Mountain bike to Gravel bike?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Mountain bike to Gravel bike?

Viewing 13 reply threads
  • Author
    • #247389

      Now that Gravel bikes are coming with 2.0in(50mm) tires and with both front and rear suspension, Gravel bikes are becoming more and more like mountain bikes. I’ve been using my 29+ hardtail to ride Gravel and I’m enjoying it. As it is my second bike, I thought I might swap the heavy suspension fork and 3.0in tires for a rigid carbon fork and light fast-rolling 29×2.6 tires like the 700gm Kenda Saber Pro’s. These changes would reduce the overall bike weight by about 4 pounds. Is anyone else using a mountain bike to ride Gravel and how do you like it. Have you done any modifications to make your mountain bike more Gravel worthy?

    • #247405

      Is anyone else using a mountain bike to ride Gravel and how do you like it. Have you done any modifications to make your mountain bike more Gravel worthy?

      I do occasionally ride gravel (usually rails to trails) on a mountain bike.  Specifically, a 130 mm full suspension trail bike.  Since it’s occasional, I do not make any permanent changes to the bike for those rides.  I do increase tire (27.5×2.4) pressure a little, and might (rarely) lock out the rear shock.  It does fine for me like that, even for longer gravel rides (30+ miles).  Honestly, it’s more comfortable than my XC bike.  I sometimes find myself dropping the dropper seat post slightly to sit more upright for comfort (raising it again when I want to be more efficient).  This works well enough that I’ve never given thought to a dedicated gravel bike.  But, gravel isn’t what I do on a regular basis (by far).

    • #247688

      I have a dedicated gravel bike for gravel grinding. I ride Salsa Warbird and I am very happy with it.I put wider 42 more aggressive tires on it and it was enough modifications for me. Not sure why would somebody need a full suspension gravel bike?I run 28 psi in the front and 30 in the rear and bike feels good even on rougher stuff. Having a full suspension gravel grinder would take away efficiency, acceleration and add extra weight to the bike and turn it into a full mountain bike. I like the idea of efficiency and speed of my Salsa and like the idea of riding a bike that feels a little different and faster then my MTb’s.

    • #247851

      I’ve been riding gravel for 2 years now on my aluminum 27.5 XC hardtail. I am using Maxxis Icon 2.3” tires. Although it works fine, I am now shopping for a rigid, drop bar gravel bike as my distances are getting longer, and I need more low gears for speed. I don’t think suspension is necessary, but I would go with wider tires (45-50mm) on 700C wheels as my roads can get quite chunky and loose.

    • #247875

      On a rare occasion when I want to ride gravel, I use my hardtail with 29×2.1 Kenda Small Block 8. Since it’s a XC racing bike it has high enough gears for me and feels good on 50+ miles ride. I ride mostly Singletrack but if it was a dedicated gravel bike I would put bar ends or drop bar for more hand positions.

    • #247889

      Earlier in the summer a local bike collective had a 90’s Hoo Koo E Koo that was converted to a gravel bike. The want was strong…

    • #247970

      I ride a 26″ FS on gravel all the time with 2.3 inch knobby tires at 45 PSI. A dropper seat post helps for cornering and drifting.

    • #266453

      I’m two years and a handful of 35-45 miles races into my gravel bike experience. In better than half the races so far I would have loved a mountain bike with a little suspension. I think. Some of these races have been more rock covered roads than gravel with nasty ruts and mud. Last race I was really slowing down to navigate a lot of the rougher sections trying not to break my bike, or myself. 2/3 of the way in I ended up riding with a guy on a 29″ hardtail on a rocky, muddy road section. All I was thinking was “as soon as we hit the next section of pavement you are toast my friend.” We came out of the woods, hit pavement and it was downhill for about a 1/2 mile. I got into the drops thinking I would be blowing past this guy and we ended up coasting side by-side all the way to the bottom. This 29’er had probably 2.2’s or 2.3’s and was rolling downhill on pavement just as fast as me in the drops on my gravel bike with 700C-40mm gravel tires. I guarantee he was faster and comfortable than me in the rougher sections. It just didn’t seem like he was paying much of a penalty for riding the mountain bike on the stuff the gravel bike should have been better at. I’m seriously thinking about ditching the gravel bike and switching to a 27.5 or 29″ mountain bike for gravel races.

