Vello Gravel review: folding bike for off-road adventures

The Vello Gravel is a full-on folding bike suited to commuting with all the credentials needed to hit those gravel trails too

Vello Gravel review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Vello Gravel is a versatile and fully foldable two-wheeler that sounds like it has limited appeal – until you ride it. It’s handy for commuting, thanks to fatter tyres and some basic suspension that delivers a quality ride on all surfaces. And, as the name suggests, you can also take it pretty much anywhere on your travels, both on and off-road (to some degree).

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fully foldable design

  • +

    (Reasonably) lightweight construction

  • +

    Provides a quality ride

  • +

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    The one-size-fits-all frame doesn't necessarily fit all riders

  • -

    Limited adjustability

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Vello Gravel review in a sentence: A perfect portable gravel bike made for lighter off-road adventures.

The Vello Gravel bike is a direct relation to the Vello Bike+ that we’ve previously been so impressed with. Considering how positively people responded to that on-the-road machine, the Austrian company decided they’d have a go at doing the same, but with more gravel focus. Given the current appeal of gravel biking and bikepacking in particular, as witnessed by the array of models found in the best gravel bike guide, it seems there’s enough going for it to pull in people from the best road bike market.

Better still, the Vello Gravel bike is a folding cycle, which means it’s possible to put it into the back of the car or take it on a train trip to somewhere suitably gravelly and do your thing. There are compromises, of course, especially with respect to the folding side of things. Along with that, the bike does feel a bit like a road-going two-wheeler that has been tweaked for the gravel rather than designed specifically for the task. Smaller wheels are an obvious point on that front.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent a few days with the Vello Gravel, and it’s pretty good, especially if you need something that can be packed down and stored with relative ease. It’s therefore ideal for anyone commuting – via some gravel surfaces ideally or if you require additional portability.

(First reviewed June 2023)

Vello Gravel review: price and availability

The Vello Gravel bike is available to buy direct from the Austrian company via its website and costs 2,290 Euro, which is around £1,970. That puts it into the fairly premium territory and, given the slight niche appeal of the cycle, could make it a fairly rare sight if you’re looking for something that’s a little bit different. It's a unisex, one-size-fits-all bike, mind, so be sure to check with Vello if you have more specific needs on the fitting front.

Vello Gravel

(Image credit: Future)

Vello Gravel review: design and build

Vello has received gongs for its bike innovations, including a RedDot Design Award, which shows that the company knows how to put a quality product together. That much is obvious the moment you open the box. Thanks to the Vello Gravel being a folding bike, the box is about half the size of a regular cycle delivery, so the first thing to do is unpack it and get it set up.

I’ve found few folding bikes to be a breeze to fold/unfold and the Vello Gravel, while not being a nightmare, does require a bit of practice to perfect. Folded, the bike looks like a real challenge, but careful examination of the components and even a look at the explanatory video gets you on the right track. In fact, I’d got the bike up and ready to go in about ten minutes on the first run, with the folding front wheel and forks proving the trickiest piece of the puzzle.

Vello Gravel

(Image credit: Future)

With the Vello Gravel upright and parked on its included folding stand, it’s easy to see the quality shining through. This is a very nicely engineered product and definitely feels that way. If anything, it is heavier than I expected, though still only weighs 12.5kg, which isn’t bad considering it comes with fatter tyres than many comparable machines.

The frame design is clean and classic looking, with a multisize, unisex construction from chrome-moly steel. Fully folded, the Vello Gravel measures H: 65 cm x L: 79 cm x B: 39 cm (H: 26 in x L: 31 in x B: 15 in) while unfolded its 158cm or 62 inches, which gives you an idea of how well it packs down. The aluminium pedals fold up in true folding bike fashion.

