Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Gravel Bikes

Photo: Jenna Ammerman
Thursday February 18, 2021
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
Are you in the market for the best new gravel bike? After researching over 20 of the best models on the market, we bought six to test and compare. Gravel riding has exploded in popularity in recent years and there are so many models that choosing the right one can be a challenge. Our experienced gravel test team rode these bikes for countless hours and thousands of miles on gravel, tarmac, and even a bit of singletrack while focusing on and scrutinizing every aspect of their design and performance. When the dust settled, we rated each model on several predetermined performance metrics to determine our Award winners.

Top 6 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 6
< Previous | Compare | Next >
 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $3,599 List$3,399 List$2,699 List$3,800 List$1,850 List
Overall Score
89
85
84
84
68
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Lightweight, nice build, excellent bland of frame stiffness and complianceVery lightweight, fast, nice buildReasonably priced, lightweight, outstanding price to build ratio, easy assemblyModern gravel geometry, 20mm of Future Shock Suspension, SWAT storage, offered in 11 different buildsInexpensive for carbon, compliant seat post and handlebar
Cons ExpensiveCan feel harsh over the rough stuff, narrow non-flared handlebarProprietary handlebar, limited handlebar adjustability and accessory compatibilityNot the lightest weight, more expensive2x drivetrain, non-aggressive tires, quirky geometry
Bottom Line This lightweight, high-performance gravel bike boasts a well-rounded performance and quality build that's ready for anythingThe Ibis Hakka MX is a very lightweight, uncompromisingly stiff, fast, and efficient gravel bikeAn affordable, capable, and versatile carbon-framed gravel bike with a great build and solid all-around performanceThe redesigned Diverge Comp Carbon is more capable, comfortable, and versatile than the previous versionThe Revolt Advanced 3 is a complete carbon fiber gravel bike that retails for less than most carbon frames
Rating Categories Santa Cruz Stigmata... Ibis Hakka MX Rival Canyon Grail CF SL 7 Diverge Comp Carbon Giant Revolt Advanc...
Downhill (30%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Climbing (30%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Versatility (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (10%) Sort Icon
10.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Build (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Specs Santa Cruz Stigmata... Ibis Hakka MX Rival Canyon Grail CF SL 7 Diverge Comp Carbon Giant Revolt Advanc...
Measured Weight (w/o pedals) 19 lbs 2 oz 18 lbs 13 oz 19 lbs 14 oz 21 lbs 2 oz 22 lbs 7 oz
Frame Material Carbon CC Carbon Fiber Carbon Fiber Fact 9r Carbon Advanced Grade Composite(Carbon)
