Reading Time: 12 minutes(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

QUICK ANSWER: BEST STEEL GRAVEL BIKE

STEEL FRAME GRAVEL BIKES COMPARISON

PRODUCT WEIGHT FRAME WHEEL/TIRE GEARS BRAKE RETURN PRICE SHOP
Best For Commuting and Light Touring

Surly Straggle
26 lbs Alloy steel 700x41mm 1×11 Mechanical disc JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund
(Learn More)
$$ Check Price
on
JensonUSA.com
Best for Riders who are Clocking the Most Miles

Salsa Marrakesh Alivio
30 lbs 14 oz Steel 700cx42 mm 27 Mechanical Disc REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
$$ Check Price
on
REI.com
Best Affordable Built to Last Touring/Commuting Bike

Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1
30 lbs Steel 700x38mm 30 Hydraulic Disc REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
(Learn More)
$$ Check Price
on
REI.com
Best Budget All-Steel Road/Commuter Bike

Aventon Kijote Adventure
28 lbs Steel 700x35C 2×8 Mechanical Disc 30-Day Hassle-Free Return
(Learn More)
$ Check Price
on
Aventon.com
Best for Rough-and-Tumble Expeditions

Niner RLT 9 Steel
~ 20 lbs Steel 700×45 1×11 Hydraulic disc JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund
(Learn More)
$$$ Check Price
on
JensonUSA.com
Fast on Asphalt and Safe and Agile Off-Road

Bombtrack Beyond 1
27.56 lbs Columbus Cromor steel 27.5×2.0 2×11 Mechanical Disc Performance Bike 30 days return
(Learn More)
$$$ Check Price
on
PerformanceBike.com
Fast All-Weather Commuter, Multi-Surface Explorer, Light Tourer

Surly Midnight Special
26 lbs Steel 650bx47 11 Flat-mount disc brakes Performance Bike 30 days return
(Learn More)
$$$ Check Price
on
PerformanceBike.com
Capable of Gravel and Excels on Pavement

Surly Disc Trucker 700C
28.83 lbs Steel 700×41 27 Flat-mount disc brakes JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund
(Learn More)
$$ Check Price
on
JensonUSA.com
Best Budget and Best Value Steel Gravel Bike

Marin Nicasio
28.44 lbs Steel 700Cx30 2×8 Mechanical disc brakes JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund
(Learn More)
$ Check Price
on
JensonUSA.com
Ideal Commuter/Road and Gravel Bike

Marin Nicasio 2
25.7 lbs CroMo/Steel 700Cx37 2×10 Hydraulic disc brakes JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund
(Learn More)
$$ Check Price
on
JensonUSA.com

BEST STEEL GRAVEL BIKE REVIEWS

Surly Straggler

Best For Commuting and Light Touring

PROS:
– Comfortable
– Sturdily built
– Accelerate and climbs really well
– You feels the bike respond beneath you up hills
– Unusual amount of tire room
– Quicker steering than many modern gravel bikes
– Easy ride and durable
– Feels stable overall
– Can handle different terrain and weather
– Disc brakes add extra appeal for off-road and touring
– Compete with traditional touring bikes with its fast-rolling tires
– Customizable for improved performance
– Versatile in terms of packing options
CONS:
– Heavy
– Not made for speed
– Its rear end is a little bit on the jumpy side
– Limited tire clearance

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 26 lbs
  • Frame: Alloy steel (4130 chromoly – chromium and molybdenum)
  • Tires: 700 x 41mm
  • Gears: 1 x 11
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc
  • Return: JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund (Learn More)

Salsa Marrakesh Alivio

Best for Riders who are Clocking the Most Miles

PROS:
– Handles very well
– Rides smooth and steady even when fully loaded with bags
– Comfortable drop bar ends gear shift placement
– Pre-installed strong front and rear racks
– Strong and stable wheels
CONS:
– Heavy

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 30 lbs. 14 oz.
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 700c x 42 mm
  • Gears: 27 gears
  • Brakes: Mechanical Disc Brake
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

TODAY’S PRICE

Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1

Best Affordable Built to Last Touring/Commuting Bike

PROS:
– Very solid, smooth, and responsive
– Handles well even with a pretty heavy load
– Excellent squishy bar tape
– Solid cruising downhill on gravel or poor pavement
– High control wide flared and shallow drop bars on rough road descents
– Indestructible/unscratchable frame paint job
– Wide gear range great for paved and gravel terrain
– Spacious bike frame allows for a frame bag
– Durable Schwalbe Marathon tires
CONS:
– Heavy
– Bad double bar tape on top of cushioned bars
– Hydraulic disc brakes may be hard to repair in remote regions
– Cable stretch and cassette slipping under heavy foot load and pressure on peddles
– Limited clearance for fenders

