Best Flat Bar Gravel Bikes for 2023

best gravel bike with flat bar for 2023

As someone who loves riding on all kinds of terrain, I’m always on the lookout for versatile bikes that can handle pavement, trails, gravel and more.

If you’re like me and enjoy exploring a mix of surfaces or need a comfortable and reliable bike for commuting and running errands, a flat bar gravel bike may be perfect for you.

With a more upright position than traditional drop bar road bikes, flat bar gravel bikes offer excellent stability and control while still providing many gears to help you tackle hills and headwinds.

In this article, I’ll discuss the key benefits of flat bar gravel bikes, what to consider when shopping for one, and reveal my top picks for 2023.

There are so many great options out there from trusted brands like Specialized, Cannondale, Trek and others.

I’ll break down the key details on several models so you can find your perfect two-wheeled adventure companion this year!

Benefits of Flat Bar Gravel Bikes

So why should you consider a flat bar gravel bike instead of a regular road or hybrid model?

Here are some of the biggest advantages that make flat bar gravel bikes a fantastic do-it-all choice:

More Upright and Comfortable Riding Position

One of the biggest perks of a flat bar bike is the more upright riding position compared to drop bar road bikes.

By having a straight, flat handlebar instead of the curved drop bars, you can sit in a comfortable, natural posture.

This helps take pressure off your back, neck, shoulders and hands when riding longer distances.

It also gives you better control and handling when tackling uneven or loose terrain.

Excellent Handling on Gravel and Dirt

Flat bar gravel bikes are designed specifically to perform well on the type of mixed surfaces implied by their name.

The wider tires and tire clearance provide more stability and traction when you take them off pavement.

The geometry and frame are made to be responsive yet comfortable when riding over bumps, ruts and loose gravel.

Simpler Shifters and Brake Levers

The flat handlebar setup allows for simple, easy-to-use brake levers and shifters.

There’s no intricate brifter setup like you find on drop bar road bikes.

It’s much more intuitive to operate the brakes and shifting when you can see and reach everything in a comfortable position.

Versatile Gearing for All Terrain

Don’t think that a flat bar means fewer gears!

Most models come equipped with 20 or 30+ speeds to help you power up hills and zoom down straightaways.

The wide gear ranges let you find the perfect ratio for cruising along flats or tackling steep gravel climbs.

Capable of Carrying Gear On and Off-Road

Flat bar gravel bikes have mounting points and clearance to add fenders, racks and bags.

So they make excellent adventure companions if you want to load them up for bikepacking trips, commuting or touring.

You can bring plenty of gear on all kinds of adventures.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Flat Bar Gravel Bike

If you’re ready to shop for your new shred sled, here are some key factors to consider as you compare different models:

Your Intended Use

Think about how you plan to use your new bike most regularly.

Will it be your daily commute and exercise machine? Do you want to go on extended gravel riding adventures?

Knowing the main purpose will help narrow down choices that are tailored to those needs.

Frame Material

Flat bar gravel bikes come in aluminum, carbon fiber, steel and titanium frames.

Aluminum and carbon are the most common.

Carbon is lighter but more expensive. Steel is known for comfort and good value.

And titanium is the premium option – lightweight, lively and durable.

Gearing Components

Look at the derailleurs, cassettes, chainrings and cranksets that come stock on any bike you consider.

These will determine the gear range and how smoothly it shifts.

Most flat bar gravel bikes will have a double or triple crankset in the front and a wide range 9-11 speed cassette out back.

Tire Clearance and Wheel Size

Since you’ll likely swap between road, gravel and trail tires, make sure the frame has adequate clearance.

Most models accommodate 35-45mm tires without fenders and 28-35mm with fenders.

Wheels are typically 700c, but some smaller sizes opt for 650b.

Brake Type

Rim brakes used to be common on flat bar bikes, but most quality models now come with hydraulic disc brakes.

Discs perform better in wet conditions and provide more stopping power.

Comfort Features

If you’ll use the bike for long days in the saddle, look for models with vibration-dampening technology in the frame and seatpost.

Some bikes also come with wider, more cushioned tires for a plush ride quality.

Ready to see my picks for the best flat bar gravel bikes you can get this year?

Let’s dive into the top models that will take your adventures up a notch in 2023!

My Top Picks for 2023

Specialized Diverge E5 EVO

Serious gravel riders need to check out the new Specialized Diverge Expert E5 EVO.

This aluminum frame sheds weight without sacrificing capability across surfaces.

The lightweight Premium E5 Aluminum frame soaks up vibrations using Specialized’s Future Shock 2.0 technology.

It can fit 700c wheels with 47mm tires or 650b wheels with up to 2.1″ tires, giving you options for all conditions.

The 1×12 SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is modern, reliable and provides a 10-50T gear range.

Powerful SRAM Level TLM hydraulic disc brakes deliver confident stopping power on descents.

Additional niceties for long rides include SWAT storage and mounting points for racks/fenders.

This cutting-edge gravel shredder has a price tag around $2,600 but provides amazing performance.

Cannondale Topstone 1

Cannondale packs the Topstone 1 with top notch specifications for an affordable price.

It’s a very capable gravel bike that will get you hooked on adventuring far beyond the pavement.

