For a lot of riders looking for a one bike solution for urban riding, commuting, and exploring off the beaten path, a flat bar gravel bike is an excellent option. With a simple change of tires, it can become a super-fast hybrid bike for zipping around town.
In the past, when friends would ask for advice on investing in a bicycle, we would direct them towards the hybrid category. With the flat (or rise) handlebars found on mountain bikes, flat bar gravel bikes fall under the hybrid category, but add additional capacity for adventure. Here are several options for prospective bike shoppers that would be great choices for starting out.
There are a few reasons we like this bike a lot, but the rugged all-black (or white) paint job, durable Chromoly steel frame, and clean lines are at the top of the list.
While shopping on their website, shoppers have the option of selecting 700cx38mm (slick aka street tires) or 650bx2.1 (53mm) gravel (knobbed, adventure tires) tubeless compatible wheels and tires so you can customize your ride before it even arrives. They also offer the option of purchasing a second wheelset equipped with tires and tubes ($399) should you want to transform it from a gravel steed to a city bike for daily commuting.
If you’re the type that likes to assemble your own bike from scratch, the frameset is also available separately for $429, which is a nice option.
Poseidon Bikes showed up as an ad in my Facebook feed one day, but after doing a bit of digging the direct-to-consumer brand appears like a quality option packed with value.
The Redwood Flatbar Gravel bike features 27.5″ wheels allowing 2.8″ tires for comfort on rough terrain, a 1×11 drive train and cable actuated disc brakes. The frame also accepts 700c wheels and tires with clearance for up to 29×2.1″ tires.
If you’re looking to stay on the pavement, the Flatbar X model features 700c wheels out of the box and similar paint schemes, with models starting as low as $650.
The Jamis Sequel S3 is all black, so it already has that going for it for those of us fond of non-flashy basic paint jobs. At first glance, it looks like a typical hybrid but comes equipped with 650b wheels and 650 x 47 c tires, plus hydraulic disc brakes. For another $200, the S2 model bumps up to a Reynolds 520 double-butted chromoly steel frame (read: lighter) and a Shimano Deore drive train. (Deore being MTB level of performance)
The Marin DSX series of flat bar gravel bikes start as low as $979 for the entry-level DSX model. Bumping up to the DSX 1 for $200 more gets you into a Shimano Deore 1×11 speed drive train with a wide gearing range. It’s compatible with Shimano XT (our drive train of choice) and worth upgrading should you want to spice it up down the road. It also gets a carbon fiber fork that should go a long way toward damping road vibration for increased comfort.
The alloy frame comes stock with 700x45mm tires, with room for up to 29×2.1″ knobbies should you want to dabble in exploring single-track trails. It also features internal dropper post routing, making it dropper post ready.
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Unlike many flat bar gravel bikes, the Diverge Expert EVO was designed for use with flat handlebars. The length of the frame was increased by 30mm over the Diverge drop-bar model, the bottom bracket height is lower, and the head tube angle is more relaxed for increased confidence in technical terrain.
- 700x42mm tire on DT Swiss G540 (24mm internal rim width, tubeless ready)
- Future Shock 1.5 fork
- SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drive train
- SRAM Level hydraulic brakes
- Adjustable height TranzX Dropper seat post (27.2mm, 90mm travel)
Looking at the profile of these models, they don’t appear that different from flat bar gravel bikes. Like the gravel bikes listed above, they feature rigid frames and forks, flat/rise bars, mountain bike brakes, and drive trains. These dirt touring models are technically considered mountain bikes; unlike most hardtail mountain bikes on the market, they feature rigid forks, which is a rarity these days. With a change to gravel or hybrid tires though, they’d be easily put to use as utility bikes or commuters.
They feature clearance for high-volume tires, making them significantly capable off-road. Without a suspension fork, they’re not intended for high-speed performance mountain biking but optimized for exploring and dirt-centric adventure rides.
Equipped with 29×2.5″ tires, the Breezer Thunder isn’t technically a gravel bike; Breezer calls it an adventure bike that’s optimized for bike packing. With a simple change of tires though, there’s no reason the Thunder couldn’t be put to use in a quicker, urban capacity.
The frame and fork feature provision for mounting racks, fenders, and bottle cages.
The Kona Unit X is another utility-focused rigid mountain bike optimized for bike packing. A durable chromoly frame littered with mounting points for frame bags and other accessories, it also features modular dropouts giving it the option to be run as a single speed. Like the Breeze Thunder, a simple change of tires would transform the burly bike packing rig into a useful urban ride, or flat bar gravel bike.