Gravel vs road vs mtb

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Labe
Posts: 6
Joined: 13 Apr 2024, 8:08am

Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Labe »

Just a leisure rider in my 50’s looking at getting a new bike and trying to decide what to get between a gravel bike or full suspension mtb .
Will be riding in and around East Riding of Yorkshire cycle paths disused railway tracks and road .
On the one hand full suspension for comfort especially with current potholes situation but also can be sluggish and heavy riding.
A gravel bike which are new to me and do you go flat bar / drop bars along with single drive train vs dual ring .
I’m bothered about stiff neck from drops but better areodynamics in head wind .
Thoughts or suggestions welcomed.
Ps currently riding hard tail for commute
Jezrant
Posts: 900
Joined: 14 Dec 2007, 8:11pm

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Jezrant »

Full sus MTB would be overkill.
Why not pop over to Spa Cycles and try the Elan with drops and see how you get on? There’s a good cycleway nearby they’ll direct you to if you don’t know it.
Nearholmer
Posts: 4141
Joined: 26 Mar 2022, 7:13am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Nearholmer »

I’d say that a not-too-MTB-like gravel bike is the most versatile in terms of what you can ride over, although it’ll never be the fastest on road, and certainly won’t do for drops or seriously, seriously rough downhills.

The key to comfort is getting the tyres, seat, and riding posture right, and being prepared to actively ride the bike, rather than just sit on it and pedal.

The choice is very wide, although fewer are available as flat-bar, and it really comes down to what you’re prepared to invest - once you get to bikes in the £1k to £1.5k bracket, you’re onto very capable machines, and above that it’s about different forms of “very nice indeed”, at diminishing rates of return in terms of additional capability.

1x vs 2x is an endless debate, but I’d suggest 2x if you intend rides longer than two or three hours, certainly if you intend all-day or multi-day, because the steps in ratio on 1x start to feel like hard work after a bit.

Drops vs flats is another endless topic, and very much a personal thing. I’ve got two virtually identical bikes, one of each. Personally, and after oodles of time-consuming and expensive experiment, I cannot seem to get flats comfortable for more than a couple of hours, so always reach for the drop bar bike for longer rides, and anything hilly. The flats are maybe better on really bumpy bridleways, where you have to go very slowly whatever you’re riding, but even that I’m not totally convinced about.

Do watch out carefully for bottom gear ratios when choosing, because you will find that off-road you need low ones, definitely below 1:1 on a 700c wheel bike, and if your locale is notably steep, then possibly down into the 0.7:1 area. The top gear is less important, although I’d say you’ll want >4:1 for the easy bits.
JohnR
Posts: 301
Joined: 6 Jul 2020, 3:51pm

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by JohnR »

Jezrant wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 5:16pm Why not pop over to Spa Cycles and try the Elan with drops and see how you get on? There’s a good cycleway nearby they’ll direct you to if you don’t know it.
+1 for the Elan. Although it's not a standard offering, I'm using 650B wheels which means that it's possible to fit 50mm tyres for even more comfort on the potholed roads.

A 2x drive train built around Spa's supercompact chainset offers a wider range than 1x and if hills are a consideration then you can go as low as 40 / 24 on the front and work with 11 - 36 on the back (9 speed Sora) or 11 - 42 (11 speed Shimano 105).

My latest bike builds are with drop bars because they make headwinds a bit more tolerable by getting my hands and arms closer together.
Usually riding a Spa Cycles Aubisque or a Rohloff-equipped Spa Cycles Elan Ti
nirakaro
Posts: 1598
Joined: 22 Dec 2007, 2:01am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by nirakaro »

The thing about “stiff neck from drops” is that it depends how you use them. I like my bike much better since I changed the bars to drops, but how often do I actually ride on the drops? I used to think it was ‘not very often’, but I’ve realised it’s more like ‘practically never’, and looking at other riders, I suspect that’s not unusual. What I like is the wide range of hand positions possible on the tops/hoods/etc., and with a short stem, I still have a quite upright position. I’m old, no athlete, and never get a stiff neck. And bear in mind that there are drop bars specifically designed for mountain bikes.
Labe
Posts: 6
Joined: 13 Apr 2024, 8:08am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Labe »

