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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking to buy my first gravel bike.
I currently have road bike and used to have a hybrid bike to take my kid around town or pick him up from daycare. I decided to sell my hybrid and get a gravel bike that would serve dual purpose:
1) same as hybrid bike (be able to ride with my boy)
2) be able to take occasional gravel trails in Seattle area. I’ve been searching recently and there are lots of great trails which I would like to explore.

I don’t see myself going too off-road and stick to gravel trails only.
Since I am looking to ride around town as well (on paved roads) I definitely want a gravel bike that is very decent on paved road as well, so no day tires or suspension needed (I think)

My budget is not to exceed $1500..
So far some of top choices based on my own research are:
Cannondale Topstone
Specialized E5 Elite
Giant Revolt 2

Others lower on list
Kona Rove
Marin Lombardo
Marin Nicasio plus or 2
Marin Geshalt

Any recommendations/feedback on what’s worth to get and what’s not really needed (GRX groupset?, hydraulic brakes vs mechanical?, tire recommendations?)
 

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I also don’t do gravel but I do have a friend that competes in area, state and regional events. He has several gravel bikes and his favorite one is from a manufacturer that you would never think of. I can’t think of the name but it’s the one recently introduced by the company that the Walton brothers own and sold through Walmart. And yes, it is a high end bike.
 

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I just did a gravel ride around Colorado Springs . I was riding with a guy on a hardtail. He wasn’t enjoying himself. The wind was pretty unrelenting and he couldn’t get a good position in the headwinds. That’s why I use a gravel bike instead of a hardtail on those rides, to get down on the drops for the slogs into the wind. You should read these articles for complete guidelines and budget details. I’ve ridden my hardtail on a gravel ride before and it’s just not technical enough to give any advantage, and if you lose a wheel into the wind it’s harder getting back on.
 

· Old, fat, and slow
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1,312 Posts
One rider here has one of the new Cervelos but that is way outside your budget.

As with anyone looking at buying bikes, I can offer only basic advice (slightly modified because you have riding experience) .... almost every manufacturer at a given price point offers almost identical wares. Giant and Fuji used to be the best values, but not sure anymore ....

If you have budgeted new wheels, obviously ignore thew wheels. Otherwise, light, strong wheels affect the ride a lot (in my limited experience.) Ignore the tires and saddle. I am not informed about the SRAM groups, but latest Sora is supposed to be very good ..... I would a accept an 8- or 9-speed group if the rest of the components were better on a particular bike.
 

· Old, fat, and slow
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The Canondale Topstone # ($1600 approx) looks nice. Sora, Al frame/CF fork … mechanical discs, which are fine but offer less power than hydro discs ….. but at this price point and for the riding you are describing, adequate at least. It also has a threaded BSA BB (all three do.) . Not that the gearing here is 46/30 …. Better for slower riding or more climbing, or worse terrain. At 23 pounds or so it isn’t particularly heavy.

The Giant Revolt 2 also has Sora, AL/CF, and a fl;ip-insert to adust handling with different tire sizes … and lots of clearance for wide wheels. Also mech discs …. Personally I would Newver opt for a proprietary seat post but I guess Giant has been doing ther D-Fuse for a long time so you might not get stuck some day with a frame and no available seat posts (buy a couple anyway.) Comes with 48/32 gearing whixch is a bit more pavement oriented, but should be plenty low enough …. Equivalent to mid-range on my Cannondale tourer, and that thing (with a better rider) can climb about anything. Also around 23 pounds (see above comment about identical offerings.)

The specialized Diverge E5 offers 8-speed Claris with an 11-34 cassette but what I consider road gearing—50-34—up front. (Note please that a review of the bikwe on a different site claimes a more gravel-oriented 46-30.) Al/CF, mech discs, all that. Also around 23 pounds. (Note: all of these are weight “showroom ready” which means no pedals or cages or anything. Add a couple pounds at least for real-world riding weights. Anyway, the point is that they are similar, not that a few ounces matters.)

Interestingly a comment by a user on Spec’s own site (Diverge E5 | Specialized.com says : “I upgraded the tektro Mira brakes which are ok. The axis elite wheels however are the reason for only giving this bike 4 stars, constant spokes breaking meant I had to replace and upgrade the wheels which are not fit for purpose on a bike of this value.

Hmmmm …..

On the other hand the Diverge is a few dollars cheaper.

All these bikes can apparently handle at least 47 mmx700 tires and /or 650x2.1 …. (Not sure about the C’dale) with the Giant actually offering a flip-mount to account for the different diameter. None have useless proprietary parts (if you get the Giant with a round seat post … which might not matter anyway.)

When faced with a choice like this … if buying from a shop, which is the better shop? If buying online, which looks cooler?