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 30 lbs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 700 x 38mm
  • Gears: 30 gears
  • Brakes: Hydraulic Disc Brake
  • Return: REI 1-Year 100% Satisfaction Guarantee (Learn More)

TODAY’S PRICE

Aventon Kijote Adventure

Best Budget All-Steel Road/Commuter Bike

PROS:
– Low entry fee into a drop-bar bike
– Handle pretty much pavement, dirt, rock, snow & ice
– Feels rock solid and comfortable
– Pretty comfortable saddle
– Generous tire clearance
– Easy to complete assembly
– 650b compatible
CONS:
– Steering takes a lot to initiate to turn and suddenly turn really quickly
– Needs around $400 upgrades to be better at gravel biking
– Breaks take a while to bed in
– Squeaky and fairly slow to stop brakes, but can be improved with a different set of pads

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 28 lbs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 700x35C
  • Gears: 2 × 8
  • Brakes: Mechanical Disc

TODAY’S PRICE

Niner RLT 9 Steel

Best for Rough-and-Tumble Expeditions

PROS:
– Even though the fork is made from carbon, you can still load up to 45 lbs in front
– Can accommodate 750c and 650b tires as wide as 2.0
– More than 20 frame mounting points for custom bags, bottles, racks, and fenders for fully loaded touring
– External cable routing on the frame is easy to access for maintenance
– Cassette goes up to 32 teeth in the back
– Saddle is comfortable
– Fairly lightweight for a production steel bike
– Climb fairly well, both seated and standing
– Fairly well balanced
– nice handling
CONS:
– Feels a little stiff on the front end

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 20 lbs approximate
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 700 X 45
  • Gears: 1 x 11
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Return: JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund (Learn More)

Bombtrack Beyond 1

Fast on Asphalt and Safe and Agile Off-Road

PROS:
– Versatile
– Very fast on asphalt and agile off-road
– Plenty of frames threaded holes for racks, bags, and mudguards
– Very clean and easily accessible cables routed outside
– Reputable brand
– Comfortable on longer rides
– Tubeless tires
– Good stopping power
– Arrives ready to roll
CONS:
– Limited availability
– Expensive

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 27.56 lbs
  • Frame: Columbus Cromor steel
  • Tires: 27.5 x 2.0
  • Gears: 2×11
  • Brakes: Mechanic Disc Brakes
  • Return: Performance Bike 30 days return (Learn More)

Surly Midnight Special

Best Fast All-Weather Commuter, Multi-Surface Explorer, Light Tourer

PROS:
– As fast as needed to go on flat bits
– Gearing seems perfect
– Plenty of room for steep climbs
– Agile handling
– Super comfortable ride
– Can bomb around corners like nobody’s business
– Tires are incredibly hard to destroy
CONS:
– One user said pads are loose and the front one makes a noise at slower speeds
– Expensive

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 26 lbs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 650bx47
  • Gears: 11
  • Brakes: Flat-mount disc brakes
  • Return: Performance Bike 30 days return (Learn More)

Surly Disc Trucker 700C

Capable of Gravel and Excels on Pavement

PROS:
– It’s a total beast
– Sturdy and comfortable ride
-Very low granny gearing easily gets you up steep hills
– Stays balanced with 25 lbs no problem
– Fairly aggressive for a touring bike
– Has clearance for wide 700c x 41 mm tires
– Mounts for touring or commuting racks
– Easy to repair and maintain mechanical disc brakes
– Comfortable saddle
– Allows small increments shifting
– Stable wide handlebar that is great for attaching accessories
– Built-to-last frame
CONS:
– Not a fast bike
– One user said that the rear hub starts free spinning when he tries to pedal
– Expensive

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 28.83 lbs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 700×41
  • Gears: 27
  • Brakes: Flat-mount disc brakes
  • Return: JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund (Learn More)

Marin Nicasio

Best Budget and Best Value Steel Gravel Bike

PROS:
– Fun bike at a pretty budget-friendly pricepoint
– Easy assembly
– Rides really well
– Comes with the needed basic tools to get it set up
– Generous amount of eyelets for bikepacking or touring
CONS:
– No disadvantage was found

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 28.44 lbs
  • Frame: Steel
  • Tires: 700Cx30
  • Gears: 2 × 8
  • Brakes: Mechanical disc brakes
  • Return: JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund (Learn More)

Marin Nicasio 2

Ideal Commuter/Road and Gravel Bike

PROS:
– Feels like a smooth endurance bike
– Really comfortable
– Stable steering
– Quite a good gear for getting up hills
– Pretty wide handlebar
– Affordable price
CONS:
– Sluggish front shifts
– Brake hoods may be bulky for people with small hands
– Spokes still needs a hand finish out of the box

QUICK SPECS

  • Weight: 25.7 lbs
  • Frame: CroMo/Steel
  • Tires: 700Cx37
  • Gears: 2 × 10
  • Brakes: Hydraulic disc brakes
  • Return: JensonUSA 90 days for a full refund (Learn More)

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FRONT BIKE RACK?

