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Have any of you been torn between a Gravel Bike and a 29er Hardtail?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Have any of you been torn between a Gravel Bike and a 29er Hardtail?

Old 07-24-20, 12:34 PM
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RadDog
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Have any of you been torn between a Gravel Bike and a 29er Hardtail?

Yes, there is a lot of stuff on the internet about this topic, but I would like to know your reasons for picking a gravel bike over a 29er.
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Old 07-24-20, 12:57 PM
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The position on my (year old) HT has the bars closer and wider. My HT as well is a very wide geared 1X, that is entirely appropriate for single track trail riding. It also has 60mm tires. The seated position on my HT would, in my experience, be uncomfortable for rides over 20 miles or so, for reasons related to why people like drop bars vs. flat bars, just more hand positions on drop bars.

My gravel sees a lot of time on pavement and I want a better selection of gearing than a 1X provides and with pavement mixed in with dirt and gravel I have no need for a tire larger than 36-40mm.

And as well I do not use my gravel bike on tight single track.

This is a completely personal choice of bike type based on what *I* ride.

Last edited by Steve B.; 07-24-20 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 07-24-20, 02:31 PM
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I did several local "gravel" rides on a 26 HT and quickly tired of the limited hand positions even with bar ends. I got a drop bar gravel bike and found it to be much more comfortable, lighter and climbed better even with higher gearing. BUT, my lack of skills, 42mm tires, loose rock creek crossings, eroded downhills with random sandy washouts were not a good match. The bike wasn't any fun on paved roads, too heavy, too much tire. I ended up riding it very little and sold it. I'd choose a 29 HT if I had it to do over, could use it for both gravel and MTB trails.
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Old 07-24-20, 03:41 PM
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Good stuff guys, thanks!
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Old 07-24-20, 05:46 PM
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I've never been torn between a gravel bike and HT MTB.
the positions are so vastly different and i prefer the road drop bar position.
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Old 07-24-20, 05:53 PM
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I have both. I generally don't ride the HT on a gravel ride. Some of my favorite gravel rides have short sections that would be nicer on the HT, but it's also entertaining to ride that kind of thing on a bike that's not quite up to it.
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Old 07-24-20, 07:02 PM
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I think about 90% of gravel riders are going to prefer drop bars over flat bars, especially if they are going to do any significantly long rides. Of course, you can put drop bars on a 29er if the geometry is conducive to that, but you can run into compatibility issues if you try to mix road/MTB drivetrains...at some point, you might just be better off buying another bike.

The in-between option is to put ďaltĒ flat bars on the 29er, which can give you some alternative hand positions while maintaining the leverage of flat bars.

edit: to answer the question, I have indeed been torn. I rode gravel for a year or so on a rigid 29er/fatbike. I liked it okay, but couldnít really get comfy on long rides (Lot of hand numbness) even with the alt bars I tried. Also, thumb shifters suck after lots of shifting for 8-10 hours. Plus, I eventually realized that for a lot of riding I just donít need tires that wide. They are a lot of fun though...may build up a drop bar wide tire frameset one of these days, with road geo.

Last edited by wheelsmcgee; 07-24-20 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 07-24-20, 07:25 PM
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Have any of you been torn between a Gravel Bike and a 29er Hardtail?


No.
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Old 07-25-20, 12:36 AM
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One of my frequent riding companions has a 29er hardtail. Only took one proper light / fast gravel for him to start shopping for a gravel bike.

In my experience, a midrange gravel bike is a good 2-4 kg lighter than a 29er hardtail.
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Old 07-25-20, 03:45 AM
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There are gravel rides and there are gravel rides. The more extreme the ride gets the more a hardtail make sense. Our rides usually have a some miles on roads that haven't been a road for 20 years and single track.

I personally picked a cross bike because I also needed a road bike otherwise my 29er rigid would be my gravel bike. I would have just set it up with narrower tires and turned it back into a 2x drivetrain. I don't ride gravel often enough to justify having a dedicated gravel bike.
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Old 07-25-20, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Prodigy4299 View Post
One of my frequent riding companions has a 29er hardtail. Only took one proper light / fast gravel for him to start shopping for a gravel bike.

In my experience, a midrange gravel bike is a good 2-4 kg lighter than a 29er hardtail.
This.

I didn't think of that, but my 29" 'er Specialized stock HT weighs 26.6 lbs. My Cannondale Topstone gravel bike weighs 22.6 lbs. That's just enough of a noticeable weight.