The real message here is … spend more. I Always recommend saving a little longer and spending a little more to get up to the next tier of components when it is possible and practical. Brakes matter. Sora is plenty good and Claris is okay---it won’t let you down or leave you hurting.

For instance, the Diverge Elite E5 (which I guess you mentioned, but at $2K is outside your stated budget) has Shimano Hydro discs, Shimano GRX 2x10 drive train, (46-30x11-34) and comes in under 22 pounds.

If you can squeeze out another few dollars up front …. I look at bikes as investments. I amortize the cost over however many years and miles and pleasure they will deliver, and the up-front increase is often pennies per mile or less.

It is all preference. Basically any of the bikes you list will work just fine, and for casual riding (like I do) all the extras might be overkill. You might be able to get a bike which will fill all of Your needs at the bottom end of that price range.

However, if I am going to lay out what is, for me, a fair chunk of cash, I always try to do cost/benefit analysis, and I have never thought “I wish this bike wasn’t so much more than I need.”
 

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The Canondale Topstone # ($1600 approx) looks nice. Sora, Al frame/CF fork … mechanical discs, which are fine but offer less power than hydro discs ….. but at this price point and for the riding you are describing, adequate at least. It also has a threaded BSA BB (all three do.) . Not that the gearing here is 46/30 …. Better for slower riding or more climbing, or worse terrain. At 23 pounds or so it isn’t particularly heavy.

The Giant Revolt 2 also has Sora, AL/CF, and a fl;ip-insert to adust handling with different tire sizes … and lots of clearance for wide wheels. Also mech discs …. Personally I would Newver opt for a proprietary seat post but I guess Giant has been doing ther D-Fuse for a long time so you might not get stuck some day with a frame and no available seat posts (buy a couple anyway.) Comes with 48/32 gearing whixch is a bit more pavement oriented, but should be plenty low enough …. Equivalent to mid-range on my Cannondale tourer, and that thing (with a better rider) can climb about anything. Also around 23 pounds (see above comment about identical offerings.)

The specialized Diverge E5 offers 8-speed Claris with an 11-34 cassette but what I consider road gearing—50-34—up front. (Note please that a review of the bikwe on a different site claimes a more gravel-oriented 46-30.) Al/CF, mech discs, all that. Also around 23 pounds. (Note: all of these are weight “showroom ready” which means no pedals or cages or anything. Add a couple pounds at least for real-world riding weights. Anyway, the point is that they are similar, not that a few ounces matters.)

Interestingly a comment by a user on Spec’s own site (Diverge E5 | Specialized.com says : “I upgraded the tektro Mira brakes which are ok. The axis elite wheels however are the reason for only giving this bike 4 stars, constant spokes breaking meant I had to replace and upgrade the wheels which are not fit for purpose on a bike of this value.

Hmmmm …..

On the other hand the Diverge is a few dollars cheaper.

All these bikes can apparently handle at least 47 mmx700 tires and /or 650x2.1 …. (Not sure about the C’dale) with the Giant actually offering a flip-mount to account for the different diameter. None have useless proprietary parts (if you get the Giant with a round seat post … which might not matter anyway.)

When faced with a choice like this … if buying from a shop, which is the better shop? If buying online, which looks cooler?

The real message here is … spend more. I Always recommend saving a little longer and spending a little more to get up to the next tier of components when it is possible and practical. Brakes matter. Sora is plenty good and Claris is okay---it won’t let you down or leave you hurting.

For instance, the Diverge Elite E5 (which I guess you mentioned, but at $2K is outside your stated budget) has Shimano Hydro discs, Shimano GRX 2x10 drive train, (46-30x11-34) and comes in under 22 pounds.

If you can squeeze out another few dollars up front …. I look at bikes as investments. I amortize the cost over however many years and miles and pleasure they will deliver, and the up-front increase is often pennies per mile or less.

It is all preference. Basically any of the bikes you list will work just fine, and for casual riding (like I do) all the extras might be overkill. You might be able to get a bike which will fill all of Your needs at the bottom end of that price range.

However, if I am going to lay out what is, for me, a fair chunk of cash, I always try to do cost/benefit analysis, and I have never thought “I wish this bike wasn’t so much more than I need.”
wonderful detailed information:)
 

· Spin Spin Spin
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I went with a Fuji Tread 1.0....alloy frame, carbon fork, full 105, 2x10, tektro dual pull mech discs. Swapped the 700x35s to WTB 700x37s....$1100


Bicycle Tire Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Wheel Bicycle wheel
 

· Spin Spin Spin
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4,421 Posts
have done several upgrades like dura ace chain, wheels mfg bb, deore dx pedals, lizard skins bar tape but has been that way for years. this is also my road bike. much more comfy and capable than my allez sport.
 
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