Rip Over Rocks and Roots With The Best Gravel Bikes for Touring, Commuting, and Trail Rides

Rip Over Rocks and Roots With The Best Gravel Bikes for Touring, Commuting, and Trail Rides

When you need to go fast and can’t be bothered by a lack of pavement, gravel bikes are your saving grade. Part road bike and part mountain bike, gravel bikes offer the best of both worlds. They can soar over roots and jagged rocks with ease—sometimes without suspension—and stay as lightweight and nimble as a sportier ride. Perfect for bikepacking, commuting, and easygoing off-roading, these rides are versatile, comfortable, and ready for the outdoors.

Finding the right gravel bike means grabbing a versatile beast that’s good for various kinds of riding. If you’re looking for a gravel bike for commuting, touring, road riding, and bikepacking, these are the best on the market.

Need more wheels? Check out our picks for the best bikes, electric scooters for adults, and e-bikes.

The Best Gravel Bikes

What to Consider


Road bikes have skinny tires built for pavement, while mountain bikes have wider ones for rough terrain. Gravel bikes sit somewhere between the two, meaning they can handle the best of both worlds.

Tire size is told in two measurements: The first number indicates wheel diameter and the second, tire thickness. The diameter of most gravel bike wheels is 700c (the “c” means nothing here; it’s from an old French naming system) or 27.5 inches, though that varies a bit based on the tire’s tread pattern and type. Widths for gravel bike tires generally fall between 30 and 50 millimeters. (So, a gravel bike product listing may state that the bike has 700cx41mm tires, which means the tires are 27.5 inches in diameter and 41 mm in thickness.)

The wider the tire, the more stable and supportive your ride will be. Opt for wider tires if you’re taking a gravel bike on the trails or hauling cargo while bikepacking. If your gravel bike will double as a commuter, reach for one with thinner tires that can handle occasional off-roading.


Suspension is for smoothing out bumpy rides. Some gravel bikes stabilize the rider with frame-flexing technology, while others have front suspension, softening the impact of bumps and preventing you from accidentally jerking your handlebars. While grabbing a bicycle with many shock-absorbing mechanisms can provide a smoother ride, remember that these features add weight and may needlessly run up maintenance costs. A gravel bike with no suspension handles rough terrain just fine, so only opt for a suspension pick if you really want the extra stability over bumps.

Mount and Accessories

Your gravel bike can act as your mule on long rides, helping to haul cargo and carry extra accessories, but you need mounting points on your bike to do so. Many gravel bikes have built-in mounts for customizing your cargo-carrying ability. This is useful for long-distance travel and bike tours where hauling extra food, water, and camping gear is essential. We recommend saddle bags and backpacks for those on short commutes and trail rides. In any case, don’t forget a water bottle cage.

Gravel bikes occasionally come with fender mounts, which are coverings that go over your tires to block rain, moisture, and mud from hitting your legs. Fenders, also known as mud guards, are an excellent investment for those planning to bike in unpredictable weather or sloshy terrain.

How We Evaluated

To find the best gravel bikes, we consulted our review archives from Bicycling, and talked with deputy editor Tara Seplavy for recs on the best gravel bikes we’ve tested in our labs over the years. We also referenced cycling publications like Cycling Weekly, Bike Radar, and Cyclingnews. In addition to critical reviews and competitive testing, we also read through customer reviews to see what users had to say about our picks.

(Trevor Raab)
1) Topstone Carbon 4 Gravel Bike



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The Cannondale Topstone Carbon 4 is a well-rounded gravel bike that can handle a rough trail as easily as a smoothly paved commute.

Its carbon frame makes the bike light and nimble, while the proprietary Kingpin thru-axel (the wheel’s attachment system) suspension allows the bike’s rear to flex and soften the blows of cobblestone, gravel, and uneven paths.

This bike has multiple mounts for racks and bottles, plus six millimeters of clearance for fenders. Its dropped chain-stay design—which allows for more chain slack between the pedals and rear wheel—accommodates tires sizes up to 45mm in width. It has plenty of power for climbing steep hills and it’s a solid price for its package.

2) Checkpoint SL 5 Gravel Bike



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Trek’s Checkpoint series carries some of the company’s most popular gravel rides, and its SL, or super light, model is a solid entry for bikepacking or touring. This carbon-frame bicycle has several mounts for racks, cages, and mud guards, and even has internal storage in its downtube—the front part of the bike's frame closest to your shins—for safekeeping small items.