Jezrant wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 5:16pm Full sus MTB would be overkill.
Why not pop over to Spa Cycles and try the Elan with drops and see how you get on? There’s a good cycleway nearby they’ll direct you to if you don’t know it.
Yes I did think f/s mtb might be a bit overkill even of the more XC variety .
Just took a look at the elan and it’s got some nice specs but I don’t like the cable routing or the high headset stack but thanks for your recommendation
Labe
Posts: 6
Joined: 13 Apr 2024, 8:08am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Labe »

Nearholmer wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 6:10pm I’d say that a not-too-MTB-like gravel bike is the most versatile in terms of what you can ride over, although it’ll never be the fastest on road, and certainly won’t do for drops or seriously, seriously rough downhills.

The key to comfort is getting the tyres, seat, and riding posture right, and being prepared to actively ride the bike, rather than just sit on it and pedal.

The choice is very wide, although fewer are available as flat-bar, and it really comes down to what you’re prepared to invest - once you get to bikes in the £1k to £1.5k bracket, you’re onto very capable machines, and above that it’s about different forms of “very nice indeed”, at diminishing rates of return in terms of additional capability.

1x vs 2x is an endless debate, but I’d suggest 2x if you intend rides longer than two or three hours, certainly if you intend all-day or multi-day, because the steps in ratio on 1x start to feel like hard work after a bit.

Drops vs flats is another endless topic, and very much a personal thing. I’ve got two virtually identical bikes, one of each. Personally, and after oodles of time-consuming and expensive experiment, I cannot seem to get flats comfortable for more than a couple of hours, so always reach for the drop bar bike for longer rides, and anything hilly. The flats are maybe better on really bumpy bridleways, where you have to go very slowly whatever you’re riding, but even that I’m not totally convinced about.

Do watch out carefully for bottom gear ratios when choosing, because you will find that off-road you need low ones, definitely below 1:1 on a 700c wheel bike, and if your locale is notably steep, then possibly down into the 0.7:1 area. The top gear is less important, although I’d say you’ll want >4:1 for the easy bits.
Thank you for taking the time to answer , what you say makes a lot of sense and I think I’ve found the right fit for me . 2 times drive chain 30/46 with 11-34 11 speed GRX 810/600 , 650 *47c tyres and Shimano GRX hydraulic discs and 420mm flared drops
Labe
Posts: 6
Joined: 13 Apr 2024, 8:08am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Labe »

nirakaro wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 6:38pm The thing about “stiff neck from drops” is that it depends how you use them. I like my bike much better since I changed the bars to drops, but how often do I actually ride on the drops? I used to think it was ‘not very often’, but I’ve realised it’s more like ‘practically never’, and looking at other riders, I suspect that’s not unusual. What I like is the wide range of hand positions possible on the tops/hoods/etc., and with a short stem, I still have a quite upright position. I’m old, no athlete, and never get a stiff neck. And bear in mind that there are drop bars specifically designed for mountain bikes.
Yeh the stiff neck thing was me thinking back to when I road a classic roadie back in the late 80’s early 90’s with long stems that actually dropped the bars to almost inline with the top tube (at least mine did) , it seems on these gravel bikes they use a shorter reach stem which actually raises the bars as well.
So all should good ( fingers crossed)
Nearholmer
Posts: 4141
Joined: 26 Mar 2022, 7:13am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Nearholmer »

Out of curiosity, what is it that you don’t like about the cable-routing?

Regarding the fairly high front: you will find a higher front than on a road bike on a lot of gravel bikes, because a head down-backside up posture doesn’t work fantastically well once the going gets a bit rough. Most though, and it looks to be very much the case with the Elan, do permit a reasonable range of adjustment.

The posture on most gravel bikes is a fair bit different from modern MTB, a shorter effective top-tube, and a less stretched-out position, I think because the riding technique is different. There are some gravel bikes with MTB-like geometry and posture, and people transferring from MTB seem to like them. I’m not into that type of bike, but one I do know of is the Genesis Fugio; there are others. The Fugio takes 650 wheels, but I’m not sure whether there is a 2x GRX equipped version in the range.

