So you’ve found yourself eyeing a gravel bike, eh? Perhaps, it’s because your roadie or your mountain bike(s) are looking a bit lonely on either side of the two-wheeled spectrum, and you’re looking for a steed to take you further off the beaten path. Perhaps you’re searching for your first analog two-wheeled adventure mobile, and you’ve (correctly) heard that a trusty, durable, versatile gravel bike is the place to start.
The short story: we’re not here to judge—even if this is the fifth bike in your collection. In fact, we think it’s always the right time to buy a gravel bike.
Despite honing in on a gravel bike as the next best addition to your adventure quiver, there is an ocean of options out there. Fromflat bar gravel bikes to drop bars, from steel frames to aluminum, from ticket prices creeping over several thousand dollars to back-garage finds, it can be a real challenge to narrow in on what’s right for you and your riding. So before you jump into your search with both feet, take a moment to pause and consider—where do you want this gravel go-machine to take you?
Gravel bikes do so much more than spin down forest service roads. Knowing whether or not you’re keen on bikepacking, ambitious elevation gain, and a wide variety of trails—for starters—can help sharpen your lense and set you on the right path towards buying your perfect gravel bike (pun definitely intended).
Before you get too deep down the rabbit hole, though, we have some good news. We have one bike that can serve multiple purposes—theDoggler 12 Speed Adventure Gravel Bike. Depending on the tires it’s outfitted with, it can go most anywhere.
What is a gravel bike?
A gravel bike is simply a fully rigid bike frame with knobby tires designed to be stable and comfortable rolling over uneven and varied terrain. Simple.
But, let’s add a bit of nuance.
There are as many different types of gravel bikes as stars in the sky (not really, but close). Picking the best gravel bike for you—like we said above—is contingent upon where you’re headed. For example, if you’re planning on mainly sticking to roads with flat, smooth dirt trails, skipping extras like adropper post and light suspension in the stem could be an option. Likewise, if you find yourself on rugged terrain or live in the mountains, you’ll be bummed if you skip the extras.
How is a gravel bike different from a road bike or a hybrid bike?
If you’re just dipping your toes into the vast expanse that is biking, it’s easy to think that all bikes look the same. It’s kind of true! Two wheels, frame, brakes, handlebars: the main components stay true. But look closer, and you’ll notice nuances that can sharply change the way a bike feels and rides.
- Fully rigid (or light, almost undetectable suspension)
- Typically drop handlebars
- Smooth tires
The most defining aspect of a road bike is that it’s built for ultimate efficiency on pavement. A fully rigid build ensures no energy is lost within a moving shock or fork, drop handlebars allow you to get down into an aerodynamic position comfortably, and smooth, skinny tires roll quickly and freely over the pavement. They’re incredibly fast and super fun until you take them off-road.
- Rear shock or fully rigid
- Drop or flat handlebars
- Knobby tires
The easiest way to spot a gravel bike isby the tires. If it’s got all the makings of a road bike but has a set of knobby tires, you’ve most likely spotted a gravel bike. Depending on whether or not you’re checking out a bike with flat bars or drop bars, you’re looking at a steed prepped for bike packing or long, flat spins.
- Rear shock or fully rigid
- Drop or flat handlebars
- Knobby or smooth tires
A hybrid bike looks quite similar to a gravel bike—it’s a rig designed to go almost anywhere. Often, you’ll find hybrid bikes equipped with tires that have knobs on the sides and a smooth strip down the middle so you’ll be efficient on pavement and stable when you hit the dirt road.
At Hudski, we’ve designed all of our bikes to play nice in the hybrid space. We believe it’s more fun that way!
What should I look for in a gravel bike?
If you’re looking for the best gravel bike under $2,000, you’ll want to be choosy about your essential components—don’t get caught climbing a steep slope without top-of-the-line gears, and make sure you have a dropper post when you start to get squirrely dropping off curbs.
- Frame: These days,gravel bike frames are crafted of all sorts of materials. Whereas carbon fiber frames tend to be higher-end, more expensive, and lightweight, they’re notably less durable. Aluminum is super durable and provides good stiffness, but the trade-off is that it doesn’t handle road vibrations very well. Titanium gravel bike frames are pricier but an excellent high-end choice. Steel is among the most popular for its shock-absorbing stiffness and ease of manipulation, keeping the cost down.
- Tires: One of the best investments you can make in your gravel bike is to outfit it with great tires. The general requirements for a great gravel bike tire are simple: it should perform well on a wide variety of terrains, be super resistant to punctures, roll easily, and provide good damping to up the comfort of your ride.
- Gears: A 12x1 is thestandard gear ratio for a gravel bike. It’s lightweight, versatile, and durable. Sometimes you’ll see two rings in the front, but typically more seasoned riders opt out of the dual chainring in front for the sake of simplicity.
- Handlebars: This one is simple! Drop bars are great for rides in which you’re looking for speed and efficiency, and flat bars are great for bikepacking—they’re compatible with tons of different styles of bags.
- Brakes:Our best advice: don’t cut corners on the brakes. In general, disc brakes—as opposed to rim brakes—are much more efficient, easier to use, and safer.
- Seat Post: Most gravel bikes don’t have dropper posts. But we put one in ours. Because it’s safer and more fun to put your seat all the way down when you’re descending, we decided to make the Doggler 12 Speed Gravel Bike blur the boundaries between gravel bikes and mountain bikes.
How much do gravel bikes cost?
When it comes to gravel bikes, you get what you pay for. The worst-case scenario: you’re out in the middle of a long ride, you drop off a small rock for fun, and find yourself with a cracked frame. Clearly, we’re biased, but we think the best gravel bike for under $2,000 isThe Hudski Doggler 12 Speed Gravel Bike. It’s the right balance of price, durability, and, of course, looks.Check out the Doggler Gravel bike and our other models. See you on the road.