Fans of off-road riding will appreciate the utility of owning a gravel bike. These are specialist vehicles that are designed to help you tackle a wide range of difficult terrains with incredible ease.
We present to you a list of five of the best gravel bikes for off-road adventures in 2020. We also discuss the various factors you must consider when picking a gravel bike for your needs.
Here’s a quick preview of five of the best gravel bikes under $500:
- Raleigh Bikes Willard 1 Gravel Adventure Road Bike – Our Overall Top Pick
- Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike – Best Touring Bike
- Populo Quest 16-Speed Gravel Bike – Best Dirt Road Bike
- Schwinn Mesa Adult Mountain Bike – Best Mountain-Tuned Bike
- Tommaso Siena Shimano Tourney Gravel Adventure Bike – Best Bike With Extra Wide Tires
What To Look For In A Gravel Bike Under $500
If you’re looking to pick up a gravel bike under $500, you should consider these factors to help fine-tune your decision.
Related article – Best Gravel Bikes Under $1,000
The frame of a gravel bike plays a major role in determining the durability and stability of the model. Make sure to pick out a model that isn’t too heavy and utilizes a wide range of durable materials such as aluminum, carbon, or steel.
Aluminum bikes tend to be the lightest of the lot which is why most of our selections utilize this material. They’re also economically priced which makes them easy on the pocket.
The speeds you attain on your bike are only as good as the braking system in place, otherwise it’s nothing more than a hazard for the user. There are many types of quality braking systems utilized by gravel bikes which include disc brakes, V-brakes, caliper brakes, and cantilever brakes.
Disc brakes, in particular, are excellent in offering quick stops to the user, but they need to be handled in a precise and delicate way. If you’re an experienced rider, however, you should certainly consider using this variant.
The design employed on the handlebar of the bike determines the comfort levels experienced by the user.
If you’re looking at gravel bikes, the handlebar designs that best suit such models include drop bars or flat bars. These designs maximize your efficiency as a rider and allow you to retain the best form.
Your setup should allow your hands to be comfortable holding the bars, with a slight bend at the elbows. Make sure there’s not too much stretch in the reach or cramping in your back or shoulders.
The size of the wheel is directly proportional to the stability experienced by the rider. In this segment, the ideal wheel size you should consider should be 700c. This allows the bike to retain off-roading capabilities while ensuring your safety as a rider.
If you’re completely knowledgeable about the type of terrains you’ll ride on a regular basis, you can also opt for a model that uses tires to match the terrain.
Most gravel bikes utilize gear systems to provide you with various options to tackle diverse terrains.
Gravel bikes, in particular, are well served with the use of 1x or 2x drivetrains. A 1x drivetrain can be seen in mountain bikes, while the 2x variant is used in road bikes.
Check out this video which explains the pros and cons of a 1x drivetrain:
Want to save some money? Have an old road bike you’d like to convert to a gravel bike? See if you Can You Convert A Road Bike To A Gravel Bike.
Reviews Of The Best Gravel Bikes Under $500
We now present a list of the five best gravel bikes under $500 for your consideration.
RALEIGH BIKES WILLARD 1 GRAVEL ADVENTURE ROAD BIKE
Raleigh Bikes are known for their overall durability and stability in tough conditions. This particular model takes the top spot on our list for its overall design and features.
This is a lightweight entry-level gravel bike that’s built using a sturdy aluminum frame and features a fork design for easy riding on unpaved roads.
It utilizes a Shimano Claris 8 speed shifter that allows you to quickly and efficiently access a total of 16 gears on this model. Additionally, the Tektro lyra mechanical disc brakes allow you to take full control and access stopping power like never before.
The Clement X’Plor 700x35c tires help you easily tackle the challenges that come with riding on a gravel road. You’ll also find paved areas simple to manage with this comfortable bike.
A limited lifetime warranty is available by the manufacturer on the frame of this model. The pedals are included in the purchase of this gravel bike.
MONGOOSE MEN’S ELROY ADVENTURE BIKE
This entry level gravel bike by the Mongoose brand is the best touring bike on our list. You can confidently use it for long adventures thanks to its sleek alloy frame and a solid steel fork.