Wheelsize 700c (tested) or 650b 700c or 650b (tested) 700c (Sizes S-2XL). 650B (Sizes 2XS-XS) 700c (tested), 650b compatible 700c
Frame Size Tested 58cm 58cm Large 58cm Large
Available Sizes 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm 49, 53, 55, 58, 61cm 2XS-2XL 48, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm XS, S, M, ML, L, XL
Wheelset WTB Asym i23p 700c rims with DT 370 hubs Ibis Alloy 733 27.5" rims with Ibis hubs DT Swiss C 1850 Spline Wheelset DT Swiss G540 rims with Specialized hubs Giant S-X2 Disc 700c Wheelset
Front Tire Maxxis Ravager EXO 700 x 40c Schwalbe Thunder Burt 27.5 x 2.1" Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 40c Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 700 x 38c Giant Crosscut AT 1 700 x 38c
Rear Tire Maxxis Ravager EXO 700x40c Schwalbe Thunder Burt 27.5 x 2.1" Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 40c Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 700 x 38c Giant Crosscut AT 1 700 x 38c
Shifters SRAM Rival 1 SRAM Rival 1 Shimano GRX RX600 Shimano GRX 810 Shimano Tiagra
Rear Derailleur SRAM Rival 22 Long Cage 11-speed SRAM Rival 11-speed Shimano GRX RX810 GS 11-speed Shimano GRX RX810 11-speed Shimano Tiagra
Front Derailleur N/A N/A Shimano GRX RX810 Shimano GRX RX810
Cassette SRAM PG-1150 11-42T 11-speed SRAM PG 1130 11-42T 11-speed Shimano HG700 11-speed, 11-34T Shimano Ultegra 11-speed, 11-34T Shimano Tiagra 11-34T
Crankset Easton EA90 175mm Praxis Zayante Alloy 40T 175mm Shimano GRX RX600, 172.5mm, 46/30T Shimano GRX RX810-2 48/31T FSA Omega 48/32T
Bottom Bracket Easton BSA T47 Threaded Shimano Pressfit BB72 Shimano Threaded BSA BB Shimano Press Fit
Fork Santa Cruz Carbon ENVE G-Series Carbon Canyon FK0070 CF Disc Carbon Specialized FACT Carbon with Future Shock 2.0 Giant Advanced Grade Composite
Seatpost Easton EA50 27.2mm Ibis Aluminum 31.6mm Canyon SP0043 VCLS CF Carbon, 20mm setback Roval Terra Carbon, 20mm offset Giant D-Fuse Composite
Saddle WTB Silverado Pro WTB Silverado Pro 142mm Fizik Argo Tempo R5 Specialized Body Geometry Power Sport, steel rails Giant Contact (neutral)
Handlebar Easton EA50 AX flare Ibis Flat Top Alloy Canyon CP07 Gravelcockpit CF Carbon Specialized Adenture Gear Hover, 12-degree flare Giant XR D-Fuse, flared
Stem Easton EA50 Ibis 31.8 Integrated with handlebar Future Stem, Comp Giant Contact
Brakes SRAM Rival 1 flat mount SRAM Rival 1 flat mount Shimano GRX 600 hydraulic disc Shimano GRX 810 hydraulic disc Giant Conduct hydraulic disc
Measured Effective Top Tube (mm) 573 573 576 589 575
Measured Reach (mm) 390 392 402 401 392
Measured Head Tube Angle (degrees) 72 72 72.5 71.75 71
Measured Seat Tube Angle (degrees) 73.5 73.5 73.5 73.5 73
Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm) 285 276 278 270 282
Measured Wheelbase (mm) 1038 1040 1040 1060 1046
Measured Chain Stay Length (mm) 425 430 425 425 425
Warranty Lifetime 7-years 6-Years Lifetime Lifetime


