recommends bikes of the year 2021/22: gravel/adventure bikes, urban bikes and e-bikes

It’s time to reveal the best gravel/adventure bikes, e-bikes and urban bikes we’ve reviewed on over the past year.

You probably know that once a month we add the best performing bikes, components, accessories and apparel we’ve reviewed to Recommends. Only a few selected products arrive. Now is the time for us to announce the best of the best of 2021 in these categories:

• Gravel and adventure bikes
• Electric bikes
• Urban bikes

Anything considered for our year-end awards must have been reviewed by, of course. If a particular company hasn’t sent us their bike, we can’t ride it or rate it.

We have now returned to Recommends, reviewed each bike on its own merits, and picked the best of them for inclusion here.

We award three types of awards:

  • Good deal This goes for a bike that offers excellent value for money.
  • Money not applicable We take the price out of the equation for this one; it’s all about performance.
  • editors Choice This award recognizes bikes that combine excellent performance with exceptional value for money.

We don’t necessarily award every award in every category; it all boils down to what the bikes that have made it into the recommendations deserve.

Alright, let’s get stuck…

Gravel & Adventure Bikes

Good deal Boardman ADV 8.9
editors Choice Fearless Warlock

The gravel/adventure sector has become busier than ever in 2021 and the level of bikes has continued to rise.

The Vitus Substance CRS-2 (£1,999.99) impressed us as a smooth-riding gravel and adventure bike that performs well as both an unladen speed machine and a fully loaded workhorse. With an excellent frameset, sorted geometry and well-specified components, it also offers excellent value for money.

Buy the Vitus Substance CRS-2 here

Orro’s Terra C GRX800 (£2,599.99) is a gravel bike on the sportier end of the spectrum that now comes with a new internal cable routing system to clean up the front end. This bike combines performance and comfort and is an absolute pleasure to ride.

Buy the Orro Terra C GRX800 here

Kona’s steel-framed Rove LTD (£2,399) offers great ride feel, great tire clearance and plenty of support for off-road adventures.

Buy the Kona Rove LTD here

The All-City Gorilla Monsoon (£2,600) – which is also made of steel – is a comfortable and smooth beast of a bike that will cope with anything you throw at it. It comes with space for huge 2.4 inch tires and is very versatile.

Buy the Gorilla Monsoon All-City here

Fairlight Cycles’ Faran 2.0 (£2,940) is also steel (frame and fork are Reynolds 631), and it’s excellent. The thought behind the design is second to none. If you’re looking for a dedicated bikepacking or touring bike, the Faran 2.0 should be on your list.

Buy the Fairlight Cycles Faran 2.0 here

Our Good deal the price goes to £1,100 Boardman ADV 8.9 which offers a great entry point to gravel riding thanks to excellent ride quality.

Boardman has often proven that it can deliver a lot of bike for its money, and it does it again here. The ADV 8.9 is built around a triple butted 6061 aluminum frame with hidden welds and a full carbon fork. It’s a stylish bike, balancing comfort and stiffness, and the well-heeled handling will have you covered if you’re just starting out on a surface that moves under your tires. It’s a do-it-all package, too, with a geometry that lends itself well to on-road and off-road riding, and it’s a very capable tourer, too.

Buy the Boardman ADV 8.9 here

January 2022 Bike of the Year - Editors' Choice - Fearless Warlock

the The Fearless Warlock frame and fork (£720) take our editors Choice award. Like several other gravel and adventure bikes that impressed our reviewers in 2021, this is a steel option, built from a mix of custom-butted tubing.

Brighton-based Fearless have put together a thoughtful and well-thought-out frameset with simple, practical and appropriate features that mean it punches well above its price.

The Warlock is light, fast and extremely versatile, capable of handling road, gravel and many types of tougher off-road trails. It’s an absolute hoot on rocky bridleways, fire road trails and trail center singletrack, with handling snappy enough to stay inspiring without being overly jittery.

The Warlock is perfect for long, fast rides on surfaces up to the point where you might want suspension and a dropper post.

You can use the Warlock as the core of a great gravel or adventure bike if you have a budget or a few spares. It also deserves a premium build.

All in all, you get great performance paired with a great price with this versatile frameset.

Buy the Fearless Warlock frame and fork here

Electric bikes

Money not applicable Scott Addict eRide Premium
editors Choice VanMoof S3

The best e-bikes we’ve reviewed in 2021 are a diverse mix, to say the least, covering everything from road bikes to commuters.