The drive-train you’ve chosen is exactly what I’ve got on both bikes, and it does very well for the vast majority of things. I did find I was looking for a non-existent lower gear or two on the South Downs Way, and a couple of fairly mad ascents in the Chilterns though, so I will probably opt for smaller chainrings on one bike if/when the current set wear-out.
Last edited by Nearholmer on 13 Apr 2024, 7:43pm, edited 1 time in total.
Labe
Posts: 6
Joined: 13 Apr 2024, 8:08am

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Labe »

Nearholmer wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 7:13pm Out of curiosity, what is it that you don’t like about the cable-routing?

Regarding the fairly high front: you will find a higher front than on a road bike on a lot of gravel bikes, because a head down-backside up posture doesn’t work fantastically well once the going gets a bit rough. Most though, and it looks to be very much the case with the Elan, do permit a reasonable range of adjustment.

The posture on most gravel bikes is a fair bit different from modern MTB, a shorter effective top-tube, and a less stretched-out position, I think because the riding technique is different. There are some gravel bikes with MTB-like geometry and posture, and people transferring from MTB seem to like them. I’m not into that type of bike, but one I do know of is the Genesis Fugio; there are others. The Fugio takes 650 wheels, but I’m not sure whether there is a 2x GRX equipped version in the range.
The gear cable is exposed far more than necessary and hydraulic cable runs along the top of the down tube so looks messy in my eyes .
Jezrant
Posts: 900
Joined: 14 Dec 2007, 8:11pm

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Jezrant »

Spa’s bikes are well sorted and good value. Cabling wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me. If you like the idea of steel, Cotic have a gravel bike that you can also test properly from their Chesterfield showroom. Sonder (Alpkit), in Ilkley for example, have bikes that you can take out for a proper spin for a small charge.
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531colin
Posts: 16224
Joined: 4 Dec 2009, 6:56pm
Location: North Yorkshire

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by 531colin »

Labe wrote: 13 Apr 2024, 7:11pm …………
Yeh the stiff neck thing was me thinking back to when I road a classic roadie back in the late 80’s early 90’s with long stems that actually dropped the bars to almost inline with the top tube (at least mine did) , it seems on these gravel bikes they use a shorter reach stem which actually raises the bars as well.
So all should good ( fingers crossed)
……If that’s the last time you rode drops just get something secondhand to play about with riding position, now isn’t the time to worry about the details of flared drops gearing minutiae and all the other candy floss.
freeflow
Posts: 1658
Joined: 29 Aug 2011, 1:54pm

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by freeflow »

The ability to fit at least 40 c tyres if you want to do more offroad than smoothis gravel. If you want to future proof/ snazzy technology then look at a bikes with a pinion 12 speed idrive grearbox (eletronic/automatic gearshifting and minimal maintenance)
Richard Of York 2
Posts: 25
Joined: 3 Mar 2023, 3:55pm

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by Richard Of York 2 »

FWIW I ride in the Wolds a lot, routes with tarmac, some gravel and some muddy bridleways. This is on a either a drop bar "cyclo cross" bike with 700x28 tyres, a Spa super compact and wide cassette or on a Spa Audax 700x25 with 50/34 and wide range cassette. Either copes well with all the Wolds can throw at me. The road through Thixendale tests any bikes comfort and durability, the Wilberforce Way is no problem as are tracks across the many Commons like Allerthorpe and Skipwith. I seldom ride on the drops but find more comfort for longer with more positions than I do on my hard tail MTB. The front suspension is also wearing if too long on roads.
As others suggested, I'd try a couple of Spa demo bikes. You can get out along a mixed surface trail quickly for a decent ride.
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531colin
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Joined: 4 Dec 2009, 6:56pm
Location: North Yorkshire

Re: Gravel vs road vs mtb

Post by 531colin »

Richard Of York 2 wrote: 14 Apr 2024, 7:42am …..The road through Thixendale tests any bikes comfort and durability, ……
The tarmac road from Leavening to Thixendale village was a delight last time I was there, have they been “improving” it?
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