When it comes to adventure cycling and bikepacking, steel is the go-to material for many gravel bikes. Weight-wise, steel gravel bikes clock in a little heavier than aluminum and titanium, but if you plan on carrying heavy loads and want a bike you can count on, steel gravel bikes pretty much take the cake in this category.
This article strictly focuses on gravel bikes made of steel; some touring and adventure bikes fall into a grey area like the Kona Sutra LTD, for instance. The list of bikes below are all gravel machines made from steel and built to perform.
Here at Bikepacking Alliance, we are all about adventure travel by bike! This list of steel gravel bikes represents a class of bicycles that are more than capable of holding up to your demands for any on and off-road bikepacking adventure. Feeling confident that your bike can make it from point A to point B without any significant hiccups can make your ride more enjoyable.
Why Ride Steel?
For many, steel-built bikes are a personal favorite for various reasons—especially if you are carrying a heavy load of gear. While high-tech frame materials like carbon, aluminum, and titanium are taking to the cycling scene like a storm, some adventure bike manufacturers still value “old school” material, especially if you’re looking for strength and reliability.
Strength and Durability
Bikes made of steel have a well-earned reputation for being solid and durable with multi-day capabilities. Steel bikes, like touring bikes, are built to carry heavy loads over changing terrain, so you can see why this may be a good choice for adventure cyclists that plan on taking their gravel bike over mixed surfaces with a heavy load over multiple days.
Steel-built bikes are designed to stand up to the most rugged conditions out there. From navigating a little-used single track to crossing a stream that wasn’t on the map, any scratches, dings, or bent frames won’t put your bike out of service unless it’s something significant. Steel frames tend to be extremely durable in that you can go almost anywhere and feel confident in your bike’s abilities.
When it comes to carrying a heavy load of gear, you will need a bike that can keep you comfortable for many days in the saddle. Some of the better steel used in manufacturing bike frames are stiffer and more fatigue-resistant for a given volume than their titanium or aluminum counterparts, making them ideal for long trips.
Some gravel bikes are made with a slender tubing design found on bikes like the Surly; this gives you more valuable space along the chainstay between the tire and the cranks. While not all steel-frame bikes have been designed with slender tubing, this feature can certainly up your comfort level in a big way.
The weight of a steel gravel bike is the obvious downside when it comes to bikes in this category. While steel-built gravel bikes may be a bit heavier than, say, carbon, titanium, and aluminum, for some, the slight difference in weight is an easy sacrifice after considering all the facts.
Steel bikes have come a long way and weigh between 22 and 28.5 pounds. (10-13kg) The thinner tubing will shave some weight off a steel-made bike for sure. In fact, with the more modern high-end, high-tech bikes, the wall thickness of the tubing can be as thin as a coke can. Additionally, some of the bikes on this list have a carbon fork/steel frame combo making these bikes much lighter than you would expect.
Most steel-frame gravel bikes weigh about 2-3 kg more than the carbon-frame equivalent but being that our focus is on adventure riding and not racing, a steel frame may still be a viable option. If you think about it, after adding your pedals and other accessories and then your bags and gear, a little extra weight doesn’t matter too much when your focus is on having fun.
If you find that some of these bikes are unavailable or know of some I should add to the list please let me know by clicking here and sending us an email.
The Ultimate List of Steel Gravel Bikes
The Surly Straggler can crush the miles on almost any terrain under any conditions. This bike is built not only for commuting to work but also for rough and rugged trail conditions. If you’re looking for a bike that can handle both the road and the trail, whether it’s for a weekend or just a short day trip, this may be a good choice for you. This bike is reasonably priced and is available in 650b and 700c wheel dimensions. This bike also has plenty of accommodations for racks and fenders.
The Niner RLT 9 Steel is built from a Reynolds 853 Steel frame with an RDO carbon fork. With the carbon fork, not only do you save some weight, but you’ll get a smoother, more supple ride. The frame is compatible with both 700 x 50c tires and 650b x 2.0″ tires to accommodate almost any landscape out there. The frame also features integrated mounts, external cable routing, and rack and fender mounts, so you can easily transform this bike into a daily commuter or touring bike. This steel-framed adventure machine comes in 2, 3, or 4-star models, which start at a pretty fair price.
