There was a time when steel was the only material option for bikes until it evolved to the materials used nowadays which caters to optimal performance.
Although steel bikes still offer tremendous value especially when it comes to gravel bikes. Steel bikes are known for their durability, they are also quite comfortable and are built to last. Let’s take a look at a list of our favorite steel gravel bikes in the market.
Best Steel Gravel Bikes:
Otso Warakin Stainless Steel
Warakin easily stands out as one of the best steel gravel bikes with its frame taking the center stage. It’s “less fussy” and can effectively withstand significant pressure. Made with a stainless steel frame, its design is highly durable and suitable for use in bumpy areas such as gravel trails.
To ensure that the gravel bike creates a solid stand-over, its frame comes with a sloppy top tube. Besides that, the rear end has an accommodative design that creates a subtle but the right flare for the seat. As a result, this ends up creating a spacious clearance not only for your heels but also for the bicycle’s tires.
It’s the perfect ride for adventure, thanks to its modern design. For instance, it features two types of wheel combinations. There is the 650b/27.5” option that makes it easier to move over large obstacles smoothly. Alternatively, you can choose from the 700c/29” that’s thinner and provides faster overall movement.
Whether you are riding on gravel, cobbles, or a pavement, Warakin is your perfect companion when going out for adventures. It has been efficiently designed for use anywhere, delivering optimal performance with minimal effort.
- Supple stainless steel and high-quality frame with a titanium-like resistance to corrosion.
- Want 650b or 750c tire clearance? Well, there are two options to choose from.
- The patented pending-tuning chip system offers 4mm of bottom-bracket for height adjustment and 20 mm of chainstay for length adjustment.
- Durable and long-lasting
- Effective for off-road use
- Flexibility in handling steep descents
- Offers the rider optimal performance on gravel trails
- Quite heavy
Surly Midnight Special
Surly Midnight Special might look like your regular steel gravel bikes, but it’s a monster. While it may have the “Traditional2 appearance, it’s a game-changer that definitely offers value for money. For durability, the interior frame is treated with a lasting protective coating while its powder-coat finish oozes of class.
The contemporary gravel bike is made with a classic frame. Additionally, it has a 4130 CrMo unicrown fork and all this is topped with an external cable routing. Surly is sophisticated even though it has chunky tires. The flat-mount disc brakes, the front, and rear thru-axle all blend to create a special racing bike.
This steel gravel bike’s build features impressive TRP tires that can effectively withstand different terrains. Even on gritty roads, the tires have great stability and modulation. Their 650b rims plus 700c tires mean that a rider will have a smooth experience. It quickly absorbs any bumps on the road and moves efficiently over potholes.
- Comes with Promax DA296 stem and Hayes CX-Expert brakes
- Has modern road standards including a 44 mm head tube, 12 mm rear and front thru-axles, and flat- mount disc brakes.
- 650b higher-volume and fine-tuned tires for better pressure distribution and traction
- A contemporary racing bike with a combination of modern and classic standards
- Sturdy and durable built
- Excellent agility
- Efficiently runs on trails and tarmacs
- Quite expensive
Marin Nicasio Plus
Whether you want to take an adventure on or off-road, Nicasio + is a good companion. You can even take it to your all distance trips or wellness routines. The steel gravel bike model has been designed for any cyclist who is keen on trying a modern bike that comes with the traditional steel structure.
The bike features a classic CrMo frame and tubes. Its tires’ geometry includes a 650b x 47 mm, making the bike ideal for any surface. Besides that, it has a high level of endurance thanks to its steel structure. As a result, it’s suitable for lasting use and can withstand extreme pressure.
Its excellent geometry offers an effective blend of off-road stability and endurance handling. Furthermore, the bike’s wide tires ensure that the cyclist remains comfortable on-road and can efficiently move through gravel roads, paths, and tracks.
