Riding enthusiasts recently went crazy for gravel bikes. For all good reasons, the bike has attracted a crowd. Impressive features and design give the bike a flawless and stable performance. Some of the most fascinating but less obvious engineerings also offer to ride comfort. The best gravel bikes under 500 are not road bikes but are more efficient than mountain and road bikes.
They combine different bike's features into one for a sleek and functional bike. Little wonder why many people want to have a piece of it. As with all good things, it is not easy to find the best models.
We have examined the best products in the market and have summarized them in this review. We have also adjoined a buyer's guide for valuable information on how to buy the bike and maintain the bikes.
Retrospec AMOK v3 8-Speed
6061 Aluminum Alloy frame
Mongoose Artery Comp Gravel Road Bike
Urban commuter aluminum frame
Mongoose Artery Expert Gravel Road Bike
Commuter aluminum frame
Schwinn Vantage Mens/Womens Hybrid Road Bike
Durable aluminum frame
Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike
Alloy frame and steel fork
Raleigh Bikes Talus
Custom-formed aluminum frame
Takara Shiro Adventure Bike
Strong High Tensile Steel Frame
Top 7 Best Gravel Bikes Under 500 Dollar Review
Retrospec AMOK v3 8-Speed Bike
Our list of the best gravel bikes is the Retrospec AMOK v3 8-Speed UrbanGravel/Commuter Bike. The bike is characterized by a technical sophistication to offer unrivaled agility for daily commuting.
An ideal companion for moving around
The bike has an 8-speed drive that lets you commute and cruise on paths and pavements. Thanks to its wide Innova tires, the bike can handle different terrains conveniently. Its aluminum alloy frame is also slim and easy to maneuver for lightweight control. Plus, the right shifter makes it easy to keep the bike on the road without shifting the gears.
Impressive geometry for a low-profile ride
The bike has a low-profile appearance and BMX pedal for handling aggressive and rough rides. It also comes with Tekro mechanical disc brakes that provide excellent stopping power in different conditions. The handlebars, although made of aluminum, are flat and rigid for sturdy and reliable performance.
Mongoose Artery Comp Gravel Road Bike
The Mongoose Artery Comp Gravel Road Bike is another impressive gravel bike by a brand that has been around for a while.
A balance between speed and stability
The Mongoose Artery bike doubles as an urban and a commuter bike with its unicrown steel fork and aluminum frame. Both features allow fast riding without compromising on its commuter-friendly features.
The bike is a versatile combination of comfort for riding on and off the road. As a result, you won’t have much problem riding it on the road or the pavement. Not that we are surprised, coming from a brand that has been in the business for more than 40 years.
Versatile sports hybrid bike
A 24-speed drivetrain backed by premium shifters offers versatility to ride on any trails. The design features strong and light double-wall rims for durable performance to match its versatility. Multiple alloy linear-pull brakes and brake levers also provide efficient braking in different conditions.
Mongoose Artery Expert Gravel Road Bike
Like the Artery Comp, the Artery Expert Gravel Road Bike by Mongoose has an impressive and functional build.
More and more speed
The 27-speed bike has a practical height that lets you climb steep hills with high gear faster without exhausting yourself on pedaling. The aluminum frame on the bike, unlike your average bike, is exceptionally versatile. As a result, it lets you find a balance between performance riding and leisure riding. By implication, you can use the bike for short commute rides and long relaxed rides.
A few glitches but still an impressive product
The cable routing on the bike is also remarkable. However, it might hinder you from effectively carrying the bike down the stairs. Like its sibling that we have reviewed earlier, the Atrey sportbike is ideal for community riding and fitness. Hence, the bike makes up for an excellent companion to stay in shape and make your way through town.
Schwinn Vantage Hybrid Road Bike
Schwinn is another unique brand that has always thrilled the industry with reliable and functional bikes. If anything, the Schwinn Vantage Mens/Womens Hybrid Road Bike is not an exception.
Smooth ride technology for a smooth ride
The bike is handy for intermediate and advanced bikers who seek a fast and high-performance bike. However, it does not mean you can’t have it as an ambitious beginner. A smooth ride technology frame design features a soft-tail suspension that ensures optimal comfort under different conditions. Not just this, an 18-speed drivetrain lets you change gears conveniently with equal responsiveness under other conditions and terrains.