What is a gravel bike?

Gravel bikes are all-rounder bikes that are good at many things without being ideal at anything specific.

Other than gravel trails, gravel bikes are designed to be ridden also on surfaces like doubletracks and forest service roads.

Gravel bikes are drop-bar bikes that look a lot like traditional road bikes. They are more oriented towards off-roading, by having thicker-treaded tires, but they perform well on asphalt.

Gravel bikes have frames with many mounting points to attach things like water bottles and racks, and they resist dirt by implementing designs like internal cable routings.

Compared to mountain bikes and traditional road bikes, gravel bikes are quicker than mountain bikes on the tarmac and they handle dirt tracks also far better than traditional road bikes.

Geometry

For a more comfortable, confidence-inspiring, and more forgiving ride, gravel bikes have different frame geometry than typical road bikes.

Aventon Kijote Adventure

Compared to a road bike, the wheelbase is longer on gravel bikes.

In order to have a ride-in instead of riding on the bike feel, most of the time lower gravel bikes have a lower bottom bracket.

The head tube differs also … gravel bikes have taller head tubes that position the rider upright in a more relaxed position.

Compared to other types of bikes, gravel bikes frame geometry is often between road and cross-country MTB.

Drivetrain and Gearings

The bike drivetrain is what enhances its effectiveness of power transmission.

Gravel bikes often come with either:

  • 1x drivetrain: which features one single front chainring.
  • 2x drivetrain: which features 2 front chainrings.
1x drivetrain
advantages:
1x drivetrain
disadvantages:
– Easier to use
– Lighter
– Fewer parts to fail
– Fewer chain drops
– Less gear range
– Larger steps between gears

With all these different advantages and disadvantages, we can say that gravel bikes with a 1x drivetrain are great for riders on rolling terrain.

2x drivetrain
advantages:
2x drivetrain
disadvantages:
– Allows for small jumps in gear ratio
– Offer a wider range of gears
– Heavier
– Less durable
– More chain drops

Gravel bikes with a 2x drivetrain are great for riding steep climbs and descents because they offer easier gear for uphill and harder gear for the flat terrains and descents.

Suspension

Most gravel bikes do not have a front or rear suspension.

Even though prices go up quickly with the gravel bikes that have some sort of suspension, if you are more likely to spend time on exceptionally rough roads, having a gravel bike with a suspension system became worth it.

Weight

In bikes, most of the time, the weight correlates directly with the cost.

I prefer lighter bikes because they are more responsive, let you cover more distance for the same effort in less time, and make uphills more bearable.

For the majority of riders, the gravel bikes weight sweet spot range between 20 and 23 lbs.

COST

  • Below $1200: At this price range, you can get yourself an alloy frame with entry-level components gravel bike.
  • Above $1200: With this budget, you will start to see mid-range lightweight bikes with advanced components like hydraulic disc brakes.

PRO TIP: If your budget is very tight and you want something to use as a gravel bike, consider used cyclocross bikes because they work perfectly and they cost way less money.

Tires

Long story short, go with narrower tires if most of the time you are on gravel roads, and go with wider tires if you are most of the time on gravel.

  • 30 – 32 mm tires: bikes with tires in this size ranges are ideal for riders who are most of the time on pavement with occasional times on greavel roads like commuters. These tires are slick or with shallow tread patterns in order to weight less and be fast.
  • 35 – 38 mm tires: bikes with these versatile tires are good for riders who ride evenly between gravel and paved roads. These tires have a great balance betwen weight and performance. They come is varied tread patterns in order to be more toward pavement or gravel.
  • 40mm and wider: These are ideal for riders who are most of the time on gravel roads. They are heavier and slow on pavement, but they worth it due to the added grip, comfort, and traction they bring to the table. The more the gravel gets rough or loose, the wider your tires should be.

PRO TIP: Before changing your bike tires to bigger ones, makes sure your bike offers enough room, plus another 3 to 4 mm of clearance between the tire and the frame for mud and debris.

