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What are the best electric gravel bikes in 2021?
Gravel bikes have seen a big surge in popularity in the last year or so, particularly in the UK and Europe. The reason for this is they offer the perfect blend of on and off-road performance, making them incredibly versatile. With most of the major manufacturers now offering e-assist versions, electric gravel bikes will continue to be popular in 2021 and beyond. In this article I will be looking at 11 of the best electric gravel bikes currently available.
Why choose an electric gravel bike?
If you commute by bicycle anywhere in the UK, it is unlikely that your daily commuting route will be free from potholes, road debris and other road surface hazards. Anyone who has every ridden a bike with slick 25mm tyres on an average British road will be aware of the ever present dangers of poorly maintained surfaces.
Gravel bikes first became popular in the United States, this is due in part to the thousands of miles of deserted gravel tracks crisscrossing the vast wilderness, and the fire roads which were designed to allow access to fire trucks in remote forest plantations.
The gravel bike is an amalgamation in design from various disciplines – mountain, road and cyclocross bikes. What designers have done is taken the best design cues from all three and integrated them into one.
Typically a gravel bike will have a much more relaxed frame geometry more akin to that of a mountain bike, but with the advantage of being much quicker, particularly on compacted gravel surfaces and forest trails. They will also have more frame clearance for wider tyres. – It’s not uncommon to see gravel bikes with 47mm wide tyres.
Gravel bike components
As they are designed to be used for road and off-road riding, gravel bikes tend to use components suited to both. Typically gearing will be lower, and the use of sub compact cranksets or 1 x drivetrains is the norm. Hydraulic disc brakes are also fitted as standard to all electric gravel bikes. 650b wheelsets shod in wide ‘gravel specific’ tyres are also common.
Like their regular counterparts, electric gravel bikes typically use either sub-compact cranksets or 1 x gearing. A typical road bike will have a 50/34 compact crankset with an 11-28 rear cassette, whereas a gravel bike will likely have a 48/32 or 46/30 sub-compact crankset combined with an 11-32 or 11-34 cassette. This gives the rider a much lower gear for tackling steep technical off-road climbs without having to get out of the saddle (and thus loose traction on the rear wheel).
1 x Drivetrains are also very common on gravel bikes. These typically have a 42t front chainring combined with an 11-42t rear cassette. One of the main benefits of this kind of set-up is simplicity and a small weight saving. 1 x drivetrains are almost universal on higher-end mountain bikes and gravel bikes.
The main manufacturers of these groupsets are Shimano, with their GRX gravel bike specific groupset, and SRAM with their Apex and Rival 1 x hydraulic brake groupsets.
Wheels and Tyres
A lot of the latest gravel bikes will have 650b wheels fitted although 700c is still in widespread use. The main advantage of 650b is the slightly smaller diameter and wider rim, make for a more robust wheel that is capable of handling the rough and tumble of off-road riding. A typical gravel tyre will be 650b x 47 and most can be run tubeless, meaning they can be used at the preferred lower pressures without worrying about getting pinch flats.
Gravel tyres will, of course have a greater weight and rolling resistance which will be especially noticeable when riding on tarmac, but I’ve ridden quite a few and I feel that for the every day rider this is negligible. Larger volume tyres with lots of tread are also good for riding an e-bike in the winter.
Because of the need for greater control (particularly when descending) gravel bikes generally have flared drop handlebars and shorter stems.
Flared bars have the drop bar portion wider than the maximum bar width at the hoods. This design was first seen on touring bikes back in the 70’s and 80’s. In fact my old 1990 Dawes Galaxy has slightly flared bars. This wider grip allows for greater control on technical descents. Some gravel bars are slightly flared and some will be substantially flared (almost like moustache handlebars).
Dropper seat posts are also becoming quite common on high-end gravel bikes. This makes perfect sense, especially useful for technical descents.
Because gravel bikes are designed for off-road adventures most will have provisions for mounting mudguards, front and rear pannier racks and multiple bottle cages.
Can I use an electric gravel bike for touring?
