Gravel Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes

Approx Reading Time: 8 minutes

Both gravel bikes and mountain bikes are popular bikes that can be used in various terrain types. Many people think that Gravel bikes are quite similar to mountain bikes, but there are key differences between these two types of bikes. We will explain them in this article.

Gravel Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes:

Both Mountain Bikes and Gravel Bikes are designed for off-road usage. Gravel bikes are closer related to road bikes and are better suited for longer day trips or even multi-day trips with luggage. Mountain Bikes are better suited for more challenging terrain, with better suspension and a different riding posture.

Gravel Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes 1
(CC BY 2.0) by Glory Cycles

Which is Better, Gravel Bikes, or Mountain Bikes?

As we said earlier, many people believe that gravel bikes are a substitute for mountain bikes. If they look the same, there would be differences in their structure and geometry. In the end, it boils down to which bike is better in speed or can take steep climbs?

The Gravel bike is known for its durability and stability, while the mountain bike is known for its ruggedness and great control on various terrains. This article will analyze and explain them extensively.

What is a Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes, also known as adventure bikes, are designed as road bikes to tackle various surfaces (fire roads, forest trails, and town paths), carry additional gear, and are suitable for all-day riding on gravel roads. They are made to be more flexible and comfortable than a standard bike.

Gravel bikes are typically lighter and versatile, built with other road bikes’ features to create an all-encompassing option for users.

● Features of Gravel Bike

– Geometry:

A gravel bike is considered a middle ground between mountain bikes and road bikes, making them viable for on-road and off-road cycling. The geometry of a gravel bike is targeted at providing stability and comfort. The long-wheelbase helps on long distances. It has a long head tube combined with a shorter top tube that puts the rider in an upright position while riding.

The geometry of the gravel bike makes it easy to alternate between smooth and rough terrain. The headtube is bent, and it performs slower at speed and does not give a twitchy feeling.

– Frame:

The gravel bike frame is heavy; therefore, it becomes resilient to carry any extra load for the adventure. Its frames mostly come in the aluminum form.

– Tires:

The tires are large and are up to 26 inches to improve stability, grip, and comfort. The tires are usually supported with mostly hydraulic disc brakes. The disc brake helps in all weather conditions to maintain stability.

What is a Mountain Bike?

Mountain bike is specifically designed for off-road riding (mountain trails, fire roads, single tracks, and other unpaved surfaces), built with a straight flat handlebar, a heavier frame than road bikes, higher ground clearance, and wider tires,  sometimes with knobs on them for greater traction. These features enhance its durability and performance on rough terrains.

● Features of a Mountain Bike

– Geometry:

The mountain bike geometry ensures stability and control, and it is upright for riders to feel comfortable. The mountain bike has slacker head tubes and cannot handle smoother roads like gravel bikes, but its increased speed is better for rough terrain.

– Frame:

The mountain bike comes in two frames: hardtail and suspension. The hardtail frames make it lighter and ensure full speed, while the suspension frame is just like a shock absorber to maintain balance in bumps and rough terrain.

– Tires:

Mountain bike tires are designed for tires within the range of 26 inches. Their tires have more weight and rolling resistance. These type of tires helps riders to pedal up challenging climbs.

Key Differences between a Gravel Bike and a Mountain Bike

The gravel bike has always been debated to be a substitute for the Mountain bike, but we will look at the differences between them, from the structure to the geometry.

● Geometry:

Gravel bikes use drop handlebars because they are ridden at higher speeds on smooth roads over long distances. The drop handlebar provides more hand positions than flat handlebars. It allows for adjustment of hands when riding to ensure comfort and reduce fatigue. The Mountain bike has flat handlebars, a heavier frame than road bikes, higher ground clearance, and wider tires, sometimes with knobs on them for more excellent traction.

● Tire Clearance:

The gravel bike takes wider tires up to 24 inches while the mountain bike takes super-wide tires up to 26 inches.

● Top tube:

The gravel bike has a sloping top tube. The mountain bike top tube is a slacker and has valves that inflate or deflate the tubes.

● Gearing:

A gravel bike is geared to encounter any typography such as short, punchy climbs and long sinuous ascents, and you may be riding off-road on hard-packed dirt. This is why gravel bikes have a wider tire and wide-range gearing to conquer any climb. Bikes with a single chainring are 38 to 42 teeth combined with 11 – 42 cassette and cycles with two — 50/34 and 48/32 paired with 11-34 cassette.

