Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What’s the Difference between Them?

In this article, we have put together the pros, cons, and differences between gravel bikes and mountain bikes.
John Watson
John Watson
John is an experienced cycling enthusiast and a great asset when it comes to writing skills. He's a Bachelor of Arts and a talented journalist. John is in charge of our blog read more
Reviewed By
Jessica Kingston
Jessica Kingston
Expert Consultant
Jessica is our expert consultant on all things connected to biking - gear, technique, you name it. Being a pro cyclist in the past, she knows exactly how things work in and read more
Last updated: September 14, 2023
Bike The Site is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Gravel bike vs mountain bike – which one to choose? Both of them are designed for off-road riding but are different in a few ways.

With the tried and tested mountain bikes as well as the still-young gravel bikes, you have a choice of suitable bikes for such purposes that won’t leave you alone even in the deepest mud.

But what is the perfect bike setup for an off-road or off-road bike trip? A few years ago, this question seemed absurd: If you ventured off-road, a mountain bike was just the obvious. Since then, the rise and boom in the popularity of Gravel and technological advancements Trusted Source Bikepacking and gravel bikes: new concepts in off-road cycling, or marketing fad? | Cycling | The Guardian A four-day loop around the King Alfred’s Way gave ample time to test the claims of faster speeds and greater off-road ease. have changed the terms of this debate.

So, when it comes to choosing between a gravel bike and a mountain bike, which is the best choice?

Considering a Gravel Bike

The Gravel looks like a road bike in every way. And for a good reason, Gravel manufacturers were mainly inspired by the geometry of the racing bike to develop this new generation bike. But how do you define Gravel? In fact, the Gravel is a kind of hybrid for you to ride at ease both inside and outside the city.

Native to the United States, the Gravel was designed to meet different needs. To put it simply, the Gravel is a versatile road bike with an aero frame geometry and mountain biking equipment! Indeed, the country of Uncle Sam being crisscrossed with gravel tracks, steep paths, and unused trails, the Gravel allows the cyclist to traverse the open American countryside while taking advantage of the aerodynamics of the racing bike.

Wheels and Tires

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
Tires are designed to support the weight of the vehicle, absorb road shocks, transmit traction, torque and braking forces to the road surface and maintain and change the direction of travel.

Speaking of tires, a gravel bike has sections ranging from 3.5 cm to 4.2 cm. In addition, it has small studs, which improve grip and stability on gravel trails. Tubeless is mandatory with this type of configuration because it is much more reliable than a simple inner tube. In addition, it ensures excellent comfort and excellent performance.

Note that the types of tires would vary according to the use made of the Gravel bike, but the section of the tires will remain relatively wide, between 35 and 42 mm on average.

If you rather stay on the road, it is advisable to choose slick tires to limit the rolling resistance. If you like gritty paths, the tires with studs will provide extra traction on rough terrain and a better grip on dusty surfaces. Tubeless tires are generally preferred because they are more resistant than an inner tube.

Also, the Gravel bike has a broader fork that leaves room with the tire so that the mud can drain out. You can use Mongoose Define Adult Gravel Road Bike as a reference for this type of bike

Frame Geometry

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
The frame will often be in steel or aluminum for more strength.

The gravel bike geometry frame (vs. MTB) will be much more endurance-oriented because the goal is to ride for several hours or even several days in a row. Gravel bikes provide riders with pedaling comfort in an upright position. It has a shorter frame and a higher stem to straighten the posture and gain comfort. For those who have practiced more in the versatility (type “do everything” or “leisure”), a steel or aluminum frame offers strength and comfort. For those looking for more competition or long hikes, the lightness of the carbon frame is more interesting.

On the price side, the cheapest will be steel, followed by aluminum and carbon. On some models, it is possible to observe a sloping a little more pronounced than others, but the frame is oriented for a more relaxed and upright ride. In all expectations, you should be able to buy some of the best gravel bikes for below $1,000.

Gears and Brakes

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
Most bikes feature cable disc brakes as the gear offers packs a powerful punch.

Gravel bikes generally have a wide gear range that helps riders conquer long, rocky routes without getting down from the bike. Gravel bikes use disc brakes with relatively small rotors for control while also maintaining a lightweight.


Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
All bikes whether mountain bikes, road bikes or singlespeed fixed-gear bikes use a trusty handlebar.

