Spanning the gap between road and mountain bikes, gravel and adventure bikes have surged in popularity over the last few years, and now most brands have their own gravel offering.
Arguably the most versatile of bike categories, these steeds not only excel on bridleways, byways, dirt roads and singletrack, but can also make great commuters or winter road bikes too.
People opt to try gravel riding for many different reasons. Some are experienced road cyclists looking for new trails to enjoy, and some are mountain bikers seeking more pedalling fitness and riding straight from the door. For new cyclists, gravel bikes offer a great combination of sturdiness and road efficiency that can inspire more confidence than skinny-tyred road bikes.
Trying out a new discipline can be daunting, and buying a bike can be quite a gamble if it’s something you haven’t tried before. Thankfully, there are a number of great bikes on the market that offer cracking value under £1000, making the perfect starting point for rides with a little more spice!
Of course, if your budget exceeds this, then check out our complete gravel and adventure bikes guide.
Our pick of the best budget gravel bikes
Below is our pick of the best budget adventure road bikes and gravel bikes. Read on for more tips on what to look for when shopping for a budget gravel bike to help you venture off the beaten track.
With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Pinnacle Arkose R1 2019
- RRP: £900
- Review score: 8/10
- Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 50/34T 11-32, TRP mechanical disc brakes
- Wheel size: 700c
- Tyre clearance: 700c x 45mm or 650b x 52mm (2″)
- Pros: Stable geometry, great clearance for wide tyres and guards, wide gear range
- Cons: Not as spritely as a road frameset
Designed by James Olson, the man behind the Genesis Croix de Fer and the Torino-Nice Rally bikepacking event, the Arkose from Evans Cycles’ own brand Pinnacle has been a category leader for years. Don’t turn your nose up at the value here; the Arkose range has had advanced features and trail-loving geometry from the get-go.
Recognising that the Arkose has been as popular for commuters as it has been for pure dirt lovers, Pinnacle now offer the Arkose in two different builds; R for road of D for dirt. We reviewed the road specification with great results, but that model could easily but upgraded with some chunkier tyres for more adventurous rides.
Read more: Pinnacle Arkose R1 review
Triban RC 520 Disc Gravel Adventure Bike – 105
- RRP: £849.99
- Groupset: Shimano 105 50/34T 11-32, TRP hydro/cable disc brakes
- Wheel size: 700c
- Tyre clearance: 700c x 36mm or 650b x 42mm tyres
With an impressive Shimano 105 11 speed spec at under a grand, Decathlon’s in-house brand Triban has a couple of budget gravel bikes, and this one isn’t even the cheapest! At £500, check out their Triban RC 120 gravel bikes, in both men’s and women’s specs for a super cheap option.
This RC 520 is kitted out with tubeless-ready Hutchinson Overide 35mm tyres on 700c wheels, as well as flared bars with gel bar tape. There’s also mounting points for mudguards and pannier racks, making it a versatile all-rounder for touring and commuting too.
Kona Rove AL 650
- RRP: £799
- Groupset: Shimano Claris 8spd 11-34 /FSA 50/34, Hayes cable disc brakes
- Wheel size: 650b (700c model also available)
- Tyre clearance: 650b x 47mm or 700c x 40mm
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Kona is no stranger to beefy touring bikes and now gravel bikes. This entry-level Rove is one of their aluminium alloy offerings, and available in either 700c or 650b builds at the same price.
With beefy 47mm WTB Venture tyres fitted and mounts on the fork legs in addition to standard mudguard and rack eyelets, the Rove is a great choice for anyone wanting to dip their toe into the world of bikepacking.
Buy now: Kona Rove Al 650 at Wiggle for £799
Sonder Camino Al Apex 1
- RRP: £949
- Groupset: SRAM Apex 1×11 40T 11-42, Tektro cable disc brakes
- Wheel size: 700c supplied, also compatible with 650b
- Tyre clearance: 700c x 50mm or 650b x 2.1″
British brand Alpkit may be better known for its camping gear, but its in-house gravel and mountain bikes from Sonder certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Coming in at a slice under £1000, with cash to spare for pedals perhaps, the Camino Al Apex1 has many of the features of a modern gravel bike at a cracking price.
Simple 1x gearing with an 11-42 cassette and 40T chainring, 12mm thru axles, flared handlebars, a carbon fork, rack and mudguard eyelets all nod to the forward-thinking design. You’ll also find extra mounting points on the fork legs for additional bikepacking bags or bottles too.
The finishing kit including seatpost, stem, bars, seatpost clamp, bartape and also the wheelset are from their in-house brand Love Mud, and although robust and great value, can easily be upgraded later.
Vitus Substance V 2
- RRP: £849.99
- Groupset: Shimano Sora 9spd 46/30T 11-34, TRP cable disc brakes
- Wheel size: 650b supplied, also compatible with 700c
- Tyre clearance:
There’s a lot more to the Vitus Substance V-2 than just a snazzy paint job to make it a great budget gravel bike. You’ll get quality tyres from the outset with a pair of chunky 47mm WTB Byways fitted to the 650b wheels for instant dirt capability.
Vitus has opted for a more road-like gearing set up, with an FSA sub-compact double (46/30T) paired with an 11-34T cassette.
