Last updated: January 2nd, 2023
Single-speed gravel biking isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.
But for some us, ditching the derailleur is the ticket to lower maintenance, all-conditions performance. Not to get too metaphysical here, but it even brings a certain purity, simplicity, or underbiking experience that adds to the appeal of gravel bikes.
Unfortunately, these bikes are extremely uncommon off the rack.
Heaps of frames are great candidates for a rugged, drop-bar, single-speed build. And virtually any frame can get the single-speed treatment with the help of a chain tensioner.
But when possible, it’s nice to pick up something that’s ready to roll, no tweaking needed.
(Well, let’s be honest. We’ll eventually tweak and modify and upgrade endlessly in a vain pursuit of cycling nirvana. But you get my point.)
To that end, I’ve rounded up just about every production gravel and cyclocross single-speed on the planet as of 2023. The events of the last couple years threw the bicycle supply chain for an unprecedented loop, so no promises on availability.
Why include gravel and cyclocross? Simple: there’s a thin and blurry line between them. From a recreational rider’s perspective, they accomplish most of the same things for the same terrain. In fact, their burly builds and forgiving geometry make them some of the best single-speed bikes of any kind.
I’ve also included a few flat-bar models that serve similar purposes but with more upright, neck-friendly posture. They aren’t always labeled “gravel” or “CX” but they’re functionally similar.
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Salsa has deep roots in all things not-exactly-road biking, so their Stormchaser was a fitting addition to the line.
Typical of mid-priced, race-oriented bikes, it uses an aluminum frame and carbon fork to keep weight in check. In my mind, aluminum + gravel = Vibration City…but they’ve engineered some vertical flex into the chainstays and seatstays to help take the edge off.
Tire clearance is a solid 700c x 47mm with fenders, so all that air volume will also soak up quite a bit of buzzing and bumps.
Gearing is 38t front x 17t and 18t rear, tensioned by sliding dropouts. The dual cogs yield gearing of about 62″ and 59″, respectively, based on the stock 700c x 42mm tires. And if you ever regret your single-speed decision, you can buy a little dropout accessories to accommodate a derailleur for a 1x drivetrain.
The TRP Spyre-C mechanical discs aren’t impressive at this price point, but they do indeed work well, and are easily one of the better mechanical sets I’ve tried.
Chainstay length is adjustable from 435mm-450mm, which I consider the sweet spot for a drop-bar bike that’ll see significant dirt.
Salsa claims 21 lbs for the 56cm version, which is reasonable for a mid-priced aluminum gravel racer.
All-City Super Professional Single Speed ($1599)
I still don’t know exactly what an “urban cross machine” is, but that’s how All-City describes the Super Professional Single Speed.
In standard All-City fashion, it’s a chromoly steel frame and fork. As one of the few bikes on this list that I was able to personally test-ride, I can attest that it’s mellow but nimble feel. Think Cross-Check or Straggler, but steadier over rocks and roots—just like a gravel single-speed ought to be.
It uses the same sliding dropouts as a few of its geared siblings, so derailleur installation is simple (if desired).
The 44t x 18t gearing gives about 65″, which I find great for town but a bit stiff for hillier trails.
The stock 650b x 47mm tires are at the upper limit of tire clearance, so you’d need to drop to 42mm for fenders. That’s not a practical problem, since fenders don’t suit rugged off-road use anyhow. Just keep fender clearance in mind if this would double as a city/commuter bike.
You’ll find hydraulic discs from Tektro, which I find more than adequate (and better than most mechanical options) for situations where you’d realistically ride a bike with this geometry.
Speaking of which…
The geometry draws obvious inspiration from the classic Nature Boy (now discontinued), although the Super Professional’s chainstays were shortened to 420mm. That’s a reasonable number, although I’m partial to 440mm and up for gravel riding. (Chalk it up to years on a Rivendell, I suppose.)
The 72° head tube angle is great for pavement—and should remain nimble under a modest front load—but didn’t feel quite as steady as I’d like on steep, rougher sections.
A slacker angle might have been a nicer match for the added leverage of wide, flat handlebars. Of course, it would have required a total redesign, so it’s easy to see why All-City retained the CX-inspired Nature Boy geometry. If I’d purchased this bike—as I very nearly did—then slightly narrower and more swept-back bars would have been my first order of business.
You’re looking at a rather hefty 24 lbs for the 55cm Super Professional, so it’s emphatically not a race bike.
All-City Nature Cross Single Speed ($2399)
If you’re sold on the All-City ethos but want something lighter, racier, and carbon fork-ier, then the Nature Cross Single Speed is the ticket.
As its name suggests, it’s another descendant of the venerable Nature Boy, and one of the only high-end, steel cyclocross single-speeds you can buy complete.
