Home » Gravel Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes: Which One is Faster?

Gravel Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes: Which One is Faster?


(Image licensed by ShutterStock)

Are you looking for your next biking adventure? Perhaps you’re preparing for the trek of a lifetime or maybe just a challenging ride down a mountainside! Regardless of where you seek your thrills, when it comes to biking fun, it’s important to ride with the right set of wheels.

Between gravel bikes and mountain bikes, which one is faster? Gravel bikes are faster than mountain bikes. With a gravel bike, you can ride both on and off-road with ease.

Whether you plan to purchase a bicycle for leisure or for sport, you should choose your bike based on the intensity of your bicycling workout and adventure. Some bikes are better for specific treks and challenges, check out which bike is best for you!

Gravel Bikes vs. Mountain Bikes: Which One Is Faster?

The average speed for a gravel bike is about 15 to 16 mph on a paved roadway, while a mountain bike can travel at an average of 30 mph on rough, downhill terrain. For uphill riding, a gravel bike is faster, but for downhill riding, the mountain bike will be faster.

Depending on what you’ll be doing with whichever type of bike you choose to ride, it’s unnecessary to compare the two, as they have completely different qualities.

Gravel bikes are all-terrain capable, but then again, so are mountain bikes, but there are still some very distinct differences between these two bike styles. Some lightweight gravel bikes were made specifically for speed, racing, and fast-paced adventures, while others were designed for leisure.

Do Tires Make A Difference When It Comes To Speed?

Yes, gravel bikes with thinner tires are made to be faster! Their lightweight design also contributes to their speed. When you consider the tires as well as the bike design itself, you can find a relatively decent bike that has the ability to climb numbers. Resilient and supple design plays a major role in creating faster bikes.

While the design will always be a major factor in determining these details about biking, one must also consider the conditions in which bicyclists will be able to amount to a certain range of speeds.

If you are participating in a slalom style race that is predominately downhill and has minimal obstacles, you can expect to reach the top speeds that your bike and the race allows regardless of what type of bike you’re pedaling.

When considering a bike for its speed, you should also think about the types of obstacles and roads you will mainly be traveling. Will your pathways include hills, winding roads, long commutes, flat ground, and paved roads? Or will it be more treacherous and rustic with large rocks, uneven terrain, and sharp turns? All of these things will impact your speed

What Is A Gravel Bike?

A gravel bike is a mix of two different bike designs. The combination of two styles allows gravel bikes to be efficient on both tarmacs and in the mud. You can ride a gravel bike on a multitude of different surfaces while still riding comfortably.

The overall purpose of a gravel bike is to be compatible with a range of different riding conditions. These bikes use larger tires so that the rider will experience enhanced stability and comfort, as well as a sturdy grip. Gravel bikes are also known as “adventure road” bikes. The name is self-explanatory!

Not only can gravel bikes effortlessly take on the challenge of experiencing several road textures, but it is also equipped to tote extra biking gear and accessories. Gravel bikes also have an increased gear shift range.

What Kind of Frames Do Gravel Bikes Have?

Gravel bikes have heavier frames that are wide set to create the durability and stability that many riders may seek in an off-road bike. Considering the rough terrain you may experience along the way, having a resilient piece of equipment should be at the top of the list, a gravel bike will offer you just that.

While gravel bikes are also considered “adventure bikes” in some scenarios, to biking professionals, there are still some subtle differences, and the two can be compared separately. The only difference here is the weight. Gravel bikes tend to be much lighter than certain adventure bikes.

If you choose a legitimate adventure bike over a gravel bike that qualifies as one, you should note that the only other differences between the two are the wheelbase and the chain-stays. The adventure bike will get you a more accurate depiction of durability and stability, especially for long-haul journeys. Either way, both bikes are built for this type of endurance!

What is a Mountain Bike?

A mountain bike is a bicycle that is designed to withstand and trek through rugged terrain and conditions. You would typically ride a mountain bike along desert sands, jagged and rocky trails, and, of course, mountains.

When it comes to mountain biking, the design of your bike is crucial. Mountain bikes typically have an upright, stout frame that offers a high clearance so that riders have an easier time going over large logs, rocks and dips in trails.

