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Best adventure bike 2023: Off-road rigs to take you off the beaten track

Take your two-wheeled expeditions into uncharted territory with our pick of the best backpacking beasts and gravel grinders

From ultra-distance epics to multi-day bikepacking bonanzas, the best adventure bikes are your ticket to a more intrepid way of riding. With mounting points for multiple bags and racks, clearance for beefy tyres, and relaxed geometry that keeps you upright and comfortable, they’re designed to take you further while having plenty of fun along the way.

The term ‘adventure bike’ is admittedly ambiguous. It’s often used to refer to any drop-bar bike that’s designed for riding on mixed-surface terrain and carrying a load. This means there’s actually several types of bike that come under the adventure-bike umbrella. The most obvious ones are gravel bikes, touring bikes and bikepacking bikes. 

Gravel bikes, in particular, tend to make excellent adventure bikes, as they’re highly capable off-road without being too sluggish on tarmac. Many of them boast mounting points too, which makes loading up with overnight essentials such as a sleeping bag, tent and extra clothes that little bit easier.

When you’re spending several days away from home and in the saddle, it’s important to have full confidence in your steed. With that in mind, we’ve put some of the best options to the test to bring you a carefully handpicked selection of the best adventure bikes to buy right now.

Best adventure bike: At a glance

How to choose the best adventure bike for you

Do I need mounting points on my adventure bike?

Mounting points for racks and panniers are one of the key features that makes an adventure bike what it is. They allow you to load up with everything you could possibly need on your travels, without having to rely on a cumbersome backpack that could easily throw you off balance while riding. 

There are plenty of bikepacking bags on the market that can be mounted without bolts, but if you’re going to be on the road for a long time and carrying a heavy load, it’s definitely better to have them properly fixed.

What frame material is best for an adventure bike?

It depends on what you want from your bike in terms of ride feel and your budget. Aluminium is the cheapest material, making it the best option if you’re counting pennies. Carbon fibre tends to be the most expensive, but it’s also the best in terms of weight, comfort and performance. This is because of the way carbon-fibre frame construction works, allowing engineers to tailor stiffness and compliance to specific parts of each tube.

Titanium is another good option if you want lightweight, classic tube shapes and a comfortable ride, but it can be expensive compared to other metals. Or, if you’re a traditionalist who doesn’t mind extra weight, choose steel, which is fun to ride and easy to repair.

Should I buy a bike with Shimano or Sram?

Shimano and Sram are the two biggest brands when it comes to componentry. Specifically, groupsets, which is the name for the combined parts that take care of shifting, pedalling and braking.

Most cyclists pick a side and stick with it, but it’s more a case of personal preference than one being better than the other. Both brands offer the same technologies in slightly different packages, and performance of the equivalent groupsets in each range is largely the same. Put simply, they’re both good, so don’t get too hung up on it.

How much should I spend?

How long is a piece of string? When shopping for a bike, the pricing spectrum runs from around £300 to anywhere up to £12,000 for a top-flight model from a World Tour brand. Both will take you where you want to go, but there will be big differences in terms of performance, ride feel and quality. 

That said, you don’t need to spend £12,000 to get a decent bike. Around £4,000 is the point of diminishing returns. Above this price, you’re getting plenty of nice extra features, but nothing that’s going to fundamentally change the way the bike rides. We’re talking things such as high-modulus carbon fibre, electronic groupsets and top-spec components. Nice to have, but by no means essential.

Goldilocks territory is probably somewhere between £1,500 and £3,500. For this sort of money you’ll get a decent groupset, hydraulic disc brakes, a reasonable wheelset and, at the upper end of the spectrum, a nice carbon frame.

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The best adventure bikes you can buy in 2023

1. Genesis Fugio 30: Best steel adventure bike

Price when reviewed: £3,200 | Check price at FreewheelThere’s more to a bike than the way it looks, but it’s impossible not to be drawn in by the Fugio 30’s incredible ‘90s-inspired paint job. This is a real head turner of a bike that is guaranteed to earn you compliments aplenty on group rides and nods of approval from onlookers, as you zip past in a blur of neon pink and purple. 

Colour scheme aside, this steel-framed off-roader is sure to win over bike aficionados with its lovely slender tubes, classic diamond frame shape (not including that dipped chainstay) and lively handling. It’s bags of fun to ride, with an energetic feel that’s in keeping with the playful colour palette. 

