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    Best steel gravel bikes 2024: why your next gravel bike might be steel

    Robert Ferri
    Robert Ferri
    Jun 4, 2024 11 min
    Best steel gravel bikes 2024: why your next gravel bike might be steel

    What are the best steel gravel bikes in 2024? When gravel bikes became very popular, we saw many hit the market. Some were carbon fiber racing machines, others sporty aluminum lightweight machines, but no one expected the popularity of the steel gravel bike. 

    At buycycle, we get asked some amazing questions, but one that we have recently encountered is, “Should I buy a steel gravel bike?” In this article, we will discuss why steel gravel bikes are sought after, what makes them unique, and compare them against their competition.

    best steel gravel bikes
    See steel gravel bikes for sale on buycycle

    Interestingly, when gravel bikes started becoming very popular around 6-7 years ago, companies could rewrite the book on what worked with adventure bikes and get creative with designs, materials, and even components.

    Many companies started using steel to make gravel bikes for many reasons, which we will discuss in this article. This is not only for basic entry-level bikes but also for high-end adventuring and racing machines.

    It isn’t just a great material for the production of a bike, but it also came with amazing advantages, which got many gravel riders choosing it over other materials. A production steel gravel bike frame can cost as much as $1600 or as little as $300, and they can’t make them quick enough for the demand at times.

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    You will find hundreds of steel gravel bikes for purchase on buycycle for you to enjoy! Check them out here!

    The best steel gravel bikes: our top 3

    There are many different steel gravel bikes on the market, and we want to discuss three of the best we have encountered. These bikes are known for their excellent build quality, unique features, and popularity in the community. Here is our top pick for a steel frame gravel bike.

    Best steel gravel bike: 1. Niner RLT Steel

    Known as a performance gravel steel bike. It’s light, fast, and equipped with great modern components and sizing, but it keeps that lovely feeling of riding steel. It's not the cheapest, but it's definitely one of the best. It is a great option for a steel gravel race bike.

    Best steel gravel bikes
    Best steel gravel bike: 1. Niner RLT Steel

    Feature/Aspect

    Niner RLT Steel

    Frame Material

    Reynolds 853 steel

    Fork

    Carbon fork

    Tire Clearance

    Up to 50mm tires

    Wheel Size

    700c or 650b

    Brake Type

    Disc brakes

    Groupset Options

    Shimano, SRAM, and 1x or 2x configurations available

    Gearing

    Wide range of gearing options for varied terrain

    Mounting Points

    Multiple mounting points for racks and fenders

    Handlebar

    Flared drop bars

    Weight

    Varies by size and build, typically around 22-24 lbs

    Geometry

    Gravel-specific geometry for comfort and control

    Design

    Classic steel aesthetic with modern features

    Color Options

    Available in several color options

    Price Range

    Mid to high range (typically around $2,000 - $3,500)

    Intended Use

    Gravel riding, bikepacking, long-distance touring

    Additional Features

    Thru-axles, internal cable routing, tubeless-ready rims

    Niner RLT Steel Highlights

    • Versatility: With its multiple mounting points, the Niner RLT Steel is perfect for bikepacking and long-distance touring, allowing for extensive customization with racks and fenders.
    • Comfort: The gravel-specific geometry and the compliance of the steel frame offer a comfortable ride over long distances and varied terrain.
    • Performance: Equipped with disc brakes and a carbon fork, this bike ensures excellent stopping power and precise handling.
    • Durability: The Reynolds 853 steel frame is renowned for its strength and longevity, making it a reliable companion for adventurous rides.

    Why choose the Niner RLT Steel?

    The Niner RLT Steel stands out for its blend of classic and modern design elements. It combines the timeless feel of a steel frame with contemporary components and geometry, making it a top choice for gravel enthusiasts who seek both performance and comfort. Whether you are exploring new trails, embarking on a bikepacking journey, or just enjoying a long ride on mixed terrain, the Niner RLT Steel is built to handle it all with style and reliability.

    best steel gravel bikes
    See Niner's steel gravel bikes on buycycle

    Best steel gravel bike: 2. Ritchey Outback

    Ritchey steel is unlike other steel and has a certain feel to it compared to other bikes. Their flagship gravel bike, the Outback, has classic styling, a very long wheelbase for control, and huge tire clearance. Typically only sold as a steel gravel bike frameset then you build it up yourself.

