Gravel bikes: 10 (+1) best models of 2020 for your adventures
What are the best gravel bikes of 2020? If you are reading this article it is because, most likely, you are deciding to face the big step and buy a gravel bicycle . I will not dwell on what a gravel bike is or why you made this decision because these elements, although worthy of being treated, are not of interest to those like you who have to decide which gravel bike to buy.
Just know that in recent years more and more people have decided to marry this "philosophy" and try an intermediate vehicle between a racing bike and a mountain bike, for traveling or for day trips on the white roads near home. So I decided to do a short (and certainly not exhaustive) research, trying to understand which are the most popular gravel bikes and those that are used with more satisfaction by lovers of dirt roads. Then I recommend the best ten gravel bike models of 2020 .
Table of content
Where Gravel bikes are born
Before I list the best gravel bikes of 2020 I would like to make a small introduction.
Gravel is a cycling discipline which, despite being quite new as we understand it today, has roots in the history of cycling: before the appearance of the asphalt, practically all road riders rode on gravel terrain .
The "new fashion" , coming from the United States, can certainly no longer be defined new, since now even the largest manufacturers have in the catalog one or more models of these bikes and more and more enthusiasts prefer these vehicles to classic road bikes or mountain bikes. The big advantage of being able to follow dirt roads out of traffic has allow this discipline to grow and spread like wildfire, as demonstrated by the many events organized worldwide also in 2020.
Best gravel bikes: the criterion of choice
As always when I make a list of the best proposals on the market, I want to underline how the choice is very subjective and often depends on personal habits and future uses. So saying which is the best gravel bike ever would mean doing all the others wrong.
This list is deliberately varied, with bikes that could be good for those who love speed and go out daily and others suitable for those who expect a more traveling soul from a gravel bike and use them for a few bikepacking weekend or even for longer trips. Even if gravel bikes are used and also designed for travel, if this is your main purpose, I still recommend you take a look also at the list of the best travel bikes because you could find your ideal bike there.
But no more talk ... let's see what are my choices for this year.
The giant from Connecticut, among its best gravel bikes in 2020 has the Topstone, in numerous different models ranging between € 5500 for the Carbon model with Sram eTap AXS electronic group and € 1100 of the Sora mounted aluminum model. Considering the top of the range model, this bike has a Full Carbon frame and fork, with Kingpin suspension integrated in the rear carriage to dissipate the greatest stresses and which can work up to 30mm. The Sram electronic group is equipped with connectivity for the cannondale app, mounts 40mm tires but with the possibility of mounting wheels from 27.5 "up to 48mm. It mount thru-axles, seatpost and handlebar are Full Carbon Save and there are some integrated eyelets for rear, front luggage racks, bottle cages and bikepacking bags. 160mm hydraulic disc brakes and internal cable routing complete the set-up of a top-of-the-range bike that derives its geometries from endurance bikes, for safe and comfortable riding. The US company offers also the Slate, a gravel bike with the "lefty" suspension front fork starting from € 3000.
Specialized also offers its gravel bikes in various different models, both in technical characteristics and price. They range from the Diverge Expert Carbon which costs € 4750 to the Diverge E5 which stands at € 1100. In reality there is also the S-Works Diverge man that has a cost of € 9989, but we are on really extreme levels and therefore I prefer not to consider it in this comparison. Specialized's other gravel bike is the Sequoia, with a soul closer to the bikepacking or travel bike.
Also focusing in this case on the best Specialized gravel bike (excluding the S-Works), that is the Diverge Expert Carbon, the first thing that catches the eye in the technical characteristics is the presence of the Future Shock system above the steering tube to absorb stress up to 20 mm. The Open Road geometry provides a narrow wheelbase, a lower bottom bracket and a slightly more open steering angle to ensure greater fun and comfort. There are integrated mounts for luggage racks, also on the front fork and for bottle cages. Hydraulic disc brakes, internal cable routing and the possibility of mounting 700x42mm or 650Bx47mm wheels complete the setup of this bike making it very versatile and suitable for various uses.
The Bergamo-based company has made its way among the best in the production of gravel bikes thanks to the Exploro model. In this case, the 3T gravel bikes vary from the Exploro Pro Rival model (€ 3599) to the Exploro Team Force / Eagle eTap model (€ 5799). As in the previous cases, we evaluate below the top of the range, mounted with SRAM electronic group with a generous 50-11 cassette set to take you anywhere. The frame as well as the fork are carbon made with internal cable routing, 160mm hydraulic disc brakes and 27.5 "wheels with 2" tires for any terrain. In this case, there are no eyelets to mount luggage racks or anything cages both on the front fork and on the rear but the race soul of this bike justifies the choice: those who want to travel can always opt for a bikepacking setting.