And as well, an extra $550 or so gets you a set of wheels/cassette/rotor/tires that in about 2 minutes turns your gravel bike into a pretty good road bike.
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Old 07-25-20, 05:48 PM
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4kg lighter (8.8lbs) is not realistic. The example above is 1.8kg. Many gravel bikes are coming in at 20-23 lbs, very few below that, some above. A 29-32 lb hardtail... just no. Midgrade full suspension alloy trail MTBs with ample travel weigh less than that. Did you mean to say 2-4 lbs instead of 2-4kg?

It's going to be hard to compare apples to apples here, because the MTBs will all ship with 2.1"+ knobby tires, many with 2.4"+, that will never fit on most gravel bikes and you'll seldom see a 29er MTB with 40mm gravel tires. Rubber alone could be a couple lbs.
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Old 07-25-20, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by fourfa View Post
4kg lighter (8.8lbs) is not realistic. The example above is 1.8kg. Many gravel bikes are coming in at 20-23 lbs, very few below that, some above. A 29-32 lb hardtail... just no. Midgrade full suspension alloy trail MTBs with ample travel weigh less than that. Did you mean to say 2-4 lbs instead of 2-4kg?

It's going to be hard to compare apples to apples here, because the MTBs will all ship with 2.1"+ knobby tires, many with 2.4"+, that will never fit on most gravel bikes and you'll seldom see a 29er MTB with 40mm gravel tires. Rubber alone could be a couple lbs.
A Diamondback Syncr hardtail(air fork), the highest level of their 27.5 hardtail alloy bikes weighs 32.5# in my size and costs $1300.
A Cannondale Topstone Sora costs slightly less and weighs 24# in my size.
8.5# difference for comparable priced hardtail and gravel bikes in the same effective size. These are actual weighed bikes.

A midrange full suspension alloy mtb coats over $3k, the Trek Fuel 8 NX for example. It weighs over 30# in my size and at that cost, you can get a gravel bike that'll weigh about 8# less.

2-4kg seems quite accurate, given comparables I've seen.
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Old 07-25-20, 07:02 PM
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Thank you for all the thoughtful responses. OK, I have decided....both, LOL. I should probably explain my situation.

I rode for 30 years every type of riding imaginable and just love bikes. Since then I compete in bodybuilding and decided to get back into biking as a safe way to do cardio. Ended up getting a road bike and then found out that there was some incredible gravel roads in back my neighborhood. I bought my son a hybrid and immediately stole it from him and hit the gravel. Love, love loved it. As a BMX racer in the Cretaceous period (we jumped dinosaurs back then) I of course had to venture out and soon found some gnar beyond the capabilities of a hybrid or really any thing without some suspension.

So I thought "sell the road bike and get a gravel bike." But I have gotten quite fond of my road bike. Plus, I have learned that there are some incredible MTB trails near where I live. So I thought I would keep the road bike and get a 29er hard tail. Ideally I would have three bikes, but my wife says if I get any more she will leave me.
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Old 07-25-20, 07:29 PM
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The DB Syncr isn't exactly the kind of hardtail I would use as a gravel bike. It is a hard core trail bike with 140mm of suspension, a dropper, and + tires. I'd want a XC hardtail something actually built to be light and efficient. Somebody on my local FB mountain bike group is selling a good example, a 2016 trek superfly 29er setup 1x10 rigid and weighs 21lbs with mountain bike tires on it and it isn't even carbon. Throw a decent suspension fork on there and you might get up to 24lbs. Anyway it isn't hard to make a light weight XC hardtail.

My hardtail is a 140mm travel steel framed bike with a dropper and regular 27.5 tires and comes in around 27-28lbs.
My nothing special carbon everything but wheels cross bike weighs around 19lbs.
Even my 140mm travel full suspension 27.5 carbon framed bike is just under 30lbs
That DB is HEAVY

Last edited by Canker; 07-25-20 at 07:36 PM.
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Old 07-25-20, 07:50 PM
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A gravel bike is a kind of road bike. A mountain bike just isnít

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Old 07-26-20, 08:05 AM
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My gravel bike is a 29er



Actually fun fact I used to only want a gravel bike that could do 700c and 27.5, but after riding this bike which can do 27.5 and 29er I now have a use case where I know when to run each wheel size.
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Old 07-26-20, 12:28 PM
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Why choose?

One is a fully off road capable machine that's a little lighter and stiffer than is the modern customary.

The other is a road bike that can take me up and down all those awful dirt roads I used to avoid.

Occasionally the two meet in the middle.

If I've got serious ground to cover with only occasional technical mountain bike terrain, I choose the gravel and will walk if I have to. Though I am usually surprised what I can get through without dabs.