Best Overall Gravel Bike


Santa Cruz Stigmata Carbon CC Rival


89
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill 9
  • Climbing 9
  • Versatility 8
  • Weight 10
  • Build 9
Frame Material: Carbon CC | Weight: 19 lbs 2 oz
Lightweight
Stiff yet compliant frame
Quality component specification
More expensive

The Santa Cruz Stigmata took top honors in our gravel bike test. Formerly a cyclocross race bike, it was recently redesigned to update its geometry, increase tire clearance, and give it a more forgiving ride quality to meet the demands of the growing gravel market. Santa Cruz hit the nail on the head, and we were extremely impressed by this bike's well-rounded performance and exceptionally balanced ride quality. The Stigmata is lightweight, stiff, fast, and efficient, yet the frame features just enough compliance to enhance rider comfort over rough terrain. The Rival build we tested is quality, and this bike is ready to jump into a gravel race or go on any back road adventure.

Our biggest qualm with the Stigmata is the price. This Rival is the least expensive build offered, yet it is one of the most expensive models we tested. We hope that in the future, Santa Cruz offers more frame options other than the high-end Carbon CC to make this award-winning performance more affordable. That said, we still feel that the Stigmata is a solid value to the consumer seeking high-end performance in a versatile top-quality model.

Read review: Santa Cruz Stigmata Carbon CC Rival

Best Bang for the Buck Carbon


Canyon Grail CF SL 7


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill 8
  • Climbing 9
  • Versatility 8
  • Weight 9
  • Build 8
Frame Material: Carbon Fiber | Weight: 19 lbs 14 oz
Affordable for carbon
Excellent build for the price
Relatively lightweight
Easy assembly
Proprietary handlebar
Limited handlebar adjustability and accessory compatibility

The Grail CF SL 7 is an excellent gravel bike that is offered at a very reasonable price. Canyon's direct-to-consumer sales model allows them to sell their bikes at prices that most brands can't match, and this is an excellent example of that. Its lightweight carbon frame, excellent component specification, and well-rounded performance rival the more expensive competition. At less than 20 lbs with a stiff carbon frame, this svelte bike is a feathery climber with excellent power transfer in or out of the saddle. The middle of the road geometry is comfortable, and the Grail is stable at speed on the descents and remains agile with responsive and predictable handling. The build is well chosen, with a quality Shimano GRX drivetrain and brakes, tubeless wheels and tires, and a unique but comfortable cockpit setup. It was designed for gravel, but it works very well on tarmac and holds it own on mellow singletrack too. We feel it is an excellent option for training, racing, casual rides, and could also work well for overnight bike packing missions and adventure riding.

Canyon design the Grail CF SL frame around their unique double-decker CP07 gravel cockpit. The setup features a single-piece handlebar and stem with a unique hover design that is intended to help reduce feedback and vibration. We found that it performs as advertised, although the looks certainly won't be for everyone, and it seriously limits handlebar adjustability as well as compatibility with computer and accessory mounts. Beyond that, we found little not to like about this affordable, high performance gravel rig.

Read review: Canyon Grail CF SL 7

Best Bang for the Buck


Salsa Journeyman Apex 1 700


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill 7
  • Climbing 7
  • Versatility 8
  • Weight 4
  • Build 6
Frame Material: Aluminum | Weight: 24 lbs 5 oz (with tubes)
Reasonably priced
Versatile
Lots of frame mounts
Heavier than carbon competition
Budget build

The Salsa Journeyman Apex is an affordable and versatile bike that is a great entry-level option for riders just getting into gravel riding. This is the least expensive model we tested, less than half the price of our top-rated models. The Journeyman has a slightly more conservative geometry that is best suited to more casual riders and is suitable for everything from road and gravel riding to serious bike-packing or touring. The aluminum frame has a comfortable ride quality and is equipped with a wealth of rack, fender, and accessory mounts for all of your bike packing needs. The build is very budget-conscious, yet our testers were pleasantly surprised by its performance in the field.

The low price of the Journeyman directly correlates to the heavier weight of this bike. The aluminum frame and budget component specification combine to make this bike the heaviest in the test. Due to its weight and the more conservative geometry, the Journeyman wouldn't be our first choice for racing, although it could certainly get you out and participating in events. We'd also have preferred a tubeless tire setup, but at this price point, we aren't complaining, much. Beyond that, if you're looking for a reasonably priced and versatile gravel bike, we think the Salsa Journeyman is worth a look.

Read review: Salsa Journeyman Apex 1 700

Best for Racing


Ibis Hakka MX Rival


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill 8
  • Climbing 9
  • Versatility 8
  • Weight 10
  • Build 8
Frame Material: Carbon Fiber | Weight: 18 lbs 13 oz
Very lightweight
Stiff frame
Nice component spec
Stiff frame can feel harsh on rough terrain
More expensive

The Ibis Hakka MX is a lightweight and high-performance model that is an excellent option for racing. This bike features a super lightweight and very stiff carbon frame that offers unparalleled efficiency and responsiveness. This bike is quick, it accelerates like a race car, and responds immediately to pedaling and steering input. The Hakka excels on smoother surfaces with a snappy and race-inspired feel both up and downhill. The outright efficiency of this bike makes it our first choice for racing, though it is just as well suited to casual endurance rides or road riding. It can also be purchased with either 700c or 27.5" wheels and tires to suit varying needs and demands for different styles of gravel riding.

While we loved the stiffness of the Hakka's frame for its speed and efficiency, we have to admit that its lack of compliance can feel somewhat jarring over rougher terrain. While it wasn't the most expensive model we tested, it wasn't far off, and the high-end performance of the Hakka comes at a premium price. That said, riders with competitive aspirations or those seeking a refined and race-inspired feel would do well to give the Ibis Hakka MX a look.

