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Hardtail 29er VS gravel bike?

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Hardtail 29er VS gravel bike?

Old 04-27-16, 09:52 PM
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Hardtail 29er VS gravel bike?

I am having a real hard time trying to decide what bike to get next. I've got a decent road bike, I'm looking for another bike to tackle my local national forest jeep trails/dirt roads. Long 4-6 hour rides and possibly overnight backpacking. I am torn between a carbon hardtail 29er mountain bike, and a drop bar cyclocross or gravel bike.

For those who have experience on both types of bikes, which is the better option for rougher dirt roads? What can a "gravel bike" do that a hardtail 29er couldn't do?
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Old 04-27-16, 10:23 PM
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I'm not sure a drop bar bike is any faster over those kind of distances. I have a fairly tough 200km route that I do on my gravel road drop bar bike. I think it would be tough to finish that route on my MTB, too much pavement.
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Old 04-27-16, 10:38 PM
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Well you can also throw a rigid 29er and monster cross bike into the mix. Both of those would be between a hardtail and regular cross/gravel bike.
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Old 04-28-16, 07:51 AM
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I'd go with the MTN bike if you already have a street bike. "What can a "gravel bike" do that a hardtail 29er couldn't do?", nothing!
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Old 04-28-16, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
.....national forest jeep trails.....
From what I know of jeep trails, I'd say mtb for sure.
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Old 04-28-16, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by dgodave
From what I know of jeep trails, I'd say mtb for sure.
I've ridden on some varied jeep trails. Some were very smooth. A bit of pea gravel with hard packed dirt between, others were full of large, loose rocks that were an absolute pain to ride on. It really depends on the trail.

As for the OP, buy the mountain bike. It can do more unique things.
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Old 04-28-16, 08:57 AM
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Depends on your jeep trails But I think I would go with the mountain bike. The gravel bike could be faster if the trails are hard but the MTB will give you more options. Bigger tires if you get sandy conditions or to support weight (bikepacking). the MTB would also give more comfort for those longer rides.
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Old 04-28-16, 09:12 PM
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Thanks for the input. My question is this: If someone already has one or more road race style bikes(28mm tires max) what would make him/her choose a "gravel bike" over a hardtail mountain bike?

Last edited by KonaRider125; 04-28-16 at 11:15 PM.
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Old 04-28-16, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Thanks for the input. My question is this: If someone already has one or more road race style bikes(28mm tires max) what would make him/her choose a "gravel bike" over a hardball mountain bike?
I think the 2 main factors are grip width and tire size. When the road gets rough you want wider grip and bigger softer tires, when the road is smoother wide grip and fat soft tires waste energy.

Design your bike for the surface you ride most.
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Old 04-28-16, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Thanks for the input. My question is this: If someone already has one or more road race style bikes(28mm tires max) what would make him/her choose a "gravel bike" over a hardball mountain bike?
My gravel bike has 40s, a comfortable drop bar, and doesnt have a heavy suspension fork.
I havent needed wider tires or a suspension fork for how i use the bike.
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Old 04-28-16, 11:20 PM
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Makes sense, just wanted to hear some opinions on the subject. I'm still unsure if 40c treaded tires will be comfortable on decent to moderately rough jeep trail or if 2 inch plus MTB tires would be best.
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Old 04-28-16, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Thanks for the input. My question is this: If someone already has one or more road race style bikes(28mm tires max) what would make him/her choose a "gravel bike" over a hardball mountain bike?
I have a couple of bikes that are in the broad "gravel bike" category.

One is a CAADX --drop bars, 35mm tires, cyclocross gearing. That's my bike of choice for most of the gravel I ride and for rides that include a signifcant paved portion of the ride. My position on the bike is more powerful for me and also more aero. Riding into headwinds on flat bars bugged me enough that it was a major factor in my decision to get a CAADX.

The bike I was using as my gravel bike was a Fuji Tahoe 29 hardtail--XC race geometry, remote fork lockout, fast rolling 2.1 inch tires, relatively high gearing for a MTB. It worked well enough, but I always felt the suspension fork wasn't needed even on the rougher gravel roads that I ride occassionally. I was going to get rid of it after I got the CAADX but decided to keep it for rides that are rougher than I like on the CAADX. I've switched the fork to a Niner carbon fork recently and really like the bike in that configuration on gravel. If I hadn't wanted to use the suspension fork on a different bike, I doubt I'd have switched to the rigid carbon fork though.

What's best for you probably depends on how rough the terrain you're going to be riding is. If it's rough enough for me to feel like I need 2" tires, it's probably rough enough that I'll appreciate the control that flat bars give me.

Last edited by Pendergast; 04-28-16 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 04-29-16, 05:34 AM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Makes sense, just wanted to hear some opinions on the subject. I'm still unsure if 40c treaded tires will be comfortable on decent to moderately rough jeep trail or if 2 inch plus MTB tires would be best.
When I got back into cycling I picked up a 29er mountain bike simply because I could ride it anywhere. I live out in the country and there are plenty of dirt roads to explore out here. While most of my riding is for exercise I will hit the single track with my friends as well so it was the perfect go anywhere do anything bike. It's also a tank and weighs a ton, is slow and not the bike I'd want to take on a century or try to keep up with the roadies on a road ride. So I bought a nice used road bike. It's light, fast and twitchy as all get out with it's tight race geometry. Perfect for centuries and group road rides. But those narrow tires decide at time where I can roll on it. Lastly I picked up a gravel grinder that's pretty much in the middle between the other two. It's pretty fast and sure footed and relaxed. It's the bike I've been doing my morning exercise on, it's the bike I'll take on the rides that have mixed terrain. It isn't the fastest and it isn't the lightest but it is very comfortable and it will go almost everywhere. Hope that helps.
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Old 04-29-16, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Thanks for the input. My question is this: If someone already has one or more road race style bikes(28mm tires max) what would make him/her choose a "gravel bike" over a hardtail mountain bike?
Versatility? I can ride my cross on pavement to the trails and not look like a total tool riding a 29er down the street.
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Old 04-29-16, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Thanks for the input. My question is this: If someone already has one or more road race style bikes(28mm tires max) what would make him/her choose a "gravel bike" over a hardtail mountain bike?
The lack of "mountain" trails around where they live.
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Old 04-29-16, 02:08 PM
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Suspension forks aren't very heavy relative to a suspension corrected metal fork. So that's not really a consideration. Depends on if you can tolerate a little bounce in your fork when climbing out of the saddle.

