Gravel Bike Vs MTB Which Is The Ultimate

(dramatic music)

– Gravel bikes are becoming
more and more popular

as riders are increasingly
looking beyond the road

to routes less traveled.

And to meet this need road
bikes are effectively evolving

to give more comfort, more control,

and the ability to ride over anything.

– What, like a mountain bike?

That’s what mountain
bikes were invented for,

that’s what mountain bikers do.

– Well that, that is a fair point Neil

but is a mountain bike actually the best

tool for the job?

What can a gravel bike do better?

Can a gravel bike do anything
better off road in fact?

I have a feeling it probably can

but with the help of these
two hand built titanium bikes

from Moots, and 200 kilometers
of epic Iceland gravel

we’re gonna find out.

We will find out, but it
could be quite a challenge.

Iceland is a remote
and inhospitable island

in the North Atlantic.

There is road riding here.

You could do a lap of the
island in a week or so,

or perhaps explore the northwest fjords,

but to really make the most of the

very short summer season

we’re heading for the Highlands,

a land of glaciers and volcanoes.

Our route is split over two days,

but with the weather hovering
at around about freezing

and the fact that there
is no guarantee that it

will even stay as warm as that over night,

we’re gonna aim for a remote hut

for our nighttime stop.

Rather then sleeping in a hedge, sorry.

I actually also don’t
really feel very qualified

to head off into the
wilderness, given my still

very limited experience.

– Hence, the support from Neil Donahue,

who you will no doubt recognize from

our sister mountian bike channel GMBN.

As well as being an ace mountian biker,

Neil is also an experienced bike pather.

– Yes I’ve traveled for years, packed

my bike into loads of bags.

Oh, I see what you mean.

Now I get it.

I’ve only done it once, I
went to Wales with Blake.

It was great, we stopped
into pubs every half an hour.

We only rode 50 miles in two days.

– Right.

Well we have a pretty good
idea of what’s in store

as well don’t we?

We consulted with the local experts.

We then plotted and planned our route on

Komoot where it’s given us the breakdown.

Apparently 40% of this route is on gravel,

60% is unsurfaced and interestingly

284 meters are on tarmac.

Now they’ve classed it
as a mountain bike ride.

But when you try to
investigate a little bit

more closely, using
Google satellite imagery,

well frankly it just looks terrifying.

But cold would be a problem
for both bikes, both cyclists.

What I’m worried about
is if it gets too rough,

and too rocky, then I
could well come unstuck on

this gravel bike.

Where is Neil is going
to absolutely fly on his

fat bike.

– Fat bike.

It’s not a fat bike it’s a plus bike.

– Oh sorry mate.

– It’s going to be great
when the going gets rough.


When it comes to the
gravel roads, or should

we say even volcanic ash
that’s been compacted

roads, I think I’m going
to struggle a little bit.

It will be a lot slower
rolling than your tires.

Actually, 200K could feel like 400K.

– Oooh!


That’s quite a long way, Neil.

Good luck with that!

And so the adventure starts.

Conveniently, at the highest
point of our whole ride

at 920 meters above sea level.

If nothing else you’ve
got to say that mountain

bikers know the value of gravity.

It does however, mean that
it’s really, really cold.

We’re on the snow line
and we can see our nice

warm support vehicle disappearing
off into the distance.

Shall we?

– Let’s do it mate.

You lead on fatty.

– Why don’t we go that way.

It’s plus bike size.

– It’s that way.

(bike brakes squealing)

– Whoa!

(deep based high octane music)

That’s called artisan water, bucko.

(deep based high octane music)

We can’t go too far
into this video without

addressing the burning question,

just what a gravel bike actually is.

Now, unfortunately,
there is no easy answer.

But I think it has to
have drop handle bars.

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They have to have tires
that are thinner than

a mountain bikes tires.

And the geometry of the
bike, so the combination

of angles and dimensions
of the tubes has to

bear a resemblance to a road bike.

This Moots looks kind of
like a road bike doesn’t it?

Although when you look
closer, the chain stays

are quite a bit longer and
the front end is a little

bit more relaxed.