The finishing kit is Vitus’ own, including Vitus’ flared Adventure bars with a very subtle three degree flare.
Marin Four Corners 2020
- RRP: £945
- Groupset: Shimano Sora 3x9spd 11-34, TRP cable disc brakes
- Wheel size: XS and S use 650b M, L, XL use 700c
- Tyre clearance: 700c x 50 or 650b x 2.1″
One of the few steel gravel bikes that you’ll find on a budget of less than £1000, the Marin Four Corners is a great choice for budding bikepackers. There’s loads of water bottle cage mounts, including three in the front triangle and on the steel fork legs, so you’ll have plenty of options for storage alongside traditional rack and guard mounts too.
The smallest two sizes (suitable for rider heights down to 150cm) feature 650b wheels and the rest have 700c, all fitted with grippy 42mm WTB Resolute tyres.
Using a triple Shimano Sora chainring with a 9-speed configuration gives you lots of gear options and greater longevity, although at the cost of additional weight.
What should you expect for your budget of £1000?
With an entry-level budget of £1000, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to selecting your first gravel bike. Here’s what you can expect to find at this price point.
Most frames under a grand will be made of alloy, although you may find a few budget steel frames at this price point. These metal frames are robust and durable, plus can be recycled unlike more expensive carbon fibre frames. Alloy frames tend to be a little lighter than budget steel frames. If you’re looking at loading up with bags on your gravel bike, consider protecting the frame and seatpost with some helitape or electrical tape to prevent rubbing.
Groupsets – Shifting
At this price point, there are a few different options on the market, from SRAM’s Apex 1X groupsets to double chainrings or even triples. Budget Shimano Sora or Claris options help to keep cost down, and simplify shifting with 10, 9 or 8 speed set ups.
These lower speed groupsets tend to wear more slowly and hence last longer, but will be a bit heavier than more expensive options. Be aware that you’ll need a chain quicklink specific to your ‘speed’, so you might need to buy a different spare to carry with you compared to for example an 11 speed quicklink.
Groupsets – Braking
Mechanical disc brake set ups are almost unanimous at the sub-£1000 mark. These are less costly than hydraulic disc brakes, but still yield benefits over rim braking systems, with greater power and modulation than cantilever brakes. These brakes will also save your wheelsets from wearing out quickly in mucky conditions, unlike rim brakes.
Although not as powerful as hydraulic disc brakes, cable-operated brakes can be easier to maintain, can easily be upgraded at a later date if you wish.
Wheels and tyres
Even at this cheaper end of the gravel bike market, you can now choose between standard 700c wheels and slightly smaller 650b wheels for your first bike. A lot of these bikes will be compatible with both sizes too, so you can change as you like or even have a pair of each with different tyres fitted.
700c wheels are typically preferred for easier terrain or longer rides where efficiency is key. Choose 650b tyres to allow you to run wider, chunkier tyres for more technical terrain, including rooty and rocky trails or for extra comfort.
Tyres make a huge difference to the quality of your ride, and are also an easy element to switch out when you buy a bike. Having said that, it’s great to see so many great tyres fitted as standard, even at budget level.
Look out for tyres with some more aggressive tread on the centre line and shoulders if you tend to ride in muckier conditions for extra grip, or more slick or file tread tyres for faster riding on less technical terrain or roads.
It’s worth bearing in mind that entry-level wheels can come at the cost of greater weight, so they’re a good thing to upgrade later on when you’re convinced that gravel riding is for you if you find you have some spare cash.
Many budget gravel bikes come from brands that offer their own in-house finishing kit, for example Sonder’s Love Mud seatpost, stem, handlebars, bar tape and saddle. This helps to keep costs low, and although not the flashiest, these parts tend to be well made and robust. Finishing kit is really easy to swap out if you fancy an update at any point in the future too.
The one part of finishing kit that you’ll most likely be interested in are the handlebars. Slightly flared bars of around 12 degrees can give a more stable position in the drops for rough descents, and also accommodate bikepacking bags more easily.
Upgrading your budget gravel bike
Once you’re happy that your new gravel bike is the best steed you’ve ever owned, you might want to consider a few upgrades to make the ride even more enjoyable. If you’ve got a little over £1000 to spend initially, you might consider these features for your first bike too.
Although it sounds strange, better braking can actually help you go faster. With more powerful braking from hydraulic disc brakes, you can stop faster, meaning you have more confidence to let rip on the descents knowing you’ve got great breaking performance at the end of your fingertips.
If you don’t already have flared handlebars on your bike, you might want to consider this upgrade for confident descending or more room for bikepacking bags up front.
Your wheels can make a huge difference to the quality of the ride, and unfortunately, at lower price points the quality of these can suffer. Upgrading your original wheelset to a lighter and higher quality build can make the world of difference.
Don’t feel stuck with the tyres that you have specced on your bike. Experiment with different volumes and tread types until you find some that work for you, your preferred terrain and conditions.
Setting up your wheels tubeless can be one of the biggest (although not always the easiest) upgrades to your bike out of the box, saving you time at the side of the trail with pesky punctures from thorns and other sharp objects.