Read review: Ibis Hakka MX Rival

Best for Comfort


Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon


84
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Downhill 9
  • Climbing 8
  • Versatility 8
  • Weight 8
  • Build 9
Frame Material: Fact 9r Carbon Fiber | Weight: 21 lbs 2 oz
20mm of front suspension
SWAT downtube storage
Modern gravel geometry
Available in 11 different builds
Not the lightest weight
More expensive

Specialized recently updated their line of Diverge gravel bikes. The Comp Carbon build we tested features a new "gravel geometry" which includes a lengthened reach and wheelbase and a slightly slacker head tube angle. We feel these are positive changes for the Diverge, making it more stable at speed and confident on steeper and rougher descents. In addition to the geometry tweaks, they've added a convenient SWAT storage compartment in the downtube and upgraded the Future Shock to the 2.0 version. The new Future Shock 2.0 still provides 20mm of handlebar suspension, but now it has an adjustable damper and a much more controlled feel. This small amount of suspension, along with some compliance in the seatpost, helps make this one of the most comfortable gravel bikes we've tested. The Fact 9r carbon frame is stiff and responsive, and the Diverge is a swift and capable climber. It also comes with loads of frame and fork mounts to accommodate racks, fenders, or frame bags. Whether racing, training, or heading out for a week-long bike packing trip, the new Diverge has you covered.

The Diverge Comp Carbon is the most expensive model we tested by a slim margin. In a sport where price and weight typically go hand in hand, we found it interesting that it weighed two pounds more than the lightest competitor. We didn't find the Diverge to feel particularly heavy, though the extra heft is notable. Beyond that, we found little we didn't like about this well-rounded and versatile gravel bike.

Read review: Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
89
$3,599
Editors' Choice Award
Lightweight with a quality build and impressively well-rounded performance, this bike quickly became a tester favorite
85
$3,399
Top Pick Award
Lightweight and uncompromisingly stiff, the Hakka MX is a very fast and efficient gravel bike
84
$3,800
Top Pick Award
Capability, comfort, and versatility are the hallmarks of the redesigned Diverge Comp Carbon
84
$2,699
Best Buy Award
An excellent value for a versatile, high-performance carbon gravel bike with a quality build
68
$1,850
The Revolt Advanced 3 is an inexpensive entry-level carbon fiber gravel bike
68
$1,499
Best Buy Award
Anyone interested in dabbling in the world of gravel riding should check out the versatile and affordable Salsa Journeyman

Out for and autumn test ride on the Ibis Hakka MX.
Out for and autumn test ride on the Ibis Hakka MX.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Why You Should Trust Us


The head of our gravel bike test is Jeremy Benson. Benson is our Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor and an avid gravel rider and racer who competes in the "pro" class at endurance events throughout northern California. Benson has had some notable results in races like the 100-mile Lost and Found Gravel Grinder, the Truckee Dirt Fondo, and Grinduro, California. He spends an excessive amount of time training and is well versed in the subtleties of gravel riding. Benson was assisted by Dillon Osleger. Dillon also races in the pro class in XC, enduro, and gravel events throughout the mountain west. He is a talented rider with a critical eye and an appreciation for what makes a good gravel bike. Beyond gravel testing, Dillon has worked as a freelancer for OutdooorGearLab on several mountain bike reviews.

In addition to being involved in the gravel riding and racing scene, both Benson and Osleger stay up to date on industry trends and new bike models throughout the year. Our test team did extensive research before selecting the bikes in this test. Once purchased, each bike was measured and weighed with the same methods and tools for consistency. The majority of our testing took place on gravel rides throughout the greater Lake Tahoe and Truckee area. There is no substitute for real-world testing, and each of these bikes was ridden as if they were our own to shake out the nuanced and subtle performance differences between each model. Detailed notes were taken, and at the end of our test period, we tallied our scores to determine our winners.