The proprietary suspension technology helps stabilize the bike over gravel and terrain, smoothing rough rides. It’s also got enough clearance to support large tires up to 700x45mm.

This bike is one of the more comfortable options we recommend, and comfort is vital when you’re spending a long time on a bike saddle.

3) Preamble Gravel Bike



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The Preamble is Surly’s newest budget gravel bike made of hefty steel, kitted out with only the features that matter most. This barebones philosophy of the Preamble’s build helps slim down an otherwise heavy material while cutting costs, with prices starting at $899.

The bike comes in sizes XS to XL, fitting riders from 5 feet tall up to 6 foot 7. It has a maximum tire clearance of 650b (the standard tire size for smaller bikes) x 41 mm tires for the smaller sizes and 700c x 41 mm tires for the larger sizes, with plenty room for mudguards. The bike is also available in flat and drop bar configurations to fit your preferences.

The bare minimum components also means this bike may be more effective as a commuter than a touring bike. Although there are rack mounts in the front and rear of the frame, some reviewers say the Preamble is best suited for light backpacking trips and small adventures where you don’t need to overload the ride.

(Trevor Raab)
4) Diverge E5 Gravel Bike



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The aluminum-framed Diverge E5 from Specialized is an excellent bike if you’re new to the gravel world. The bike features a huge tire clearance, handling sizes up to 700x47mm or 650b x 53mm, for smaller frames. It has plenty of mounting points for bags, accessories, racks, and fenders. It also doesn’t have any integrated parts, which means you can take care of maintenance at home, without the use of professional tools.

Bicycling tester Dan Chabanov says it’s one of the most versatile bikes on the market, adopting a sportier or more rugged feel with a simple swap of the tires. It can also fit a wide range of bodies with seven different sizes available.

While it’s not as super loaded as the pricier options on this list, the Diverge E5 is a beginner-friendly pitch to cycling due to its versatility, ride quality, and price.

(Trevor Raab)
5) Roadster v2 Gravel Bike



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City dwellers and light trail shredders should consider the Roadster v2 to power through their commutes. This Roadster v2 is a lightweight e-bike with a concealed battery, a quiet motor, and an aluminum frame. It has a 350-watt geared hub motor and can reach 24 miles per hour at top speed. It also has pedal assist to help climb, with one San Francisco-based user saying it has the power to push them up most of the city’s hills with no issues.

This top-rated product is best for casual users who seek an e-bike that doesn’t look like one. Don’t expect this to take you far, though—the battery life range varies between 20 and 30 miles, making this a better pick for commuters than for adventurers. It’s also heavy, which could be a pain for those frequently using stairs for their living or office spaces.

6) ADV 2.2 Gravel Bike

REI Co-op Cycles


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If you’re a newbie to the gravel world and want peace of mind with that hefty price tag, the ADV 2.2 is a low-risk purchase with tons of positive reviews and generous customer support. Made under REI’s in-house bike label, Co-op Cycles, this bike comes with a one-year adjustment period to ensure you love what you’re riding. REI Co-op members also get access to free flat tire repairs as needed.

Straightforward, comfortable, and beginner-friendly, the ADV 2.2 has 20 gears for uphill traction and runs very smooth on the trail. Customers recommend it for REI’s generous return policy, tune-up services, and reliability. Some don’t like the bike’s mechanical disc brakes, which are weaker than hydraulic ones, but they’re cheaper to upkeep.

7) S-Works Crux Gravel Bike



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Praised by critics for its incredible performance and style, the S-Works Crux is one of the most impressive—and expensive—carbon bikes on the market.

Specialized claims this is the “lightest gravel bike in the world” with a frame weighing around 1.6 pounds, which is roughly the weight of the water bottle you’d carry on it. Fully souped-up with all of its parts, it’s about 16 pounds, making it the lightest bike on this list.

The Specialized S-Works Crux blew away our colleague Dan Chabanov from Bicycling, who says it’s the “best drop-bar bike I’ve ever ridden, period.” Chabanov says the S-Works Crux is very competent when riding over gravel, noting that it handles exceptionally well over rugged terrain, feeling snappy and precise while maintaining speed. He also says that the faster he goes over chunky rocks and roots, the more controlled the Crux feels in movement.

Its only downside may be its steep price. At just over $12,000, this bike is for serious competitive riding.


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Ride steady, smoothly, and confidently over rocky trails and jagged terrain with the best gravel bikes on the market.