The handlebars are a significant point of difference between Gravel and mountain biking. The Gravel has a handlebar that is flared by being more pronounced towards the bottom. Its lower positioning allows riders to obtain a more aerodynamic position to get better speed on roads in good condition.

In summary, the Gravel bike has a road-type handlebar with flared drops for more stability. The flared hanger allows better support and less feeling of hand vibrations on the “casseroles.”

Suspension and Control

The suspension is much less marked for gravel bikes because the primary objective is to compromise between roads and more complicated paths. But as there are still passages on the road and trail, cyclists are happy to have suspensions to absorb these impacts.


Like racing bikes, gravel bikes also have a single chainring at the front. For this reason, the speeds of the gravel bike are generally between 7 to 8, maximum. However, this number can vary from one Gravel to another. Moreover, it is not uncommon for some gravel to be equipped with two or even three chainrings at the front, which increases the speed.

Riding Position

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
Most of your weight should be borne by the pedals and saddle – not the bars, do not ride for long periods with wrists flexed (in, out, up or down). Keep your hand, wrist, and lower arm within the range of ‘natural’ alignments.

The Gravel has a lower and flared hanger that allows riders to obtain a more aerodynamic posture to gain speed on the asphalt by positioning their hands at the bottom of the handlebars.

Pointing to a Mountain Bike

A mountain bike is a bike designed to travel over rough, unpaved terrain. Right off the bat, it’s clear that mountain bikes need to ride on loose trails and withstand a lot of shock and abuse that can lead to wear to the frame and parts. Thus, mountain bikes are more robust and robust. Any cyclist who rides a mountain bike knows some differences in posture between a road bike and a mountain bike. This is due to steep inclines and challenging terrain in mountainous areas, as a cyclist has to sit straighter while riding.

The difference between an MTB (mountain bike) and a gravel bike is evident at first glance, with a more expansive, sturdier frame and wider tires providing a better grip for floating over rough terrain. Mountain bikes are created with an emphasis on stability and balance rather than speed and the aerodynamic body. When it comes to speed, mountain bikes can barely go through a speed of 20 mph. The handlebars of a mountain bike are designed to provide better control and handling to the rider. This makes the rims and tubes of a mountain bike thicker than a road bike. As a reference for a well-built mountain bike, you can look at the Norco Fluid FS 1 Complete Mountain Bike 2021.

Wheels and Tires

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
To fulfill these four basic functions tires are made of resilient rubber and filled with compressed air.

Regarding the mountain bike, the tires have essentially the same characteristics as the Gravel, but they are much wider and more resistant to rolling. These tires can operate in tubeless mode or with an inner tube.

Depending on the use you plan to make of the mountain bike, you can opt for studded or stick tires like the one included in Mongoose Dolomite Men’s Fat Tire Mountain Bike.

Frame Geometry

The frame geometry of mountain bikes places cyclists in a more upright and endurance-oriented state than that offered with gravel bikes. Its handling is more stable for riders on rough Gravel and singletrack trails. To perfectly enjoy your biking experience, it is vital that you understand the frame size and dimension best suited for you.

Gears and Brakes

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?Mountain bikes proffer one of the most straightforward gear combinations at 32t – 50t and provides the bike with a lower gear, making it relatively easier to pedal up rocky surfaces. This specification makes the mountain bike suitable for gravel riders constantly doing hard climbs and riding technical gravels/trails while heavily loaded.

When it comes to brakes, mountain bikes were pioneers and established the disc brake on bicycles. From the simple and mechanically operated version to the powerful and hydraulically operated version, the disc brake offers maximum deceleration regardless of dirt and weather and is ideal for rough off-road use.


The mountain bike’s handlebars are raised further to obtain a better grip when the road becomes particularly rough. The objective here is not to seek speed. Indeed, the mountain bike is not designed for speed like the racing bike or the Gravel. Moreover, people new to cycling tend to prefer the mountain bike position to that of the gravel bike.

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
Its handlebars offer much better stability.

It’s no surprise that when the recent British mountain bike downhill champion Reece Wilson decided to transition from motocross to biking Trusted Source Reece Wilson: Downhill World Champion says he loves life 'on the limit' - CNN And downhill world champion Reece Wilson is readily aware of how demanding his sport can be. , he employed the use of a mountain bike.