Adventure ride for different riders
The disc brakes on the bikes are also impressive and are smoother than pads. The gears let you climb steep hills and shift conveniently. Mounting rails on the back are too long for quick adjustment to fit anyone. The tires also do not have traction threads, hence, rolls easily. Do note, though, that product does not come with a kickstand.
Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike
The Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike is the third product to make our list of the best gravel bikes. The product has an impressive build for versatile adventure and touring.
More than looks
The Mongoose bike is not only sleek; it features sturdy components for the ultimate ride experience. A steel fork and an elegant alloy frame give it a unique geometry for flexible use. It also comes with Shimano Tourney derailleurs, integrated Microshift shifters, mechanical disc brakes, and a brake lever combo that gives you more control over your ride to keep your ride smooth.
Accessories are a must for bikes
Extra and functional accessories on the bike reduce the chances of being stranded during use. An internal cable routing design allows you to fit five water bottle cage mounts so that you can keep water nearby during your ride. The large front rack also features an integrated bottle opener, and you can fit two panniers. On the other hand, the rear rack is an ideal place to store and carry items.
Raleigh Bikes Talus
The Raleigh Bikes Talus has a simple yet impressive build without cutting down on performance. It features a custom-formed frame for convenient maneuvering and ride.
All about the sizing
The Talus bike has a progressive wheel sizing system that helps you find the proper balance between ease of handling and stability. As a result, you can always check the size that will match your size. It also has 21 gear combinations on the handlebar where you can always access your fingertips. As a result, it is easy to keep a comfortable pace.
A bike for comfortable positioning and stability
The bike doubles as a city and a commuter bike. Built-in eyelets, for example, allows you to mouth fenders and a rear rack. This way, you can shop with the bike or ride it across wet grounds without getting water on yourself. A unique brake design also lets you control your speed.
Takara Shiro Adventure Bike
The Takara Shiro Adventure gravel bike has a rugged design and is built for adventure in any terrain.
High-tensile frame adventure bike
The gravel bike has a sturdy rear and front cable-activated disc brakes that let you control and ride the bike with ease. Hence, you won’t have a problem controlling the bike along any terrain. The handlebars are also padded with tape, and the seat is comfortable for long rides.
A robust frame of high-tensile material is also handy as it absorbs daily impact without crumbling or falling apart. The frame is light, strong, and lasting. It is also flexible and responsive to accommodate heavy riders.
Powerful brakes and shifters
The 21-speed drivetrain is also handy for beginners, as it is powerful for flat surfaces and hills. Plus, the tires are significant, and the double-wall rims smoothen out bumps and potholes without cutting down on the speed. Although the bike does not come as a ready-to-ride bike, most parts are preassembled, and installation instruction will help you make light of the work.
How to Choose Gravel Bikes Under 500
The Frame Geometry
The positioning of the rider is crucial in determining stability, comfort, and handling. Bikes with low bottom brackets and slack head tube angles are ideal for steep and technical terrain. Unlike upright bikes, gravel bikes should be comfortable to ride, especially over long distances.
Hence, the geometry should be such that it allows the rider to move and shift weight conveniently when navigating different terrain. A quick-release feature is also handy, especially at the rear, ensuring a more robust wheelset. Plus, it will help if the bike has fenders for keeping off water and racks for moving items.
Bike tires are measured in inches based on the wheels. As a result, there are different measurements and sizes available. However, to aid navigating mixed terrains, it is best to shop for wide and semi-slick tires. You can choose a light 25mm or 28mm tire on the bike if you desire speed, or 35mm threaded tire if you prefer to ride dirt and gravel laid paths.
Your tire choice is majorly dependent on the terrain. Tires with aggressive thread are best for patchy terrain where you need to maintain grip above speed. However, you can experiment with different types to find the best.
Different gears and design allow either speed, efficiency, or both. Hence, like tires, gears are available in various designs to help you navigate different terrain, either steep or loose. You can either select between a single or double chainring.