It uses a 2×7 drivetrain with Shimano Tourney derailleurs. This offers an efficient brake lever combo and high-quality mechanical disc brakes.
You’ll also notice that this model uses an integrated frame bag. The bag includes an embroidered patch (nice touch!) and offers plenty of room to carry all your riding gear and essentials. A large front rack is also available to help you carry two panniers. There’s also a convenient rear rack mount that offers additional carrying capacity.
The internal cable routing of this model also offers space for three large water bottle cage mounts. You’ll stay plenty hydrated during your long touring rides :).
Only the saddle of the bike seems to be an issue according to users, as some reviews spoke negatively about the quality of the seat.
POPULO QUEST 16-SPEED GRAVEL BIKE
This Populo Quest bike is made using a double butted Cro-Mo steel that helps to offer an excellent lifespan and ample stability to the user.
The Shimano Claris 16-speed drivetrain ensures that you can easily and efficiently change gears as you tackle various terrains. High-quality disc brakes are also in place to offer you unmatched stopping power.
You can consider this budget gravel bike for a wide range of conditions but it’s best suited to tackle the dirt roads with ease.
This bike design provides plenty of optionality with a frame and fork eyelet. This allows you to consider using mount racks and fenders in the future.
Overall, the use of plastic caps and other low-quality details brings down the value of this comfortable bike in the eyes of some users.
SCHWINN MESA ADULT MOUNTAIN BIKE
The Schwinn brand is synonymous with creating great all-around bicycles. This particular model is more tailored to a mountain biking ride. If you’re really going off-piste during your rides, consider looking at this model.
As it’s a mountain-tuned bike and the best pick in this segment, it utilizes an aluminum frame. It also features a Zoom aluminum suspension in order to maximize the stability and durability of this product.
A 21-speed Shimano Tourney drivetrain is also in place to offer quick and easy gear shifts for the rider. The aluminum mechanical disc brakes ensure a crisp stop regardless of the conditions.
You’ll also notice that this model uses 27.5 inch wheels and tires. This helps to greatly improve the stability and traction of this comfortable bike.
One drawback is that this bike doesn’t include dual suspension which would have been ideal on this model.
TOMMASO SIENA SHIMANO TOURNEY GRAVEL ADVENTURE BIKE
The Tommaso Siena gravel adventure bike utilizes a set of 700x40c tires to boost the versatility and stability of the model. This helps the bike take a spot on our list as the best comfortable bike with extra wide tires.
This bike is also built using a compact aluminum frame that’s been competently merged with a high-quality fork made of SST steel. This helps maximize the durability of the model. This is further backed up by the fact that the brand offers a lifetime frame and fork warranty on your purchase.
You can also expect this bike to offer incredible performance and riding experience. This is thanks to the 3×7 Shimano Tourney groupset and the Claris crankset. These elements ensure that you can tackle a wide range of terrains and you have access to multiple gears for each challenge.
A compact frame geometry has also been employed in the overall design of this bike. When coupled with a premium compact handlebar, the power and comfort levels of this model are impressive. This makes it an ideal entry level gravel bike to consider.
For some riders, they might experience a bit of discomfort due to the fork being on the narrow side.
Rumble in the Gravel
There’s nothing quite like using a quality entry level gravel bike to explore some of the lesser traveled roads around the world. These bikes allow you to quickly and easily traverse wide terrains and take in the breadth of your surroundings with relative ease.
The Raleigh Bikes Willard 1 Gravel Adventure Road Bike, in particular, is an excellent selection and takes the top honors on our list thanks to its superior build quality and design. It also has an excellent gear system and utilizes powerful brakes to help the user feel completely in control of their riding experience.
Take the fight to the gravel with any one of the five best gravel bikes under $500 from our list! If you’re stuck for where to ride your bike, check out Gravel Map, who knows, there might be a trail nearby!
Still considering which type of bike to buy? Check out our comparison of gravel bikes vs mountain bikes.
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