Note that it uses a press-fit (PF) eccentric bottom bracket (EBB) rather than the Super Professional’s sliding dropouts. I find the PF design harder to work on, and EBBs a bit finicky, but the upside is arguably more precise adjustment. It’s easy to see why the target market of CX racers would prefer it, even though good ol’ sliding dropouts and threaded BBs are more approachable.
A derailleur hanger is available separately, so 1x drivetrain conversion is still an option.
While the TRP Spyre mechanical discs are good, I’m not sure why All-City spec’d mechanical rather than hydraulic on a bike that otherwise spares few expenses.
The stock 700c x 38mm tires and 40t/18t drivetrain yields a race-ready 61″ gear. You can fit up to 42mm in the rear and 47mm in the front. There are no eyelets for mounting fenders (or anything else), seeing as this is a race bike first and foremost.
I couldn’t find any credible weight figures, but would estimate 21-22 lbs based on a 55cm frame.
Genesis Flyer (£700 / ~$925)
Genesis bikes are huge sellers in the UK, but not readily available in North America as of writing. But if you can get hold of one, then the Genesis Flyer is a good entry-level pick for all-around gravel and urban use.
The aluminum frame and chromoly fork (with mounts galore) are standard fare in this price range. I’m partial to all-steel construction for smoothness and longevity reasons, but there’s nothing wrong here, either.
The components are unremarkable. I see no glaring issues, but then again, most are off-brand or in-house labels that I’m not familiar with. However, my experience with Promax mechanical discs hasn’t been great. They’ve shown poorer modulation and less power than alternatives from Avid or TRP, which might be a worth upgrade.
One related caveat: the brake calipers mount directly to the frame, so you’ll need to position them after positioning the axle for chain tension. That’s a big nuisance compared to sliding/swinging dropouts that move the axle and brake together, or an eccentric bottom bracket that doesn’t move the caliper or axle at all. Choose one of the latter if you’ll remove the rear wheel on a regular basis.
Out of the box, you’ll get a 68″ gear from 42t/17t on 700c x 37mm tires. Genesis hasn’t specified the max tire clearance, but I’d wager 42mm without/37mm with fenders should be comfortable.
Geometry is in line with most all-around/endurance road bikes, including generous 73mm bottom bracket drop for a lower center of gravity. Unfortunately, chainstay length isn’t published, but I’m willing to bet it’s in the 410-420mm range.
Weight falls around 23 lbs for a medium, which is reasonable for a budget build, and actually lighter than a few others on this list.
Bombtrack Arise (€1330 / ~$1525)
Germany’s Bombtrack began in the BMX world, but has grown into a comprehensive line. And for our purposes, their Arise is right on the money.
It’s got a chromoly frame and fork (which I’m partial to) with sliding dropouts, all the usual mounts, and a derailleur hanger in case a 1x drivetrain is more your speed.
The Arise might be the only bike in this category with internal routing for dynamo hub wires. Most riders probably won’t care, but it’s a thoughtful touch that commuters or single-speed tourers (yes, both of you!) will appreciate.
Its Tektro Mira mechanical discs have never caused me problems, but they just don’t match the power or feel of top-notch mechanical discs or even entry-level hydraulic ones. It’s an underwhelming spec for the price, but not a deal-breaker.
One neat feature is the size-specific wheels, with 650b on XS-S and 700c on M-XL. That allows for altogether more proportionate geometry and therefore more consistent handling between sizes. All sizes can fit tires up to 42mm in width without fenders, so presumably ~37mm with fenders.
With 42t/16t gearing, you’ll be in a gear of 73″ (700c x 40mm) or 68″ (650b x 38mm). That’s a good starting point for pavement, although something a few gear-inches lower might be more useful on trails.
Geometry is on the slack side of conventional. It should feel similar in stack and reach to most all-around road bikes on the market, but with some added stability from a 70.5° head angle and 435mm chainstays (size M).
It comes in at a portly 25 lbs for a medium.
Octane One is a MTB-focused brand out of Poland, under the same owner as NS Bikes. They’ve got US and US + Canada distributors, so they’re much easier to get hold of than the other Euro brands I’ve featured.
They describe their Kode as an “urban commuter,” but it checks most of the gravel-bike boxes at the same time.
The frame and fork are both chromoly, and replete with mounts. A derailleur hanger is available separately for geared drivetrain conversion. Its Hayes mechanical discs are usable but nowhere near top-of-the-line (a recurring theme in this list!) so I’d be keen to upgrade them.
The loose ball bearing hubs aren’t for me. I’d very much like to have sealed bearings for longevity and low maintenance—all the more so for gritty, mud-caked gravel outings.