On the other hand, a mountain bike has a chainring set of 32 teeth and a 10-50 cassette, enabling it to circulate rugged terrains. The mountain bike is much easier to pedal up challenging climbs due to its gearing.

● Suspension:

Most mountain bikes have at least a suspension fork, but most gravel bikes use rigid designs. Suspension removes the edge off of the bumps and increases off-road comfort and control. The suspension fork tends to make the bikes heavier and reduce efficiency because pedaling power is lost to vertical motion instead of propulsion. Gravel bikes with suspension forks are rare, but riders who desire suspension forks for gravel bikes will have to purchase aftermarket suspension forks. The suspension forks are effective for comfort since they make the bike to be firm.

● Stability:

Gravel bikes are designed to maximize stability, and the lower bottom bracket makes it feels like you are ‘in’ the bike rather than on top of the bike. The Mountain bike with its installed suspension forks makes it firm and emphasizes stability and control.

Similarities between Gravel Bike and Mountain Bike

The gravel bike has similar qualities to the mountain bike because it borrowed some elements from it and other bikes. So, what are these similarities?

  1. Stability: Both bikes offer comfort and stability
  2. Brakes: Both bikes opt for disc brakes to ensure better performance
  3. Tires: Both bikes have wide ranges of tires but different sizes

Characteristics of Gravel Bikes

The versatility of the Gravel bikes makes them a great option for multiple cycling courses. They are all-round, on and off-road, but the fastest of road riding while the wider-range gearing and wider tires make off-road trails, gravel, and fire roads manageable. The majority of comfort comes from the tires. The large tires have more air volume and can contain lower pressure to absorb vibrations and bumps.  They promote comfort and stability, which makes them ideal for adventures.

Characteristics of a Mountain bike

Mountain bike provides comfort that a gravel bike may not accommodate. It is upright and gives the rider more confidence and control while riding. The tires, handlebars, suspension, and geometry help you ride faster if you struggle with confidence when braking, cornering or descending on gravel roads. The mountain bike gives riders maximum control, traction, and stability.

Gravel Bikes Comparison Table

This table shows the overall best Gravel bikes and their specifications.

Bike
Frame Material
Gears
Tires
Brakes
Cannondale Topstone 105
Aluminum
2 x 11
700c x 37mm
Hydraulic disc
Giant Revolt Advanced 2
Carbon
2 x 11
700c x 38mm
Hydraulic disc
Salsa Journeyman Claris 650
Aluminum
2 x 8
650b x 2.1 inches
Mechanical disc
Trek Checkpoint SL 6
Carbon
2 x 11
700c x 40mm
Hydraulic disc
Canyon Grail AL 7.0
Aluminum
2 x 11
700c x 40mm
Hydraulic disc

Mountain Bike Comparison Table

This table shows the overall best Mountain bikes and their specifications.

Bike
Frame Material
Gears
Tires
Brakes
Yeti SB130 C1
Carbon
150mm (front) 130mm (rear)
29 x 2.5 inches
Mechanical disc
Salsa TimberJack XT 29
Aluminum
130mm
29 x 2.6 inches
Hydraulic disc
Co-op Cycles DRT 1.1
Aluminum
100mm
27.5 x 2.1 in
Hydraulic brakes
Ibis Ripley NX Eagle
Carbon
130mm (front) 120mm (rear)
29 x 2.35 in
Hydraulic Disc
Santa Cruz Megatower
Carbon
160 (front) 160mm (rear)
29 x 2.5 in
Hydraulic Disc

Which is faster, A Gravel Bike or A Mountain Bike?

The gravel bike is faster than the mountain bike on smooth surfaces, whether gravel or paved. With its tires and drop handlebars, it moves faster and maintains speed easily on-road. However, the mountain bike will be more quickly on mountain bike-terrain than the gravel bike.

Weight is also a factor in its speed. Gravel bikes weigh less than mountain bikes because of the tires and suspension fork added to the mountain bike.

Final Remarks

Though, the gravel bike and mountain bike have a striking resemblance. The gravel bike can handle both on-road and off-road cycling because of its tires and perfect gearing, while the mountain bike is specifically designed for off-road riding, which allows it to control rugged terrains and give the rider comfort and control.

These bikes have the qualities that make them perfect for their respective terrain.

We hope you have a better understanding of these bikes and can pick a bike that suits you.