Our Best Gravel Bikes of 2022 - Five of Our Favorites
Gravel bikes have gone from mysterious entities to essential bikes for the community of cyclists that limbo between roads and, well, gravel. Thanks to wider tires you can take everything you love about road riding and take it off the road with stability and control.
Which gravel bike is best for you? We have our list of our favorites that we’ve deemed the best gravel bikes of 2022. The best part is that they’re all available here at Contender Bicycles.
It can be hard to find the right gravel bike for you. First off, what is a gravel bike? A few key differences are that gravel bikes are typically a little more upright than conventional road bikes, leading to a more comfortable body position. The handling is often a little slower than a road bike to improve stability. Some gravel bikes have mounts for bags, lights, racks, and more, ideal for bikepacking.
Gravel bikes are available in carbon, aluminum, steel, titanium, or more, just like road bikes or mountain bikes. Some gravel bikes are built for going as fast as possible like a road bike, while others are basically just mountain bikes with drop bars. Finding the right frame material as well as the right type of geometry means they can also double as your favorite road bike.
Gravel bikes are sometimes also called all-road bikes. They all have drop bar bikes with big tire clearances and geometry that aim to be more stable on dirt and gravel roads than traditional road bikes.
Check out our list of our top gravel bikes to help you decide which bike is best for you and why.
Our Favorite Gravel Bike for Road Bike Lovers - Cervelo Aspero
The Cervelo Aspero is a race machine: engineered for pure, unapologetic speed, ready to take down finish lines, KOMs and PRs. This gravel bike is stiff—Classics-racing stiff—and performs like you’d want a road bike to perform off-road. The beefier gravel bike tires on the existing frame and and adjustable geometry fork make the Aspero off-road ready.
Our Favorite Gravel Bike with Suspension - BMC URS LT
Among gravel bikes, the BMC URS decidedly leans more into mountain bike geometry than many other gravel bikes. It is a soft tail (10mm suspension!) carbon fiber bike with clearance for up to a 700c x 45mm tire. While other gravel bikes can fit a similar width tire, the URS feels far more capable than other gravel bikes on singletrack and rocky terrain.
We dig the BMC URS not only for its unique geometry - long wheelbase like a mountain bike for stability and a short stem for quicker handling - but because of the features. An integrated fork bumper, molded chainstay and bottom bracket protectors, and factory-applied frame protectors set the URS apart from the competition. But you can also get a gravel bike with suspension like the BMC URS LT, which offers a 25mm suspension fork, adds a whole bunch of comfort on chunky gravel roads and control on singletrack too.
Our Favorite Gravel Bike for Bikepacking - Orbea Terra
The Orbea Terra is a great bikepacking option, especially if you like covering long distance quickly. With its integrated cable routing, massive downtube storage compartment, and new progressive geometry, the Terra gravel bike might just be the Goldilocks of gravel bikes. Not only that, but all Terra models come with mounts for fenders and three water bottle cages, and the Terra H alloy frame gets mounts for a rear rack if you prefer panniers.
The carbon frame Terra M is super sporty: fast and light for those back roads or gravel path adventures. The carbon frame offers the perfect blend of weight, comfort and strength for storing those bikepacking essentials. And with Orbea MyO, you can customize the paint at no extra cost as well as get the components you want from the start.
Our Favorite Do-It-All Gravel Bike - Santa Cruz Stigmata and Juliana Quincy
Two bikes, yes, but the same geometry and largely the same build kits. Between how the bike feels out on the road and its feature set, the Santa Cruz Stigmata is built to feel at home in most situations. The Stigmata is designed to let you decide whatever the heck you want this category to be.
But what about the Juliana Quincy? It has the same frame, largely the same build kits, just with women's specific touch points and a unique paint scheme. Two bikes, one great feature set.
See Five of Our Favorite Things About the Santa Cruz Stigmata in the Contender Journal.
Our Most Popular Gravel Bike - OPEN UP
The gold standard in gravel bikes - the OPEN UP - is exactly what you make it up to be. Why's that? It comes as a frameset in four different colors as well as a Ready to Paint option that allows you to paint the bike however you like. Further, its neutral road-oriented geometry means it is as good at being a road bike as it is a gravel bike. Overall, this all road bike is a neutral combination of features that will give you a smooth and casual ride on and off pavement.Beautiful Bicycle on the California Sage colorway OPEN UP gravel bike or a build video of a custom-painted OPEN UP with Campagnolo Ekar.
Words by Kate Thayer. Photos courtesy of respective brands and Cody Wignall.