Electric gravel bikes make excellent touring / bike packing bikes. They’re designed to go places regular road bikes can’t, and their robust design makes them particularly suitable for touring and bike packing. The only consideration would be battery range. Read my article on the best electric bikes for bikepacking for more information.
Most of the electric gravel bikes below use either the x35 ebikemotion or Fazua Evation drive systems (with the exception of the Cannondale and Specialized). Only having a single 250 watt hour battery will limit the assisted range of the bike, so unless you only use the assist when you really need to, it is quite easy to deplete these batteries within 30 or 40 miles. You can buy range extenders (for the x35) and spare batteries for the Fazua, which would effectively double your range.
Apart from the battery range, electric gravel bikes are perfect for touring. Apart from the benefits listed above, you can also fit front and rear pannier racks, mudguards and bottle cages.
The best electric gravel bikes of 2021 are…
So, here goes – my list of the best electric gravel bikes for 2021 (in no particular order). I have include some of the most popular models currently available and there is something to suit various budgets. Unfortunately gravel e-bikes aren’t particularly cheap and start at just over £2000, but you do get the latest, lightweight e-assist systems and some very capable machines.
1. Ribble CGR AL e Electric Gravel Bike
For the price the Ribble CGR AL e is hard to beat. It uses the tried and tested Mahle x35 ebikemotion drive system which is very lightweight at only 3.5kg. Another great thing about the Ribble are the options available. You can have a road-friendly Shimano Tiagra, 105 or Ultegra version or a full-on SRAM Apex 1 equipped gravel bike with 650b wheels and 47mm WTB tyres.
The Ribble CGR AL e is a truly versatile machine in every sense of the word and with the optional range extender battery, it is quite easy to cover 100 miles per day between charges. Ribble cycles have kindly lent me the CGR AL e for a full test and review – you can read the full Ribble CGR AL e review here.
The all-new CGR AL e Step-Through – Image courtesy of Ribble Cycles
Ribble cycles have just introduced a step-through version of the CGR AL e – this is a first in the world of gravel e-bikes (as far as I know) and it will open up the joys of gravel biking to riders who may otherwise have been deterred due to the limited standover clearances offered by tradition frames. The new CGR AL e Step-Through is available in two options: Sport (Shimano Tiagra) and Enthusiast (Shimano 105).
**Update*** Ribble have just announced the release of their all-new e-bike the Gravel AL e – click here for more info.
Buy Now: Ribble CGR AL e – Prices from £2399
Images courtesy of Chain Reaction Cycles
French company Vitus make quality bikes that are sold exclusively through Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles. They have been producing some excellent e-MTB’s lately and for 2021 have added to their range with the Vitus E Substance electric adventure / gravel bike. The E Substance uses the same Fazua Evation system as the Boardman ADV and Cube Nuroad (featured below).
At a glance, the Vitus E Substance looks like great value for money at under £3000. It uses the latest SRAM Apex 10-42 11-speed groupset with a 38t chainring up front – this will ensure a good range of gears to cope with on and off-road riding. The quoted weight for the Vitus is 15.3kg which is about right for a Fazua-powered alloy e-gravel bike. Wheels are Prime Kanza 650b tubeless ready and are shod in WTB Venture TCS 650b x 47c gravel-specific tyres.
The E Substance electric gravel bike is a welcome addition to the Vitus e-bike line-up for 2021 and is sure to be a popular model. I can testify to the quality of the Vitus brand as I personally own a Mach E Urban – the build quality is second to none and I have covered over 400 trouble-free miles in less than a month of ownership. Read the full review here.
3. Cannondale Synapse NEO SE 650b Electric Gravel Bike
The 2021 Cannondale Synapse NEO SE 650b uses the Bosch Active Line Plus motor and 500Wh battery. Some of the electric road and gravel bikes currently available use either the x35 ebikemotion or Fazua Evation systems – these are great e-assist motors, but they are limited in both battery range and the amount of assist they can give to the rider.