    Best steel gravel bikes
    Best steel gravel bike: 2. Ritchey Outback

    Feature/Aspect

    Ritchey Outback

    Frame Material

    Ritchey Logic steel

    Fork

    Carbon fork with thru-axle

    Tire Clearance

    Up to 48mm tires

    Wheel Size

    700c or 650b

    Brake Type

    Disc brakes

    Groupset Options

    Compatible with Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo

    Gearing

    Wide range of gearing options for varied terrain

    Mounting Points

    Multiple mounting points for racks, fenders, and bottles

    Handlebar

    Ritchey VentureMax flared drop bars

    Weight

    Varies by size and build, typically around 22-24 lbs

    Geometry

    Gravel-specific geometry for stability and comfort

    Design

    Classic Ritchey design with modern gravel features

    Color Options

    Available in several color options

    Price Range

    Mid to high range (typically around $2,000 - $3,500)

    Intended Use

    Gravel riding, bikepacking, long-distance touring

    Additional Features

    Thru-axles, internal cable routing, and tubeless-ready rims

    Ritchey Outback Highlights

    • Versatility: The Ritchey Outback comes with multiple mounting points for racks, fenders, and water bottles, making it an excellent choice for bikepacking and long-distance touring.
    • Comfort: The Ritchey Logic steel frame and gravel-specific geometry ensure a comfortable ride over various terrains, perfect for long adventures.
    • Performance: Equipped with disc brakes and a carbon fork, the Outback delivers superior stopping power and handling precision.
    • Durability: The Ritchey Logic steel frame is known for its robustness and longevity, providing a reliable and smooth ride for many years.

    Why choose the Ritchey Outback?

    The Ritchey Outback is celebrated for its perfect blend of classic steel bike feel and modern gravel bike performance. It combines the durability and comfort of a steel frame with the responsiveness of a carbon fork and the stopping power of disc brakes. The multiple mounting points make it a versatile option for bikepackers and adventurers, while its gravel-specific geometry ensures stability and comfort on rough terrains. Whether you're planning an epic bikepacking trip or just exploring local gravel paths, the Ritchey Outback is designed to handle it all with style and dependability.

    Best steel gravel bikes
    See Ritchey's steel gravel bikes on buycycle

    Best steel gravel bike: 3. Genesis Croix de Fer

    An excellent all-round gravel bike, it is chosen by many riders. It is great value for money, has good performance, and is mainly used for adventure cycling. It is easy to ride, looks great, and won’t break the bank.

    Best steel gravel bikes
    Best steel gravel bike: 3. Genesis Croix de Fer

    Feature/Aspect

    Genesis Croix de Fer

    Frame Material

    Reynolds 725 heat-treated chromoly steel

    Fork

    Carbon or steel fork options

    Tire Clearance

    Up to 45mm tires

    Wheel Size

    700c

    Brake Type

    Disc brakes

    Groupset Options

    Shimano and SRAM options

    Gearing

    Wide range of gearing options for varied terrain

    Mounting Points

    Multiple mounting points for racks, fenders, and bottles

    Handlebar

    Drop handlebars

    Weight

    Varies by size and build, typically around 24-26 lbs

    Geometry

    Adventure and gravel-specific geometry for comfort and control

    Design

    Classic Genesis design with modern gravel features

    Color Options

    Available in several color options

    Price Range

    Mid to high range (typically around $1,500 - $3,000)

    Intended Use

    Gravel riding, bikepacking, commuting, touring

    Additional Features

    Thru-axles, internal cable routing, and tubeless-ready rims

    Genesis Croix de Fer Highlights

    • Versatility: The Genesis Croix de Fer features multiple mounting points for racks, fenders, and water bottles, making it highly versatile for bikepacking, commuting, and long-distance touring.
    • Comfort: The Reynolds 725 steel frame provides a smooth and comfortable ride, while the geometry ensures stability and control on rough terrain.
    • Performance: With disc brakes and wide tire clearance, the Croix de Fer handles varied terrains with ease and ensures reliable stopping power.
    • Durability: The Reynolds 725 chromoly steel frame is renowned for its strength and resilience, making it a durable option for all kinds of adventures.

    Why choose the Genesis Croix de Fer?

