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10 all-road and gravel bikes that made it a dirty decade for drop bar'd bikes – from Cannondale, Canyon, Open and more…

It was the decade that drop bar bikes got down and dirty - here's our pick of the the innovative designs that have shaped the rough-road sector

The gravel, adventure and all-road sector of cycling has developed massively over recent years and here are the bikes from this broad category that we think have been the most innovative since 2010.

You hear loads of terms used to cover these bikes but, essentially, we're talking about drop handlebar bikes designed, at least partly, for rough, non-tarmacked roads. Not surprisingly, all of the models listed here come with disc brakes and tyres that are wider than you'll find on a typical road race-style bike.

Check out the 15 most innovative road bikes of the past decade 

We've not ranked the bikes here; they're set out in chronological order.

Of course, any list of this type is subjective. What else would you have included? Let us know in the comments.

Kinesis Tripster ATR 

Kinesis Tripster ATR - full bike (2).jpg

The original Tripster ATR – which stands for 'Adventure, Tour, Race' – was unveiled in 2012 and it made an immediate impact (Kinesis is up to version three now). The disc brake-only titanium frame and carbon fork took 40mm tyres front and rear (if not more) and could handle a really wide range of riding, both on tarmac and on surfaces like gravel. A highly capable and beautifully made bike, the ride quality was excellent.
Why it's here A beautifully designed bike for a wide range of riding
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Surly Straggler

Surly Straggler - Full bike

The steel Straggler, which broke cover in 2013, might not look especially innovative but it was effectively a new approach to one of Surly’s most popular all-rounder bikes, the Cross-Check – in many ways a pre-gravel gravel bike that was introduced in 2000 (both of these bikes remain in Surly's range). The Straggler has disc brakes instead of the Cross-Check’s cantilevers, adding extra appeal for serious off-road use, and clearance for 44mm tyres. The rear dropouts had screw adjusters allowing you to use a singlespeed or hub-geared wheel or simply to slide the wheel back for extra clearance. Frame fittings included threaded bosses, doubled up on the fork dropouts for full mudguards and every common type of front and rear pannier rack plus two sets of bottle cage bosses.
Why it's here Super-versatile and hugely influential steel all-rounder 
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GT Grade

gt grade 2015

After a development phase of nearly three years, GT Bicycles launched the Grade waaaaaay back in 2014 as an 'Enduroad' bike capable of taking on tarmac, gravel and much more besides. It was part of a new breed of road bikes with a shift away from the traditional race focus. Available in both carbon-fibre and aluminium versions, it came with disc brakes, a relaxed geometry, space for 35mm tyres and, in some cases, a fork with a 15mm bolt-thru axle. In some ways ahead of its time, the Grade retains an important place in GT's range today. 
Why it's here A road bike with bigger tyres, disc brakes, slacker angles and a load of versatility
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Cannondale Slate

Cannondale Slate - 1.jpg

The Cannondale Slate was an intriguing proposition when we first saw it in 2015: a gravel/adventure road bike rolling on 650b wheels with a (lockout-able) 30mm travel Lefty suspension fork. What the hell was it supposed to be? According to Cannondale, it was designed primarily as a road bike, but one capable of entertaining your adventurous spirit if you wanted to take the path less travelled. Still a key model in Cannondale's range, this is a bike that breaks down boundaries between categories.
Why it's here A feature-packed adventure bike in many ways ahead of its time
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Open UP

Open UP frame - riding 3.jpg

Open – the brand set up by Gerard Vroomen, co-founder of Cervélo, and Andy Kessler, former CEO of BMC – launched the UP performance gravel bike in 2015. You can fit it with anything from 28mm slick tyres for road riding to 38-40mm gravel-specific tyres, 47mm-wide 650Bs and even 2.1in mountain bike knobblies thanks to cavernous clearance front and rear. This is a bike you can ride pretty much anywhere. The frame is packed with interesting features including a dropped driveside chainstay to provide the necessary tyre and chainset clearance while keeping the Q-factor (the distance between the pedal fix points) narrow and the chainstays short.
Why it's here A superb multi-terrain adventure and exploration bike with neat design features
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Genesis Datum

Genesis Datum 30.jpg

The Datum first saw the light of day in 2015 – a carbon-fibre do-everything bike with thru axles, disc brakes, and mounts for full-length mudguards, while retaining a performance edge. Genesis curved the seat tube around the rear wheel to provide generous tyre clearance. Still in the Genesis range, the Datum is at home on the road, with long distance comfort aplenty, and it'll tackle gravel paths, bridleways and even singletrack if you’re that way inclined.​ Genesis calls it a "no compromoise, go anywhere quickly bike", and that about sums it up. 
Why it's here A bike that's as capable off road as it is on tarmac
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3T Exploro​

3T Exploro  - 8.jpg

Developed by Gerard Vroomen (see Open UP, above) and introduced to the world in 2016, the 3T Exploro brought together gravel riding and aerodynamics! The frame features what 3T calls Sqaero tube profiles, which essentially means you get a leading edge designed for aero efficiency with a square rear section, the idea being that the airflow behaves largely as if the profile had a long, tapering tail. 3T wanted to keep a road bike’s Q factor and with clearance for wide tyres that didn’t leave much space for chainstays, so it put a drop in on the driveside one to move it out of the way.
Why it's here Is it a gravel bike or is it an aero bike? It's both  
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Lauf True Grit 

Lauf True Grit - Curry Orange.jpg

The True Grit from Icelandic brand Lauf, launched in 2017, shuns the versatility of most gravel bikes for a pin-sharp focus on racing with a unique leaf-sprung fork taking centre stage. It's a bike that's quite unlike most others out there, and for going very quickly on dirt roads, it's hard to beat. The fork delivers 30mm of undamped travel via fibreglass leaf springs embedded in two carbon substructures. It's extremely effective at doing what it's made for, namely taking the sting out of rough fire road surfaces.
Why it's here The leaf-sprung fork might look odd but it's an effective low-weight design
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Canyon Grail

canyon-launch-2018-1-1

The cycling world was taken aback when Canyon revealed its Grail gravel/adventure bike in early 2018, largely because of the radical double-decker handlebar/stem combo designed to improve comfort and control (aluminium versions of the bike are available with a standard drop handlebar). The rationale is that, unlike a standard bar, this system gives you most compliance at the top section, where you put your hands while cruising, and least in the drops. The bike also features clearance for 42mm tyres and, in many cases, Canyon's VCLS 2.0 leaf spring seatpost.
Why it's here A novel approach to gravel – especially when it comes to the handlebar  
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Mason InSearchOf​

mason-insearchof-iso-bike-review-5

Mason Progressive Cycles has produced some extremely innovative bikes over the past few years – the Bokeh could very easily have made this list – but the most unusual, in looks at least, is the InSearchOf (ISO) which first appeared in 2018. With an Italian hand-built frame made from a mix of custom-formed progressive-butted Dedacciai Zero and Reynolds 853 steel tubes, and a superb level of finish and detail, it nonchalantly comes along and redefines what a drop-bar bike is capable of. It has a modern geometry and is aimed at the new breed of riding and bike packing that has emerged over the last few years; bikes that can carry loads, but are also a buzz to ride and adaptable.
Why it's here A radical adventure bike for demanding roads and trails
Find out more 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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