Mountain bikes are capable of withstanding a significant amount of stress and shock. The rider will comfortably go through and over obstacles that are likely to come upon an advanced riding trail.

The wide tires provide perfect grip and traction on a number of different surfaces, particularly sand, dirt, and rocks. Unlike gravel bikes, mountain bikes sport a lower tire pressure. The reason for this is because a softer tire will mesh better with rough terrain and allow for better tire traction.

The most obvious thing about mountain bikes is their durable and extremely strong spokes and wheels. The spokes must be substantially more sturdy than other bikes because of the likelihood of a rough ride.

What Are Mountain Bikes Typically Made Out Of?

Most mountain bikes are crafted out of steel. There are downsides to this material as it has the potential to be heavy and rust out. However, as your mountain biking skills increase, so too can the quality of your bike. Advanced riders are more likely to be riding either aluminum or carbon-fiber framed bikes.

Aluminum is a step above steel as it is less likely to rust and is significantly lighter. The disadvantage of aluminum is that it isn’t as immune to stress as steel. Carbon fiber is rust-proof, strong, and lightweight, but like its aluminum counterpart, it is prone to breakage.

The most advanced material that mountain bikers can expect is titanium. Not only is it incredibly durable, but it is also the most resilient and lightweight out of all mountain bike materials! Bikes made out of titanium are the most trustworthy because of their guaranteed quality.

If you’re getting serious about biking, you can expect all your needs to be met with a titanium mountain bike. The only real downside of titanium is the cost.

Popular Gravel Bikes For Amateur/Leisure Riders

Some of the most popular bike brands are Diamondback and Warhawk. All of the bikes listed here cost around or less than $1,000 and are amongst the most sought after for beginners and amateurs. You can also rely on these bikes for your leisure rides as well!

Pure Cycles Adventure – For $900, the Pure Cycles Adventure bike is all about strength. Constructed out of steel, it is built to last. Still, this bike is considerably lightweight for its material. With 9 gear shift speeds, you can expect to have a variety of options to keep you pedaling. The comfortable tires will ensure you have a smooth ride regardless of what terrain you choose to ride upon!

 Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo 2For $800, the aluminum frame of the Haanjo 2 grants you a lifetime guarantee of off-road biking fun. This particular bike model is equipped with an entry-level biking package, so you’ll be on your way in no time! The Haanjo also sports a steel fork, which contributes to a smoother ride and an added bit of versatility.

 Raleigh Bikes Willard 1 – This bike also comes with a fork set built into its aluminum frame. This is another lightweight option. With mechanical brakes and double rimmed wheels, you are sure to get a comfortable ride with this bike! The tire’s tread pattern will allow you to experience dirt roads like smooth butter.

 Cannondale Topstone Sora – For $1,050 this is one of the best selling gravel bikes out there. The Cannondale has an excellent aluminum build, crafted using the best quality aluminum. The bike’s fork is made out of that infamous carbon-fiber material, giving it an extra bout of durability. This bike is equipped with a decent range of gear shifts and also comes with a pair of WTB Nano tires. You’ll have outstanding speed and grip while riding off-road with this bike.

 State Bicycle Co. Warhawk – Also known as a Cyclocross bike, this gravel bike is recognized as a cross between the two. This bike only sports a single speed and is equipped with cantilever brakes. This bike will shock many other bicyclists because of its unique design!

Many amateur gravel bikes range in price from $500 to $1,000. Many will come in all different styles and designs, but the main thing you should pay attention to is durability and usability. Your skills will come with practice, but your bike must always be reliable. All of these are excellent choices if you’d like to kickstart your riding journeys!

Most Reliable Mountain Bikes For Amateur/Leisure Riders

1. Trinx MTB – This aluminum-framed mountain bike is budget-friendly and reliable. The coil-sprung fork contributes to riding comfort and allows for more rider control. This bike has quality gear shifting tendencies and excellent stopping capabilities with its mechanical disc brakes. This bike also features 21-speed gear shifts!

 2. RALEIGH Bikes Tokul 2 – If there’s any mountain bike that’s perfectly built for all the bumps, jumps and drops that you might experience on the trail, its the RALEIGH Tokul 2. Designed for fun, the Tokul 2 sports 9 gear shifts. The hydraulic disc bikes will aid any rider in a whimsical downhill descent. Splash through the mud and murk with ease and control.

 3. Diamondback Bicycles Atroz 1 The Atroz 1 is the perfect beginner’s mountain bike! While it may be on the heavier side, every rider should be aware that they are in for a bit more mechanical work with this bike. It features full suspension and is one of the more affordable bikes on the market. The full suspension will come in handy as this bike will definitely pick up speed, and you’ll need trustworthy brakes and stopping mechanisms!

 4. Diamondback Bicycles HookWith an 8-speed drivetrain and full suspension, the Diamondback Hook is yet another beginner-friendly mountain bike that requires a little more push from the rider. The Narrow Wide chain ensures your chains will not come off the track as you’re doing an extreme downhill dive. This is definitely one of the more hardcore mountain bikes out there. This bike meets modern standards!

 5. Akonza Cobra 26” Beginner Mountain Bike – The Akonza Cobra is more on the basic side for mountain bikes. It sports a full suspension and standard model features. Everything about this bike is designed with the beginner in mind, from the easy-twist gear shifts to the anti-skid tires. With 21 speed still available, this is an ideal bike for someone who would like to begin conditioning themselves into mountain biking.

Most entry-level mountain bikes are just as good as more professional level ones, depending on your skill-set and what types of trails you’re going to brave. As a beginner, it’s important to consider a bike that will allow you to improve but will also be one you can ride long-term. Buying the right size bike is something that not a lot of people consider before purchase.

Much like shopping for shoes, you’ll be most comfortable in ones that fit your feet. The same is true for biking, consider your body type, weight, and height! The only area where weight doesn’t matter as much is when you’re choosing your bike, especially if you’re just starting out and riding for leisure.

How Do I Choose a Quality Gravel Bike or Mountain Bike?

You can choose between the two by determining what kind of biking you will mostly be participating in. Depending on your biking style, one type of bike might suit you better than the other. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between a gravel bike and a mountain bike:

Bike Size

As mentioned before, choosing the right bike size is only half the battle. Whether you’ve decided on a gravel bike or a mountain bike, you won’t enjoy the ride of either one if you aren’t properly sized to your bike. When choosing bike size, you should consider the distance from the seat to the handlebars, you’ll be balancing your weight here.

In the end, choosing a bike is entirely based on the type of sport you’re most interested in. You can find speed demons in both a gravel and mountain bike, but if you’re only looking to purchase a bike for leisure, your best bet is definitely a gravel bike.

Flashy designs and trinkets don’t make a better bike

Don’t choose your bike based on looks! If you’ll be up in the muddy, rugged mountain ranges, your bike will be spattered with nature’s finest ingredients. It’ll probably be unrecognizable after an intense trek through the thickets. Flashiness doesn’t matter. Having more gadgets doesn’t mean your bike will be more durable, it just means it has shinier features.

Always go for quality over quantity

This just takes a bit of internet research and perhaps a few visits to online forums and bike shops/stores. If you already have a bike in mind, you can look up what other people are experiencing with this particular style. If you have not made a decision, it’s always best to get real opinions and genuine feedback.

Not only will this bike provide you with speed, but it will also meet your terrain needs, regardless of where you live, so long as you’re not planning to climb mountainsides…that’s where the mountain bike will come in handy.

Longevity is a Must

If you’re going to invest in a bike, you might as well exhaust your budget and buy a bike that will last for the long-term. A few things to consider for the long-haul is what kind of maintenance will the bike need, are parts available and affordable, how often will the bike need to be serviced? Overall, your bike is an investment and will need to be kept for long-lasting biking fun!

If both of these bikes were pitted against one another in a smooth-paved race, a lightweight gravel bike just might take the cake due to its flat surface versatility, but when it comes to more challenging courses, the mountain bike will not only garner speed, it will also carry you down to the finish line effortlessly. Happy Trails!

Related articles:

Do You Need Knee and Elbow Pads for Mountain Biking?

You may also like

Leave a Comment