The Kode’s stock gear of 64″ (via a 42t/18t drivetrain and 700 x 40mm tires) is spot on for urban riding, and a good starting point for milder off-road terrain. You’ll have clearance up to 700c x 43mm (presumably without fenders), in which case 38mm with fenders should also fit.
Published geometry numbers aren’t quite complete—for instance, no head tube angle specified—but what’s available suggests a standard all-road/endurance feel. There are only three sizes, however, so you may have to rely on bar and stem adjustments to fine-tune the sizing.
Weight is not published, but I’d pin it right around 23-24 lbs.
Wabi Thunder ($1035+)
Wabi Cycles has built a bit of a cult following thanks to a small line of notably light and affordable single-speeds. They’re only sold direct to consumer via their website, which probably helps keep prices more attainable.
Wabi’s newest model, the Thunder, marks their first venture into explicitly gravel and CX territory.
It shares a chromoly frame and fork with its siblings—all made of Reynolds 725 tubing, which has one of the better strength-to-weight ratios around. But the Thunder adds significantly wider tire clearance: up to 700c x 50mm, perhaps the most generous on the list. Even with fenders, clearance should remain in the 45mm range.
The Tektro cantilever brakes have terrific modulation once properly adjusted (here’s the definitive guide from Sheldon Brown). That said, I’ve never been satisfied with cantilevers’ stopping power off-road, so mini-V-brakes might be in order.
Stock gearing is about 70″ based on 46t/18t (via fixed/free flip-flop hub) and 35mm tires. That’s high for off-road climbing, but not unreasonable if you stay on pavement. Personally, I’d rather have seen two freewheels, since I’m not sold on the idea of a fixie gravel bike, but…you do you.
There are several tire options with varying widths and prices, and Wabi’s happy to accommodate other gearing requests, too. And speaking of requests, while I haven’t purchased a Wabi (yet!), I’ve corresponded with their customer service folks on multiple occasions, and found them as knowledgeable and responsive as anybody.
The geometry hints at Wabi’s urban fixie roots. It’s on the tall-and-steep side, with a 73° head tube angle (size 55cm) and just 62mm bottom bracket drop. All that may feel a bit twitchy on steep and rough stretches, especially if you opt for flat/riser bars, which have much more leverage than drops. That said, the 435mm chainstays are the biggest geometry difference from the standard Wabi models, and should do a lot to enhance stability and tracking.
If you don’t mind giving up disc brakes, and you spend a significant amount of time on pavement, then the Thunder’s light weight and exemplary build quality make it a terrific value.
At about 20 lbs, it’s also one of the lightest complete single-speed gravel bikes around, and undoubtedly the lightest at this price point.
Mercier Kilo WT ($550)
Bikes Direct has been in the direct-to-consumer bike sales game for a long time. Their range covers almost every standard style of bike, but only a few model have really caught on.
One such model is the Mercier Kilo WT.
Short for “wide tire,” it’s the gravel-friendly version of their equally popular Kilo TT track/urban bike, with which it shares a Reynolds 520 chromoly frame and 4130 chromoly fork with rack and fender mounts.
(Note: this has nothing to do with the storied Mercier brand or team of yesteryear. It’s from an unrelated maker and brand who acquired rights to the name.)
Tire clearance lives up to the name, with room for 700c x 45mm front and rear, and probably about 38mm with fenders. The sealed bearings are a wise choice given the bike’s intended use.
Brakes are long-reach Tektro R559 dual-pivots, which are one of the (few) common options for this tire width. While safe and usable, they’re underwhelming. That’s nothing specific to the model. It’s because, by the time any dual-pivot brake arms are long enough to fit wide tires, they’re prone to flexing under load, which creates a mushy or weak feeling under heavy braking. But cantilever or mini-V-brakes would have given better performance and possibly wider tire clearance at no additional price. Alas, the bike is drilled for dual-pivots, so that’s the only option.
A simpler issue is the extremely stiff out of the box, with 48t/16t combination (flip-flop) on 700c x 32mm tires yielding 81″. It’s not unreasonable if you’re riding on the fixed-gear side of the hub. Otherwise, it’s excessive on even modest climbs, so put a new chainring in the realm of 40t or 42t on your shopping list.
I actually owned a Kilo WT for some time, and despite those qualms with its brakes and stock gearing, my main issue was with geometry. On the one hand, its tire clearance, smooth-riding steel build, and fairly low, stable 70mm bottom bracket drop all beg to rip up gravel. On the other hand, the steep head angle (73.5° on a 56cm) and short chainstays (just 398mm) scream “urban fixie.” It’s for good reason that today’s gravel bikes have moved toward a longer, slacker design that prioritizes steadiness over nimbleness.
No official weight is published, and I regrettably didn’t measure when I owned one, but my research suggests around 22 lbs.