It comes equipped with Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX groupset for smooth shifting even in less than favourable conditions, and the substantial 47mm tyres do a great job of smoothing out rough terrain. If you find them too beefy, you can swap the 650b wheelset for a 700c one and the frame will still accommodate anywhere up to 40mm.

Key specs – Groupset: Shimano GRX mechanical 1x; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Wheel size: 650b; Frame material: Steel

Check price at Freewheel

2. Ribble CGR Ti: Best titanium adventure bike

Price when reviewed: £3,499 | Check price at RibbleTitanium bikes can be extremely expensive, but they don’t have to be. This raw-titanium gravel grinder from Ribble is a lot of bike for a relatively reasonable amount of money. 

It’s perfectly kitted out to deal with the gnarliest terrain, boasting 47mm WTB tyres, flared bars, and shifting/braking courtesy of Shimano GRX bits and bobs. Granted, there’s not much in the way of mounting options, but if you’re happy to ride with strap-on bikepacking bags then it’s still more than capable of carrying your kit. 

We loved riding this bike, and think that the peace of mind afforded by the corrosion resistance and strength of the titanium frame is a huge plus for riders who plan to use their bike for exploration and adventure.

Key specs – Groupset: Shimano GRX mechanical 1x; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Wheel size: 650b; Frame material: Titanium

Check price at Ribble

3. Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon: Best premium adventure bike

Price when reviewed: £5,850 | Check price at Sigma SportsFor bikers with a big budget, this high-end gravel bike from Specialized is the perfect adventure companion. It’s pricey (not as pricey as the top-of-the-line S-Works version though), but it does offer plenty of high-end features. Shifting comes courtesy of a super-smooth Sram Rival electronic groupset, and the hydraulic disc brakes ensure reliable stopping power as well as a high degree of control and modulation. 

One of the more standout features is Specialized’s Future Shock 2.0 headset, which is essentially a short-travel front-end suspension system. It can be dialled up or down, offering up to 20mm of travel, which is just enough to take the sting out of bumpy sections and reduce hand/arm fatigue on long days in the saddle.We thought it might be a gimmick at first, but having ridden it extensively we’re pleased to report otherwise. 

There’s also a handy storage compartment in the downtube that’s the ideal size for storing an inner tube or two.

Key specs – Groupset: Sram Rival AXS ETap electronic 1x; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Wheel size: 700c; Frame material: Carbon fibre

Check price at Sigma Sports

4. Voodoo Nakisi: Best cheap adventure bike

Price when reviewed: £650 | Check price at HalfordsIf you’re new to the world of cycling, you might not want to drop in excess of £1,000 on an adventure bike. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned rider looking for a relatively inexpensive off-roader that you don’t have to lose sleep over leaving outside of your tent at night. Either way, the Voodoo Nakasi is a solid option. 

With a Shimano Sora groupset and mechanical disc brakes it’s as no-frills as they come, but it’s a reliable ride that can easily handle a little bit of everything, from trails to tarmac to overnight adventures. This is aided by the comfortable, gravel-specific geometry of the frame, and the fact that there are rack and mudguard mounting points to make exploring as fuss-free as possible.

Key specs – Groupset: Shimano Sora; Brakes: Mechanical disc; Wheel size: 700c; Frame material: Aluminium

Check price at Halfords

5. Cannondale Topstone 2: Best adventure bike under £2,000

Price when reviewed: From £1,370 | Check price at Sigma SportsCannondale’s Topstone is one of the most popular drop-bar off-roaders on the market, and this mid-range aluminium version comes in at well under £2,000. For that, you’ll get a high-quality alloy frame and carbon fork, plus Shimano’s excellent GRX mechanical groupset, which we’ve put through its paces on several bikes in all sorts of conditions and it’s never let us down. 

There are multiple mounting points, hydraulic disc brakes and 37mm WTB Riddler tyres that are perfect for riding varied terrain. The 2x setup offers a wide spread of gears, which adds to the bike’s all-rounder appeal – it will climb hills and take on technical sections with ease, but you won’t find yourself spinning out when you end up on the flats.

Key specs – Groupset: Shimano GRX mechanical; Brakes: Hydraulic disc; Wheel size: 700c; Frame material: Aluminium

Check price at Sigma Sports

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