Related: How We Tested Best Gravel Bikes

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Analysis and Test Results


For our first round of gravel bike testing, we selected five popular and highly regarded models to test and compare side by side. Our testers rode of each of these bikes extensively on the vast and varied network of gravel roads throughout the northern Sierra of the greater Lake Tahoe area. We didn't limit these bikes to gravel only, and they saw their fair share of road and singletrack miles as well. We rated each bike on the predetermined metrics of downhill performance (worth 30%), climbing performance (30%), versatility (20%), weight (10%), and build (10%). Each of these bikes will work to get you out on a ride, though they vary in intended use, levels of performance, and versatility.

Related: Buying Advice for Best Gravel Bikes

Bikes are expensive. Consumer-direct brands often provide the best...
Bikes are expensive. Consumer-direct brands often provide the best value.
Photo: Laura Casner

Value


Like any type of cycling, gravel biking can be expensive. You can easily spend as much on a new ride as you would on a nice used car, but you certainly don't have to. Gravel bikes are offered at a huge range of prices, from astronomically expensive to relatively affordable. All of the models in this review fall towards the lower end of the price spectrum in the grand scheme of things, and each bike is a good value in its own right. That said, the more expensive models we tested did provide a slightly higher level of performance. Consumer-direct brands skip the middle man and bring a lot of value to the table. The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 boasts a lightweight carbon frame, quality components, light weight, and well-rounded performance for significantly less than the more expensive competition. Likewise, our least expensive competitor, the Salsa Journeyman Apex, costs less than half of our top-rated models and is a comfortable and highly versatile entry-level bike.


There are limits to how you can and should ride a gravel bike...
There are limits to how you can and should ride a gravel bike downhill, some inspire more confidence and are more fun than others.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Downhill Performance


Gravel riding is a lot like road biking, except that it takes place on dirt/gravel roads. If you think about hurtling yourself down chunky or even smooth dirt roads on a road bike, it can be a pretty terrifying prospect. Fortunately, gravel bikes have been modified from their road bike brethren with more compliant frame designs, relaxed geometries, wider knobby tires, and components that are designed to enhance rider comfort and confidence on the descents. The bikes in this test were not created equal, and their downhill performance varies.


The Santa Cruz Stigmata impressed our testers on the descents. The Carbon CC frame is stiff and lightweight with a comfortable modern gravel bike geometry. The stiff frame responds well to pedaling and steering input, yet it has just enough compliance engineered into the design to give it a somewhat forgiving ride quality over rough terrain. The build kit is also dialed, and the wide, flared handlebar is a nice touch that provides a high degree of comfort, balance, and steering leverage when punching it downhill. Likewise, the Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon has a new gravel geometry with a longer reach and wheelbase along with a slacker head tube angle and increased offset fork. This bike is stable and confident on the descents, and the addition of 20mm of Future Shock 2.0 handlebar suspension takes the edge off vibration and impacts.

Not far behind the high bar set by the above-mentioned bikes, the Canyon Grail CF SL 7 is a well-rounded descender. Its middle of the road geometry feels comfortable in most situations, with good stability at speed and snappy handling. A little compliance in the frame and handlebar, along with high volume tires and powerful brakes help enhance comfort and control. The Ibis Hakka MX is especially lightweight, responsive, and super fast on the descents with an uncompromisingly stiff carbon frame. The Hakka's stiff frame is best on smoother terrain where its efficiency is most appreciated as the lack of frame compliance can feel a little harsh compared to some when the going gets rough. That said, when paired with the 27.5" x 2.1" wheel and tire setup, the Hakka becomes a more forgiving downhill performer.

Gravel bikes are more fun and capable than you&#039;d think on the...
Gravel bikes are more fun and capable than you'd think on the descents, especially when you strap on some bigger tires.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Giant Revolt Advanced 3 is competent on the descents, although it has a more race-inspired geometry with a low-front end that felt somewhat awkward for our testers. That geometry, combined with the stock low-profile tires and inconsistent feeling budget brakes didn't inspire as much confidence as our top performers. Giant's D-Fuse handlebar and seatpost were nice touches, however, and did an excellent job of taking the edge off high-frequency vibration. The Salsa Journeyman has a more conservative and upright geometry with a taller front end. It goes downhill just fine, but it certainly prefers a more casual approach with a bit of a speed limit when compared to the other models in this test.

In gravel riding, like most cycling disciplines, you spend the...
In gravel riding, like most cycling disciplines, you spend the majority of your time riding uphill. Fortunately, gravel bikes are designed with efficiency in mind.
Photo: Laura Casner

Climbing Performance


In general, gravel bikes travel across flat ground and go up hills relatively well. This is due to the fact that most models have rigid frames or at least rigid rear ends, and they are designed with efficiency in mind. Every bike we tested works pretty darn well on the climbs, but not surprisingly, the lightest and stiffest models performed the best.


The Ibis Hakka MX is the lightest weight model we tested, plus it has a super stiff frame that gives it unparalleled efficiency on the climbs. Whether you're seated or out of the saddle sprinting up the next rise, there is seemingly no power wasted. Testers were faster when climbing on the Hakka. The Santa Cruz Stigmata wasn't far behind on the climbs. It's nearly as light as the Hakka, and the frame is nearly as stiff. The difference in climbing efficiency is almost negligible, and the Stigmata is more spirited and energetic than all of the other bikes we tested when it's pointed uphill. Those who ride rougher roads will also appreciate the slightly more compliant frame design and the comfort it provides.

The Stigmata is comfortable with a lightweight frame and nice build...
The Stigmata is comfortable with a lightweight frame and nice build that make it one of favorites on the climbs.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Weighing just under 20 lbs, the Canyon Grail CF SL 7 also proved to be a zippy climber. The stiff frame and comfortable geometry translate to efficient transfer of power to the drivetrainThe Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon fell a little behind the competition on the climbs, mostly due to its heavier weight. While it is still reasonably light, it does weigh a couple pounds more than the lighter weight competition. Its carbon frame is stiff and responsive, and it climbs well seated or out of the saddle. Both the Giant Revolt Advanced 3 and the Salsa Journeyman fell behind the best climbing bikes, mostly due to their weight and lower-end components. That said, none of these bikes are bad on the uphills, they just aren't as good as the best.

Bikes like the Salsa Journeyman are equipped to handle bike packing...
Bikes like the Salsa Journeyman are equipped to handle bike packing accessories and racks, making them a good option for bike packing.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Versatility


The very nature of gravel bikes makes them highly versatile human-powered machines. These bikes are basically glorified road bikes with a relaxed geometry, knobby tires, and increased tire clearance, so all of the models we tested would easily double as a road bike or commuter. Some subtle differences among them make some models better suited for different styles of riding than others.


The two lightest weight models we tested are the Ibis Hakka MX and the Santa Cruz Stigmata. Both bikes feature lightweight and stiff carbon frames and quality component specifications that we feel make them the best candidates for gravel racing. Both bikes can hold their own on mellower singletrack trails, trust us we've tried, and either could easily work as a road bike as well. The one caveat we have about these bikes for road use is the 1x drivetrains, which may not offer enough top-end range for laying down the power in the flats. Neither bike has bike packing specific features like accessory or rack mounts, so people wishing to use either bike for bike packing or touring will be limited to frame, saddle, handlebar, and front triangle mounting bags.

The recently redesigned Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon is a very versatile bike. The 2x drivetrain and fast-rolling tires help to make it a good option to double as road bike, and a wealth of frame and fork mounts make it a great candidate for bike packing adventures. This bike has you covered for gravel race or a week-long adventure tour, the choice is yours with the Diverge. Likewise, the Canyon Grail CF SL 7 has a wide range 2x drivetrain that makes it an excellent option for gravel and road riding, and it's light and fast enough to be a viable option for racing. It has limited frame mounts, but it does come with a protective sticker pack specifically for use with seat, handlebar, and front triangle mounting bags and accessories should you choose to load it up for a bike-packing mission.

Of course you can ride some singletrack on a gravel bike, you just...
Of course you can ride some singletrack on a gravel bike, you just might want to dial it back a little bit...
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Salsa Journeyman has a performance and features that make it a highly versatile option. The frame and fork have numerous bike packing accessory, rack, and fender mounts, making it a no-brainer for people looking to attach all types of things to their bikes for an adventure. The Journeyman seems like it would be a great commuter or casual road bike as well. Due to the weight and somewhat more conservative geometry, it wouldn't be our first choice for racing, though one could certainly dip their toes in gravel events and races and still have a great time.

The Giant Revolt Advanced 3 works well as a gravel bike, and we feel it would also work well as a road bike too. This is in part due to the 2x drivetrain, which has a larger gear range for smashing on smooth gravel roads as well as pavement. It also comes equipped with mounts to attach racks and fenders, enhancing its versatility in the bike packing or touring realm.

We wouldn&#039;t exactly call any of these bikes &quot;heavy&quot;, though some are...
We wouldn't exactly call any of these bikes "heavy", though some are much lighter than others.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Weight


All other things being equal, lighter is generally considered better. This is especially true in all types of cycling, where people pay a premium price for lighter-weight frames and components. The lighter a bike's frame and the sum of all its parts, the faster you can accelerate, and the easier it becomes to pedal for long distances and climb up hills. High-performance riders and racers are typically most concerned with the weight of their bike since lighter is faster, and they will want to take every advantage they can get when racing the clock or other riders. More casual riders may not be as concerned with the weight of their bike but will benefit from the advantages of riding a lighter bike over the course of a long ride or bike packing adventure just the same.


The weight of the bikes in this review varies by approximately 6 pounds between the lightest and heaviest models we tested. Weight is the most objective metric we tested as we simply weighed each bike on our trusty hanging Park Tool bike scale. We set up each model as we would normally ride it, although a couple of bikes did not come with tubeless compatible tires and were weighed with tubes in them. All of the bikes were weighed without pedals.

The lightest bike we tested was the Ibis Hakka MX, which tipped our scales at a featherweight 18 lbs and 13 oz. This impressively lightweight is one of the main reasons this bike feels so fast and efficient, and is easier to ride uphill than some of the competition. Weighing in a mere 5-ounces heavier than the Ibis was the Santa Cruz Stigmata at just 19 lbs and 2 oz. This bike is also a true featherweight. These weights are especially impressive considering that both of these bikes have the least expensive build kits that they're offered with, it's safe to assume that you can make both of these bikes significantly lighter with a higher-end component spec or a custom build. That said, these are also the two of the most expensive models we tested.

No matter where or how you ride, a lighter bike is generally a...
No matter where or how you ride, a lighter bike is generally a benefit to all types of riders.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Since it is so affordable, we were very impressed by the 19 lbs 14 oz weight of the Canyon Grail CF SL 7. It's rare that bikes that cost less can compete with their more expensive competition in terms of weight. Despite being the most expensive model we tested, the Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon weighed a full 2 pounds more than the Stigmata. While 21 lbs and 2 oz isn't exactly heavy, you might notice the additional heft on race day or during a long ride. User-friendly features like SWAT storage and handlebar suspension are partly to blame for the additional weight.

Giant's Revolt Advanced 3 retails for a lot less than the lightest models we tested and weighs 22 lbs and 7 oz. Despite having a lightweight carbon frame, the Revolt has less expensive, and therefore heavier, components attached to it, resulting in this heavier weight. Higher-end builds of the Revolt will likely weigh less and perform better than the model we tested.

The Salsa Journeyman Apex is the least expensive model we tested, and not surprisingly, also the heaviest. The Journeyman is the only model in this review with an aluminum frame, and that is the primary reason it weighed more than the carbon competition. Combine the heavier frame with the budget-conscious build kit and tubes in the tires, and it wasn't a surprise to see the 24 lb and 5 oz weight of the Journeyman.

The bikes we tested vary significantly in their build, we think the...
The bikes we tested vary significantly in their build, we think the Stigmata is one of the best.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Build


Similar to the weight of the bikes we tested, the component specification of each model varies and is dictated by price. Like anything else, the performance level, quality, and weight of bicycle components vary wildly. One could easily spend upwards of ten thousand dollars on a new gravel bike with carbon fiber and electronic everything bolted to a featherlight carbon frame. While you can spend that much, you certainly don't have to, and you can have a great time riding any of the more budget-friendly models. Our selection of test bikes features five models that are all relatively reasonably priced in the grand scheme of things. None of these models has the fanciest components, but all of them get the job done out in the field. Two of the bikes we tested have nearly identical builds, the Ibis Hakka MX and the Santa Cruz Stigmata, both are coincidentally two of the most expensive options in this review, yet they are the least expensive builds offered for either model.


It stands to reason that the most expensive bikes in this test have the nicest builds, and that is exactly the case. The Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon came with an impressive build that included a 2 x 11-speed Shimano GRX drivetrain and powerful GRX hydraulic disc brakes. These powerful brakes outperformed those on almost every other bike we tested and provided excellent, confidence-inspiring speed control. The house brand handlebar, tires, and especially the saddle, also worked impressively well. Interestingly, the Canyon Grail CF SL 7 comes with a build that is almost comparable to the Diverge, yet its costs about a third of the price. Again, this is due to Canyon's consumer-direct sales model, and the price to build ratio can't be beat.

It may be a bit more expensive, but the Diverge Comp Carbon comes...
It may be a bit more expensive, but the Diverge Comp Carbon comes with an excellent build that features a Shimao GRX groupset.
Photo: Laura Casner

Both the Ibis Hakka MX and the Santa Cruz Stigmata we tested came with the Rival build kit. The 1 x 11-speed Rival drivetrain is lightweight and has a wide gear range, and our testers generally prefer the simplicity of ditching the front derailleur. The Rival hydraulic disc brakes also work well. We think the wheels and tire setups between the two models are relatively comparable. The Stigmata just edged out the Hakka in this metric due to the more thoughtful cockpit setup with a wider flared handlebar that enhanced its comfort and downhill performance. Both of these bikes are ready to tackle some serious rides in their stock configurations with no upgrades or component changes necessary.

Less expensive bikes come with lower-end components. They still...
Less expensive bikes come with lower-end components. They still work, though they are typically heavier and a little clunkier in their function.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

The Giant Revolt Advanced 3 is a carbon-framed bike offered at a very reasonable price. The only way this is possible is by spec-ing it with very budget-conscious components and house-brand parts. The 2 x 10 Shimano Tiagra drivetrain, Giant disc brakes, Giant wheels, tires, and cockpit components are certainly functional, but they are heavy and have a somewhat clunkier feel. The Salsa Journeyman Apex 1 comes with a SRAM Apex 1 x 11-speed drivetrain. We were pleasantly surprised by the shifting performance of this setup, as well as the stopping power of the TRP mechanical disc brakes. The house brand cockpit components are fine, as are the wheels and tires, although the tubes in the tires were less than ideal.

Gravel riding is hugely popular, and for good reason. The sport is...
Gravel riding is hugely popular, and for good reason. The sport is growing and there's a bike to suit your needs and budget. Now get out there!
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


There's a lot to consider when searching for a new gravel bike. We feel the most important thing is finding a bike that suits your riding style, needs, and budget so you can get out and ride. As of now, the Santa Cruz Stigmata is the best overall gravel bike we've tested. The stiff and lightweight Ibis Hakka MX is our choice for racing, and the Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon is an excellent, versatile option for the rider who prioritizes comfort. For the price, we were very impressed the carbon-framed Canyon Grail CF SL 7 is a high-performance model and a very impressive value. The Salsa Journeyman is both versatile and affordable, and a great entry level option. As the sport of gravel riding continues to grow and evolve, we will continue to test and review new models as weather and bike availability allow to keep this review as up to date as possible.

Jeremy Benson, Dillon Osleger