature notwithstanding, it’s not like Road & Track Magazine had to change their name when they embraced the comeuppance of the SUV market and began including them in their pages.
THE BEST 2022 GRAVEL BIKES
And really, as if a newly recognized UCI gravel rainbow jersey race wasn’t enough validation in addition to the growing inclusion of gravel sectors in road races, what better evidence that gravel riding has been fully embraced (consumed) by the traditional road world than to see so many legacy road bike brands like Pinarello, Ridley, Colnago and Campagnolo all finding their own padded seat for a ride on the gravel bike bandwagon?! Here’s the big collection of 2022 dual-purpose bikes that we rounded up.
RODEO LABS FLAANIMAL 5.0 TITANIUM
From one of the more progressive bike brands today, the Flaanimal Ti is the upgraded sibling to the successful steel Flanimal ($1550 frameset). The titanium frame sells for $3050, with Shimano and SRAM drivetrain options. A complete bike with a Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain goes for $4056. The Cerakote finish adds $400. Six sizes are available, and the frame is dropper-post-friendly.
When it comes to picking a gravel bike, Kona makes it clear that the Libre is ready for some serious adventure. The Libre is definitely dirt-oriented with its SRAM 1x Apex drivetrain and wide drop bars. The Apex build keeps the price down, and the aluminum frame is available in five sizes.
Pivot converted their Vault cyclocross bike to better meet the demands of gravel riding. Wide clearance for up to 700x47mm tires and designed compliance features like the Isoflex seatpost sheath make the Vault frame a proper platform to tackle rough roads. The Vault is available in five sizes.
SAGE STORM KING
Boutique titanium brand Sage has long hosted a swathe of gravel offerings in its catalog. The Storm King is on the extreme end with clearance for up to 700x50mm rubber while maintaining a traditional titanium aesthetic. Those looking to venture onto more aggressive roads can look for the suspension-corrected Storm King GP and build it up with a Rockshox Rudy gravel fork.
Price: $4300 (frameset)
NINER RLT 9 ALLOY
Niner’s RLT 9 lineup consists of three versions—carbon (RDO), steel and alloy. All three are offered in 650b or 700c builds with their carbon fork paired with all models. The alloy frame is the balance between price, performance and weight, but most impressive is that Niner tests all their bikes to the more demanding test standards that mountain bikes require.
Long-time mountain bike and cyclocross enthusiast (and now avid gravel racer) David Turner has combined his two favorite pastimes with the present in the design of his titanium gravel frameset. From the machined head tube to the internal cable routing and added bottle mounts, artful features abound. The value-oriented price includes the carbon fork.
Price: $2695 (frame and fork)
Ritte’s Satyr blends road and off-road performance just like the mythical creature it’s named after. Smart spec like the T47 bottom bracket, Enve fork and Hunt 4 Seasons wheels prove the crew at Ritte know how to provide value to the consumer without compromising performance. The SRAM mullet build and clearance for 43mm tires keep the bike capable over a wide array of gravel.
Visually, it’s hard to mistake the Grevil for anything other than a finely crafted carbon gravel bike from legacy Italian bike maker Pinarello. The Grevil uses swooping tube shapes throughout its construction, and Pinarello’s decision to spec 650b wheels and tires are highlights of the design. Of course, Pinarello offers a Campagnolo Ekar build, as well as SRAM, Shimano and two e-bike versions.
The SoCal brand offers their 50/50 gravel bike in five sizes, three colors and your choice of either Shimano or SRAM drivetrains (mechanical or electronic). Thanks to the dropped chainstay design, the frame has room to run up to 45mm tires.
RIDLEY KANZO FAST
Coming out of Belgium, Ridley’s racing-inspired gravel bike brings a handful of healthy gravel features to the table. An assortment of colorways and customization options make the Kanzo Fast a worthwhile consideration for a personalized ride. Clearance for up to 700x42mm tires and tall stock gears emulate its flatland European birthplace. Ridley also offers the Kanzo Adventure and the Kanzo All Road as lower price-point gateways to gravel.
From one of Italy’s most venerable road bike brands comes the G3-X gravel bike that celebrates its heritage with an Italian spec that includes a Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain and Shamal wheels, Deda components, and Vittoria tires. Ridden to victory at last year’s Unbound 200 by Lauren De Crescenzo, the frame has internal routing, a bash guard and room for 42mm tires. Available in five sizes and two colors.
When it comes to going fast off-road, the Gerard Vroomen-designed Race Max is ready to answer the call, thanks to a carbon frame that has been aero optimized in every way possible. Available as a frameset ($3500) or a complete bike, the Campagnolo Ekar spec’d bike rolls on Fulcrum 650b wheels to lay down as fat a tread as possible.