      • #277867

        Hi Koolerb,

        You probably just didn’t get down enough on the drops so that is why the guy on a hardtail was coasting with you. If you would get really nice and low and especially pedalled into the downhill you would easily drop him. I am hundred percent sure that if you are running a two by on your gravel grinder you have at least one harder gear then him and would have dropped him on the downhill. I have had guys on hard tails keep up with me on the climbs or even straight aways but as soon as downhill sections come I am gone. Even on rougher gravel roads I am able to hit 50-60 km in hour as long as I can see ahead and avoid all of the potholes. Gravel bikes are always faster as long as it’s not a singletrack or an full on ATV-Jeep trail.

    • #266462

      Since I posted this back in September,  I’m now using a 100mm full-sus XC-Race bike with 50mm Gravel tires as my Gravelbike.   This bike is still amazingly capable on singletrack but rolls very fast on pavement and gravel.  And with the full-sus, also very comfortable.   On downhills, I believe it is faster than full-rigid Gravelbikes because the tires stay glued to the ground.  It doesn’t bounce around on washboard and ruts.  I never was a fan of XC-Race bikes as Trailbikes but I now think that they make great Gravelbikes.  I do rides where I combine pavement, gravel, and singletrack and the XC-Gravelbike shines.  It is so much more comfortable than riding a full-rigid bike or a Hardtail-Gravelbike.  Certainly, a full-rigid Gravelbike is faster on pavement and smooth firm gravel but on everything else,the full-sus XC-Race with Gravel tires is superior.

    • #266514

      That’s exactly what I’m thinking. The only thing I’m struggling with is price. A light, full suspension XC bike is pricey. A friend has a carbon 2011 trek Fuel in good shape he wants to sell cheap but the 26″ wheels aren’t what I want. Retail on the 2019 Top Fuel is almost $10K. Still trying to figure it out.

    • #266516

      If you want to win Gravel races, you probably need to get a serious Gravelbike and learn to suffer better.  Going fast has nothing to do with being comfortable or having an easy time.  Every XC race I’ve ever been in is about who suffers the best.  Burning legs, gasping for breath, and getting jack-hammered to pieces is how races are won.   XC-Race hardtails are the worst type of Mountainbikes to ride on singletrack.  Their only redeeming quality is that they are fast.  I’m sure Gravel races and Gravelbikes are the same.

      If you don’t care about winning Gravel races and you’re just racing for fun,  it doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride.  I’m riding a 10 year old aluminum full-sus Specialized Epic Comp that weighs about 27 pounds.  Recently, my local bike shop had $3100 dollar list price Epic Comps on sale for $1900.  It doesn’t have to be a new bike or a top of the line bike.   However, I would stay away from 26er’s.   26er’s are mostly extinct.  You’ll be better off with a 29er XC-Race bike.  I’ve been searching and I could not find a single 26er Gravel tire and there are almost no 27.5 XC-Race bikes made.

    • #277866

      gravel is waaay better

      • #277868

        I know some guys that enjoy riding technical stuff like that on their gravel bikes but I dont see a point if I have a mountain bike. I keep my gravel grinder for what it was intended for. Gravel and dirt roads.

    • #476942

      This is a great discussion. I’ve been riding a lightweight hardtail MTB (2015 Specialized Crave SL) on gravel. It’s fully rigid, singlespeed and set up with Stan’s Grail gravel wheels and tires. I’ve done a few races and a bunch of rides and it feels plenty fast, albeit the SS doesn’t allow me to stay at the front end of the pack during races.

      I’m about to buy a new FS Epic for XC racing, but I’m guessing it will be far superior for gravel, too. It’s light enough (21-22 lbs) that there’s not a big weight penalty compared to a gravel bike and with the Brain technology, the suspension is locked out until/unless you hit rough stuff. It remains to be seen whether the MTB gearing is enough to keep up with dedicated gravel races, but I’m betting it will be.

    • #476963

      As I stated above, I ride the full-sus Epic with Gravel tires.  However, I am not a fan of the Brain valve.  When the Brain valve is set to the “Firmest” setting and the valve closes and the suspension locks out, a very disconcerting jolt goes through the bike which many find unpleasant.  Ultimately, I ended up setting the Brain valve to the “Softest” setting and then increasing the pressure and rebound on the shock.  This eliminates the jolt while also eliminating bobbing. I would have been happier without the Brain and especially so because it adds weight.

      When the Brain came out many years ago, most rear suspensions bobbed quite a bit.  However, shock technology and rear suspension designs have improved immensely and I don’t think that the Brain is as relevant as it was in the past.  Before you buy, give the Epic a solid test ride over some rough stuff and see if you can live with the jolt.  Also, consider buying an XC bike without the Brain.  The new Epic EVO doesn’t have a Brain and the new Cannondale Scalpel looks very good. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a new version of The Scott Spark RC appear any day now.  New versions of XC bikes come out on Olympic years.

Viewing 13 reply threads

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.