Before the Wabi Thunder was released, a common question in online single-speed circles was, “What’s like a Wabi but with wider tire clearance?” At the time, the answer was a Kilo WT. Personally, I’d rather buy the lighter, longer, slacker, canti-brake Wabi Thunder now that it’s an option. But that’s not a financial reality for everyone, so the Kilo WT and our next bike are worthwhile alternatives.
A newer and, by my standards, better gravel option from Bikes Direct is the Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno Pro (drop bars) and Uno Outcast Pro (flat bars).
(Note, again: this isn’t the Motobecane of the 1960s and 1970s racing scene. Just like Mercier, the Motobecane name has traded hands repeatedly before finding its way to Bikes Direct.)
The frame and fork are 4130 chromoly, with all the mounts you’d expect from an all-around road-ish bike.
Priced just $50 more than than baseline Uno/Uno Pro, the Outcast upgrades to forged cranks (presumably saving a few ounces), swaps the unspecified “cross-type” tires for 700c x 38mm WTB Riddlers, and uses more reasonable 40t/16t set-up for a 69″ gear. That’s as opposed to 46t/16t, or 79″, on the base model.
But the most noteworthy upgrade is relegated to the flat-bar Uno Outcast Pro. It includes Shimano MT200 hydraulic discs for—in my experience—a major bump in power and modulation over the underwhelming Tekro Lyra set on its siblings.
The manufacturer specifies clearance for 700c x 42mm without fenders. No fender clearance is provided, but I’d wager they’d be a tight squeeze over the stock 38mm tires, and might require dropping down to the 35-36mm range.
As for geometry, the Fantom Cross line should feel more at home on dirt and gravel than the comparably priced Kilo WT (and is cheaper to boot). That’s largely thanks to a slacker, 72° head tube angle paired with longer, 435mm chainstays.
Weights aren’t published. Based on the customer reports I could find, around 24-25 lbs seems likely.
Two alternatives worth considering
Several of above are good designs and reasonable deals that I’d be happy to own. That said, there are always nits to pick, and odds are you’ll end up making a few customizations and upgrades anyhow.
1. Convert a geared bike
Given the paucity of complete single-speed gravel bikes, you might save a lot by buying any gravel bike secondhand, then doing your own conversion. Remember, modern geared bikes have vertical dropouts, so you can’t slide the axle forward/backward for chain tension. That leaves three possibilities:
- Easiest: buy a chain tensioner. This also lets you run two front chainrings and/or freewheel cogs for a “dingle-speed” (double single speed) with a quick, manual shift.
- Cleanest: have the rear wheel rebuilt around a White Industries ENO hub (either flip-flop or disc), assuming the axle fits your frame
- Wild card: use this calculator to look for a “magic gear,” where the combination of chainring size + cog size + chainstay length provides exactly the right chain tension. Keep in mind that it might not be the best single-speed gear ratio for you, and it may be troublesome as the chain stretches with wear.
2. Build your own
There’s something super satisfying about building your own bike. It has the potential to eat up time and money like there’s no tomorrow, yet somehow I never regret it…
Anyway, this is the best option for non-mainstream preferences like a single-speed gravel bike. All the more so if you want something with slightly more upright and less race-y geometry.
There are several terrific options, but if I were to start today, it’s hard to beat the versatility of a disc-only, belt drive-compatible Soma Wolverine or more traditional Black Mountain Monstercross. That’s not to mention the all-time classic Surly Cross Check, or any number of more boutique options.
Is a single speed gravel bike a good idea?
It gives you simplicity, reliability, and a sort of mental freedom (as strange as that sounds), but it’s at the cost of the ability to climb or bomb down the steepest hills. Whether that’s worth it depends on how you value each side of that trade-off. Some people love them, some hate them, and most simply haven’t tried.
Your choice of gear ratio will determine what terrain is doable, but there will always be some situation that requires walking up or coasting down.
What’s good single-speed gravel bike gearing?
Roughly 60″ to 70″ is a good starting point. That’s around 2.2:1–2.6:1 on a 700C bike with 35 mm tires. However, you may need to gear significantly higher or lower (up to ± 10″) depending on how steep, soft, or rugged your your idea of “gravel” is.
What’s the difference between gravel and cyclocross bikes?
They are similar at a glance, and often overlap in purpose. However, most gravel bikes have longer, lower, slacker geometry that feels steadier on rough ground (but less nimble in tight quarters). They may also be a little more upright in posture, which improves all-day comfort but is less conducive to max-effort bursts.
Perhaps surprisingly, cyclocross bikes may have narrower tire clearance, since CX races are often muddy affairs than demand narrower but super-knobby tread.
Truly race-oriented bikes of either type may lack rack and fender mounts, but those are still basically universal on gravel bikes, and probably more common than not on CX bikes.