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What are the best electric gravel bikes in 2020?
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 are going to be popular in 2020 and beyond. In this article I will be looking at 8 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 fireroads 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 45mm (2.1″) 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
Most proper gravel bikes will have 650b wheels fitted, 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 45 and most of the decent ones can be run tubeless, meaning they can be used at the preferred lower PSi 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.
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 seatposts 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?
In my opinion an electric gravel bike would make an excellent choice for touring. These bikes are designed to go places a regular road bike couldn’t and their robust design makes them particularly suitable for touring and bike packing. The only consideration would be battery range.
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 2020 are…
So, here goes – my list of the best electric gravel bikes for 2020. 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 under £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. If you want a testimony to the Ribble’s reliability and long-distance riding credentials, read about Laura Laker’s inspirational Lands End to John ‘O’ Groats ride last year.
Buy Now: Ribble CGR AL e – Prices from £1995
2. Cannondale Synapse NEO SE 650b Electric Bike
What sets the Cannondale Synapse NEO SE 650b apart from the rest of the competition is the Bosch Active Line Plus motor and 500Wh battery. Most 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.
3. Orbea Gain D31 Electric gravel bike
Orbea were the first major bike manufacture to use the now popular x35 ebikemotion system and it proved an instant hit with riders. The Orbea Gain D31 is their gravel version and uses Shimano’s latest ‘gravel specific’ GRX hydraulic brake groupset.
Apart from being competitively priced, the Orbea Gain D31 is a versatile e e-bike, making it very popular with commuters and leisure riders alike. The 700x40c Kenda Alluvium gravel tyres offer good grip on all surfaces and the Shimano GRX hydraulic brakes give confident stopping power in all weathers. A good spread of gears is also available with the important 1:1 ratio for steep, technical climbs.
The Orbea Gain D31 continues to be a popular choice amongst riders of all abilities and it is definitely worthy of consideration at this price.
Buy Now: 2020 Orbea Gain D31 – £2599
4. 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 2020. 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 defintely be tempted!
5. 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 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.
The Boardman is currently available from Halfords and other outlets for £2699, but keep an eye out for regular price reductions.
6. Bergamont E-Grandurance Elite
German company Bergamont have been producing quality e-bikes for a good few years now. Their latest range of electric adventure bikes include the excellent E-Grandurance Elite, which uses the same Fazua Evation system as the Boardman ADV and Cube Nuroad (featured below).
The Bergamont E-Grandurance Elite is a great looking, well specced bike, and uses Shimano’s latest GRX groupset along with a decent DT Swiss wheelset and Shwalbe G-One allround tyres. As Bergamont is owned by Scott Sports all of the finishing kit is quality Syncross branded components.
I have test-ridden Bergamont’s similar E-Grandurance RD Expert, which is more touring orientated. I was very impressed with this bike. The Elite is lighter, has carbon forks and is more performance-focused.
7. Cube Nuroad Hybrid C:62 SL Electric Gravel Bike
The Cube Nuroad Hybrid C:62 SL electric gravel bike is an adventurers dream. It comes fully equipped with mudguards, lights and to top it off uses a lightweight carbon frame.
If you’re after an electric bike that is more than capable fulfilling a number of roles, the Nuroad hybrid C:62 takes some beating. This is a bike that could be used as a daily commuter, a weekend leisure bike and a tourer. Because of its lightweight carbon frame, the total weight (with the motor fitted) is just 15.8kg. Which considering all the equipment this bike has isn’t too bad.
There is even a dynamo in the front wheel hub to operate the lights, meaning if you do run out of battery power the lights will still work.
The Cube Nuroad Hybrid C:62 SL is one of the more expensive electric gravel bikes in this selection, but if you’re after a bike that is equipped to tackle longer distances, then it is definitely worth a look.
8. Wilier Jena Hybrid Disc Electric Gravel Bike
I’ve always had a soft spot for Wilier bikes, and their entry into the e-bike world has more than lived up to my expectations. With the excellent Wilier Jena Hybrid electric gravel bike they have wisely chosen to go down the route of the lightweight x35 ebikemotion system, as found on the Ribble and Orbea. Not only that, but they have produced an electric gravel bike that is not only capable, but looks absolutely stunning as well.
Like many other bikes on this list,the Jena Hybrid uses a Shimano GRX hydraulic groupset with a 40t front chainring and an 11-42 rear cassette. A full carbon fibre frame helps keep the weight down to a very light 12kg.
The Wilier Jena Hybrid comes fitted as standard with 28″ rims shod in CST Pika 700x38c gravel tyres, but there is frame clearance to accept 27.5″ wheels with 650b x 48mm tyres if required.
If you want a bike that can also be taken touring the Jena Hybrid is well catered for with pannier mounts front and rear.
Buy Now: Wilier Jena Hybrid GRX NDR30 – £4350
So, what is the best electric gravel bike in 2020? To be honest, all the e-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 bike of kit. Unfortunately its price will put it out of reach of a lot of buyers (me included!)
If you are after a gravel bike that you can take touring, the Cube Nuroad Hybrid C:62 is perfectly equipped. The Willier Jana Hybrid also has touring potential, especially when you consider its light weight of only 12kg.
Boardman’s ADV 8.9e is the cheapest bike featured that uses the Fazua system and represents excellent value for money, and has a lot of very satisfied customers.
I also really like the Orbea Gain D31, but 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, it’s an excellent all-rounder.
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.