Best Performance Gravel Bikes

Mark Colafranceschi

Updated September 8, 2023

Gravel bikes have seen some rapid evolution in recent years, with new bikes and technology pushing the boundaries and possibilities of what a modern gravel bike can do. As the landscape of gravel riding expands, more refined categories have emerged, offering riders more options than ever before. While there is an abundance of exceptional gravel bikes on the market, a few stand out in their respective disciplines. So here are some of our top picks for the best performance gravel bikes, tailored to a few different riding styles.

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Best lightweight Gravel Bike

The Specialized Crux Expert is a terrific bike designed around efficiency and lightweight performance. The Crux pairs its background in cyclocross with modern Gravel standards to create an agile, efficient, and brilliantly light gravel bike. Specialized touts the Crux to be the most lightweight gravel bike in the world while maintaining the strength and support necessary for riding on rougher terrain. Equipped with a SRAM Rival eTap AXS groupset, shifting and braking feel intuitive and precise. The Crux features durable Roval Terra C Disc wheels, and 700x38mm Specialized Pathfinder Pro tires, delivering traction and support on challenging surfaces. 

This Crux embodies a blend of lightness, efficiency, with quality components, making it an outstanding choice for any gravel riding enthusiast hoping to save weight without sacrificing capability or performance.

Best Aero Gravel Bike

The most aero dynamic gravel bike available with impressive design and capabilities

The 3T Exploro Ultra aims to be the most aerodynamic gravel bike on the market, offering a precise combination of stiffness, aerodynamics, and tire clearance, and it’s even available in both 27.5 and 700c wheels. 

To engineer the frame around tire measurements, 3T conducted extensive research, measuring real tire widths (WAM - Width As Measured and RAM - Radius As Measured) to optimize aerodynamic performance. Despite the challenge posed by the large 55-61mm tires and their knobs, 3T focused on minimizing the airflow disturbance caused by the front wheel. They achieved this by strategically positioning the 60mm wide downtube close behind the front wheel, widening as it reaches the bottom bracket. This design captures and redirects the turbulent airflow, enhancing the bike's aerodynamic efficiency. It also creates a unique and progressive aesthetic that many riders will appreciate. 

One notable feature of the 3T Exploro Ultra is its remarkable tire clearance. The original Exploro set the standard with up to 54mm tire clearance; the Ultra version pushes the boundaries further with clearance for up to 61mm tires. This generous clearance allows riders to dive into mixed and rougher terrain without compromising ride quality or aerodynamics.

The bike's size-specific downtube and unique double drop chainstays improve overall structure and rigidity. The threaded bottom bracket ensures reliability and ease of maintenance. Additionally, the integrated fender mounts offer practicality and versatility, allowing riders to add fenders for protection against wet conditions.

The 3T Exploro Ultra is the epitome of an aerodynamic gravel bike, offering exceptional stiffness, innovative design, and ample tire clearance. Its ability to optimize airflow, accommodate large tires, and incorporate practical features makes it the ideal choice for riders seeking a high-performance bike that excels in aerodynamic design while easily conquering mixed terrain.

Best All round Performance Gravel Bike
Trek Checkpoint SL 6 AXS

A versatile and capable performance gravel bike loaded with intuitive and useable features for all sorts of gravel riding

The Trek Checkpoint SL6 is versatile, smooth, confident and hugely capable. SRAM AXS rival keeps the drivetrain shifting quick, simple and fuss free. The nimble-yet-stable progressive geometry strikes an ideal balance, offering agility on technical terrain while maintaining stability during high-speed descents and the frame can be fitted with a dropper post and tires up to 45c for even more downhill confidence. 

The Trek Checkpoint SL6 is designed with versatility in mind. It has internal frame storage and numerous mounts for fenders, bags, and racks, providing ample space to carry essential gear on long rides or bikepacking adventures. Treks Isospeed seat tube smooths out bumps and vibrations and greatly improves comfort. Cables are aesthetically routed neatly through the downtube keeping them quiet and out of the way.

The simplicity, versatility and smooth ride characteristics of the Trek Checkpoint SL 6 make it a clear top choice for bike packing adventures and all round gravel/road riding. 

Best value Performance Gravel Bike
Canyon Grizl CF SLX 8 Di2

A high value and high performance gravel bike with impressive versatility

The Grizl CF SLX 8 Di2 is an exceptional performance gravel bike with the fantastic value for riders seeking a reliable, high-quality ride. Shimano Di2 electronic shifting makes gear changes effortless and precise, and carbon DT Swiss GRC1400 Spline db wheels ensure a smooth and fast rolling ride. With an impressive size range from 2XS to 2XL, the Grizl accommodates a wide range of riders and riding styles. Canyon also offers a generous 6-year warranty, providing peace of mind beyond your purchase. The Grizl CF SLX 8 Di2 features a top-tube frame mount and three bolt-on fork mounting points, for the attachment of extra gear and storage options. Schwalbe G-One Bite 45mm tubeless easy tires offer excellent traction and reliability and the frame has substantial tire clearance up to 50c to conquer various terrain. Canyons “Gravel Pro” geometry enhances stability and agility off-road, and additionally, the frame is compatible with dropper post and suspension forks for even more off-road capability and confidence.
Overall, the Grizl CF SLX 8 Di2 delivers an outstanding combination of performance and versatility at an exceptional value for gravel aficionados alike.

Best Gravel Race Bike
Lauf Seigla - Ultimate

A high performance gravel race bike packed with a list of impressive design and features

The Lauf Seigla Ultimate stands out as one of the best gravel race bikes on the market. It uses Lauf’s Grit 3rd gen Carbon Suspension Fork, improving traction and helping to absorb bumps without the weight penalty typically associated with traditional suspension forks. Lauf’s unique suspension fork design allows for a smoother ride over rough terrain while maintaining a lightweight feel. The Seigla has Laufs Smoothie Handlebar and precise carbon layups to provide a comfortable efficient and ergonomic riding experience.

The Seigla Ultimate rolls on tough  e*thirteen XCXR Carbon Wheels driven by a Sram Red AXS XPLR wireless drivetrain with a dual-sided Quarq Power Meter…a must-have for gravel racing. 

On top of its exceptional components, the Lauf Seigla Race offers excellent value thanks to its just-in-time manufacturing approach. The bike's appealing aesthetics, and high-performance engineering makes it an exceptional choice for gravel racing enthusiasts looking for a combination of performance and style. The Seigla Race portrays innovation, performance, and value, making it an excellent option for those seeking the best gravel race bike experience.

Spec Level
18.0 lbs20.0 lbs19.2 lbs18.6 lbs
CarbonCarbonCarbonCarbonLauf Grit
Wheel Size
700c650b700c650b / 700c700c
Rival XPLR AXS, Rival AXSXX1 Eagle AXS, Force eTapRival XPLR AXS, Rival AXSGRX Di2, GRX 800RED XPLR eTap, RED AXS
1 × 12 Electronic1 × 12 Electronic1 × 12 Electronic2 × 11 Electronic1 × 12 Electronic
Power Meter
Where to Buy

At Specialized


At Contender


At Trek