Vello Gravel

(Image credit: Future)

I’m really fond of the components Vello has used for the Gravel. There are drop handlebars with comfy grips and gear changing via STI shifters built into the right-side grip. The saddle is a Selle Royal, with a matrix foam construction that makes it practical and also quite comfy. The aluminium seat post is easily adjusted, while the stem can be adjusted for height as needed. In that respect, it’s quite easy to tweak the Vello Gravel to suit different riders.

Gearing comes from Shimano, a 105 series, 10-speed arrangement with 11-36 T cassette, while the front chainring is a 54T number that has a cool chain guard built-in to the design. The disc brakes are smallish but fit the dimensions of the bike perfectly, and those wheels are 20-inch rims with 2-inch Schwalbe Billy Bonkers Performance rubber. They might be small, but they’re as grippy as anything found on larger gravel bikes.

Vello Gravel

(Image credit: Future)

Vello Gravel review: riding experience

One of the most interesting things about the Vello Gravel is the way people gravitate towards it from a distance. Cycling on the gravel tracks in a park near my home, I got more than a few looks when I was moving and even more when I would stop for a break or to take some pics. If you own a Vello Gravel, you will be quizzed on where you got it from and probed about what it’s like to ride.

This is where the Vello Gravel might get some stick from more uncompromising gravel bike aficionados. Those smaller wheels and tyres, plus the gearing setup, will mean you could be at a distinct disadvantage if you’re out with a group of friends with ‘regular’ gravel bikes. Venture out on your own, though, and the Vello Gravel is fun to ride on the road and, naturally, on gravel or dirt tracks, too. It's certainly versatile.

I’ll admit it does feel a little bit weird but travel at your own pace, and the Vello Gravel works those gravel trails impressively well, thanks to the wheels and tyres. Even the gearing lets you tackle most terrain, and once you hit the road again, it’s more than suitable for something like a daily commute. I’m impressed with how comfortable it is, with a neat riding position that is surprisingly good, given the one-size-fits-all nature of the design. Stopping power is solid also, thanks to those dinky discs, and I love the swift and efficient nature of the gear changes.

There’s even modest suspension built into the rear end of the frame, which works in tandem with the fatter tyres to provide a better on-the-road experience than many 'normal' small-wheeled folding bikes out there. That’s a real bonus I wasn’t expecting.

Vello Gravel

(Image credit: Future)

Vello Gravel review: verdict

The Vello Gravel isn’t going to be a complete solution if you’re a very keen gravel bike fan. But, it offers a compromise, especially if you’re frequently commuting or travelling to places in the car where there might be the opportunity to dip into a bit of gravel fun.

Out on the road, the Vello Gravel is comfortable and very enjoyable to ride. It feels very nicely engineered and very well designed. Everything is topped off by the excellent choice of components. Its appeal might be somewhat niche and I’m not sure how many Vello will actually sell, but the Vello Gravel is going to be just perfect for a select few riders.

Vello Gravel review: also consider

If you're looking for a collapsible gravel bike, then things are limited, but non-folding options for gravel bikes are plentiful. One of the best is the Pinnacle Arkose X Di2, which, if you’re after amazing components and aren’t fussed about a big-name brand, is the gravel bike for you.

While you won’t get a Shimano GRX Di2 groupset on a complete bike for anywhere near what the Pinnacle Arkose X costs, there are a handful of viable alternatives for a similar price. The CGR SL Sport build from Ribble (retailer link) combines a carbon fibre frame with Shimano’s standard 105 groupset to create a ride that is ideal for roadies who want the option to dabble in the rough stuff.

For a smidge more than the Pinnacle Arkose X, you can pick up the carbon fibre Boardman ADV 9.4 (retailer link) and enjoy SRAM’s wireless (literally) take on shifting courtesy of its 12-speed Rival eTap AXS. Alternatively, if you want a gravel bike that also packs some front suspension, the Canon Grizl CF SL 8 Suspension 1by (retailer link) is tough to beat.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital, he has run the Innovation channel for a few years at Microsoft, as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of Stuff, TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working, he's usually out and about on one of the numerous e-bikes in his collection.