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Gravel Bike vs 29er With Gravel Tyres ... Convince Me?

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Gravel Bike vs 29er With Gravel Tyres ... Convince Me?

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Old 11-03-18, 06:34 PM
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Witterings
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Gravel Bike vs 29er With Gravel Tyres ... Convince Me?

I have a 29er I love and in the summer fitting very road oriented tyres on it but nearly came off twice today as the wet's hit us again so will swap tyres imminently but rather than go back to MTB tyres may go back to what you'd typically run on a gravel bike.

I have a complete obsession to buy a gravel bike but in all reality if I were to out Schwalbe G-Ones on both of them ... apart from a slightly more upright position and possibly a bit more wind resistance (most of my riding's sub 20 mph) and with side bars on the 29er to give some variation on hand position .... in all reality what might I actually gain and could be the justification for buying a gravel bike?
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Old 11-03-18, 06:56 PM
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I'm in the same boat and have been poking around to build a gravel machine. The other thought is drop bars on the mtb.

Mainly want some thing to clear 40mm tires+fenders, drop bars for longer rides and getting out of the wind, more hand positions. Seems easier to build another machine then work around 29er geometry and sacrifice trail ability. The desire for a front rack makes this more tantalizing, plus even though my air fork is nice my mtb is older and around 35lbs. Would be nice to hit closer to 23lbs with custom gravel machine and rigid fork.

My 2c
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Old 11-03-18, 07:00 PM
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Try it. See if you like it. Tires are cheaper than a bike.


But...don't be surprised if the weight and lack of hand positions/geometry get to you.
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Old 11-03-18, 07:19 PM
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I was on the fence a few years ago but I was maxed out in comfort at about the 30-40 mile point on my flat bar.
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Old 11-03-18, 07:25 PM
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If you are already running a mountain bike with road tires then putting gravel tires on it isn't that big of a change. In fact, going from road tires to gravel tires is a step back toward what it was designed for. If all you want is better traction then wider gravel tires makes sense.

Justifications for a dedicated gravel bike are many. Less weight is probably one of chief benefits.


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Old 11-03-18, 09:03 PM
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Biggest thing you gain is a frame goemetry designed around drop bars.
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Old 11-04-18, 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
But...don't be surprised if the weight and lack of hand positions/geometry get to you.
Originally Posted by u235 View Post
I was on the fence a few years ago but I was maxed out in comfort at about the 30-40 mile point on my flat bar.
I haven't ridden a drop bar bike since I was a kid and that was a loooonnngggg time ago ...... I keep seeing comments similar to the above and that you can go further I guess based on comfort but I would have thought an upright / flat bars would be more comfortable to ride than drops .... am I wrong about that??

I did think about converting my 29er but it's not just swapping the bars it's then new levers and probably a whole new gearset ... would be better off buying a 2nd hand bike instead.
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Old 11-04-18, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Witterings View Post
I haven't ridden a drop bar bike since I was a kid and that was a loooonnngggg time ago ...... I keep seeing comments similar to the above and that you can go further I guess based on comfort but I would have thought an upright / flat bars would be more comfortable to ride than drops .... am I wrong about that??

I did think about converting my 29er but it's not just swapping the bars it's then new levers and probably a whole new gearset ... would be better off buying a 2nd hand bike instead.
It is all about setup. The point of dropbars is to give you 4 hand positions (if you're flexible/confident you can get 6), as well as a few different positions for your spine/neck. If they're setup right, for you, they're all usable and comfortable. Problem is that about 85% of amateur riders don't do that. and setup the hoods/tops to be usable and completely ignore the hooks/drops. I know people that can do 3+ hours on a flatbar straight without breaks. I, personally, start having numbness in my hands after 45 minutes-1 hour. YMMV.

Put gravel tires on your MTB. Try it. Cheaper than a new bike by a factor of 200x
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Old 11-04-18, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Witterings View Post
I
I did think about converting my 29er but it's not just swapping the bars it's then new levers and probably a whole new gearset ... would be better off buying a 2nd hand bike instead.
And after you spent all that money, you are likely to find that your mtb has too long of a reach.


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Old 11-04-18, 11:28 AM
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Generally speaking, gravel bikes are lighter and have higher gearing than mountain bikes, are faster on smoother dirt and gravel (and of course pavement), are faster up the hill, while mountain bikes are faster on rougher surfaces and faster down a bumpy hill.
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Old 11-04-18, 01:52 PM
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I ride my gravel bike pretty much everywhere I used to ride my rigid 29r MTB. I too find I can go longer due the variety of positions, but for me it's really all about the hoods position. To me at least, that is the single most natural position for your hands on a bike. Lift your arms/hands up in a relaxed fashion from your sides and that's where they go. I used to get sore/stiff forearms hammering away on my rigid mtb for several hours, but that never happens with drop bars on my gravel rig.
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Old 11-06-18, 11:05 AM
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tyrion pretty much nailed it.