For control, Marin Nicasio + uses disc brakes. This provides a precise stopping power regardless of the surrounding conditions. Besides that, the disc brakes normally need minimal maintenance, regardless of the season.
- Beyond-road geometry that offers excellent road handling with better off-pavement stability.
- Has a Nicasio frame & fork with a clearance of up to 650b x 48 mm tires.
- Steel 4130 CrMo frame construction, rack mounts, and full fender.
- Disc brakes provide controlled and smooth stopping in all the conditions. In addition to that, the disc brakes need very little maintenance.
- Steel design that provides lasting durability
- Comfortable and versatile in different conditions
- It’s quite heavy and makes navigating hilly terrains quite difficult
- The disc brakes are simply average
Ribble CGR 725
It’s one of the top steel gravel bikes thanks to its traditional class, performance, and flexibility. CGR 725 has contemporary features in addition to a premium steel frame that provides the much-needed durability. Its geometry makes it an ideal companion in a rugged landscape, making it one of the most in-demand multi- terrain bikes.
CGR 725 is uniquely handcrafted using the strong Reynolds 725 steel. Besides that, it’s highly compatible with multiple wheels plus tires up to 47 mm. Its versatility in terms of specifications makes it a game- changer, ensuring that you don’t miss a beat while cycling. Its geometry offers precise control and high stability even on the roughest terrain. Generally, the steel bike is self-supported to provide users with ultra- endurance.
- It’s compatible with up to 650b x 47c tires, has disk brakes, and a well-synchronized geometry design
- Self-supported and offers ultra-endurance even on the toughest terrains
- Handcrafted with the triple-butted Reynolds 725 tubing frame
- Level 1 alloy stem and handlebar
- Has a great classic look and provides comfortable rides
- Designed, crafted, tried, and tested using quality materials
- A high-quality steel frame that absorbs vibrations
- An ideal commuter bike with a high level of comfort and efficiency
- The bike is quite heavy hence it might it challenging to move across hilly terrain.
Masi Speciale Randonneur
This model is probably the most comfortable steel gravel bike out there. Speciale Randonneur gives you the best buck ratio, ensuring that you comfortably cycle through gravel. Its popularity is enhanced by its ability to deliver powerful thrusts even through loose gravel roads.
Its frame is made up of double-butted steel which provides lasting durability. The Masi bike model features a powerful combination of Tiagra and Shimano 105 groupsets. In addition to that, the bike has extra-large tubeless 650 b x 47C – WTB Horizon tires that don’t slack back when it comes to dealing with obstacles found on gravel roads.
This is a powerful 2x 10 cycling train that doesn’t have a problem going uphill or downhill. Reviews how that there no need to even hike while you are on your usual rides because it has highly effective mechanical disc brakes. To cap up everything, you don’t have to spend so much money to enjoy a superb gravel ride.
- High volume and massive WTB-Horizon 650b x 47c TCS tires
- Tubeless 650b rims with an internal diameter of 23 mm
- Full-coverage fenders
- Rear and front rack mounting locations in addition to 3-bottle mounting locations
- Efficient bearing hubs that are alloy disc-sealed
- Mechanical Promax brakes and Shimano Tiagra brake levers
- It’s an all-road bike that’s ideal for sport touring
- Highly efficient and affordable
- Its bar has a notable 12’ flare
- Not the best for loaded use.
Vaya GRX 600
GRX 600 comes with a generous tire clearance with its 700c x 50 mm tires. It’s ideal for any type of road use, thanks to its large grave-friendly tires. Besides that, you can use it for light touring in the countryside. Its efficiency is enhanced by its optimized Salsa drop bars. Even though the bike moves at quite greater speeds, it can only maintain its stability when carrying light loads.
For durability, GRX 600 is Salsa-designed and comes with a triple-butted cromoly frame for its tubeset. It should be noted that its durability is enhanced by the seamlessly integrated front and rear racks as well as the rear fender mounts that have been cast into the dropout. This bike has been designed to efficiently work with the Salsa Wanderlust Rack.
