Last Updated on October 31, 2023
There are tons of different bike types available on the market these days. It’s no wonder why deciding which option to choose can be a challenging experience. For instance, do you want a mountain bike or a gravel bike?
Whether you’re new to mountain biking or just looking to switch things up, mountain bikes and gravel bikes are both great options. But which one is better for you?
It depends entirely on your riding style. It can be tricky to decide, but the information below should help clarify things.
What’s the Difference?
Beginners might look at gravel bikes and MTBs and see little difference. But there are quite a few key distinctions between the two.
Gravel bikes are versatile for different types of riding—both on- and off-road. From gravel roads to dirt trails, these bikes can handle it all. They’re also great for long-distance rides.
Modern mountain bikes, on the other hand, are designed specifically for off-road riding. They have wide tires and suspension to help absorb shocks from bumps and roots on the trail. As a result, MTBs are ideal for mountain biking on rough terrain.
While using mountain bikes on paved roads is possible, it’s not ideal for them. On the other hand, riding gravel bikes on trails is doable, but they’re not as well equipped as mountain bikes for that terrain.
Now that you know the basics of each type of bike let’s dive into the details.
What is a Mountain Bike?
As mentioned earlier, a mountain bike is designed exclusively for off-road riding. They usually have wide tires and suspensions to absorb punishment on the trail. Most mountain bikes come in different styles, each designed for a specific type of riding.
For instance, cross-country MTBs are made for riding on relatively smooth trails. Then there are downhill mountain bikes, which are heavier and sturdier for riding on technical terrain.
What is a Gravel Bike?
A gravel bike is a type of road bike that’s designed for, you guessed it, gravel riding. But gravel bikes can also be ridden on paved roads and dirt mountain bike trails.
Gravel bikes have a few features that set them apart from other road bikes. For one, they have wider tires than traditional road bikes. This gives them more stability and traction on loose or uneven surfaces.
Mountain Bike Vs. Gravel Bike: Head-to-Head Comparison
Now that you know what a mountain bike and gravel bike are, it’s time for a head-to-head comparison. This will help you understand the key differences between the two, so you can decide which is right for you.
The first thing to compare is the frame. The frame is the main body of the bike, and it’s what everything else is attached to.
Mountain bike frames are made from aluminum or carbon fiber. They’re designed to be lightweight but also strong enough to handle bumps and shocks from riding on rugged terrain.
Gravel bike frames are also made from aluminum or carbon fiber. But they’re not as lightweight as mountain bike frames because they don’t need to be. That’s because gravel bikes aren’t ridden on the same terrain as mountain bikes.
One of the biggest differences between mountain bikes and gravel bikes is suspension. MTBs have suspension to absorb shocks from bumps and roots on the trail. The suspensions make MTBs more comfortable even on rough terrain.
Gravel bikes, on the other hand, don’t have suspension. This makes them lighter and easier to pedal on paved roads and smooth trails.
If you’re planning on doing most of your riding on paved roads or smooth trails, a gravel bike is a good option. On the other hand, a mountain bike is the way to go if you want to ride on rougher terrain.
One of the most noticeable differences between gravel and mountain bikes is the handlebars. Mountain bikes have flat or riser handlebars which gives you more control when riding on rugged terrain.
On the other hand, gravel bikes have curved drop bars like road bikes. This puts you in a more aerodynamic position, which is ideal for gravel riding on paved roads.
Gravel bike drop bars are the way to go if you’re looking for a more comfortable position. Mountain bike handlebars are better if you want more control on rugged terrain.
Another key difference between gravel and mountain bikes is tires. Mountain bike tires are wider than gravel bike tires. This gives them more traction on loose or slippery surfaces.
Gravel bike tires are narrower than mountain bike tires. This makes them faster on paved roads but less stable on loose or uneven surfaces.
Regarding tire clearance, MTBs have more clearance than gravel bikes. This means they can accommodate wider tires.
If you’re planning on riding exclusively on paved roads, gravel bike tires are a good option. Mountain bike tires are the way to go if you want to ride on dirt trails and other similar terrains.
Another key difference between mountain bikes and gravel bikes is brakes. Mountain bikes have disc brakes, which provide more stopping power than traditional rim brakes. This helps ride on slippery or uneven surfaces.
Gravel bikes can have either disc brakes or rim brakes. Disc brakes are more expensive but provide more stopping power. Rim brakes are less expensive but don’t provide as much stopping power.
Disc brakes are a good option if you’re planning on riding in wet or muddy conditions. But if you’re mostly riding on dry or paved surfaces, rim brakes are a good option.
Regarding gear, most mountain bikes tend to have relatively easier gearing for steep and technical off-road terrain. This feature can be important when maintaining traction and momentum on slippery surfaces.
Most gravel bikes have harder gearing similar to that of road bikes. This means they are better suited for paved roads and flat trails.
So, MTB gearing is a good option if you’re planning on riding in hilly or mountainous terrain. But if you’re mostly riding on flat or paved surfaces, gravel road bike gearing is the way to go.
Geometry and Positioning
Finally, mountain bikes and gravel bikes have different positioning. Mountain bike geometry usually has more upright positioning, which is better for stability on rugged terrain.
