Gravel bikes are a quick growing segment of bicycles that many, many people are checking into to see if it can be their best all around bike. The most obvious bikes that they compare these to, are the road bike, and the mountain bike, as a gravel bike gives the mixture of the two.
However for those that are using this bicycle to commute, but definitely need some off-road credentials, you might want to verify if it might just be better and faster to get a mountain bike. So they wonder if a mountain bike is faster than a mountain bike.
So are gravel bikes faster than mountain bikes? Gravel bikes are considerably faster than a mountain bike in most all situations, specifically when it comes to commuting. Outside of actual mountain bike trails, a gravel bike will outpace a mountain bicycle no problem, due to its lower rolling resistance, more aerodynamic rider positioning and more.
So why are gravel bikes faster than mountain bikes? As discussed, there are quite a few reasons why a gravel bike is generally faster than a mountain bike! So let’s talk a little bit more about those reasons, and why that is.
1. Less rolling resistance due to tires/wheels
Gravel bikes are a good mixture between a road bike and a mountain bike, because of this, they have inherited thinner wheels of a road bike and the knobby tires of a mountain bike! This combines to create a wheel that has way less rolling resistance than a mountain bike, but can handle medium level trails like a mountain bike.
While it is a master of none, the gravel bike does give a well rounded bike for those that want to dabble a bit on the road, and off-road.
Thankfully these wheels mean a faster ride than a mountain bike!
2. Lighter bicycle overall
Another big component of speed is weight! The lighter weight a bicycle is, the faster it is able to go. This is why avid bicyclists spend so much money on lighter components just to take a few grams of weight off of their bike.
However gravel bikes are inherently lighter weight than a mountain bike, as they are not exactly built to take jumps or travel on the most difficult trails! This means they can have lighter frames that aren’t nearly as ridged, and are able to save considerable amounts of weight because of that.
Again, lighter bike, means fast bike!
3. More aerodynamic riding position
The final primary reason why a gravel bike is faster than a mountain bike comes down to rider position! While a gravel bike is not nearly as intense as a road bike, they require a considerably more aerodynamic riding position than a mountain bike.
When you have better airflow around yourself, and your bike, that means you can move faster! This plays heavily into why a gravel bike is faster than a mountain bike.
- Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris Gravel Adventure Bike
- Tommaso Sterrata Shimano Claris R2000 Gravel Adventure Bike
- Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike
Why might you not want a gravel bike?
The recent booming popularity of the gravel bike has resulted in a multitude of different models and while there are plenty out there, finding one with dependable components can be tricky.
While some will argue that this is unnecessary, spending extra money on features like disc brakes or thru axles is worth it for consistent performance that better prepared you for long-distance rides over rough terrain.
Many people prefer riding a modern gravel bike because they are made of lightweight frames that provide efficiency and speed when pedaling uphill.
However, this does not mean that these types of bikes have no disadvantages.
Here are some issues you should consider before purchasing your first gravel bicycle:
1. More gear selection
They have more gears than a typical road or hybrid bicycle (40 – 53). These additional gears will help you climb hills with ease but they may be too much for beginners who don’t know how to use such professional tools. You may spin too fast or waste energy in higher gears when you don’t need them.
2. Less comfort at higher speeds
You can easily reach to high speeds as there is less resistance using a gravel bike on hilly roads compared to riding a traditional road bicycle (with drop handlebars and 700c wheels). However, this does not mean that you feel more comfortable while pedaling with these bikes because they have narrow tires and thin frames.
3. Not quite as capable with obstacles
They are not built for handling rocks or other debris found in dirt roads. If your route has large rocks and roots, consider the possibility of damaging the frame or dropping the bike entirely by accident.
Thoughts on gravel bikes
When you compare riding on hilly roads or trails, it is definitely faster and more comfortable using a dedicated bike. Many who prefer mountain biking argue that they have better control over their bikes, allowing them to speed downhill more safely than on a road bike. This technique may allow a mountain biker to stop quicker than a road cyclist, but this comes at the risk of skidding or crashing a mountain bike.
However, gravel bikes are more versatile, and despite being designed for roads, they can easily be used on dirt trails when there is no other option available, provided they have enough clearance. Gravel bikes feature wider tires that provide better traction on soft surfaces than thin mountain bike tires. They also come with disc brakes which offer more stopping power during technical downhills than caliper-style rim brakes commonly found on cross-country mountain bikes.
Racing road cyclists generally use lightweight (aerodynamic) frames made of carbon fiber to improve speed. A typical gravel bike has more relaxed geometry that makes it slower but easier to ride over long distances and rough terrain due to its more relaxed geometry.
While the average rider will never notice a difference between cross-country mountain bikes and gravel bikes, if you plan on riding in areas where there are rough roads or dirt trails that might get damaged easily by thin tires, disc brakes and thru-axles may be worth the extra money. Many of these components can be found in road bikes too, but their use is more common among off-road riders due to the conditions they often encounter out in nature. Though, it all depends on your specific needs and preferences.
Don’t forget that both types of bikes are high-quality machines made by reputable manufacturers. They cost about the same (somewhere around $1000-$3000). All bicycles have pros and cons; it’s up to you how these attributes match your needs and requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Gravel bikes won’t be able to ride single track trails nearly as well as a mountain bike, however they are capable to a point! You will find plenty of gravel cyclists riding their bikes along medium to light trails and have no problem doing it.
Gravel biking is actually a bit easier to ride than a road bike, as it is more comfortable and has a bit more relaxed riding position than a mountain bike. Sure, you won’t go as fast, but it will be more comfortable and easier to handle.
While it isn’t exactly advised, it is fully possible to be able to put a suspension fork on a gravel bike! This will add to the weight of the bicycle, and make it slower, however it would make for a more comfortable ride.
Due to the thinner tires, more aerodynamic sitting position and the lighter weight frame, a gravel bicycle will be faster than a mountain bike in most situations. That said, if you are using your bicycle on a single track, a mountain bike will be considerably faster due to it’s more ridged design, and suspension set up! This makes it easier for your body to handle the impact that riding these trails requires.
If you are someone that wants a bicycle that will get you from point a, to point b quickly, and you only do minimal off-roading, a gravel bike might be your best bet! However if you quickly need to make yourself through intense terrain, you can’t go wrong with a mountain bike.