The Marin Nicasio 2 steel gravel bike boasts modern features with traditional steel frame construction, perfect for the boisterous riders out there. It features CroMo steel tubes, and the frame has rack and fender mounts, so you can easily turn this light-duty touring bike into a daily commuter without much fuss. The frame has Beyond Road Geometry with clearance for up to 700 x 40mm or 650b x 47mm tires. These bikes cost less than you would think.
The Surly Midnight Special is built for rough pavement, gravel, and exploring fire roads. The 4130 Chromoly steel frame features flat-mount disc brakes and wide tire clearance for up to 650b x 60mm or 700c x 42mm tires. The frame is also compatible with front and rear racks and also fenders. With this bike, you can easily convert your daily commuter into a touring bike when you are ready to get away from the daily grind. You can expect to pay a moderate price for this sleek, good-looking bike. Who else is digging this new pink “metallic lilac” color?
All-City bikes are fun, plain-and-simple! The All-City Gorilla Monsoon is one of the more adventure-ready monstercross steel gravel bikes on this list. Constructed from steel, this bike can take you pretty much anywhere under any conditions. The Gorilla Monsoon is built around a durable 612 select tubing steel frame giving you that bouncy ride quality that only steel offers. This bike has wide tire clearance for up to 27.5×2.4″ or 700x42mm, allowing you to explore the outdoors with varied tire choices.
Kevin of Steel III is a highly versatile steel gravel bike made by an Australian company. They call this an all-road bike created for riding on mixed terrain. You not only have the option of running different sized tires (650b & 700c), but you also have a plethora of mounting options for all your gear or water bottles.
The Search XR Steel is known for both its good looks and smooth ride. These bikes are cutting edge when it comes to gravel bike geometry featuring a High-Modulus Carbon Fork which helps reduce fatigue but still maintains comfort. Also, this bike comes with a removable fender bridge and multiple options to mount bottle cages and gear racks.
The Jamis Renegade S2 was built for the 21st Century. The Reynolds steel frame is both durable and lightweight. This bike has plenty of tire clearance, combined with an ergonomic Shimano GRX 1x groupset and tubeless compatible rims and tires. This bike has all the comfort and control you need to tackle technical terrain. Throw in extra mounting points on the forks and down tube, and you can carry five bottles at once for a big day out or load up for extended bikepacking trips in the middle of nowhere.
The Salsa Vaya GRX 600 is designed to get the most out of both road touring and off-road adventures. You’ll get a smooth ride with the triple-butted tubing and the option to run bigger tires for an even more plush ride. The Salsa Vaya GRX 600 bike features a durable steel frame, lightweight carbon fork, and gravel-optimized drivetrain. And, of course, plenty of places for racks, bags, and water bottles.
Another option coming out of the United Kingdom is the Genesis Fugio 30 gravel bike. This sleek-looking bike has been upgraded with 725 tubing, so thinner walls can be used compared to non-heat-treated steels. The full-carbon fork will definitely save you a little weight as well as improve the quality of your ride. This bike weighs in at 24.2 lbs / 11.0 kg.
The Bombtrack Hook EXT has wider 27.5 x 2″ tubeless-ready tires for those big bumps and unexpected potholes on the trail or fire road. The lightweight Columbus steel frame and carbon fork are geared for both performance and reliability. This bike has so many options for carrying bottle cages and bags that you can pretty much choose your own adventure with this one.
The Specialized Sequoia Elite forges the gap between a road bike and a touring bike. The frame is based on adventure geometry with a carbon fork to save some weight and has room to mount with eyelets. Other features include a mix of SRAM Apex 1 shift levers, powerful hydraulic disc brakes, and hand-built Hayfield wheels with 38mm-wide, 2Bliss Ready Sawtooth tires. This bike is reasonably priced for what you get.
This bike has to be up there with some of my favorite gravel bikes when it comes to looks! The Rondo Ruut ST has unique adjustable geometry and a strong, lightweight steel frame; this bike has a carbon fork also. This tough-built machine is dependable and responsive, making you feel confident and in control on multiple surfaces. Priced in the moderate range, this super-good-looking bike is as versatile as they come.
The badass Kona Rove ST has a classic look and feel you’ll expect from this manufacturer. This bike runs on 650b tubeless-ready WTB Asym i23 TCS rims with WTB Venture TCS DUAL 650x47c tires, an SRAM Rival 1 drivetrain, and a flat mount disc breaks. This bike is more of a commuting gravel bike than an adventure bike when it comes to geometry and specs— that’s why I opted for the Sutra; but for a cheaper and gravel-friendly ride, the Rove ST stands up to the test.
