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Here Are The 18 BEST Flat Bar Gravel Bikes For 2021

Over the years, I’ve made it pretty clear that for rougher terrain, I think many cyclists would benefit from flat handlebars. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I’m very excited to write about flat bar gravel bikes!

Wait… aren’t these just hybrids, 1990s mountain bikes and rigid mountain bikes?

You could definitely argue that case, but ultimately, I don’t think it matters. These bikes have the latest bike technology, they are available in shops right now and they are a direct alternative to their drop bar gravel bike brethren.

Right, it’s time to go deep down the flat bar gravel bike rabbit hole…

Don’t miss my article about the BEST gravel bikes under $1000 HERE.

8 Reasons Flat Handlebars Are Great For Gravel

flat bar gravel bikes

1. You get better bike control thanks to the additional steering leverage (especially with any front luggage).
2. You have much more handgrip while braking on bumpy surfaces.
3. It opens gravel bikes up to MTB-specific components (brakes, shifters, derailleurs, in particular).
4. It’s easier to change/maintain gear and brake cables.
5. Flat bar grips are often more durable than bar tape.
6. Mountain bike parts are usually cheaper, resulting in great value gravel bikes.
7. Mountain bike parts have more suitable gear ratios for dirt roads (can be steep!).
8. There is more space for bikepacking handlebar packs and accessories.

I’ve got an in-depth article on the topic of flat handlebars HERE.

Flat Bar Gravel Bike Frame Geometry

A diagram showing the difference in frame geometry between a flat bar (white) and drop bar (black) gravel bike.

Best practice flat bar gravel geometry is not the same as drop bar gravel geometry.

The most obvious change is the length of the frame. As the grips are closer to your body on a flat bar bike, manufacturers often increase the length of their frames to ensure your hip, back and arm angles can be maintained.

The difference in frame reach is somewhere between 25mm and 50mm depending on who you ask. Salsa Cycles have a ~50mm difference in ‘reach’ between their frame types, Norco uses ~35mm, Specialized run ~30mm and Marin go with ~25mm.

The bike’s steering speed also requires amendment on a flat bar gravel bike.


To make a flat bar gravel bike feel nice and stable when we ride, we need to adjust the steering geometry of the frameset so that the bike turns slower than a drop bar bike. This is to help counter the additional steering leverage. With both quick steering and lots of leverage, you end up with a very twitchy handling bike (ie. it feels less stable at speed).

Bike designers typically slacken the head tube angle to account for the additional steering leverage.

We can get a good idea for how quickly a bike will steer by measuring the “trail” in millimetres. Less trail means faster steering, and more trail means slower steering. For a flat bar gravel bike, approximately 20% additional trail is enough to counter the higher steering leverage.

You can understand the basics of bicycle frame geometry HERE.
And understand advanced-level steering HERE.

Flat Bar Gravel Bike Conversions

There are a handful of drop bar bikes that could be great candidates for a flat bar conversion (if you don’t like anything below!). This is because they are built with a “progressive” frame geometry that already incorporates a longer frame reach and a slacker head tube angle.

Here are your options: Bjorn Recycled, BMC URS, Canyon Grail, Curve GMX+, Evil Chamois Hager, Fustle Causeway GR1, Knolly Cache, Liteville 4-ONE Mk1, Marin Headlands, Merida Silex, Nukeproof Digger, Rocky Mountain Solo, Saracen Levarg, Whyte Glencoe.

Scoring The Best Flat Bar Gravel Bikes

I have prioritised flat bar frame characteristics in my scoring because I think well-designed flat bar bikes should rise to the top (30% of the score). In particular, this list penalises bikes with short top tubes and quick steering.

Having appropriately low gear ratios is important for the steeper-than-typical gravel ascents – the gravel bike’s weight will also help here (both total 30% of the score). A few more points are up for grabs for frame features, value-for-money and tubeless compatibility (the remaining 40% of the score).

