You get a gravel bike! And, you get a gravel bike! And, you get a gravel bike! No, it’s not Oprah, it’s every major and boutique manufacturer in the industry these days. Why is it that gravel bikes are becoming so popular? Pick your favorite reason of many (Dirty Kanzaa, car-free rides, bikepacking, sheer adventure, etc.), but the reality is these bikes are versatile and tons of fun. And, yes, with a separate wheelset, the same bike can crush your buddies on the local group ride.
In recent years, some of the most road-focused manufacturers have been rolling out their own flavor of gravel bike. Some are more versatile than others, but all are aimed at crushing miles on and off road with the ability to take on the growing field of gravel races (like the latest SBT GRVL).
Among the latest gravel bike offerings, these are some of our favorites heading into 2019.
Pinarello has won us over with both the Dogma F8 and Dogma F10 (which remain our favorite all-out race bikes tested) and now has replaced their GAN platform with a proper gravel bike in the Grevil and Grevil+ bikes. With the slogan, “Full Gas Everywhere,” the new Grevil takes the good of the Dogma F10 and applies it to a gravel bike with 42mm tire clearance (or 2.1″ with 650b).
As usual for Pinarello, the Grevil features an asymmetric design throughout with optimal shapes for power transfer and aerodynamics. Carrying over from the F10 is the ForkFlap and integrated electronic junction box in the downtube and an Italian threaded bottom bracket. But, this bike is 100% all-road with a larger seatpost binder and space for three water bottles. The Grevil is available in top-shelf Grevil+ (with Torayca T1100 Dream Carbon) or Grevil (with Torayca T700 carbon fiber).
As usual, it features a polarizing design that people will either love or hate, but we can’t wait to ride one.
More Info: Visit Pinarello.com
Argon 18 Dark Matter
We first saw this one at Sea Otter Classic 2018. It was impressive there and remains impressive heading into it’s 2019 introduction. The gold-flake color scheme looks fantastic in person and this one is a pure road bike with serious gravel chops and clearance for big 45mm tires.
The Dark Matter maintains the classic 3D+ Head Tube that Argon 18 is known for. This system allows the head tube to remain stiff and responsive — no matter the amount of spacers used (0, 15 or 30mm). Looking this one over in person, it checks off all the boxes for versatility, durability, aerodynamics and comfort. It will be available in either Shimano 105 or SRAM 1x configurations.
Read our Review: Argon 18 Dark Matter GRX
The Grail is certainly one of the most polarizing gravel bikes for 2019 with its double-decker gravel-optimized carbon bars and unique cockpit layout. A traditional approach just wouldn’t do as Canyon engineers pushed the limits everywhere.
Not only does it feature a unique set of drop bars, but every part of the Grail is ready for gravel or paved adventures with predictable handling and performance. The Grail sports 42mm tire clearance and is now available in an alloy version with standard drop bars for 2019.
More Info: Visit Canyon.com
No doubt, the Factor O2 Disc is a great all-rounder, but its aggressive geometry isn’t for everyone or for rough terrain. With that, the new Factor Vista enters with a mixture of the best features from their lineup in addition to official 35mm tire clearance and a more upright, all-road geometry. This one barely makes it into the gravel group, but is more along the lines of a modern endurance bike for riding anywhere.
With the Factor Vista, you’ll be best-served just rocking a set of 35’s everywhere and not even bother with swapping tires out. It’s gonna be fast, responsive and able to slip off the beaten path when you want to ditch your group ride friends mid-ride. So, we’ll just consider this one to be a great example of what a modern endurance bike should be.
Something that’s unique here is the OTIS-AR Barstem, which features bolt-on headset spacers and an external steerer. This design allows for ample stack/reach adjustments while maintaining steering precision — all with a completely-hidden cable routing system for a clean look.
More Info: Visit FactorBikes.com
Allied Alfa All Road
Allied is building their carbon frames in Arkansas. You read that right, they are laying up and producing carbon fiber frames in the U. S. of A. — pretty awesome. The Alfa Disc has been modified just enough to squeeze 38mm tires in there on top of a slightly-tweaked geometry for all-road adventures.
Allied doesn’t call it a gravel bike, per se, but more of an all-road affair. That said, it’s one beautiful bike that’s certainly going to deliver on-road performance with ample clearance for just about any adventure you can throw at it. The Alfa All Road has been raced competitively at Dirty Kanzaa, so 38mm tires are good enough for long, demanding days in the saddle.
Adding to the All Road’s versatility is the ability to order it in Plus-sized head tubes for increased stack and reduced reach without needing extra spacers. It looks clean and remains stiff and responsive.
More Info: Visit AlliedCycle.com
Open Cycle UPPER
The UPPER remains on the list of the most versatile and sought after gravel bikes. The UPPER led the market with monster truck tire compatibility while remaining fast and responsive on the road. While it can’t fit huge 700c tires (40mm max), it swallows 2.1″ 650b tires with ease. Superstud, Geoff Kabush recently won the Iceman Cometh MTB race aboard his Open UPPER, so it’s more capable than anyone could even imagine.
Open Cycle co-founder Gerard Vroomen has the chops to design and build high-quality bikes (he’s the founder of Cervelo back in the day). The UPPER is on the radar for 2019 once SRAM goes official with Red eTap AXS.
Read our Review: Open UPPER Red eTap AXS