Its Waxwing fork is made up of carbon fiber and it includes an internal wire routing with dynamo, fender mounts, and 3-pack mounts. Generally, the bike offers improved performance even on poor terrains.
- Triple-butted cromoly tubeset for enhanced durability
- Premium waxwing fork construction
- Great tire clearance for the 700c x 50 mm tires
- Perfect and reliable for use on gravel
- Durable thanks to the triple-butted cromoly tubeset
- It provides confident and smooth shifting
- Has an external brake routing for easy maintenance
- Comparably slow on hilly terrains
- Can only accommodate light loads
Kevin of Steel III
Kevin of Steel III lives up to its name with its durable steel frame. In fact, most cyclists consider it more than just a gravel bike that’s made up of steel because its ability to move across the countryside makes it a powerhouse.
Kevin is highly flexible. It can efficiently run on several sized tires including 650b and 700c. Besides that, it has several mounting options that enhance its versatility. Cyclists normally describe its 650b tires as heavyweight champions that are ideal for adventurous rides involving trail rides, overnighters, and single- track among others.
On the other hand, the 700c wheels are ideal for slow luxurious rides. This may include sessions around the beach and road touring. With the 1x and 2X drivetrain, the bike is always adventure-ready. Designed with a customized 4130 steel yoke frame, Kevin Steel III easily flexes when it comes to any terrain.
- It has a 1x or a 2x drivetrain
- Significantly huge tire clearance involving 650b or 700c wings
- It’s made with a 4130 customized steel yoke for durability and stability
- It has a longer wheelbase in addition to a huge tire clearance for better stability
- Versatile and suitable for various types of gravel rides
- It has a double-butted Italian-made tubing that enhances durability
- Comes with multiple mounting options
- Quite expensive
Co-op Cycles ADV 3.1
Co-op Cycles is a brand that is known to push existing limits of bikes and ADV 3.1 makes one of the best steel gravel bikes for those remote rides. We can classify this model as a country bike because it isn’t scared of gravel.
Its frame includes double-butted Chromoly steel while its fork is made up of Chromoly as well. The strong steel frame offers users durability, especially as they cycle in the backcountry. You can reliably use it for off- road rides as it provides a smooth experience.
It should be noted that the bike’s handlebar enhances user control. It’s flared and comes with bar end-shifters that help to control downhill handling, particularly when you are moving on rough terrain. Its 650b x 50 mm tires are puncture-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about tire repairs regardless of where you are. The only downside about the tires is that they add some weight. So, if you are going uphill, be prepared for a real challenge. Generally, it’s ideal for those who are keen on leisure rides on gravel.
- 650b x 50mm puncture-resistant tires that provide wide and stable patch contact on different terrains
- Double-butted frame with Chromoly steel for enhanced durability and reliability
- 20-speed drivetrain for an upbeat performance on any terrain
- Flared handlebar in addition to bar-end shifters that enhance the effectiveness of downhill handling when moving on a rough terrain
- Cable-actuated TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes that supply precise stopping power
- Highly durable and reliable
- Its drivetrain offers a flexible performance
- Has an amazing downhill control
- The bike weighs around 27.4 pounds and it’s quite heavy
- Its massive tires add in a lot of weight
Surly seems to be a brand that has mastered the art of creating the best steel gravel bikes. Apart from the Midnight Special, Straggler is another great gravel bike that comes with an outstanding personality. It’s like a “handle-it-all” type of a bike as it can easily move on gravel terrain. In fact, the manufacturer describes it as steel gravel or a disc brake pavement bike!
It’s fine-tuned for exploration, especially in the countryside. So, it can withstand all types of terrain conditions. This is facilitated by its 650b x 41 mm tires or 700c wheel diameter with fenders. Its quality steel frame in addition to a versatile geometry provides lasting comfort, ensuring that you enjoy all your bicycle ride sessions. However, while your comfort is prioritized, you have to give up the need for speed.