Frameset Quality (/4) – Based on frame features, fork material, cable routing, mounts and axle type.
Flat Bar Sizing (/3) – Flat bar frame length is 3 points, a bit longer than normal is 1 point, drop bar geo is 0 points.
Steering Speed (/3) – 70mm+ steering is 3 points, 65-70mm steering is 2 points and sub-65mm steering is 0 points.
Low Gear Ratios (/3) – Sub 23″ is 3 points, 23-26″ is 2 points, 26-28″ is 1 point, 28″+ is 0 points – learn more HERE.
Bike Weight (/3) – Sub-10kg is 3 points, 10-11kg is 2 points, 11-12kg is 1 point, 12-13kg is 0 points.
Value For Money (/3) – A subjective score based on my opinion of the frameset and specification.
Tubeless-Ready (/1) – An extra point for tubeless tyre compatibility.
TOTAL: /20

If you’d like to learn everything about gravel bikes, check out my in-depth book, The Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide.

Ranking The Best Flat Bar Gravel Bikes

FLAT BAR GEOMETRY GRAVEL BIKES
19/20 – Marin DSX 2 – My favourite ‘affordable’ gravel bike. Deore 12-speed, 29×2.1″ clearance, carbon fork.
19/20
– Norco Search XR – A killer bike with low gear ratios, modern features and 27.5″ wheels for small sizes.
17/20 – Specialized Diverge Expert EVO – The nicest frameset here with an excellent array of components.
16/20
– Commencal FCB – A 29×2.0″ gravel bike that’s light enough, with all of the modern frame features.
16/20
– Surly Bridge Club – The highest-scoring steel bike, exceptionally low gears, very affordable.
15/20 – Giant Escape Disc – A very compelling $800 option which is available in shops all around the world.
15/20Kona Dew Deluxe – Another amazing sub-$900 bike option, with excellent gear ratios and 27.5″ wheels.

14/20 – Whyte Portabello V2
13/20 – Salsa Journeyman Sora
11/20 – Saracen Levarg FB

DROP BAR GEOMETRY FLAT BAR BIKES
16/20 – Rose Backroad Multicross – Super lightweight (8.7kg!), fully internal cables, nice GRX components.
14/20 – Specialized Sirrus X 5.0 – A best-kept secret, exceptionally well priced, 20mm of suspension, sub-10kg.
13/20 – Poseidon Flatbar X – Cheapest bike on the list ($599!), 10-speed components, carbon fork.
13/20 – Octane One Gridd Flat – Deore 10-speed, hydro brakes, carbon fork, reasonably light, sub-$1000

12/20 – Cube SL Road Race
12/20 – KTM Strada Glorious
10/20 – Obed Borough
9/20 – Genesis Croix de Fer 20

Flat Bar Gravel Bikes (Flat Bar Geometry)

2021 Marin DSX 2 – Global – $1099

flat bar gravel bike

19/20 – My favourite affordable gravel bike, Deore 12-speed, huge 29×2.1″ clearance, carbon fork. There is an $899 model too which ranks equally well!

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Lightweight aluminium frame, carbon fork, thru-axles, 29×2.1″ clearance.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 81mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (3/3) – 22.9″ climbing gear is great.
Value For Money (3/3) – Exceptional value for a Deore 12-speed build.
Bike Weight (2/3) – Approximately 10.9kg without pedals.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Norco Search XR Flat Bar – Global – $1149

flat bar gravel bikes

19/20Excellent frameset with all of the modern features, great flat bar geometry, 650B wheels in the smaller sizes and perfect climbing gears. The 42mm maximum tyre size will be limiting for people heading into rougher terrain, so this will be more suitable on smoother gravel roads.

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Lightweight aluminium frame, carbon fork, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 77mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (3/3) – 21.4″ climbing gear is fantastic.
Value For Money (3/3) – Excellent value build with all of the right features.
Bike Weight (2/3) – Approximately 10.9kg without pedals.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Specialized Diverge EVO – Global – US $2600

flat bar gravel bikes

17/20 – This is the bike that solidified the flat bar gravel category this year! It offers the nicest frame and fork here along with an excellent array of components. The front suspension, frame features and geometry make this a great pick, despite its price.