This is fine if you already have a certain degree of cycling fitness, and you don’t mind only using the assist occasionally. But what if you aren’t particularly fit, or you are returning to cycling after an illness or injury? The kind of power produced by the Bosch motor is substantially more than both of the aforementioned systems.
There is a weight penalty – the Cannondale weighs in at a hefty 18.5kg, but if you are relying on the electric assist more then this shouldn’t be an issue. The Synapse SEO SE also has a powerful 500 watt hour battery, meaning you can get a realistic 60-70 miles assisted range or even more if you are very frugal with the assist.
Apart from the obvious benefits of the Bosch motor, the Cannondale also boasts an impressive set of gravel riding credentials – tough 650b rims with WTB Byway 47mm tyres and SRAM’s excellent Apex 1 x 11 with an 11-42 rear cassette. It should also be noted that the extra weight is concentrated low and central which increases stability on technical climbs and descents.
I really like the Cannondale and I certainly think that if you are looking for a gravel e-bike that is going to give you more assist, it is worth trying out.
No longer available
4. Orbea M30 1X Electric Gravel Bike
The all-new Orbea Gain M30 1X uses the latest ebikemotion X35 Plus which has been tweaked to give a more natural pedal assist feel – this is thanks to a new torque simulation algorithm which translates into a more natural response to rider pedalling input.
There is also a new display with a larger screen which includes all the necessary road information and selection buttons for the assistance levels.
A full carbon frame and fork use newly designed frame geometry which provides greater stability by lowering the height of the bottom bracket and narrowing the bases. With a lower centre of gravity, the Orbea Gain M30 is more stable than ever before but without compromising its nimble handling.
Attention to detail is excellent and the 2021 Gain M30 1x now features fully integrated lighting.
|FRAME||Orbea Gain Carbon OMR monocoque structure, Integrated Seat clamp with integrated STVZO rear light, ICR cable routing, Forged BB, 135×9 QR, Flat Mount disc, 700×40 maximun tyre, 1″ 1/2 semi head set, BB386 EVO|
|FORK||Gain OMR carbon fork, with 1-1/5 carbon steerer, 700×40 maximun tyre, flat mount disc mount, 12x100mm Thrue Axle, with down tube aero integration|
|CRANKSET||Shimano GRX RX600 40t|
|HEADSET||Acros Alloy 1-1/2″ Internal Cable Routing|
|HANDLEBAR||OC1 All Road, reach 80mm, drop 125mm, flare 12º|
|STEM||Orbea ICR -8º|
|BRAKES||Shimano RX400 Hydraulic disc|
|CASSETTE||Shimano SLX M7000 11-40t 11-Speed|
|REAR DERAILLEUR||Shimano RX812 GS|
|CHAIN||Shimano HG 601|
|WHEELS||FULCRUM E-Racing 900|
|TYRES||Schwalbe G-ONE Bite, 40-622, 700x38C, Performance Line RaceGuard, TLE, ADDIX Classic Skin|
|SEATPOST||OC2 27.2 Offset 20|
|SADDLE||Selle Royal Asphalt GR|
|FRONT LIGHT||Rear position light, on saddle clamp, COB Led, On/Off, 12 Lumen. STVZO|
|BATTERY||Ebikemotion 36V/6.9A 248Wh ANT+|
|DISPLAY||Ebikemotion Pulsar One monochrome ANT+ LEV|
|BARTAPE||Orbea Anti-Slippery/Shock Proof|
|REMOTE1||Ebikemotion iWoc ONE|
|FRONT WHEEL AXLE||Orbea Thru Axle 12x100mm M12x2 P1 Lite|
5. Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo
Specialized were late entrants to the electric road / gravel bike arena, but boy have they made an splash! Specialized are a company that has a big reputation to uphold, so when they release an electric gravel bike you just know it’s going to be something special.
The Specialized Turbo Creo SL comp carbon evo uses their own SL 1.1 mid-drive electric motor which has been developed in-house specifically for their Turbo Creo range of e-road and gravel bikes. This motor is an absolute gem, and represents the pinnacle of modern e-bike motor design. It is almost whisper quiet and produces seamless assist as and when you need it.