    The Genesis Croix de Fer is a beloved choice among gravel enthusiasts for its exceptional blend of classic steel construction and modern gravel bike performance. Its robust frame and versatile design make it suitable for a wide range of uses, from gravel riding and bikepacking to commuting and touring. The bike’s adventure-specific geometry and multiple mounting points ensure that it can handle both short rides and long expeditions with equal ease. Whether you’re navigating city streets, exploring remote trails, or embarking on multi-day tours, the Genesis Croix de Fer is built to deliver a reliable and enjoyable ride.

    best steel gravel bikes
    See Genesis' steel gravel bikes on buycycle

    These bikes you will often find on buycycle ready for purchase with great low second hand prices and also the security of knowing the bike is in excellent condition.

    What are the advantages of steel gravel bikes?

    Gravel steel bike can offer some amazing advantages over materials such as aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium. It’s the perfect material for gravel riding in many ways. Here is why. 

    Steel gravel bike are good value choices

    Steel is very cheap to buy, easy to manufacture, and fairly simple to repair with the right welder. The cost of a steel bike is generally much lower than that of other materials, and many small bike-building shops can easily make custom-sized frames. Even a custom steel gravel bike is not too bad on price and unique to you.

    Steel gravel bike are more flexible

    Steel is very flexible as a material, and when it comes to off-road riding without suspension components, it makes a big difference. It can move and flex slightly and offer a higher level of comfort. A steel gravel bike frame is known for being very comfortable.

    Steel gravel bikes are durable

    Steel is very durable. Not only can it take heavy hits from falls and rock gardens, but it is also very cheap to repair compared to carbon fiber or other materials such as aluminum and titanium. Also, carrying heavier loads is much safer.

    Lots of mounts

    Steel frames are very strong and easy to manipulate, so they often come with many mounts for touring and bikepacking gear. This is a big advantage if you use the bike for bikepacking as well as weekend rides out. 

    Steel gravel bikes are customisable

    There are a lot of options when it comes to a custom steel gravel bike. With steel being quite easy to manipulate and build for custom frame builders you will find many options for a custom steel gravel bike which could be completely unique to you.

    How to choose a gravel bike? | buycycle Blog
    Need some support to choose your new gravel bike? Find your ideal balance of comfort, performance, and durability with our expert guide here at buycycle.

    What are the disadvantages of steel gravel bikes?

    Just like we discuss the advantages, it’s important to understand the disadvantages of a gravel steel bike. They do have some drawbacks that limit their use.

    Steel gravel bikes are heavier

    Steel is heavy, and you will find on a build, you can easily add 1-3 kg depending on the frame you have. This might not seem like a lot, but for a racing cyclist it makes a big difference and for lightweight setups, it might want to be avoided. A steel gravel race bike will be as light as possible.

    Flexibility

    We mentioned flexibility in the advantages, but in some cases, it’s a disadvantage on a steel gravel bike frame. If you are looking for a super stiff frame that can transfer power, then flexibility isn’t always a good thing, and steel might want to be avoided. 

    Steel gravel bikes look more classic

    Steel bikes generally have a much more classic look than carbon or aluminum bikes. This is because the tubing is very small to keep the weight down and give it the forgiving properties it has. Some love the look, while others don’t.

    How do steel gravel bikes compare to other materials?

    At this point, you might be considering a steel gravel bike frameset, but before hitting the buy it now button, here is how it compares to other materials. 

    Steel vs aluminum gravel bikes

    Aluminum is fairly cheap to buy and, like steel, has a cheaper manufacturing cost. It is stiffer than steel and a little lighter, but it is generally difficult to repair and not always super comfortable to ride. 

    Steel vs carbon gravel bikes

    Carbon is very expensive compared to steel and very challenging to repair. However, it does have the advantages of being incredibly light and very stiff, and it makes a perfect racing machine like a the Rose Backroad FF if you have a competitive side. It’s very different to a steel frame gravel bike.

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    Find out what is the best between aluminium vs carbon in our dedicated article.

    Steel vs titanium gravel bikes

    Another material to speak of is titanium. It has the properties of steel with its flexibility and is also lighter than steel. It is a very expensive material to manufacture, and the process of welding requires a special oxygen-free chamber a lot of the time. Titanium is another option which is close to a steel gravel race bike.

    Are steel gravel bikes for you?

    A steel frame gravel bike is an amazing way to go if you are looking for a bike that will offer a huge amount of comfort, keep the cost down a lot of the time, and they are the perfect rig for adventure. If you value comfort over speed and don’t mind a couple extra kilos on the bike they are perfect.

    We highly recommend a steel gravel bike frameset, and you will find a lot on buycycle to enjoy! Once you start riding and enjoying the comfort of steel, it’s tough to come away from it.