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Top-tier aluminium frame, carbon fork, 20mm of suspension, thru-axles, lots of mounts.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 70mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (2/3) – 24.8″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (2/3) – 10.7kg without pedals.
Value For Money (2/3) – Exceptional components and frameset quality, price is expensive but not unreasonable.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Surly Bridge Club – Global – $1099

16/20One of only a few steel bikes on this list, insanely low climbing gears, 47mm tyre clearance, hydraulic brakes and a great geometry for flat bar gravel riding. If you don’t mind a bit of extra weight the Bridge Club will make a really nice gravel rig.

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Sturdy steel frame and fork, quick-release axles, lots of mounts.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 77mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (3/3) – 17.5″ climbing gear is insanely low (ride up anything!).
Value For Money (3/3) – Great value for a Deore 11-speed build and decent frameset.
Bike Weight (0/3) – 12.4kg without pedals.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Commencal FCB – Global – $1099

flat bar gravel bikes

16/20 – A 29×2.0″ gravel bike that’s light enough, with excellent frame geometry and all of the modern frame features. The only downside is the climbing gear ratio, which might be a bit high if you live around steep gravel roads (in Commencal’s defence, the FCB is designed for city riding).

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Lightweight frame, aluminium fork, thru-axles
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 75mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (0/3) – 29″ climbing gear is too high.
Bike Weight (2/3) – 10.9kg without pedals.
Value For Money (3/3) – SRAM Apex 11-speed, hydro brakes and decent wheels for the price.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Giant Escape Disc – Global – $800

flat bar gravel bikes

15/20 – A very compelling $800 option which is available in shops all around the world. The gear ratios are low enough and the components have all of the modern tech, including tubeless compatibility.

Frameset Quality (2/4) – Decent aluminium frame, carbon fork, flex seatpost, quick-release axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 69mm trail is a touch quick.
Low Gear Ratios (3/3) – 22.8″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (1/3) – Approximately 11.9kg without pedals.
Value For Money (3/3) – One of the cheapest bikes here, yet still with nice frame features.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Kona Dew Deluxe – Global – $899

15/20 – Another amazing sub-$900 bike option, with excellent gear ratios, 27.5″ wheels and Shimano Deore 11-speed.

Frameset Quality (2/4) – Aluminium frame, steel fork, quick-release axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 72mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (3/3) – 20.6″ climbing gear is super low.
Bike Weight (1/3) – Approximately 11.9kg without pedals, fenders and the kickstand.
Value For Money (3/3) – Amazing price for Shimano Deore 11-speed, hydro brakes and a bunch of accessories!
Tubeless-Ready (0/1) – Tubes only.

2021 Whyte Portobello V2 – £799

flat bar gravel bikes

14/20

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Decent aluminium frame and fork, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 72mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (1/3) – 27.7″ climbing gear is too high.
Bike Weight (1/3) – Approximately 11.5kg without pedals.
Value For Money (2/3) – Quite a well-priced package.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Salsa Journeyman Sora – Global – $1199

flat bar gravel bikes

13/20

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Nice aluminium frame, carbon fork, quick-release axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 69mm trail is pretty good.
Low Gear Ratios (2/3) – 24.1″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (1/3) – 11.3kg without pedals.
Value For Money (1/3) – A little bit expensive for a Shimano Sora build with entry-level crankset and brakes.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Saracen Levarg FB – £999

flat bar gravel bikes

11/20

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Lightweight aluminium frame, carbon fork, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (3/3) – Dedicated flat bar frame.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 74mm trail is appropriate.
Low Gear Ratios (0/3) – 29″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (1/3) – 11.2kg without pedals.
Value For Money (1/3) – A little expensive for older series Shimano Deore 10-speed and basic cranks.
Tubeless-Ready (0/1) – Tubes only.

Flat Bar Gravel Bikes (Drop Bar Geometry)

2021 Rose Backroad Multicross – Europe – €2149

flat bar gravel bikes

16/20 – Despite losing 3 points for using drop bar bike sizing, the Rose scored incredibly well thanks to the nice frameset and spec, including a flex seatpost. The Multicross is ultra-light, has decent gear ratios and includes all of the modern gravel features.