Another great thing about the Specialized is the battery has a 340 watt hour capacity, meaning an assisted range of up to 80 miles is possible – you can even purchase an additional range extender, making the Turbo Creo SL a potential long distance touring machine.
There is also a built-in power meter that will transmit data to an ANT+ head unit like the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. The mission control smartphone app allows you to fine-tune your power settings to suit your riding style.
Apart from the usual Shimano GRX components you have the addition of the excellent Future Shock 2.0 which gives you a small amount of front suspension, that can be easily adjusted via a knob on top of the stem. This really does take the sting out of the lumps and bumps associated with riding rough terrain, and reduces rider fatigue over longer distances. I’ve tried it and it really does the job! Another excellent feature is the addition of a dropper seatpost – something you don’t often find on other electric gravel bikes.
The Specialized Turbo Creo SL comp carbon evo is expensive, but it also represents the pinnacle of electric bike technology in 2021. Here we have a mid-drive electric road / gravel bike, that has a 340Wh battery and the whole bike only weighs in at 12.4kg – when you compare that to the lightest Fazua Evation powered bikes, that is nearly a whole 2kg lighter. If I had the money, I would definitely be tempted!
6. Boardman ADV 8.9e Electric Adventure Bike
Boardman’s ADV 8.9e is not specifically marketed as a gravel bike, but more of an adventure bike. Nonetheless, it is a very capable all-terrain machine and it’s off-road riding credentials are evident in the frame geometry, SRAM Apex gearing and Shwalbe G-One gravel tyres. The ADV 8.9e remains unchanged for 2021, but still offers excellent value for money in the increasing popular e-gravel bike market.
The ADV 8.9e uses the excellent Fazua Evation electric bike drive system, which can be removed within seconds if you ever fancy riding without assist. The total weight of the system is 4.6kg – this includes the motor gearbox (located in the bottom bracket area) motor drive unit and battery.
Apart from being a really versatile e-bike, it is also one of the cheapest Fazua-equipped bikes currently available. That, coupled with access to Halfords nationwide network of service centres and 2-year warranty, make the Boardman ADV 8.9e a really tempting proposition. Read the full review here.
7. GT eGrade AMP Electric Gravel Bike
The new GT eGrade AMP is another lightweight gravel e-bike from the iconic mountain bike brand. GT cycles have been making gravel bikes for a good few years now and the regular Grade gravel bike has been one of their best sellers. The eGrade uses the same frame geometry as its non-assisted counterparts and benefits from Shimano GRX 1 x 11 groupset with a gravel-specific wheelset and WTB Resolute 700 x 42c tubeless-ready tyres.
Like many other bikes featured here, the GT eGrade AMP uses the super light x35 ebikemotion which helps keep the total bike weight down to below 14kg. I like the understated styling of the GT and the classic ‘triple triangle’ frame design which increases stiffness, response and durability.
I can see the GT eGrade AMP being a very popular choice when it comes to gravel e-ebikes – it’s very competitively priced and will be a tough workhorse ready to take on forest trails, single track or a spot of bikepacking. There is also a much cheaper flat handlebar version available (£2300) – read the full GT eGrade Current review.
8. Kona Libre EL Electric Gravel Bike
With the growing demand for e-bikes and gravel bikes in particular, it was only a matter of time that iconic brand Kona introduced an electric gravel bike to their range. The Libre EL is based on their very popular Libre gravel bike brand. The Kona Libre EL features an aluminium frame and full carbon flat mount disc fork.
The drivetrain is the excellent Shimano GRX 810 11-speed with hydraulic brakes, and a TranzX + RAD Internal dropper post activated by Shimano’s GRX shifter lever. Electric assist is provided by the excellent Shimano Steps E7000 motor and 504 Wh internal battery. This motor can be configured using the Shimano E-Tube smartphone app and is incredibly efficient – providing up to 70Nm of torque and maximum battery range approaching 100 miles (using ‘low’ assist mode).
