Gravel bikes are an explosive market, with so many new brands and old redesigned bike models from big players like Giant and Specialized, finding the best gravel bike for your needs is no easy task.
Gravel bikes are the new niche of bikes that are taking the cycling world by storm. I like to call them the bikes created when the bike industry listened to consumers instead of pros. Who wouldn't want a bike that's comfortable, fast and capable of venturing off slick tarmac into more unforgiving terrain.
What is the best gravel bike under $1000?
In this guide, we'll review several (but add more) of the best and cheapest gravel bikes, bikepacking and adventure-ready bikes for under $1000, true value for money for those on a budget. Start riding today with a great gravel bike that doesn't cost a fortune!
Bianchi Via Nirone Allroad Tiagra
From the legendary Italian brand Bianchi, the Via Nirone 7 is one of the best affordable gravel bikes available for less than $ 1,000. The name comes from the address of the first Bianchi workshop in Milan, actually Via Nirone 7.
The responsive and stiff 6061 series triple butted aluminum frame with hydroformed sections is complemented by a carbon fork, of course intended for disc brakes.
Powered by a Shimano Tiagra groupset, it gives the rider 20 speeds with a 50x34T chainring and classic 11-34T cassette, a very standard range of gears.
This gravel road bike is designed for medium to long distance rides, the wheelbase is long enough for comfort and light load handling, but the geometry is still fairly efficient with a relatively low rider position, short and responsive fork pitch. Moreover, the Bianchi Via Nirone is quite light, weighing only 9.7 kg (fully built, size M).
Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo 2
Before we add more, Haanjo 2 is available in a bold colourway. I personally love its punk green color scheme that you may not have. In fact, I'm confused why they didn't use this color scheme on Haanjo's little brother, the Haanjo Trail 24 for kids.
The Haanjo 2 comes in at around 1000$, and for that you get a nice aluminum frame, which has a lifetime warranty, coupled with a steel fork. A steel fork is a great choice here as it dulls the buzz of the road and allows for a few extra mounting points should you wish to go bikepacking.
The bike comes with Shimano Claris shifter, Shimano's entry-level road bike group. With a 2 x 8 gear configuration it's simple to tune on the fly. Tektro's Lira mechanical brakes provide your braking.
Salsa Journeyman Claris
- Price: $949 / £N/A
- Frame Material: 6061-T6 Aluminum
- Gearbox: 2x8Sizes
- Available: 50-59.5cmWheel Size: 650b or 700c
REASONS TO PURCHASE
- Salsa's wide and ergonomically shaped cowbell handlebars
- Lots of mounts
- Choices for configuration
REASONS TO AVOID
- Missing a 142 x 12mm rear thru-axle
- Aluminum fork
Salsa has a proven pedigree for gravel touring bikes. The Minnesota bike brand has been building gravel touring frames for many years, and one of the brand's most compelling options is the Journeyman. We like it so much that we included the same frameset with the quality SRAM Apex drivetrain in our list of the best gravel bikes under $2,000.
For this list, Salsa has the Shimano Claris 2x8 build available with the same great frame. With no price adjustment, you have options for flat bars or drop bars, as well as options for fast rolling 700c or small bump compliant 650b wheels. However you see yourself riding gravel, Salsa has options.
Best gravel bikes under 1000 - buyer's guide
Every decent bike manufacturer has gravel bikes in their range, but there are plenty of specifications and customization options, from gears and wheel sizes to tire widths and accessories.
Some gravel bikes are designed for comfortable riding on roads and dirt, others are designed for touring with the transportation of things on the trunk. What suits you? What parameters should you pay attention to? And what components can you tweak to tailor a gravel bike to the type of riding you plan to do?
Whether you're looking to buy a gravel bike or upgrade your current bike, we've written this article to help you make the right decision.
A few years ago, many gravel bikes were equipped with 50/34T chainrings, commonly found on road bikes, as well as a fairly narrow range cassette.
It's still a good option if most of your riding is a mix of tarmac and flat dirt roads, with minimal luggage on the bike.
But if suddenly a good climb appears on your way, you will most likely dismount, because. not enough power to pedal.
What can be done?
The current trend is towards much lower gearing for gravel bikes. In fact, as gravel bikes have grown in popularity, we have seen dedicated groupsets for them, such as the Shimano GRX.
With the GRX, Shimano introduced anti-slip shrouds and a new lever cover, and the lever swing radius is adapted to enhance braking on loose surfaces by shifting the lever pivot point compared to Shimano's existing road levers.
Meanwhile, SRAM released its Force eTap AXS Wide groupset, just adding gravel stars to the road groupset.
Choice of chainrings
Specially designed Shimano GRX gravel groupsets offer a choice of 48/31T or 46/30T combinations.