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Ultralight carbon frame, full carbon fork, fully internal cable routing, flex post, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 71mm trail is great.
Low Gear Ratios (2/3) – 24.9″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (3/3) – 8.7kg without pedals, lightest bike here.
Value For Money (3/3) – Expensive but very good value when you consider the quality of everything.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Specialized Sirrus X 5.0 – Global – $1700

14/20Here is an industry secret: hybrid bikes aren’t as marketable as gravel bikes, so by choosing the Sirrus X, you can get 90% of the Diverge EVO for substantially less money! Just like the Diverge EVO, it has 20mm of suspension, lots of nice parts and all in a package that’s sub-10kg. The only downsides are that the geometry is a bit shorter than it should be and the gear ratios are a bit higher too.

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Lightweight carbon frame and fork, 20mm of suspension, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 66mm trail is a bit quick.
Low Gear Ratios (1/3) – 27.3″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (3/3) – 9.6kg without pedals.
Value For Money (3/3) – Amazing value for a carbon bike, with suspension and Shimano SLX gearing.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Poseidon Flatbar X – North America – $599

flat bar gravel bike

13/20 – This price almost seems too good to be true. It’s lightweight, uses 1X10 gearing and has some of the lowest gear ratios of all gravel bikes here.

You can see more pictures and the full specification on the Poseidon website HERE.

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Quite a decent aluminium frame, full carbon fork, quick-release axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 66mm trail is a touch low.
Low Gear Ratios (3/3) – 21.5″ climbing gear is excellent.
Bike Weight (2/3) – 10.9kg without pedals.
Value For Money (3/3) – It’s almost too good to be true!
Tubeless-Ready (0/1) – Tubes only.

2021 Octane One Gridd Flat – Global – $999

flat bar gravel bike

13/20 – Deore 10-speed, hydro brakes, carbon fork, reasonably light, sub-$1000!

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Solid aluminium frame, carbon fork, front thru-axle.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (3/3) – 74mm trail is great.
Low Gear Ratios (2/3) – 24.6″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (1/3) – Approximately 11kg without pedals.
Value For Money (3/3) – Decent price for a Shimano Deore 10-speed build with hydro brakes.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Cube SL Road Race – Europe – €1200

12/20

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Ultralight aluminium frame, full carbon fork, internal cables, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 68mm trail is ok.
Low Gear Ratios (1/3) – 27.3″ climbing gear is a touch too high for gravel.
Bike Weight (2/3) – 10.1kg.
Value For Money (3/3) – Nice frameset, excellent parts, lightweight.
Tubeless-Ready (0/1) – Tubes only.

2021 KTM X-Strada Glorious – Europe – €1549

12/20

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Unique step-through design, aluminium frame, carbon fork, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 65mm trail is a bit quick.
Low Gear Ratios (2/3) – 24.1″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (2/3) – 10.8kg without pedals.
Value For Money (2/3) – A decent Shimano GRX 10-speed build with hydro brakes.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) –Tubeless compatible.

2021 Obed Borough – North America – $2349

flat bar gravel bikes

10/20

Frameset Quality (4/4) – Ultralight carbon frame, full carbon fork, internal cables, thru-axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 67mm trail is ok.
Low Gear Ratios (0/3) – 34.4″ climbing gear is far too high for gravel.
Bike Weight (2/3) – Approximately 10kg.
Value For Money (1/3) – Nice enough frame but the spec could be smarter for the price.
Tubeless-Ready (1/1) – Tubeless compatible.

2021 Genesis Croix de Fer 20 – Global – £1199

flat bar gravel bikes

9/20

Frameset Quality (3/4) – Nice steel frameset, lots of mounts, quick-release axles.
Flat Bar Sizing (0/3) – Drop bar frame with a flat bar installed.
Steering Speed (2/3) – 66mm trail is a bit quick.
Low Gear Ratios (2/3) – 24.1″ climbing gear.
Bike Weight (0/3) – Approximately 12.1kg without pedals.
Value For Money (2/3) – A decent Shimano GRX 10-speed build with hydro brakes.
Tubeless-Ready (0/1) –Tubes only.

If You’d Like To Learn Everything About Gravel Bikes, Check Out My Book: The Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide

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