The top of the range Warbird gravel bike (the Carbon GRX 810 Di2) is a carbon bike that can mount 700c x 38mm but also 650B x 47mm wheels. Like the Cannondale, this bike also has integrated attacks on the horizontal tube to better anchor the bag in that position and a lot of other possible attacks for the bottle cages (3 in the internal triangle, one under the down tube and possibly two on the fork). On the bike there is the Class 5 VRS (Vibration Reduction System) to absorb the strongest stresses. The Full Carbon fork with thru axle, a comfortable geometry, the internal cable passage and the possibility to mount the Salsa Wanderlust luggage rack (with the purchase of the collar for the special seat block) make it clear how Salsa has tried to have maximum versatility even on the best performing bike in its gravel catalog. As for aesthetics, as always Salsa tries to get noticed, in this case with a completely pink livery (which personally I just can't digest ... but it's a personal taste, I imagine that many may like!).
For those who don't want to spend too much but love the American brand, the younger cousin Vaya could be the solution.
I always like those who try to go outside the box and Canyon, with his Grail, tried it by rightly entering my personal list of the best gravel bikes of 2020. Also in this case the Grail range is wide, with many possible models among to choose from: starting from € 4900 of the Grail CF SLX 8.0 eTap to go down to € 1200 of the Grail AL 6.0. The top of the range with carbon frame with long wheelbase is equipped, as you can guess from the name, with the Sram eTap electronic gearbox (there is also the model with the Shimano electronic gearbox) with 10-50 cassette, the seatpost clamp is integrated. The wheels are coupled with a 12mm thru axle and tires up to 40mm can be mounted on tubeless ready rims. The hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm diameter and flat mount while the integrated eyelets are very few and requires the use of bikepacking bags on this bike. The handlebar with two horizontal tubes, of which the upper one suspended to exploit even more the elasticity of the carbon and absorb vibrations.
Genesis Croix de Fer
The English company is the one chosen by Vero to purchase its first real travel bike, the Genesis Tour de Fer 20. Croix de Fer is the gravel sister of Vero's bike and comes in various models ranging from the Croix de Fer Ti which costs £ 3,999 to the Croix de Fer 10 Flat Bar at £ 999.
Leaving aside the titanium bike, all the others are bikes with an excellent quality/price ratio, ranging from the £ 1900 of the Croix de Fer 30 to the £ 1100 of the 10. The bike with titanium frame has a carbon fork, the new Shimano GRX 810 groupset 11 speed. The Genesis adventure handlebar has an opening angle of 12°. The brakes are hydraulic disc brakes and has a tolerance for wheels up to 38mm (so if you are looking for a bike more suited to offroad this bike may limit you a bit). The absence of eyelets on the front fork pushes it towards a travel mode more oriented to bikepacking than to touring and in fact its nature is more that of endurance. Excellent alternative to the usual ones.
Other features are the drop handlebar and the Sram Rival 1x11 groupset (with the possibility of installing the front derailleur) which is a little less extreme having mounted an 11x42 sprocket set.
The main new entry of this year in the list. The "giant" of the cycle for some years has thrown itself into the fray of the best gravel bikes with the Revolt model, proposed in various versions of which the Advanced Pro Force (4500 €) is the best performing. The assembled group is the 12-speed SRAM Force eTap AXS electronic while the innovative Contact XR D-Fuse handlebar works together with the D-Fuse seatpost to absorb vibrations and shocks without sacrificing rigidity. The wheel passage accommodates tires up to 45c. Also in this case Giant has made a bike more devoted to day trips rather than long tour, even if the fork and the rear are equipped with eyelets to house the luggage racks.
Not only big names
It's true, in the title I had written that I would have listed the 10 best gravel bikes of this year but at the end I thought it was right to mention some small/large local craftsman. The list could go on and on but as the market is large and the choice as well, I prefer to reserve an extra slot to give you some names of Italian craftsmen who produce at least one gravel bicycle. In this case, being precisely handcrafted gravel bikes, the big advantage lies in customization and the possibility of having a truly unique bike. The frames are made to measure (often in steel) and delivery times are therefore longer but the wait is often worth the product. Everyone can choose how to mount the bike and consequently how much to spend. Here are the bikes of Italian craftsmen who could whet your imagination:
- Bressan GTV: if we talk about craftsmanship we can only start from Veneto and here the experience on travel bikes is not lacking!
- Cicli Pigozzi Giarin: I stay in Verona passing on to a young but passionate craftsman whose friends, according to his manifesto on the site, say: "I was born with my feet on the pedals and my hands dirty with grease" ... is this not a guarantee?
- Ciclitorino Granturismo: from Veneto to Piedmont, for a bike that promises to make you have a lot of fun around the world
- Erman Bike: another young reality that has its feet planted in the past but points to the future. They are from Modena and I had the pleasure of meeting one of them at the Adventure Awards Days a few years ago ... crazy they are crazy, but bikes can do it.
These are, in my opinion, the best gravel bikes of 2020 and you? What bike do you dream or with which bike did you ride this year that is running away? Did you find yourself great and would you recommend it to everyone? Let us know in the comments below!
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