Ribble’s Endurance AL e Enthusiast Shimano 105 (£2,799) is an aluminum road bike that offers all the fun, pleasant handling and ride quality of the non-electric model, but with the addition of a Mahle Ebikemotion X35+ motor which offers plenty of smooth assist for those of us who want or need a little help on the hills.

Buy the Ribble Endurance AL e Enthusiast Shimano 105 here

The Cube Reaction Hybrid Performance 500 (£2,099) is a great value all-around trail bike with displacement potential. Much of the impressive performance is due to the Bosch mid-drive system. The Performance line is Bosch’s second best performing motor and we really like it. It’s quiet, smooth and easy to pedal when there’s no motor assistance.

Buy the Cube Reaction Hybrid Performance 500 here

January 2022 Bikes of the Year - silver nil - Scott Addict eRide

Our Money not applicable the price goes to Scott Addict eRide Premium (£9,199). This road bike takes the design of Scott’s flagship race model and adds electric assist to create a bike that’s as fun to climb as it is to descend.

The Addict eRide Premium still rides like a performance road bike, and with all the cables and batteries tucked away, your friends will barely notice it’s an e-bike. Well, until you start drifting away over the hills.

Scott chose Mahle’s Ebikemotion X35 hub-based motor system, which delivers power in a smooth and progressive manner. There’s no massive increase in assist – it’s more like a strong tailwind pushing you.

The handling, riding position and comfort levels are top notch and although it is an expensive bike it is reasonably priced both for what it is and compared to the high-end opposition.

Buy the Scott Addict eRide here

January 2022 Bike of the Year - Editors' Choice - VanMoof S3

Our editors Choice the price goes to the practical and elegant VanMoof S3 (£1,998). One thing that sets the S3 apart is that everything related to security is built in. It has what is called a kick lock which prevents the bike from being moved and also arms an alarm. If the bike is somehow stolen, you can track it through Apple’s Find My app.

The S3 has a 504Wh battery that powers a 250W front hub motor. At the highest setting, that gives you 39 claimed miles on a single charge, which is slightly more than we managed. However, the engine starts quickly, and when going uphill, a boost button keeps you rolling effortlessly.

With integrated lights, hydraulic disc brakes, mudguards and a kickstand, it’s an extremely practical option.

When it comes to e-bikes, you can find models that go further, are lighter, and are probably more comfortable. As a personal form of transportation that makes everyday commuting easy, the VanMoof is almost unrivaled.

Buy the VanMoof S3 here

Urban bikes

Good deal Vitus Dee VR Nexus City Bike
editors Choice Giant Escape Disc 0

Two urban bikes have been recommended by this year and each deserve an award.

bikes of the year january 2022 - bargain purchase - Vitus Dee

Our Good deal the price goes to Vitus Dee VR City Bike Nexus (£429.99) which we called “perhaps the perfect urban ride”. With an enthusiastic aluminum frame and some surprising highlights at a very reasonable price, this is a very attractive hub-mounted city bike.

The stiff frame effectively translates your efforts into forward motion, while the precise, snappy front end is hugely fun. Balance and control are assured and the positioning – a little head down and eager to go, rather than sitting back and admiring the view – works in harmony with the rest of the bike.

The 3-speed Nexus hub is simple to use and Shimano’s M400 hydraulic disc brakes offer good outright power and, more importantly, very precise modulation.
When it comes to doing what it sets out to do – which is to get you across town, reliably, at high speeds, and even letting you enjoy the experience – the Vitus Dee VR City Bike Nexus is very hard to fault.

Buy the Vitus Dee VR City Bike Nexus here

January 2022 Bike of the Year - Editors' Choice - Giant Escape Disc

the Giant Escape 0 Disc (£899) wins our editors Choice award. This bike is functional yet fun, value for money and versatile. Its high-grade aluminum frame, full carbon fork and decent weight (10.5kg) make it a very attractive proposition whether you stick to traditional commuting, fitness and daily chores or just load it up for bigger, longer, more adventurous days. It is at home on the roughest roads and will adapt to a variety of unpaved routes with ease.

The Escape 0 Disc features a drivetrain made up mostly of Shimano components and the brand’s MT200 hydraulic disc brakes that offer plenty of power and control in all conditions. Another highlight are Giant’s CrossCut Metro Easy Ride tubeless tires – comfortable on tarmac and grippy on gravel and towpath dirt.

Reviewer Simon Withers said: “The Giant is well worth the money, especially considering its overall ride quality, simple 1x shifting and well-chosen components. I found it to be such a pleasant ride that I would turn to it even after testing it.

Buy the Giant Escape 0 disc here

Wiley C. Thompson