The Chumba Terlingua is designed to take you over almost any terrain for longer distances. The well-built frame is the perfect combination of low weight and rugged steel dependability. This high-performance gravel bike has a lot of options when it comes to building a custom bike too.
Ribble has some really nice bikes! The Ribble CGR 725 was designed to absorb a lot of vibration, giving you a nice smooth ride. The durable Reynolds 725 frameset makes this bike versatile enough for long commutes or a full-on gravel grinding adventure. This awesome bike has a generous tire clearance, multiple wheel size options, and mudguard and rack compatibility.
The Otso Warakin Stainless Steel is the ultimate adventure bike, in their words. But is it different? Yes! This frame is made from STAINLESS STEEL. The progressive geometry and stainless steel make for a super smooth ride on all surfaces. The stainless steel frame is also corrosion resistant. This bike comes with many options for tires to match the terrain you’re out there on.
The Co-Motion Deschutes is a touring bike that represents true American hand-built quality, and the price competes with many of the imported models from other brands. This bike has a steel unicrown touring fork and 700cc wheels good for tires in the 28-37mm range. You will also find plenty of options for rack/fender mounts and bottle cages.
The RADAR Expert is Breezer’s do-it-all bike for tackling any terrain. Equipped with 45mm all-condition tires and wide-range gearing, this bike is ready for adventure. This bike has plenty of choices when it comes to rack & fender mounts too. Your stopping power comes from the TRP disc brakes, and this bike is very reasonably priced for what you get.
The Nicasio+ is an incredible drop bar bike available at a great price. Marin created this endurance bike to take you down any path you’d like, whether it be a steep climb on asphalt or a dirt path around a lake. The MicroShift 9-speed drivetrain has all the gears you need to get up that hill, and the Tektro disc brakes front and rear give you the stopping power you need to stay out of the lake. The Series-1 CroMo frame is lighter, with premium features like a tapered head tube for the CroMo fork to reside in. There’s plenty of style thrown in this one as well.
The Marin Four Corners features a 3×9 Shimano Sora drivetrain with a Shimano Sora rear derailleur, front derailleur, crankset, and shifters. The crankset with 30/39/50-tooth chainring combination, and the cassette has an 11-34-tooth gear range making those hills a little easier when you are carrying a load. This bike has Tektro Spyre-C road mechanical disc brakes to give you excellent stopping power.
The Ritte Satyr is a top-performing bike designed to have fun. Named after a curious, mythical Roman forest creature, this bike lives up to its name and responsibilities on the dirt and trails. This bike is dialed in with 700x43c tire clearance, flat mount disc brakes, and an Envelope gravel fork. This bike is pricey but guaranteed to get the job done!
When it comes to the Knolly Cache Steel, you’re looking at a durable steel frame and lightweight carbon fork. When Knolly decided to build a model in steel, they used the same craftsmanship and features as the Ti but in a material that gives you the confidence you need from a sturdy, durable bike while out on a cycling adventure in the middle of nowhere. This bike has both 700c and 650b tire options.
Who’s Wildcard Gravel Tourer makes the transition between commuting to work on weekdays and grinding the gravel on weekends an easy one. The frame is constructed from JOKER high-pressure CrMo anti-rust steel tubing, and you can opt for epithet a steel or carbon fork. These bikes are designed to carry an extra third bottle cage and many options for carrying bags and other gear.
The Kepler is constructed out of double-butted Chromoly steel for both comfort and strength. They made these bikes to take you on your work commute as well as the roads and trials for long distances. This bike features a wide range of gears too so those hills will seem a little easier. You’ll find the TRP Spyre disc brakes are pretty good when it comes to stopping with confidence when needed.
Many people who love steel will talk to you non-stop about how well it handles, even myself! Steel rides with stiffness, comfort, and liveliness. From experience with my 2018 model gravel/adventure bike, it glides over the really rough stuff like floating on clouds!
Take a robust and flexible material like steel and add on a couple of gravel tires, and you’ve got a bike you can count on to get you out on that bucket list adventure ride and home again without sacrificing comfort.
The bottom line is adventure cyclists like steel frame bikes for a reason—you get a strong and durable bicycle that lets you focus on enjoyment rather than feeling uncomfortable or worried that your bike doesn’t have the capabilities you might want.
If you find that some of these bikes are unavailable or know of some I should add to the list please let me know by clicking here and sending us an email.
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