Going Tubeless

I always recommend riders get tubeless tires because they make the bike lightweight, have lower rolling resistance and that lets you ride faster with less effort.

The second thing that makes me recommend tubeless tires is that for off-road use, you get larger contact with the ground.

Another benefit of going tubeless is that tubeless tires are better at absorbing impacts with fewer chances of having a pinch flat. And even if that happens, you still have a sealant that ruches in to plug the hole.

Wheel Size: 700c vs. 650b

700c: Slightly larger and narrower than 650b
– Lighter
– Faster on the tarmac and most gravel paths
– Usually weigh less
– Significantly more options available in the 700c size

From all these advantages, we can say that 700c wheels are ideal for all-around riding when you constantly switch between pavement and mellow trails.

They are comfortable and grippy on gravel and at the same time fast and dynamic on the pavement.

650b: Slightly smaller than 700c
– Larger footprint
– Lower air pressure
– Stronger
– Accelerates better
– Slightly heavier and roll slower

From these characteristics and advantages, 650b tires are ideal for bikers who spend the majority of their time riding gravel like off-road touring.

650b wheels float over obstacles much more smoothly and they have higher traction which makes them good for soft and loose terrains

Gravel Bikes Shoes

For gravel riding, flat and smooth outsoles shoes should be avoided because they are uncomfortable. Instead, you should look at cross-country shoes because XC cycling shares a lot with gravel biking.

What I recommend in terms of gravel bikes shoes are:

Both these shoes are lightweight, very comfortable, stiff enough, and the most important affordable options.

Gravel Bikes Pedals

Similar to gravel bikes shoes, you should opt for cross-country pedals because they are lightweight and comfortable.

For gravel bikes pedals, I recommend:

This pedal is easier to clip into, affordable, stable, and has adjustable tension on the clipless mechanism.

Hydraulic or Mechanical Disc Brakes for Gravel

What differentiates hydraulic to mechanical disc brakes in terms of performance is power and ease of use.

Compared to mechanical disc brakes, hydraulic disc brakes have higher and precise stopping power with a touch of a finger, are easier to fine-tune and control.

But don’t get me wrong, mechanical disc brakes are still efficient and budget-friendly, and this is what makes them still used in new gravel bikes.

At the end of the day, the choice is based on cost more than performance, and this is why we still see new gravel bike models come with mechanical brakes.

CARBON VS STEEL FOR GRAVEL BIKE

If you still ask if you should go with carbon or steel for a gravel bike, this comparison table will make things clear for you:

Carbon Gravel BikesSteel Gravel Bikes
FRAMES:
Incredible stiffness to weight ratio
Super lightweight
Reduce vibration
More susceptible to impacts
Expensive
Damage isn’t always visible
Comfortable carbon frames are reserved for only very skilled and experienced manufacturers
Very tough
Versatile
Inexpensive
Quality varies a lot between different alloy combinations
Heaviest
FORKS:More options are available in all imaginable geometriesAt least twice heavy as similar carbon forks
Provide excellent damping while maintaining excellent lateral stiffness
Protect the frame in a crash
Can be straightened if damaged
Often are equipped with mounting points

WHY DO I RECOMMEND STEEL FOR GRAVEL BIKES?

  • Very strong: Steel strength let you carry more gear.
  • More durable: Since steel laster longer, steel gravel bikes makes a great investment.
  • Steel is easier to fix: Who say easy fix say longer life.
  • Modern steel bikes become lighter: As technologies advances, we started to see more and more light enough strong steel bikes.
  • Steel absorb vibration: Absorbing vibration by your body for extended periods can hurt your joints

Since carbon gravel bikes are only lighter by 6 to 8 lbs than steel bikes, when you consider that you will haul many pounds of gear and food for multi-day adventures, the weight difference becomes negligible.

FAQ

ALUMINUM OR STEEL GRAVEL BIKE?

If you still question which is better for a gravel bike, steel or aluminum, my personal choice is steel. Why? you can found my detailed answer above.

WHO MAKES THE LIGHTEST STEEL GRAVEL BIKE?

From my knowledge and my comparison table above, Niner is the brand that makes the lightest steel gravel bike.

SHOULD I BUY MY GRAVEL BIKE ONLINE OR IN-STORE?

Even though I get I commission when you buy online from my recommended websites, I still recommend you to shop in-store whenever possible.

This is a comparison list for both shopping methods.

ONLINE BIKE SHOPPINGIN-STORE BIKE SHOPPING
Easy specs and prices comparisons
You should know your bike size
Needs some assembly before use
Ability to ride the bike beforehand
Easy replacement parts
Easy service
Limited choices

Last modified: September 13, 2021

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