Gravel Bike vs Mountain Bike – Which is the more versatile bike?

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Gravel Bike vs Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes were the original dirt bike champions before the gravel bikes came to the scene. They don’t look alike in features but some of their parts bear strong similarities. Which between the two is greater?

My name is Patrick and I take part in occasional dirt bike racing. It is through these races that I get requests to do reviews of my best bike types, the gravel and mountain bike.

With matching technology in terms of tubeless tires, disc brakes and clutches, both bikes make for a great experience out in the various terrains including single tracks and rugged regions.

If you have a choice between the two and you feel a little stuck, this review will help you tell them apart and give you some insight as to which bike is more ideal for you and your riding needs.


What is the Difference between the Gravel Bike and the Mountain Bike?

Bike Type
Gravel Bike
Mountain Bike
Geometry
Comfort and Endurance
Stability and Leverage
Weight
Moderate
Heavy
Tires
37mm-45mm
53mm-60mm
Gears
50/34
46/36
Brakes
Disk
Disk
Accessories
Mudguard, Racks, Bottle Holder
None

 


Gravel vs Mountain Bike – How do they compare?

Handlebars

This is one of their most obvious traits that can tell apart a gravel bike from a mountain bike. The gravel bike’s type are drop-bars because they are meant to be ridden at high speeds, over long distances and on better terrain.

They give variety in hand positions which facilitates a more comfortable ride with minimized fatigue even after miles on the bike. Drop bars also increase the aerodynamic properties of the bike as they force the rider to crouch lower than on the mountain bike.

Built for stability and leverage, the mountain bike features flat handlebars which gives them more control over the bike especially in tough terrain or when maneuvering sharp bends. Their placement encourages the rider to ride more upright which slows them down in clear and smooth roads.

With a firm rubber grip and hands further apart than on drop bars, the rider is more comfortable and he is able to carefully lead the bike skillfully especially on single track roads.

Gravel bikes feature drop handlebars which are distinctly unique in appearance and functionality as compared to the flat handlebars that are spotted on a mountain bike.

Tires

Bigger tires reduce tire pressure and add to comfort and traction. Gravel bikes have fit between 38-45mm tires in their frame but with newer models, they can go up to 50mm.

Mountain bikes have tires ranging from 53mm to 60mm which makes them heavier and give them better resistance to rolling. The difference in tire size indicates their functionality with mountain bikes being able to conquer rougher terrains as compared to gravels bikes.

A major difference between the two bikes is the fact that gravel bikes provide the user with the option to change tires and this can convert the bike into a road bike or a fat bike. The ability to make these changes could have one experience the thrill of having a two-in-one bike.

Gravel bikes may have wider tires than a regular road race bikebut mountain bikes offer the widest tires in the bike business and this is why they rule the outback routes.

Suspension

If you ever wonder how riders are able to go over extremely rough terrain with little or no effect to their joints and muscles, the answer lies in the bike’s suspension. Mountain bikes have long been known to have a suspension fork in them to help reduce the impact of bumps and increase on the riding comfort.

Riders have the choice to lock out suspension to maximize their efficiency because the bobbing motion that suspension introduces take the power off the pedaling motion the rider makes. This slows down the bike’s speed considerably.

Suspension forks ranging from 30 to 40mm are what’s commonly used on bikes and they do add a few pounds to the bike’s weight. This is why gravel bikes tend to omit their use. However, you may find some high-end gravel bike’s spotting suspension forks.

Mountain bikes offer more comfortable suspension compared to gravel bikes which a more rigid and firm.

Gearing

If you plan to go fast on your bike, the gravel bikes offer better gearing range compared to mountain bikes. If you have a Force 1 drivetrain on your gravel bike, you should use a 42t chainring on a 10-42t cassette.

In the case of a mountain bike, your aim would be to ride slower and manage steeper climbs. The right gear for an Eagle drivetrain would be a 32t chainring on a 10-50t cassette. This lower gear is what gets you up the stony hills.

Gravel bikes are more versatile in that they can be converted to fit the drivetrains found on a mountain bike and they can also be found in double-chainrings making them superior in their gearing capabilities.

Mountain bike gearing is ideal for those carrying luggage over steep hills or going down the unchartered single-track trails. Gravel bikes on the other hand are best for those who need speed and unlimited change in gears.


Gravel Bike vs Mountain Bike – A Comparison Overview

Gravel Bike – Overview

These are a breed that crosses a road bike with a mountain bike and they are also referred to as Adventure Road Bikes. They are designed to be harder and sturdier than a road bike and faster than a mountain bike.

They can cover all terrains like mud, pavement, tarmac and others in between which makes them an ideal everyday bike. Contrary to mountain bikes, they have been designed to be longer which adds to their riding comfort and stability.

Pros

  • Tires can be changed to make a fat bike for more comfort and road grip
  • Go anywhere and everywhere
  • Simple and durable design
  • Has mudguards, bottle holder and rigid suspension

Cons

  • Slower than a road bike
  • Heavier than a road bike
  • More expensive than most bikes

Mountain Bike – Overview

Most mountain bikes are made of aluminum or steel making them quite hardy and able to withstand hard falls or knocks against rocks and other surfaces. Their wide tires help get them across rugged terrain but at slower speeds.

Mountain bikes are the perfect companion for the adventurous souls who love to go hiking or cross-country riding. Having been engineered with full suspension, they tend to be much heavier and more stable than other bikes.

Pros

  • Full suspension makes them very stable
  • Different terrain ruler
  • Strong and heavy
  • Thick tires
  • Guide chain for head control

Cons

  • Not good for long distance roading
  • Not for Urban commute
  • Tough to control when riding downhill

Verdict: So, between gravel and mountain bikes, which is more versatile?

Gravel bikes have outdone themselves and they clearly are the more versatile option as compared to mountain bikes.

With a gravel bike, you can go from office to off-road racing in a matter of minutes. What’s more is the option to change up tires when need be essentially giving you two bikes in one. Their drop handlebars make for very comfortable riding and allow the rider to crouch down which centers their gravity and gets them through rough winds.

If you are torn between the two, pick a gravel bike because it will do more for you in its lifetime.

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