Besides that, you have to be contented with the lack of the latest tech specifications. However, Straggler is still a great gravel bike. It has a 1 x 11 drivetrain that provides cyclists with the ultimate simplicity. Note that there are also several mounting points for gear and racks as well as fender mounts for those murky and rainy days. For better and precise control, Straggler’s brakes are made of the mechanical discs.
- Uses the proprietary Surly 4130 Chromoly alloy for its frame
- 4130 Chromoly, brazed, lugged, and disc only fork.
- 650B x 44 mm tire clearance with fenders
- Horizontal dropouts with a forward-exiting feature for the best single speed use in addition to wheelbase adjustability.
- Effectively accommodates 8 and 24 pack-racks.
- 1 x 11 drivetrain for efficient use and simplicity
- It’s efficient and reliable
- Offers comfort, especially for long-distance
- It has several mounting pints for gear and racks
- It doesn’t have high speeds
- Heavier than it’s closest competitors
- Quite expensive
Understanding the Key Features of Gravel Bikes:
Gears and Drivetrain
A drivetrain involves various components in a bike that enhance its effectiveness of power transmission. This push or pull power usually consists of parts such as pedals, chain, derailleur, and cranks among others.
Most gravel bikes usually have two main types of drivetrains: 1X drivetrain that has one front chainring. Its gears are usually very few. On the other hand, the 2x drivetrain has 2 front chainrings with multiple gear options.
For those who need a lightweight steel gravel bike that’s simple and easy to use, then the 1x is the most ideal. However, it’s not suitable for use in terrains that have steep descents and climbs. Meanwhile, the 2x drivetrain offers excellent ride sessions across different terrains, including going uphill.
650B and 700C Wheel Size
These are the most common types of wheel sizes that the above-reviewed steel gravel bikes have.
It’s ideally great in providing cyclists with much-needed comfort. Cycling on gravel can be quite challenging and easily cause discomfort. A combination of a 650b tire plus wheel simply prioritizes supreme comfort.
However, you have to give up on speed. Such tires add considerable weight to the bike and reduce the rolling speed. But they still have a winning aspect. For instance, they have lower air pressure and a larger footprint which means that the tires easily and smoothly floats over huge obstacles. With a bigger patch of ground contact, the tires have higher traction. This feature is very important if you are moving on soft and loose terrain.
Compared to the 650b, a combination of 700c wheels and tires offers overall better performance. It’s ideal for use in a mixed terrain and currently, they are the most commonly used with gravel bikes. Unlike the 650b tire options, there is a broad range of 700c type. So, fixing or replacing your tire in the future won’t be a problem.
Besides that, 700c tires are narrower compared to 650b. As a result, they weigh less thereby allowing the bike to move faster on gravel paths as well as tarmacked roads. Generally, they are great for all-round riding and effectively cater to every need of the cyclist.
Mechanical Disc Brakes vs Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Most (if not) all the bikes in this review have mechanical disc brakes. This is because the brakes are budget- friendly and are still efficient. Mechanical disc brakes usually come with a cable system that helps the rider to slow down. Just like the name suggests, they are normally used mechanically. However, you still have the option of using hydraulic disc brakes.
Such a brake system normally involves the use of fluid instead of cables. As a result, they have much effective and precise stopping power. It should be noted that it’s much easier to fine-tune hydraulic brakes hence leading to better control.
Riding on gravel means taking your bike on unpaved roads. Sometimes you want to go for an adventure in the countryside or along forest service roads and you can’t do this with a basic bike. So, having a bike that’s specifically designed for such terrain can enhance your overall experience.
The above-reviewed bikes are among the best for gravel trails. They are made of durable steel frames which guarantee the user longevity. The “old school” steel type of material is the best to cater to your demands, especially when you want to tour and carry some load. They come in different shapes, sizes, and budget to fit your unique needs.