Up front, there is a trend towards downsizing chainrings and an increasing use of super-compact chainring sets (this is where chainring sizes are smaller than standard 50/34T compact chainrings).
Chainring options are available in a variety of size combinations: Shimano GRX gravel groupsets give you the choice of 48/31T or 46/30T combinations. Also, a growing number of third party manufacturers, including FSA, Rotor and Praxxis, are selling similarly sized gravel systems.
In addition to lower gear ratios, the smaller chainring means it will be easier for bike designers to add clearance for wider tires, supporting another trend in gravel bike design.
The popularity of gravel diggers has opened up the availability of much larger cassettes. Rear derailleurs designed for gravel usually have a heavy duty spring for chain control.
Meanwhile, the latest rear derailleurs can handle much larger cassettes, again allowing for a wider gear range for off-road riding.
Older road bike rear derailleurs could fit the largest 30 tooth sprocket, many modern road bike rear derailleurs can handle 34T. This gives some comfort on climbs, especially with a loaded bike.
In terms of max gearing, Shimano cassettes start at 11 teeth, but SRAM has 10 tooth options on the smallest sprocket. The ten tooth cassettes only fit the SRAM XD-R drum, not the standard Shimano/SRAM design.
1x or 2x?
Another trend in gravel bike groupsets has been the move to a single chainring paired with a very wide range cassette, as opposed to the usual dual system.
With the 1x groupset, you'll save some weight by eliminating the front derailleur, as well as reduce the chance of breakage and dirt buildup. They are also designed to keep the chain on the sprocket while riding over bumps.
On the other hand, there are fewer gear options covering roughly the same range, so the transition between gears is less smooth.
Single sprockets have deeper teeth to help hold the chain in place. Single chainrings usually have alternating NarrowWide teeth to match different chain link widths, again to improve chain retention on uneven surfaces.
Thus, the choice of 1x and 2x systems depends on the type of terrain. If you mainly want to go fast on the road and smoother terrain, a dual system can give you more high gear ratios and less jerk between gears. For more challenging terrain, the 1x system is worth going for because of the benefit of chain retention and easy shifting.
The regular 700c wheel size for road bikes continues to be popular, but gravel wheelsets are on the rise. They usually have wider rims than road wheels to provide better fit for gravel tires.
Gravels always have disc brakes and rims are almost always tubeless ready. The puncture protection provided by the sealant in a must-have tubeless tire when driving over rough terrain.
In addition to 700c wheels, many gravel bikes are equipped with 650b wheels. The smaller size, equivalent to 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels, allows even wider tires to fit into the frame.
The 27.5 wheels add to ride comfort as well as increase off-road traction and allow you to ride with lower tire pressures. With a large tire, the rolling circumference of a 650b wheel is the same as a 700c wheel with a narrow tire, so transmission and handling are similar to the 700C.
As with the single/double system, wheel size depends on your goals and what you want from a gravel bike.
For fast road riding and light gravel, it's worth sticking with 700c wheels with narrower 32-40mm tires. If you're planning on riding more difficult terrain, you'll appreciate the traction and cushioning with the wider 27.5x2.1 tires, though this may come at the expense of speed on the pavement.
Fitting the best gravel tires is another key decision for your gravel bike.
In fact, changing tires on a gravel bike can unlock your bike's true potential, either greatly improving its off-road capability or adding speed on the road.
Once you settle on 700c or 650b wheels, tire choice will largely depend on tread pattern and width. If traction and stability on dirt or sand are important, look for wide tires with a more aggressive tread pattern. If you plan to ride on the road or on hard gravel, a narrower and smoother tire will be more suitable.
700c gravel tires are typically around 40mm wide, although you can fit tires wider or narrower. Typical widths are 35mm, 40mm, 42mm or 45mm.
The choice of tires depends in part on the terrain you ride and the frame clearance. If you live in a humid climate, it's a good idea to leave a gap for dirt between the frame and tire.
Along with tread pattern and width, tire pressure is an important factor in determining the handling of your gravel bike.
Wider tires reduce pressure, providing better traction, potentially lower rolling resistance and a more comfortable ride.
Starting with 40psi for 700C gravel tires is 35psi for 650s.
It's worth experimenting with tire pressures to see what pressure works for you. Too high will result in bouncing and loss of traction, and too low pressure can lead to increased pedal effort as the tire will sag on the wheel.
If you are driving on uneven ground, too low tire pressure can cause the tube to flatten and puncture (snake bite). With tubeless tyres, this is no problem.
The great thing about a gravel bike is its versatility. You can use it for anything from rides that are mostly on the road with the addition of a few patches of loose terrain to full-on multi-day off-road hikes.
However, the gravel frames and a range of components are highly adaptable so you can easily swap out your kit and adapt the gravel system to different purposes and conditions. Expect to change tires and possibly gear for different terrains and seasons.