A single chainring has a simple build and aids tire clearance for sprinting or descending on the road. On the other hand, a double chainring is better for riders that prefer to ride on smooth terrains.
The handlebar shape should be such that matches your riding style and offers comfort. The most standard type is drop and flat bars. Bikes with wide handlebars are not always easy to ride as the width puts pressure on the arms and neck. On the contrary, narrow bars bring the elbows in but could leave you feeling cramped.
It will help if you find a balance between a wide and narrow handlebar for riding comfort. You should also consider the handlebar material. Look for a mixture of strength, lightweight, and improved aerodynamics. We recommend an aluminum frame since it has the most absorption features. The handlebar should slide conveniently through the air to make climbing easy and convenient.
The speed and accuracy of stops are also critical, especially for gravel bikes. Responsive brakes are of different types, and each can serve other purposes. Rim brakes and disc brakes are the most standard brakes types on gravel bikes. Disc brakes can be used in different weather conditions as the braking surface is far from the ground.
As a result, the components won't freeze or coat. The brake materials also dissipate heat and are easier to replace. Rim brakes, on the other hand, are inexpensive and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, they are prone to clog since the brake is close to the ground. Hence, it requires more maintenance.
Choose your pedal based on your riding style and personal preference. For road riders that don't need to spend much time walking, you won't need a pedal that allows easy dismount. However, if you need to dismount and walk your bike frequently, it is best to choose a pedal that will enable you to dismount conveniently. Not just this, the shoe should have recessed cleats and grippy threads soles for traction and convenient dismounting.
Advantages of This Bike?
Fit For Tough Conditions
Like the name, gravel bikes are built for challenging and harsh road conditions. Whether it is jumping over rocks or bouncing off potholes, the bikes are fit for the task. Gravel bikes have a broad theme of unconstrained and adventure riding across different surfaces.
Large tires on the bike provide a wide surface area that lets it roll over obstacles conveniently. There are also threads on the tires that provide grip in different conditions. More than this, however, the bikes can be used on all roads without sacrificing rolling efficiency.
You can ride a gravel bike in almost any position. That said, the bike is more forgiving that road bike and more aggressive than mountain bikes. Hence, it gives you a balanced ride between the two. The bars are also narrow, and a negative rise stem makes up for more aerodynamics.
As a result, it is handy for long-distance or off-road touring. For example, they come with reinforced forks and frames that give it a touch of heaviness for easy clearance. The stretched frames also provide superior stability on high speed on different surfaces.
Gravel bikes are one of the most versatile bike types. It also has a simple build with limited components to make the most of your ride. The bikes are designed with impressive steering response with short fork offset and steep head angle.
Although it does not always have a fast-steering, the fork offset balances the outcome for a slacker head angle and lengthier reach. As a result, it lets you steer calmly on a fast descent. The bike is also longer for comfort and stability on different surfaces. Plus, the headtube is taller and has a slick angle for relaxing steering.
For All Roads
Don't let the name fool you; gravel bikes are not used for riding on gravel. The bike has an in-between design that qualifies it for use on different roads and conditions. The spreads of gear on the bike gives it an excellent riding position that does not confine. Knobby tires also provide an impressive grip, and the brakes will perform well in different weather.
Mounting racks on the bike are also handy places for carrying items in case you ever decide to use it as a commuter bike. Hence, instead of buying a commuter bike, road bike, and tour bike, you can simply purchase a gravel bike and use it.
Adventure & Gravel Bike Components
Bike components are parts of the bikes that, well, let you ride. We can't mention all the parts that makeup what you ride upon, but we can give a few insights into some of the components that gravel bikes are made of:
The derailleur is a component that is charged with shifting the chain between the chainrings. There are two types: front and rear derailleur. The front derailleur shifts the chain in a horizontal direction. The rear derailleur is attached at the rear-right hand end of the frame below the axle mount. Nonetheless, both work to help you change gears with ease.
The headset provides a rotatable interface between the headtube of the bike frame and the fork. Hence, it lets the fork rotate so that you can steer and balance your bike.
The seat post lets you optimize your needs by factoring the seat height, pedaling angle, distance to the handlebar, and suspension. Most seats are adjustable to fit different riders
Pedals effectively transfer leg power into the crank handle to move the bike forward.