- Frame Material: Kona 6061 Aluminum Butted
- Wheels: WTB HTZ i25 TCS 2.0 650b
- Fork: Kona Verso Full Carbon Flat Mount Disc
- Crankset: Shimano E8000
- Drivetrain: Shimano GRX 11spd
- Brakes: Shimano GRX 810 with 160mm front/160mm rear rotor
- Seat Post: TranzX Dropper +RAD Internal w/ Shimano Lever 31.6mm
- Cockpit: Kona Road Bar/Kona Road Deluxe Stem
- Front Tire: WTB Venture TCS w/ Puncture Protection 650x47c
- Rear tire: WTB Venture TCS w/ Puncture Protection 650x47c
- Saddle: WTB Volt
- Motor: Shimano E7000 25kph
- Battery: Shimano 504Wh
9. BMC Alpenchallenge AMP Sport Three DB
BMC have added to their e-bike range in 2021 to include a very nice electric version of their popular Alpenchallenge AMP series. The Sport Three DB has WTB Byway gravel tyres and benefits from a full carbon frame which features their ‘Micro Travel’ technology which helps soaks up rear-end bumps. A carbon seat post is also included.
I really like the BMC, the 504Wh battery is located vertically on the seat-tube and with the Shimano Steps E6100 motor helps increase stability due to the centralised extra weight. I own a Shimano Steps E6100 powered e-bike with the same battery and regularly get nearly 100 miles from a single charge using a mixture of low assist mode for the hills and no assist on the flats.
Another big plus for the BMC is it’s low overall weight. It is in fact one of the lightest Shimano Steps-powered e-bikes currently available weighing in at just under 16kg.
Gearing is provided by Shimano GRX 1 x 11 with a 44t chainring upfront (can be changed for a 38t) with an 11-42 cassette.
If I could afford it, the BMC would definitely be high on my list, one of the main features is the excellent E6100 Shimano motor – my current e-bike uses the exact same motor / battery combo
10. Merida eSilex +600
Merida are a late entry to the world of gravel e-bikes, but they have made a big impression! The new Merida eSilex +600 looks to be a very capable machine at a reasonable price. The eSilex features a very nice alloy frame with full carbon fork and Shimano’s excellent GRX 1 x 11 groupset.
The Merida eSilex +600 is an e-bike that’s obviously been designed with bike packing in mind – there’s mounting points all over the frame, including four mounts in the triangle and mounts on each fork. Merida can supply a full kit of tailor-made bike packing bags for the eSilex.
An x35 ebikemotion 250w rear hub motor combined with an integrated 250Wh battery make the eSilex nice and light at 14kg – this puts it at roughly the same weight as a modern steel touring bike. Tyres are 700x40c or you can fit 650b wheels with up to 47c width.
On paper the eSilux +600 looks like a great electric gravel bike, the price is competitive, it’s lightweight and looks great. The eSilex has just won a Design and Innovation award in the Gravel bikes category so it’s certainly worth considering if you’re looking for a light and capable all-terrain e-bike.
Buy Now: Merida eSilex +600 £3000
11. Cannondale Topstone Neo SL 2 2021
Another nice new gravel e-bike for 2021 is the Cannondale Topstone Neo SL 2 – the Topstone is a departure from other similar offerings from Cannondale as this model uses the very lightweight x35 ebikemotion system (as found on the Ribble and Orbea). Here is a gravel e-bike that weighs about the same as a steel touring bike but with the added benefit of electric assist to help with those pesky steep climbs!
As with the other x35 ebikemotion powered bikes featured here, you can ride the Topstone like a regular bike to your hearts content and only use the e-assist when you really need to. The Topstone also boasts Shimano GRX 10-speed groupset with a trail-busting 46/30 chrankset paired with an 11-34 cassette.
Cannondale have made sure they have all the angles covered with the Topstone Neo SL 2 – they now have the most comprehensive range of electric gravel bikes of any manufacturer, offering a choice of Bosch mid-drive and lightweight x35 ebikemotion assist systems. I really like the Topstone and I’m a big fan of the ebikemotion system and although it’s not quite as cheap as the Ribble CGR AL e, I’m sure it will be a hit amongst loyal Cannondale fans.