If it's technical and Rocky or rutted for miles, with steep climbs and very little open road to cover, I bring the 29er.

Last year I rode the White Rim in a day on the gravel bike. I did fine and had a great time. If I were to do it again, I'd go on that green hardtail pictured. If for no other reason, the gearing.
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Old 07-28-20, 04:34 AM
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I have a 29er that I change between drop bar and flat bar setups depending on my mood. I prefer the drop bars for longer gravel rides and the flat bar setup for single track. If you have the time and inclination to do your own wrenching a single bike that does both is possible.
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Old 07-28-20, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by BSmooth View Post
I have a 29er that I change between drop bar and flat bar setups depending on my mood. I prefer the drop bars for longer gravel rides and the flat bar setup for single track. If you have the time and inclination to do your own wrenching a single bike that does both is possible.
What shifters and brakes do you use? I've kicked around going to a drop bar in my xc hardtail but I have 1x11 with hydraulic discs so I can't plug and play as easily as if I had, say, 9 speed and cable ran discs.
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Old 07-28-20, 07:00 AM
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I started with a road bike (older OCR with 23c tires) and a reasonably capable hybrid. That evolved to a gravel bike and a XC hardtail. I haven't used the hybrid or the road bike since.
I was not torn. I found out in the first few rides of the gravel bike what I could and could not do off road comfortably. Wider flared drop bars expanded that a lot but there are differences of what is actual possible on a gravel bike vs "am I really enjoying this and I can I do this all day". Similar to riding 28c tires on rough gravel all day, totally possible but enjoyable? My gravel bike is also my touring bike and my road bike with wheel/cassette swaps.
I ended up buying an XC hard tail shortly after my gravel bike. Not because of regret or a mistake. It made total sense and a supplement. The only "torn" I feel is on some routes which one to use and my decision is usually based on recent rainfall or random. I may go around on my gravel bike and over it on my XC.. There is a lot of overlap but at the same time those two can cover a vast range of riding short of a road race or doing my part in a spirited paceline or a lift assisted full blown down hill which are very specialized for that discipline. On either bike, I am capable of going back down any hill or terrain I can go up. I've done quite a few mixed terrain rides on the XC is in the 50's and my average ride is in the upper 20's. It's not a comfort or position issue, just the challenge of the mixed terrain that I would be using that bike for. I think I could do consecutive 70+ days or a century on it on rail trails and gravel but I've never actually tried it. If there is a trail/path that I needed my XC bike for, I'd run out of capability, daylight, or muscles long before the century mark.

Last edited by u235; 07-28-20 at 03:03 PM.
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Old 08-02-20, 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
What shifters and brakes do you use? I've kicked around going to a drop bar in my xc hardtail but I have 1x11 with hydraulic discs so I can't plug and play as easily as if I had, say, 9 speed and cable ran discs.
Yeah, that is one downside with 1x 11sp and Hydraulic brakes.

I'm running SRAM 2x 10sp. On the drop bars, I use Force road levers paired with TRP Sprye SLC calipers. For the flat bar setup, I run X0 shifters with Paul's short pull levers with the TRP's.

Are you on Shimano or SRAM? If you have external hose routing it may be possible to do a 1x hydraulic road lever from either brand, but you likely have to also swap calipers. Starts to get kinda spendy and time-consuming.
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Old 08-03-20, 02:48 PM
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I've done gravel road rides (race training actually) with faster guys on hardtails. Generally I can climb faster, and descend a lot faster.

Climbing I'm putting down to weight 2-4kg is reasonable. My bike weighs about 17lbs with the big tires, so its probably 5-8lbs lighter. But, much of that weight comes in the wheels, and that makes a huge difference. I don't need wheels where I can plant a landing after catching some good air. ;-)
The top end is totally different. Between the better gearing and the aero advantages - its just hard for a mountain bike to keep up with me on a 30mph+ sprint. Its not me, its the bike. ;-) I'm on a 54mm tire up front, so I have the traction. 20-25mph single track is a bit dicy though. ;-)
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Old 08-08-20, 11:31 PM
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I thought I would hate the flat bar on long rides on a hardtail, but then realized I was upright enough to rely on my core muscles to carry my torso. I have hardly any weight on my hands, so lack of hand positions isn't that big of a deal. I just put a lot of time into maintaining core muscles.
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Old 08-09-20, 03:15 PM
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No.

Gravel bike and HT mtb are two very different things, IMO.

If I want to trail ride, Iíd get an MTB. A hardtail is an MTB.

If I want to ride any sort of road, Iíd get a road bike. Gravel roads are roads, and gravel bikes are just road bikes that donít suck on gravel.
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