Gravel bikes have exploded in popularity in recent years, due to their excellent mix of versatility, simplicity, and performance.
There are few bikes as versatile in terms of on-road and off-road performance, which pretty much puts gravel bikes in a class of their own in terms of value and performance.
Their ability to cover long road miles with comfort and speed is great, and while they may not be as fast as a dedicated road bike, they are far speedier than mountain bikes in this arena, making them great for fitness training and even commuting.
However they are also designed to go off-road when needed, and their thicker tires, carefully designed geometry and wide range of gears make them superb fun when you feel like tackling your local single or double track.
While not capable of providing quite as much speed and grip as a dedicated mountain bike with suspension forks and very thick tires, gravel bikes perform admirably well off-road, particularly when climbing as they allow for very efficient power transfer to the pedals and a comfortable, spacious cockpit.
While drop bars can make sharp turns a little difficult, their narrow profile does make it far less scary when you’re heading down particularly narrow trails.
The ability to use varying ride positions thanks to their balanced geometry will help riders find what style and position are most comfortable for them, and a typically wide gear range gives plenty of space for new riders to fall back on if the going gets very steep and tough, or if the need for speed takes hold.
Add in the versatile wheel compatibility and these bikes allow beginners to set them up very well, and also to adapt and upgrade them as they develop their understanding of what works for them and the type of riding they most enjoy.
Overall, gravel bikes are a superb choice for beginners, as they will allow for a wide range of use, helping new cyclists to discover and enjoy several different styles of riding without being uncomfortable or suffering from very poor performance.
Their adaptability for use as commuters, road workhorses, and mountain joyriders makes them the perfect do it all machine that will take you anywhere, and have fun while doing it.
How much is an entry-level gravel bike?
Gravel bikes vary quite widely in terms of price, and this is even the case with entry-level bikes.
You get what you pay for, of course, but there are a surprising number of excellent entry-level gravel bikes that will enable you to get cycling right out of the box and upgrade things over time once you know a bit more about what you want or need.
The starting range for a capable gravel bike is typically around the $500 to $550 dollar mark, with several capable bikes from Schwinn as well as a few other brands offering a great amount of performance to total beginners who want a lot of performance without investing too much money right at the beginning.
The entry-level price range can feasibly run to $1000 or even $1500 dollars for some of the more bespoke brands.
While this seems like a lot more, around this price point you’re getting a beginner gravel bike that will have a lot of great components, an excellent frame, and almost certainly a brand that will offer near mid-range performance as well as support down the road.
What is a good beginner gravel bike?
There are a few good things to look for in a beginner gravel bike.
The most common wheel types today are 700c, also known as 29” wheels, and 650b, also known as 27.5” wheels.
You may stumble across 26” wheels, but these are very rare and haven’t been widely used in several years.
29” wheels are excellent for road riding, as they have high rolling speeds, which help you cover ground quickly, especially when you’re up to speed.
They do accelerate a little more slowly than smaller wheels, however.
The attack angle of 29” wheels also makes them excellent for use over rough terrain and they can skip over obstacles very easily compared to smaller wheels.
27.5” wheels are not as fast-rolling as their 29” cousins, and their steep attack angle makes them a little bumpier when used on rough terrain.
However, they are more maneuverable and accelerate quickly, making them popular among mountain bikers who want something nimble and agile.
There are a few materials, such as steel, titanium, and carbon, however, aluminum will be the most popular material in entry-level gravel bikes due to its excellent rigidity, strength, and lightness.
Aluminum is also resistant to corrosion, making this a great material for beginner gravel bikes that will work well in various environments.
The most common setup on gravel bikes is a 2x or 1x setup, meaning that there are two chainrings at the front of the groupset.
A 1x11 setup means that there are 11 gears total, while a 2x11 setup means there are 22 gears overall. The wider the range of gears, the more versatile your bike will be.
However, a 1x11 setup is preferred by some due to its simplicity and reliability and is often found on mountain bikes that are set up for more aggressive off-road action.
If you’re interested in flexibility, the 2x11 will serve you well in all environments and give beginners plenty of room to maneuver.
What is the best budget gravel bike?
The best budget gravel bike is the one that you can afford.
With that being said, there are several excellent offerings at the entry-level price point to enable you to enjoy all the benefits and flexibility of a brand new gravel bike.
The Kona Rove is a solid choice that benefits from Kona’s vast experience and heritage and is a very popular choice among tourers, adventurers, and commuters.
There are also excellent offerings from Salsa, such as the Salsa Vaya, as well as bikes from Genesis such as the Croix de Fer and the All-City Super Professional.
There’s a really wide selection, so you’ll be able to find something that suits exactly what you need.