A lightweight SmartForm C2 alloy frame provides a smooth ride and lively handling.

The SRAM Apex 1×11 speed drivetrain is simple to operate and offers a wide 500% range.

Hydraulic disc brakes deliver excellent power and modulation to control your speed on descents.

The 650b wheels roll over bumps easily while fitting up to 50mm tires.

Cannondale’s Kingpin rear suspension takes the sting out of bumps.

It’s a boon for comfort on all-day rides.

Available in multiple colors for around $1,200, the Topstone 1 is fantastic bang-for-buck.

Space Horse Microshift Gravel Bike – 650b

All-road riders should shortlist the versatile Space Horse from Minnesota-based All-City Cycles.

This steel gravel rig features a ultra-comfortable flat handlebar setup and 650b wheels ready to take on variable terrain.

The 2×10 Microshift drivetrain provides a wide 395% gear range to tackle steep hills and thrilling descents with ease.

TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes give you reliable stopping power across surfaces.

There’s also mounting points to add fenders and racks for bikepacking adventures.

The Space Horse frame soaked up vibrations and bumps exceptionally well during my test rides thanks to the seamless triple-butted chromoly tubing.

Plus it has room to fit tires up to 45mm wide.

This bike delivers an overall comfortable and stable ride on pavement to trails.

If you want a classic steel flat bar gravel bike built for comfort and versatility, the Space Horse from All-City Cycles is a top choice with a price tag around $1599.

Salsa Journeyman Claris 650

Salsa makes some of my favorite gravel bikes out there, including the Journeyman Claris 650.

This aluminum all-rounder comes in at an accessible price but still brings versatility and reliable performance.

The Claris 2×8 speed drivetrain provides smooth shifting across 16 different gears – plenty for most gravel and commuting needs.

The 650b wheels roll fast with excellent grip thanks to the 40mm tire clearance.

Mechanical disc brakes deliver dependable stopping power in all conditions.

The Journeyman frame provides a stable, compliant ride on rough roads thanks to the carbon fork.

Plus it has mounts for fenders, racks and 3 water bottles – handy for bikepacking adventures!

For right around $1,000, this is one of the best entry-level flat bar gravel bikes you can find.

Marin Nicasio RC

Last but not least in my top picks is the Marin Nicasio RC.

This aluminum gravel rig from the California-based brand is value-packed for riders wanting to explore paved and unpaved routes.

It boasts an enviably wide range Shimano Altus 2×9 speed drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes.

The Neutron wheels are ready for up to 40mm tires so you can get rowdy beyond the pavement.

The Nicasio RC frame has a relaxed geometry for a stable, comfortable ride on all terrain.

Nicely finished details like the Brooks C17 saddle, bar tape and pedals complete the package.

Marin offers the Nicasio RC in several attractive colors for a very wallet-friendly price. It punches well above its $879 price tag for features and performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about choosing and riding your ideal flat bar gravel bike?

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How Do Flat Bar Gravel Bikes Compare to Hybrid Bikes?

While hybrid bikes can certainly ride on gravel, flat bar gravel bikes are more optimized for variable terrain.

They have a wider range of gears, can fit larger tires, and have more mounts for accessories.

The geometry is also designed specifically for stability on loose surfaces.

Are flat bar gravel bikes good for bikepacking and touring?

Absolutely!

Their versatile performance and capacity to carry gear make most flat bar gravel bikes awesome adventure companions.

Models with lots of mount points are ideal for adding racks, bags and water bottles.

How should I size a flat bar gravel bike?

Test ride a few models in different sizes to get a feel for the proper fit.

Generally, you want a slightly longer frame than a road bike for more control on loose terrain. Go for a frame that allows a comfortable reach to the handlebars without being too stretched out.

What tire pressure should I run on gravel?

Tire pressure will depend on your weight, tire width and riding conditions. A good starting point is 30-40psi for a 700x40mm tire on gravel. Run higher psi on pavement and lower for technical, loose surfaces.

Are flat bar gravel bikes suitable for bike commuting?

They make fantastic commuters thanks to the comfortable riding position, versatility for carrying gear and stability on varying surfaces. Options with fender/rack mounts are ideal city bikes. Just make sure to get a good lock!

Conclusion

I hope this guide has shown you how awesome flat-bar gravel bikes can be for all kinds of riding adventures!

With the right model chosen for your needs and budget, you’ll have a trusty steed ready for commuting, exercise, bikepacking trips and taking on all kinds of terrain.

Flat bar gravel bikes provide a comfortable and stable ride with versatile gearing to tackle paved roads, dirt paths, gravel trails and then some.

Brands like Specialized, Cannondale, Trek and Salsa all make excellent options to suit different needs and budgets.

Have fun shopping for your perfect flat bar shred sled!

Let me know if you have any other questions as you search for your ideal gravel grinder.

I’m happy to provide more guidance to help you find that special bike to take your rides to new heights in 2023!

Get out there and let the adventures continue on two wheels.

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Joey B. Ramsey
Passionate cyclist, father, and blogger.
I've been riding bikes since childhood and enjoy sharing my knowledge with fellow cycling enthusiasts.
My diverse bike collection allows me to write reviews and advice based on personal experience with various bikes and accessories.
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