This component offers an excellent rolling resistance, a smooth tread pattern, and balanced aerodynamics for comfortable movement. The tires are designed to improve your ride's quality and provide speed and grip on the surface where you ride.
The brake reduces your moving power to avoid a collision or bring the bike to a stop. By pressing two surfaces together, it creates friction to let you stop the bike when you want to do so.
The bike's hug is connected to the wheel's rim through the axles and spoke to let the wheels spin freely.
The crankset is a component of the drivetrain that converts your leg's motion into rotational motion to drive the belt or chain, which drives the wheels.
Wash with a cleaner:
You can use a power washer and spray at a low pressure to remove dirt on your bike. Let the bike dry to prevent oxidation, especially on the steel parts, and store it inside.
Keep the chain lubricated:
Squeaking sounds and loud rattling are mostly caused by metal rubbing against another metal or mud. Hence, you should also lubricate the metals, not only to avoid noisy rattles but to increase the bike's lifespan. It also saves cost on replacement and frequent repairs. You can use a degreaser product, bike oil, toothbrush, or a disposable rag to pry off the dirt, clean, and apply oil.
Keep the tires inflated:
It is essential always to keep the tire pressure to avoid getting flats too often when you ride. Read the side panel of the tire for the recommended PSI. More than this, you should buy a quality pump and learn how to use it to fix a flat tire or tube. You should also carry the pump with you when you ride to avoid being stranded. Check the pressure every week, and if you don't ride it for a while, take the tires off to prevent cracks.
Tighten the nuts but not too tight:
Frequently check the bolts and nuts to keep them where they belong. If you spot any that is out of place, tighten them before it causes a significant hazard. However, do not over-tighten the nuts as it could cause constricting movement and further damages.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a gravel bike?
A gravel bike or adventure bike is a type of road bike that is designed for different surfaces. As a result, the bike features impressive gears that make it suitable for all-day riding across different surfaces and terrains. It is safe to say it combines the features of a mountain and road bike for commuting, leisure, and fast-pace riding.
2. Is it wrong to wash my bike?
There is no wrong with washing your bike. However, there are inevitable mistakes that you shouldn't make when you wash the bike. For example, you shouldn't wash your bike too often as too much water penetration can prevent it from running smoothly. Instead, you would only wash it when it is dirty and lubricate it after it is dry. You should also not use high-pressure water jets nor aggressive detergents when you wash.
3. What can a gravel bike handle?
Gravel bikes can handle virtually any terrain and condition. The bike is more like a hybrid bike that combines the features of a road and mountain bike. As a result, it is fast, efficient, and flexible. This way, it is an excellent choice for exploring dirt roads, mountain paths, and busy tarmacs. The bike components are also sturdy and won't fall apart easily from use.
4. Are gravel bikes user-friendly?
Gravel bikes are comfortable general-purpose bicycles. Since they also allow upright sitting position, you can ride for an extended period without feeling tired or exhausted. Not just this, most gravel bikes come with extra features like water bottle mounts for keeping water close. You can also use the bike for shopping thanks to its front and back rack features. Plus, it is an excellent entry-level bike that beginners will find to be a worthy companion.
5. Should I buy aluminum or a carbon-steel frame?
Carbon and aluminum are two of the most standard materials used for bike frames. Carbon frames are lightweight and are handy for speedy riders. However, they are expensive. An aluminum frame, on the other hand, is lightweight and durable. It is also easy to use and is not costly. Therefore, if you have to choose between the two, we recommend an aluminum frame.
Our review of the best gravel bikes under 500 will help you make an easier decision on which product to buy. We have covered different models and a wide range of products to narrow down only its best products. The bikes are characterized by wide tires, improved geometry, gearing, and suspension system. The combined features of the relaxed geometry and low gearing with suspension systems make them one of the best bike types.
Furthermore, you don't have to spend too much before you can purchase the all-purpose gravel bike. The Retrospec AMOK v3 8-Speed UrbanGravel/Commuter Bike stands out as the best product out of our review. Hence, if you must buy one, we recommend this bike. However, other bikes on the list have enough features to give you a bang for your buck.