Riding gravel bikes is a lot of fun. The versatility they bring is amazing. You can ride on-road and off-road, so you can easily commute to work and take the long way home. Let’s have a look at what is usually offered in the 1000$ price range and then I’ll present you with my favorite bike.
Frame and Geometry
Many gravel and adventure bikes started their life as road bikes. They get a few minor adjustments and then manufacturers call them gravel bikes. Some also call them all-rounder bikes or adventure bikes.
The geometry of a gravel bike is more relaxed than those of road bikes. That makes for better control on trails and loose ground. It’s also more comfortable. That lets you ride longer distances. Many gravel bikes also have frame mounts for fenders, pannier racks, and baskets. So they’re also a great option for backpackers and commuters.
The frames in the price range of 1000$ are usually made of Aluminum or Steel. Both are good options. In higher price segments you also find Carbon frames, which usually are lighter and have a bit more flex. That makes them more comfortable to ride.
A steel frame usually feels a bit softer but is a bit heavier. Aluminum frames tend to feel a bit stiffer but are a bit lighter.
Some bikes in the 100$ segment even have a steel or aluminum frame in combination with a carbon fork. That’s usually a nice compromise between price and performance/comfort.
Gravel and adventure bikes are versatile machines. As such, it can be challenging to choose the best gearing and drivetrain. If you ride it on the road you have different needs than people who ride trails.
Most manufacturers offer Shimano or SRAM components. That’s also what you should look for. A very nice entry-level option is the SRAM GX 1×10 speed drive train. It has only 10 gears, but with its extra-large rear cogs, it’s still a good climbing option.
If you want to go backpacking you should rather look for a bike that has a front derailleur. These bikes offer 2×10 or 2×11 gears, which make them more versatile. Especially steep climbs are easier to manage with these transmission ratios.
When it comes to brakes you should go for disc brakes. There are mechanical and hydraulic brakes. In the 1,000$ price range, you’ll find mechanical ones most of the time. They’re still better than rim brakes and need less maintenance than hydraulic ones. So they can be a good choice if they’re good ones.
Wheels and Tires
The wheels of your gravel bike play an important role. And like a lot of the other factors, choosing the right ones depends on what you’re planning to do with your bike. Usually, the wheels come with 24 to 32 spokes. The more spokes the more robust is the wheel but it’s also heavier. If you’re going for a lot of off-road trips you should consider getting 32 spokes. The same is true if you’re planning to carry a lot of weight or if you’re a heavy rider. If you’re a lighter rider or you’re mainly doing on-road trips, save the weight and go for a 24 spokes wheel.
Another choice you sometimes have is the size of the wheels: there are 650b (smaller) or 700c (bigger) wheels. 650bs are a bit lighter and more agile. I prefer them for off-road adventures. 700cs feel a bit smoother and quicker on-road.
The next question is tubes or tubeless. I prefer tubeless since they’re generally a bit better against punctures. And you can still carry a tube to fix them while being on the road. Most of the bikes in this price range don’t have tubeless tires though. That might be one of the first upgrades to get. Most of the rims are tubeless-ready anyhow. But it might be worth checking before you buy your bike.
Don’t believe the marketing promises. You will not find a gravel bike in the 1,000$ price range than will be perfect. But you can find pretty good bikes that you can use around town on the occasional dirt shortcut. Even gravel bikes in this price range can bring a lot of fun.
If I would buy a bike in this price range I would look for one that has a great frame as a base for upgrades.
Usually, gravel bikes below 1,000$ are made of aluminum. But I would prefer one made of steel. If possible I would go for a carbon fork which brings a bit more comfort and is usually also lighter.
Now let’s look at what is the best gravel bike below 1,000$!
The best gravel bikes below 1,000$
If I would buy a gravel bike for under 1000$ I would go for the State 4130 ALL-ROAD. It’s a great offer because it has a solid base. The steel frame is of great quality and has an awesome geometry.
It also has plenty of mounting options for bottle cages and bags. Most of them you will actually never use. The bike isn’t built for ultra-long trips with a lot of carried weight. But anyhow, it’s nice to have them just in case.
You can also choose your desired wheelset – either a 650 or a 700. Choose the 700 if you go for a lot of on-road rides. Get the 650 if you’re riding more often off-road. If you have the budget for it, it also makes sense to get both of them.
Another great upgrade is the carbon monster fork State offers.
This bike is not perfect by any means! It also has quite some downsides. Most parts it’s shipped with are State branded parts. They’re affordable – which they have to be in this price range, but they’re also heavy and not as reliable and robust as their counterparts from Shimano or SRAM. But that’s also a nice thing because you can them one by one.
+ affordable price
+ great frameset with a good fork
+ awesome geometry somewhere between race setup and communter
+ it’s a great base to build an awesome bike
+ the standard components are not great and not meant for long trips or rough terrain
+ it’s heavy
The State 4130 ALL-ROAD is the best gravel bike you can get for under 1000$. Its steel frame is great, the default components aren’t. But that’s something you can upgrade one by one if you use this bike more often.