LITESPEED ULTIMATE GRAVEL
Litespeed’s Ultimate Gravel blends weight, stiffness and aerodynamics for a speed-oriented gravel bike with a classic titanium aesthetic and ride quality. Frames are available starting at $2565, and a Shimano GRX 1x build starts at $4095.
LAUF TRUE GRIT RACE
Along with their proprietary suspension fork, the True Grit is also built with their special glass-fiber-integrated carbon handlebars to bring even more compliance. The bike is sold in four builds, ranging from $2790 to $6590, and is now available in sizes XS to XL.
The Arcadex marks Bianchi’s first official leap into the gravel world. Built with Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX 800 drivetrain, the Arcadex rolls on alloy Alex hoops with room for up to a 42mm tire. There is also a ($200) lower-priced version that uses a Shimano GRX 600 drivetrain.
The famed Irish road bike brand FiftyOne is now gravel-ready with the new Assassin that has clearance for up to 47mm tires. The frame is dropper-post compatible and features front and rear flip chips to adjust geometry for either 700c or 650b wheels with rack and fender mounts. It comes in nine models in four sizes with your choice of Shimano, Campagnolo or SRAM drivetrain.
OTSO WARAKIN TI
Unique with the Warakin Ti is the Tuning Chip rear dropout, which can lengthen or shorten the wheelbase by up to 20mm and raise or lower the bottom bracket by up to 4mm. Complete builds with Shimano GRX start at $4250, with the frame/fork going for $3055.
KONA ROVE AL 650
The Rove AL 650 starts the five-bike Rove family of gravel bikes at just under $1000. The aluminum frame is built with a 2x drivetrain for added versatility and rolls on 650b WTB wheels. The Rove lineup is pocketbook-friendly with a top priced spec at $2599. Choose between 1x and 2x builds, alloy or steel frames, as well as 700c and 650b wheel options.
Litespeed’s Watia blends performance and endurance geometries for a well-rounded gravel bike with a classic titanium aesthetic and ride quality. Frames are available starting at $2115 for an externally routed option with the most expensive build, topping out around $6500.
CANNONDALE SUPERSIX EVO SE
Not to be confused with the new SuperSix Evo CX cyclocross bike, the SE is a gravel race bike. The SE ships with a 2x SRAM Rival AXS drivetrain that is speed-oriented but still features a better than 1:1 ratio, thanks to the 46/33 crank matched with the 10-36t 12-speed cassette.
SCOTT ADDICT GRAVEL
Scott is continuing to merge race-oriented aerodynamic designs into their gravel line with airfoil tube shapes and lowered seatstays. There are three Addict Gravel models with Shimano and SRAM components, as well as a women’s-specific Contessa Addict gravel bike. The builds range in price from $3000 to $8500.
With a hint of gravel potential, the All-Road is built with T800 carbon tubes with lugged joints. Available in five sizes with customizable geometry and finishes through the MyCipo personalized paint program.
Price: $4390 (frameset)
The Grizl is offered in SL and SLX carbon options, and they ship with large 45mm tires. The frame leaves room for up to 50mm tires, and this makes it a great option for the racer or the adventurer. Canyon is even offering a build with the new RockShox Rudy Ultimate suspension fork and 1x gravel-specific SRAM AXS XPLR groupset.
The Gerard Vroomen-designed Open U.P. is the bike that popularized the dropped-chainstay frame design. With clearance for up to 40mm tires, the $3000 U.P. frame has been a trend starter and remains a top gravel choice. There are two models available with the $4500 U.P.P.E.R. frame weighing 180 grams less. Complete bikes are available with a Campy Ekar drivetrain and HED wheels.
FELT BROAM 60
The Felt Broam is intended for the bike-packing crowd, endurance riders, and anyone looking for a great riding bike with massive tire clearance and room for bags and fenders. The 60 is the most affordable option, offering plenty of bang for the buck. Disc brakes and 2x drivetrain make it a perfect all-road option for those looking for new routes.
SPECIALIZED CRUX PRO
Long the cyclocross go-to for Specialized, the all-new 2021 Crux has now morphed into a more gravel-friendly bike. Available with both 1x and 2x drivetrains and 38mm tires, but there is room for up to 47mm, so while the Crux is more gravel than ever, it remains their race option for CX or gravel.
Just like other Obed models, the GVR we tested comes in with a value-driven price tag of $5,275 for a bike that needs no upgrades. Impressive given its desirable Shimano GRX spec and upgraded HED Vanquish RC4 wheelset that added $1175 over the stock Sun Charger wheels. The GVR base build starts at $3,795.
LOOK 765 GRAVEL RS
The famous French road brand Look has jumped into the new dual-purpose bike category with the 765 Gravel RS that’s available at four price points and unique colorways. The carbon frame has been tuned with a specific layup for gravel, and also features asymmetric chainstays.