Personally, I like a drop bar for longer rides. My MTB doesn't see any really long rides. We have some jeep trails in this area that are a little tough on smaller cross tires, you have to be careful or you get pinch flats. I think that the Gravelking SK 40mm I just put on will handle most of them at speed without too much of an issue. I haven't had any pinch flats since I started using 38mm Marathon Cross tires, but I still feel compelled to be careful when descending on a jeep trail.
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Old 04-29-16, 03:27 PM
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Chromed Steel stanchions of affordable Sus forks(OEM Builds) and the high strength aluminum alloy stanchions

of a $600+ fork are worlds apart . too
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Old 04-29-16, 09:37 PM
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I didn't read through the entire thread, but here are my 2 cents. I just built a gravel bike (Traitor Wander, posted a review), with 35c tires. I already have a road bike, hardtail 29er, and a fatbike. I built the gravel bike because my specific 29er isn't really set up for longer distance stuff, more for several hour xc rides, and having recently moved to Idaho with its abundance of gravel roads, I wanted to take advantage.

That said, while I have ridden my gravel bike on singletrack and LOVED it, in your case I think a rigid, steel or ti 29er would do the trick quite well, not knowing what all of the terrain you will encounter is like. Where I am, there is a huge effort made to keep all of the singletrack well groomed, so a gravel bike is fine. But... multi day excursions on jeep trails that can be in varying states may warrant something with a little more cushion and whatnot.
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Old 04-29-16, 11:15 PM
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Thanks for all the replies to my thread, read and appreciated all of them.

It looks like I want both a 29er MTB and a gravel bike eventually, but I have to start with one or the other. I guess what ever bike I can find the best deal on. I've been eyeing the Niner RLT 9 steel for a while so I may pick that one and see what I can do on 40c tires. If that is unpleasant for my riding needs I'll add a MTB to the stable.
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Old 04-29-16, 11:32 PM
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Get a bike that can take larger tires so you can try different tires and sizes to see which one works best for routes you like.
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Old 04-30-16, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
Thanks for all the replies to my thread, read and appreciated all of them.

It looks like I want both a 29er MTB and a gravel bike eventually, but I have to start with one or the other. I guess what ever bike I can find the best deal on. I've been eyeing the Niner RLT 9 steel for a while so I may pick that one and see what I can do on 40c tires. If that is unpleasant for my riding needs I'll add a MTB to the stable.

Ok... well, regardless of what bike makes the most sense, if you can afford an RLT steel, then just get it. That is the gravel bike I would have if the funds had been available. Not being sarcastic at all, I think that you can do pretty much everything you want on one of those, as long as you are careful, and run large tires.

Also, check out the first bike here: SOC16: Raleigh cranks out drop bar fun with fat tire, dropper equipped Stuntman, Steel RXM, Kid's CX, More - Bikerumor

The Raleigh Stuntman, I actually want one despite having a gravel bike already, and being a little uncertain regarding SRAM. But the tire clearance, hydro brakes, 1x11, and steel frame are appealing. Not the same quality steel as the RLT, but not just plain old 4130 either.
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Old 04-30-16, 09:24 AM
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I thought the recommended method for joining 853 tubes is a lug. The Niner RLT frames look TIG'd. Interesting. Maybe Im remembering 853 wrong. Its lighter than 4130, but it would ride the same as 4130 if both tubes had the same diameters. Nice stuff, and cool that it hardens after cooling instead of losing strength, not magical though.
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Old 04-30-16, 10:00 PM
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The Surly ECR (rigid 29+) is primarily designed for off road bike touring and camping.



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Old 04-30-16, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by trainsktg
The Surly ECR (rigid 29+) is primarily designed for off road bike touring and camping.



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Nice looking bike, Surly has lots of "backcountry dirt road" style bikes, too bad they refuse to allow their bikes to be sold online.
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Old 05-07-16, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by KonaRider125
What can a "gravel bike" do that a hardtail 29er couldn't do?
Short answer: Not much

Long winded answer: I got a Hardtail 29er over a year ago because I thought I needed suspension to handle rougher roads and prevent my wheels from bending. Turns out I just needed wheels with more spokes and stronger rims. I'm currently riding a cross bike with an alu frame & carbon/alu fork with no suspension, 36 spoke wheels, and 40mm wide tires. Since I was too heavy to actually gain benefit from the suspension fork, and since my bike handling skills have greatly improved, I realized It was 100% unnecessary for the type of riding that I do.

For me the combination of a lighter bike with wider than normal tires for a drop bar bike, and drop bars that give me both relaxed and aggressive riding positions w/o sacrificing control over the bike is why I choose a Cross bike. Your options are limited only by what you find comfortable and effective.
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