Fwiw, i did D2R2 100k option this year on my MTB b/c my gravel bike was out for replacement. I had no problems and enjoyed the downhills on the mtb as well as the steep climbs using my low gears. Obviously got pulled on the roads. But my point it....you can do it. Just a matter of if you want to or if you want another bike.
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Old 11-06-18, 03:00 PM
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the heart wants, what the heart wants ... meaning N+1 will get you, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday
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Old 11-06-18, 03:15 PM
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Old 11-06-18, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
the heart wants, what the heart wants ... meaning N+1 will get you, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday
I think this is 85% of it although we went out for a ride tonight with someone who a week ago was on a his knees at the end it on a 27.5 MTB with average tyres ...

He had a really nice Cannondale Hybrid which had narrow tyres and couldn't cope with the gravel sections .... I kept telling him to get some wider tyes so it could cope with a few bumps which he did and he absolutely destroyed us tonight at the end of the ride ... stayed with him but talk about the boot being on the other foot!!

Think that's decided gravel bike it is :-)
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Old 11-06-18, 05:26 PM
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I am not a roadie but ride on the road a lot, I'll take the gravel road over pavement given the choice. I have a nice light modern XC hardtail (better relative quality compared to my gravel bike). I have a decent older dedicated road bike (although I never ride it anymore), a comfort/hybrid and a crappy 90's hardtail in there too. My favorite of all is my gravel bike, I've put over 4K miles on it in the last 12 months. It is my jack of trades for almost all conditions. I've done 5 day gravel tours with bags, I've done centuries with a 50 miles of road and 50 miles of trails and many 70+ mile all road and all gravel rides with it. I also use it on group rides (I prefer and mainly do solo rides), daily rides and everything in between. There are 30-40 mile routes I've taken the gravel bike and a few days later did the same route with my XC hardtail. My average ride over the last year is 35 miles. If I was happy in the 10-20 mile ride range, there is a chance I may have just stuck with my bloated hybrid and my hardtail.

Like you, I also hadn't been on a drop bar for a loooong time. It was awkward at first, I was uncomfortable off road and thought I made a huge mistake. I was out of my realm. A few rides and some time and I was getting comfortable. I still got nervous going down loose dirt hills with bumps or into things like ditches or off camber things where it was not a feeling of a challenge, it just wasn't fun. The forward position just did not seem right. It's not like you can get back and low like on a hardtail and still reach and use brakes, specially not from the hoods and use one finger braking like on a flat bar. I got more comfortable as time went on. The biggest change was when I went with wide flared bars (far wider than any "suggested" for road bikes for my size). It was a HUGE change, now I'll go anywhere at a speed that is tolerable considering there is no suspension (it's no hardtail). I am in the drops over 90% of the time on and off road but that is what I like and what I setup for. Somewhere along my transform to drop bar bliss I went clipless so there was curveball with that too. Same as I said earlier in the thread. There is no right bike. It depends on what you do.

I agree with a lot of what this guy is ranting about.

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Old 11-07-18, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
video
most enjoyable! thank you!
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Old 11-07-18, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Witterings View Post
I have a complete obsession to buy a gravel bike but in all reality if I were to out Schwalbe G-Ones on both of them ... apart from a slightly more upright position and possibly a bit more wind resistance (most of my riding's sub 20 mph) and with side bars on the 29er to give some variation on hand position .... in all reality what might I actually gain and could be the justification for buying a gravel bike?
1) the aero benefit from body position is apparent below 20mph. Also, in headwinds.

2) What sort of roads and surfaces do you ride? If you're mainly on bumpy singletrack, mud, or roads that need a 4WD, etc, then a MTB will be better with the front suspension and wider tires. If instead you're riding mainly on an unpaved road then a gravel bike will be faster.
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Old 11-07-18, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
1) the aero benefit from body position is apparent below 20mph. Also, in headwinds.