Suspension and Control

The suspension at the front of the mountain bike has the function of absorbing shocks. Most bike models are equipped with a telescopic fork. It is necessary to absorb vibrations and shocks due to the roughness of the ground. The telescopic fork of mountain bikes offers an absolute comfort of control, especially very appreciable when the excursions last a long time. Generally, suspension here is more pronounced compared to the Gravel.

Now that we have highlighted the function of the suspension, it is equally as important that you know where to purchase this mountain bike with full suspension. Based on popular reviews, you can buy the best mountain bikes for less than $2,000.


Almost all mountain bikes have three plates at the front and 6 or 8 plates at the rear. To put it simply, mountain biking offers a lot more possibilities than Gravel in terms of speeds, so that it is better suited to steep terrain.

Riding Position

Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike: What's the Difference between Them?
The rider is slightly ahead of the vertical line.

Compared to the gravel bike, the mountain bike sets riders up in a more upright position to give them more stability and control off-road.

What is the Difference between Gravel Bike vs. Mountain Bike?

Gravel and mountain biking have a lot in common. However, these two bikes meet two different needs and are therefore not intended for the exact profiles of cyclists. You can consider some of the characteristics below before making your choice between gravel bike vs MTB. The Gravel bike ensures a more comfortable position than the mountain bike.

Above all, it is this versatility on smooth roads and on rougher roads that makes the difference. It will undoubtedly suffer compared to a mountain bike on rough roads, but it will automatically gain the upper hand in terms of comfort on a clear track.

When buying a gravel bike, it pays to keep an eye out for the best available in terms of functionality, like the Tommaso Sterrata Shimano Claris R2000 Gravel Adventure Bike. This versatility allows the Gravel to move quickly through city traffic and take rougher roads directly without the slightest problem. As a result, you will be able to ride for a long time and comfortably thanks to the arrangement of the entire structure and a more versatile tire.

Stability and control

Stability and control are essential for both Gravel and MTB. The latter has a powerful brake to easily descend steep terrain and stop in the shortest possible distance.

This is why it is recommended to move towards rotating discs so that the braking capacity is as efficient as possible, both on a dry track as on a wet track.

The Gravel bike also has perfect control and excellent stability, provided you choose from the start a piece of quality equipment to operate in any terrain without any problem, in any weather conditions.

Efficiency and speed

The transmission is adjusted on Gravel and mountain bikes to prioritize torque to the detriment of pure speed.

The primary objective when driving Gravel remains the versatility to adapt to different types of roads quickly. Its efficiency is therefore superior to that of mountain biking, which on the other hand, will undoubtedly be the king on mountain trails. In the MTB vs gravel bike speed competition, the mountain bike surpasses that of Gravel bikes, making them better suited for steep terrain.


Can a gravel bike be used as a mountain bike?

Gravel bikes can handle off-road terrain to some extent, but they are not designed for the rugged and steep trails typical of mountain biking. A proper mountain bike is more suitable for these conditions.

Is it possible to install a mountain bike groupset on a gravel bike?

Yes, it is, but compatibility should be checked first and adjustments might need to be made to the frame, braking system, and drivetrain. Professional installation is recommended to ensure proper function and safety.

Can I install a gravel bike groupset on a mountain bike?

Installing a gravel bike groupset like the one from SRAM Eagle on a mountain bike is possible, but it requires compatibility and compatibility in terms of frame and shifters, as well as professional bike maintenance knowledge.

Final thoughts

As we’ve pointed out earlier, although these bikes can be used for the same purpose, there are still differences between the gravel bike and the mountain bike. These differences make the bikes suitable to fit the style of various cyclists.

So, to put it simply: choose the mountain bike if you have considered riding mainly on steep terrain, difficult paths, and steep paths.

On the other hand, it is preferable to opt for Gravel if you mainly plan to swallow the kilometers on the road, with a few passages outside the marked trails. All in all, you have to choose the bike that precisely meets your needs and allows you to take maximum pleasure during your outings!


Bikepacking and gravel bikes: new concepts in off-road cycling, or marketing fad? | Cycling | The Guardian
A four-day loop around the King Alfred’s Way gave ample time to test the claims of faster speeds and greater off-road ease.
Reece Wilson: Downhill World Champion says he loves life
And downhill world champion Reece Wilson is readily aware of how demanding his sport can be.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *