REVIEWED: 5 All-Road Gravel Bikes


We review three race-focused steeds ideal for tackling South Africa’s gravel-racing scene. And two worthy entry-level options.


The Cannondale Supersix Evo SE Gravel Bike

The SUPERSIX EVO SE is Cannondale’s gravel race bike – a very different beast to the Topstone, which is designed with adventure and touring in mind.

In that sense, it’s well suited to riders looking for a similar experience to their road-racing bike, just with big tyres. The handlebar isn’t flared, as it is on many other gravel bikes, and there are no bag or fender mounts. All of the compliance comes from tyre pressure or rider skill. But it’s efficient under hard pedalling, and it’s a rocket both up- and downhill.

In keeping with the bike’s speedy nature, the spec list features a 2×12 SRAM Rival eTap AXS drivetrain, with 46/33t chainrings up front and a 10-36t cassette. This gives you plenty of low-down oomph for tarmac sections, but we found the gearing to be quite aggressive for the super-steep climbs typical of South African gravel races. (Stronger riders than us might disagree…)

Rims are alloy DT Swiss, and the bike comes standard with 700x40c Vittoria tyres, although the frame has clearance for up to 700x45mm. All in, a medium-size EVO SE weighs about 8.5kg.

We really love the look of this bike. In typical Cannondale style, it manages to be understated and audacious at the same time. It’s certainly not a bike for everybody, especially if you want to ride really rough roads; but if you spend most of your time on the tar and occasionally enter gravel races, the EVO SE is hard to beat.



The Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon Gravel Bike

When Matt Beers takes to the start line of a gravel race, he does so aboard the Specialized Crux, which is like a Tarmac with clearance for wider tyres – in the same league as the Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE. Unfortunately for wannabe Matts, the Crux is only available as a frameset in South Africa; but that’s okay, because B-batch racers are actually better off on the Diverge – Specialized’s more cushy gravel platform.

The Diverge was completely redesigned a few years ago, and it’s now one of the longer, slacker gravel bikes around, with clearance for 47mm tyres. There’s a Future Shock 2.0 hiding in the headset – a hydraulic damper that offers 20mm of compliance – and it does a great job of taking the sting out of rough roads. And that in turn keeps you off the brakes, and makes you faster.

The FACT 9r carbon frame is light and stiff – as are the alloy G540 wheels from DT Swiss – and the 1×11 SRAM Rival groupset is simple and durable. The SWAT storage box in the huge down tube is a nice touch – it’s big enough for all your tools and it sits low on the bike to keep your centre of gravity where it should be.

South African gravel is rough, with dongas and erosion ditches everywhere. Climbs can be rocky, and even our tarmac sections are sometimes a potholed mess.

The Diverge takes all of it in its stride.



The Titan Racing Switch Carbon Elite Gravel Bike

The Switch Carbon Elite is the quintessential all-road bike, handling as well on tar as it does on dirt. On spec alone, it also offers more value than many international brands.

The name hints at its Jekyll and Hyde tendencies: ‘switch’ the standard Vittoria  Terreno Dry 38mm tyres for a pair of 28mm slicks, and you have a capable road bike that will satisfy most weekend warriors. Go one step further and get a second wheelset, and you’ll basically have two awesome bikes in your garage, with more space to park the Vitara.

All good bikes start with a good frame, and Titan is so confident about their carbon creation that they’ve backed it with a five-year, multi-user warranty. The internal cable routing is neat, and the dropped seat stays are on trend. Through-axles front and rear add an extra dose of stiffness and speed.

Speaking of stiffness… Power transfer is good, but the frame does lack some of the ride-softening compliance offered by other gravel bikes. It’s fantastic when you have your roadie slicks on, though.

The mechanical SRAM Rival 2 x11 groupset has a 46/36t front chainring combo and an 11-32t cassette, which is on the roadie end of the spectrum. You might want to upgrade to a wider-range cassette for certain gravel races.


Gravel used to be a niche discipline. But as it’s become more mainstream, mass-market manufacturers have jumped on board, and beginner riders now have more choice than ever. Here are two excellent entry-level options.


The Triban Grvl 120 Gravel Bike

In their review of Decathlon’s in-house budget gravel bike, Cycling Weekly noted that you get an entire bike for less than the cost of a Garmin Edge 1040 Solar bike computer. You could take this further: many components in the price-hyped cycling universe cost a lot more than this very capable gravel grinder – a single carbon wheel, for example, or a power meter.

We’re super-impressed with the spec of the GRVL 120. Yes, it’s heavy (11.2kg on our scale), and it looks quite clunky; but you get tubeless-ready rims and tyres, disc brakes (albeit mechanical), and a carbon fork, which offers some level of compliance on bumpy roads. There are also mounts on the frame for front and rear racks, in case you want to load up for commuting or for a weekend of bikepacking. It even has a flared handlebar.

The Microshift XLE drivetrain is 10-speed and offers good range, with a 38t chainring and 11-42t cassette. The jumps between gears take some getting used to, but that won’t bother new riders too much; they’ll be more concerned about having an easy-enough granny gear for climbing hills. All in all, a neat package at a very competitive price – and hopefully that combination will get more people out onto our amazing gravel roads.



The Avalanche Dust Gravel Bike

The new Avalanche Dust might cost a third more than their ultra-basic Estrada gravel bike, but it’s a massive step up in terms of frame geometry and components. The alloy frame is a highlight. Avalanche doesn’t publish the geometry, but it’s very much in line with current gravel trends: a slightly slacker head angle, longer wheelbase, and clearance for wider tyres. The paintwork is fantastic, with a premium design that fancier brands could do well to emulate. Gold and black – how can you go wrong?

The 11-speed L-TWOO GR9 groupset might be budget, but it looks as slick as anything from SRAM or Shimano; and there’s massive range, with a 42t chainring and 11-50t cassette. (You’re less likely to spin out on the flats on this bike than you are on the Triban.)

On to the wheels and tyres… Neither rims nor tyres are advertised as being tubeless-ready, but Zynn Grondein from Avalanche has done extensive testing at setting them up tubeless, and so far there haven’t been any issues. He does
recommend having the wheels taped professionally, however, by someone at a bike shop who knows what they’re doing. Having tubes in those good-looking 45mm gumwall tyres just limits the fun you can have with this bike. Going tubeless is a no-brainer, and it’s good to know you can do it with the stock kit.


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