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Best for Speed
For gravel rides without much elevation change, the Exploro is the fastest option this side of going custom—not surprising considering 3T’s pedigree of making top-line racing components. With an aggressive riding position designed for rolling hills, it has a light build and brisk handling built for speed. Switch between skinnier 700c tires, for pavement, and rubber as fat as 54mm to take on rougher trails.
[From $5,600; us.3t.bike.com]
Best for Daylong Excursions
Hook EXT-C Bombtrack
Back in 2011, Bombtrack’s founders ditched their BMX roots to open a shop based in Cologne, Germany, and feed their off-roading interest. The carbon-fiber Hook EXT-C hits the mark with mounts that store bikepacking gear and a front derailleur cutout on the seat tube that can run 1x, 2x, and 3x drivetrains.
[From $3,000; bombtrack.com]
Best for Pavement and Gravel
Cherohala SE Litespeed
Chattanooga, TN-based Litespeed was among the first titanium bikes used in serious road competitions, like the Tour de France, Iron Man, and space—yes, they’ve made parts for a Mars rover. The brand’s Cherohala SE is an endurance road bike built for speed and comfort, with a buttery frame and a carbon fork, retooled with 32mm tires that transition from the road onto gravel without any fuss.
[From $4,750; litespeed.com]
Best for Adventure Touring
The four-man Breadwinner team works out of a small, pegboard-lined shop in Portland, OR—there’s an attached coffee bar—hand-making about 140 bikes annually. The G-Road uses lightweight steel, which is supple and resilient, creating a spring effect over unsteady terrain. Ideal for ripping gravel (or singletrack on fatter tires) the frame comes with all the mounts to kit it out for long hauls.
[From $4,890; breadwinnercycles.com]
Best for Gravel Racing
After starting with steel frames, Argonaut switched in a big way—making its own carbon-fiber builds, and the tools that shape it, for an exacting level of precision. The custom, high-end GR2 is just 16 pounds, running 700c x 38mm tires, and this speed demon will give you an edge on all but the gnarliest terrain. Before ordering, plan to know specifics, like your ideal wheel set and drivetrain.
[From $10,700; argonautcycles.com]
Best for Gravel Newbies
Hakka MX Ibis
If you’re a roadie interested in gravel, the simple carbon-fiber Hakka MX offers the option to run a 1x or 2x up front, with a more relaxed ride and clearance for fatter tires. It’s a good choice for gravel-curious adventurers looking to carry the carbon feel over to rougher roads. While Ibis, based in Santa Cruz, CA, made its name with mountain bikes, it has a cult road-bike following you can see in the MX.
[From $3,300; ibiscycles.com]
Best for Multiday Camping
TrailDonkey 2.1 Rodeo Labs
The carbon-fiber TrailDonkey, from Denver-based Rodeo Labs, is an all-road beast from a four-year-old company run by multimodal riders who wanted more from an adventure bike. The fork conceals wiring for the dynamo hub, which can power front and rear lights, and a USB charger to keep your phone and GPS apps juiced. Add fenders, to stay dry, and bags and racks for longer bikepacking trips.
[From $3,650; rodeo-labs.com]
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