2) What sort of roads and surfaces do you ride? If you're mainly on bumpy singletrack, mud, or roads that need a 4WD, etc, then a MTB will be better with the front suspension and wider tires. If instead you're riding mainly on an unpaved road then a gravel bike will be faster.
There are some compact gravel / lumpy tracks we can't avoid but our road distance is constantly increasing so nothing that comes close to stretching a MTB
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Old 11-07-18, 09:36 AM
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Pavement: Advantage Gravel Bike
Crushed Limestone Trails: Advantage Gravel Bike
Rural Gravel Roads: Advantage Gravel Bike
Longer rides: Advantage Gravel Bike
Mountain Gravel Roads: Advantage 29er
Mountain Bike Trails: Advantage 29er
Steeper Terrain: Advantage 29er

A 29er with narrow, semi-slick tire will be slower than a gravel bike on firm surfaces and slower than a 29er on mountain bike trails.

Last edited by Barrettscv; 11-07-18 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 11-07-18, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
Pavement: Advantage Gravel Bike
Crushed Limestone Trails: Advantage Gravel Bike
Rural Gravel Roads: Advantage Gravel Bike
Longer rides: Advantage Gravel Bike
Mountain Gravel Roads: Advantage 29er
Mountain Bike Trails: Advantage 29er
Steeper Terrain: Advantage 29er

A 29er with narrow, semi-slick tire will be slower than a gravel bike on firm surfaces and slower than a 29er on mountain bike trails.
Gravel bike: 4 advantages, 29er: 3 advantages. Gravel bike wins. The numbers don't lie.

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Old 11-07-18, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
Gravel bike: 4, 29er: 3. Gravel bike wins. The numbers don't lie.
Think everyone should test the findings out themselves as well .... don't you think
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Old 11-07-18, 12:16 PM
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I’ve been wondering this too, and here is what I discovered:

Interesting video (GCN? Not the one above) had 29” being the “winner” but what I noticed - the 29” was “more capable” but the gravel was more fun. Basically, the 29” was super boring on a MUP or anything easier to ride on. The Gravel bike was less capable on a challenging course, but I like underbiking. In my book that is more fun.

I put mountain bike tires on my gravel bike and it made the bike slow and ponderous. Kinda gave it a monster truck feel in comparison. It was great on single track, but again, not as fun when the trail was more gentle.

I put road tires on my mountain bike. I’ve road multiple day trips like this. Works great (at moderate speeds ~15mph), but just doesn’t have the top speed in a paceline that a real road bike does (like my “gravel” bike does). That doesn’t make any difference unless you are doing pacelines though, lol.

A 29’er is much more versatile, and easier, and a little more boring (when the trail isn’t challenging). If you spend a fair amount of time in wind or ride at or above 20mph its going to hinder you. If you ride gravel or at 15mph or below – nothing wrong with a 29er.

IMHO You should stick with the 29’er and gravel tires. Unless of course your heart says otherwise and you like (or are curious about) a more roadie position on a bike.

Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
Generally speaking, gravel bikes are lighter and have higher gearing than mountain bikes, are faster on smoother dirt and gravel (and of course pavement), are faster up the hill, while mountain bikes are faster on rougher surfaces and faster down a bumpy hill.
Yeah, what he said.

I did some training rides for our pro level mountain bike race recently. I was riding my gravel bike with stronger guys on mountain bikes on gravel roads. I could crush them uphill (due to weigh I guess) crush them on downhills (aero and gearing), and go neck and neck with guys faster than me on a flat sprint (aero). I’m not used to being at the front of the pack with riders this strong…

Riding my GF’s heavy $500 hardtail (with super efficient tires installed), vs my old cross bike (20lbs vs 30lbs), I found my speeds were the same for ~20 miles, but after that the weigh really killed my endurance.
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Old 11-08-18, 04:51 PM
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I've done some fast gravel events (19 MPH avg on rough farm roads) with guys on racing XC hardtail 29ers. Those things can absolutely fly if the rider is strong and the fast rolling tires are mounted. I think gravel bikes may have a better setup for longer rides but you can do a hell of a lot on a 29er hardtail.
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Old 11-08-18, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
I’ve been wondering this too, and here is what I discovered:

Interesting video (GCN? Not the one above) had 29” being the “winner” but what I noticed - the 29” was “more capable” but the gravel was more fun.

IMHO You should stick with the 29’er and gravel tires. Unless of course your heart says otherwise and you like (or are curious about) a more roadie position on a bike.

.
Is this the video you meant

If so whilst I think a MTB won it overall, he set off GMBN vs GMC ... MTB vs Gravel bike and the GB came in over 20 mins earlier despite having 2 punctures which would have taken time to fix.

Now maybe they're totally different fitness levels but you would have thought they pick two comparable riders ... and those punctures would take a good 20 mins to fix so whilst the gravel bike was 20 mins quicker, if he#d used more puncture resilient / tubeless tires it might have been 40 mins??
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