Gravel bikes usually have more aggressive positioning, which is better for speed on paved roads. In addition, most gravel bikes have drop bars, while others have flat bars.
If you plan on riding primarily on paved roads, gravel bike positioning is a good option. On the other hand, mountain bike geometry and positioning are the way to go if you want to ride on dirt trails. Knowing these bike measurement factors allows you to choose a bike that not only fits your style of biking but also your comfort levels.
Best Mountain Bikes Available Online
If you’ve made your decision and ultimately want a mountain bike, we’ve gone ahead and put together a list of the top 3 mountain bikes available online:
The ultimate all-rounder, the Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike is great for both beginner and experienced riders. It has a lightweight aluminum frame, 24-49-inch wheels, and 7-21 speed options.
The many options you have with this bike make it perfect for anyone who wants to ride on various terrain. You can use it for commuting, off-roading, or even racing.
The aluminum and steel frame options are great for off-roading, while the lighter weight makes it easier to pedal even on paved roads. In addition, the wide knobby mountain tires sit comfortably on a lightweight and durable alloy wheel for added balance and stability.
At a price range of $449.99 to $849.99, the Schwinn High Timber Mountain Bike is one of the most affordable MTBs on the market. In addition, its price-to-performance ratio makes it a great option for beginner riders.
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly mountain bike, the Dynacraft Magna Mountain Bike is a great option. It has a solid steel frame, 24-26-inch wheels, and 18 grip shifter speed options.
The steel frame makes this bike durable and sturdy, perfect for kids who want to ride on various terrain. The dual hand brakes are also great for kids still learning to stop.
The front shock absorber and suspension fork make it easier to ride on rougher terrain, while the front and rear linear-pull brakes provide great stopping power.
From $208.21 to $299, the Dynacraft Magna Mountain Bike is a great entry-level mountain bike for kids who want to start riding off-road and experience a little bit of everything.
The Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike is a great-looking MTB that doesn’t compromise on performance. Apart from its flashy and trendy design, it has a durable steel frame, 26-inch wheels, and 21-speed options.
This bike is perfect for riders who want a bike that looks good and performs well. The steel frame is tough and can take a beating, while the 26-inch wheels are perfect for rolling over obstacles.
The Shimano TZ-31 rear derailleur and micro shift twist shifters make it easy to change gears on the fly, while the front and rear linear-pull brakes provide excellent stopping power.
At a price range of $429.99 to $549.99, the Huffy Hardtail Mountain Bike is a great option for riders who want a stylish and durable mountain bike. It’s easily one of the best mountain bikes available on the market.
Best Gravel Bikes Available Online
If you’ve made your decision and want a gravel bike, we’ve also done our research and put together a list of the top three gravel bikes available online:
Built with a durable aluminum frame and sleek design, the Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Gravel Road Bike is perfect for riders who want a fast and lightweight bike. It has a 14-speed Shimano shifter, brake lever combo, 700c wheels, and disc brakes.
The aluminum frame makes this bike lightweight and easy to handle, while the alloy mechanical disc brakes provide excellent stopping power.
The Shimano rear derailleurs provide fast gear changes, while the quick-release seat post makes for easy and comfortable saddle height.
The Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Gravel Road Bike is perfect for riders who are looking for speed and performance. It’s one of the best gravel bikes available, priced at a reasonable $679.99.
The Tommaso Siena Shimano Gravel Road Bike is the ultimate all-around gravel bike. It can handle any terrain and is perfect for riders who want a versatile bike. It has a durable aluminum frame, Shimano Tourney components, and disc brakes.
The compact aluminum frame makes this bike light and easy to maneuver, while the Shimano Tourney rear derailleur provides smooth and reliable shifting. The disc brakes give you ample stopping power; extra wide tires provide great traction and stability.
The Tommaso Siena Shimano Gravel Bike is a versatile and durable bike that’s perfect for riders who want a gravel bike that can do it all. At $899.99, it’s at the pricier end of the spectrum, but it’s definitely worth the investment.
The last one on our list is the Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure. This bike is perfect for riders who are looking for a durable and affordable gravel bike. It has an aluminum frame, 21-speed Shimano shifters, and disc brakes.
The aluminum frame is tough and can take a beating, while the 21-speed Shimano shifters provide smooth and reliable shifting. The disc brakes give you ample stopping power, while the wide tires provide great traction and stability.
The Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure is a great option for affordable and durable gravel bike riders. It’s priced at $499.99, making it one of our list’s most affordable gravel bike options.
So, which bike type wins? Ultimately, it depends on what kind of riding you want to do. If you’re mostly going to be riding on the road, then a gravel bike is a great option. On the other hand, if you’re going to be riding off-road, then a mountain bike is the way to go.
Gravel bike vs. mountain bike is certainly an interesting comparison. Both bikes have their own pros and cons, so it really comes down to what you’re looking for in a bike.
A gravel bike is a versatile bike that can handle off-road and on-road riding. On the other hand, if you’re mostly interested in off-road riding and want a bike specifically designed for that, then you should opt for a mountain bike.
You’re sure to have a great experience no matter which bike you choose. So get out there and enjoy the ride.