Buy Now: Cannondale Topstone Neo SL 2 £2900
So, what is the best electric gravel bike in 2021? To be honest, all the e-gravel bikes featured in this article are great, they are all an absolute joy to ride and are very capable all-terrain bikes.
If you have a deep wallet, the Specialized Turbo Creo SL Comp Carbon Evo is just amazing – they have done a fantastic job of packing so much tech into a bike. I had a quick go on one of these recently and it’s a great bit of kit. Unfortunately its price will put it out of reach of a lot of buyers (me included!)
In 2021 e-bike buyers who want the versatility of gravel bikes are increasingly spoilt for choice. The latest additions from Kona and BMC are fantastic, and they are powered by one of my favourite electric bike motors – the Shimano Steps.
I am a little biased when it comes to the Shimano motor as my own e-bike uses the E6100 and I have covered nearly 1000 miles on it over the cold and wet British winter and it has performed flawlessly. I’ve ridden it off-road, through floods and fords and it just keeps on going. Not only that but it produces excellent assist, I never need use it above ‘low’ assist mode despite living in one of the hilliest parts of the country.
The Kona Libre AL is a true gravel e-bike in every sense of the word, from the dropper seatpost to the 650 x 47 tyres and the Shimano GRX gearing, Kona have used their mountain bike heritage to good effect to provide a truly versatile machine. The MTB-specific Shimano Steps E7000 motor is really responsive to pedalling input and only really needs to be used in full power on the steepest of climbs.
I’m really impressed with the new Merida eSilex +600 – it’s ready for a spot of bike packing, all you need to do is add bags. The fact that it’s so light and has all those mounting points make it viable for touring / bike packing. The battery range will depend on how much you rely on the e-assist – I would recommend riding it like a regular bike and use the electric to help you with steep climbs.
Another absolute corker of a bike is the BMC Alpenchallenge AMP Sport Three DB– with a fully carbon frame and Micro Travel system in the rear, it really does take the sting out of rough terrain. The BMC uses the excellent Shimano Steps E6100 motor which I’m a massive fan of. If you’re frugal with the assist a range of 100 miles is achievable (I have tested the range on this motor myself). On top of this it’s one of the lightest Shimano-powered e-bikes currently available.
Boardman’s ADV 8.9e remains unchanged from last year but is still the cheapest gravel e-bike featuring the Fazua system and represents excellent value for money. The new Vitus E substance looks like a great bike and uses the latest version of SRAM Apex with the 10-42 rear cassette.
I also really like new Orbea Gain M20 1X – Orbea were pioneers in e-road bikes and the M20 1X is definitely a good all-rounder – it’s a lot more expensive than the older alloy-framed D31, but it has been competely redesigned from the ground up.
I still think for overall value for money, the British-built Ribble CGR AL e is by far the best electric gravel bike on this list – there are options to suit every budget and the step-through version now available will definitely broaden its appeal. I had the pleasure of using one of these for a couple of weeks and it really is a joy to ride and it’s very lightweight. Their latest model the Gravel AL e looks like a great addition to the range.
The Cannondale Neo SE 650b is also a great gravel e-bike, albeit a little heavy. But this is mitigated by its excellent 500Wh battery and Bosch mid-drive motor. If you have a deep wallet it would definitely be worth checking out Cannondale’s latest Topstone Neo range of electric gravel bikes as these really do take things to another level!
Another great addition to the massive Cannondale range is the new Topstone Neo SL 2 – now they have something for everyone with this lightweight gravel e-bike. It’s also great to see GT cycles enter the world of electric gravel bikes with their new eGrade AMP – this looks like a worthy addition to this list and is very competitively priced considering the spec and lineage.
Thank you for reading this article and if you have any questions or need any advice before making a purchase, please leave a comment below and I will reply usually within 24hrs.