Both of those combine
to give a bike that has

a lot more control, a lot
more fun in fact, when

are riding fast in loose conditions.

But yet, it is a long
way from a mountain bike.

Although, you’ve got to
say, I see that there

is a lot of tech here
that comes straight from

mountain biking.

So the wheels, they are
tubeless compatible.

Which means that we can run
less pressure in our tires,

and we still reduce the risk of punctures.

And then although those
Reynolds carbon ATR rims have

a similar silhouette for
us roadies, I mean they’re

40mm deep, the fact that
the internal width of them

is so broad to support
that wide a tire, that is

tech that comes straight
from the mountain bike world.

Just like the disc brakes,
straight from mountain bikes.

Even the rear derailer borrows
technology from Shimano’s

mountain bike group set.

This is the Ultegra RX and it has a clutch

mechanism on there which
is designed to keep

the chain under control
when you’re bouncing

over bumpy ground.

Yeah, despite all of that
mountain bike influence,

like I said at the
beginning, it is still very

much like a road bike.

It feels fast, it feels
agile, it feels responsive

like a road bike.

It’s just more capable.

– More about this mountain bike.

This is a Moots Mountaineer YBB.

It’s a hard tail.

But it’s not a hard tail.

It’s actually a soft
tail so no pivots on the

back of this bike.

It’s just got flex on this titanium bike,

that damper on the back
just to smooth things out.

A proper adventure bike.

These Reynolds Blacklabel
27.5 plus wheels on here.

Actually, the inner width
of these is 40, but the

actual external width of this is 45mm.

It’s not even the same sized tires.

So I’ve got some 2.6
inch tires on here, but

they are actually really nimble

and surprisingly good.

Really good for taking out the bumps

on these gravel trails.

How was it?

– (gasping and giggling)

Let’s get warm.

– Let’s pedal.

I didn’t realize you were
sitting on the front.

– Oh my God.

Looks so good.

(dramatic music)

– We’ve been descending
for what feels like

ages on a fairly rough mix of either

super smooth tracks or some
pretty gnarly rocky stuff.

But I think our turning is
just here, Neil, on the right.

I think this is our hiking trail mate.

– Do you want to stop and double check?

I’ve got Kamoot app on my phone.

– Yeah.

Good plan.

How are you finding it Neil?

– We’re pretty much half
way through now I think.

– Yeah.

– Let’s be honest, I’ve
sort of forgotten about

the bikes looking at the
breathtaking scenery.

But I love bombing those descents.

Those double tracks and
there going like that.

Oh my God, it’s amazing.

And the grip and the comfort,
I’m struggling slightly

compared to your bike, on the climbs.

But not massively.

– No, it’s funny actually,
they don’t really feel

like they’re not evenly matched.

Inevitably, probably ’cause you’re a

better down-hiller anyways,

but you’re bombing he
descents whereas I’m running

out of gears a bit on the climb.

So I’m gaping you a bit there.

But actually, given how
different the bikes are,

it’s quite easy to have a
quite a social ride isn’t it?

I can see a hut over
there, do you reckon it’s a

Starbucks or something like that?

– Yeah I’ve heard that.

Although, Neil, we do know
there is not a single McDonalds

in the whole of Iceland.

– I did know that, yeah.

(deep based dramatic music)

We’ve seen a variety of scenery.

– It’s change is hot.

– The trails have as well really?

– They have.

You know what, it’s been perfect.

‘Cause I think we’ve seen the strengths of

a gravel bike and the
strengths of your mountain

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bike already.

This one does get over face
when it’s really rocky.

But, I’ve been giving it
a lot of thought, because

as I see off in the
distance, I kind of think

well you’re going faster.

But I reckon you’re
probably having the same

amount of fun.

– True yeah.

– Just ’cause this is
slower, it doesn’t mean,

I have to go slower to
pick my way through rocks

and stuff.

But actually, I’m on the limits still.

So it’s kinda, I’m still
getting the same kind of,

the same vibes you’re getting maybe.

– Some of these gravel trails are like the

double tracks when we arrived, have been

surprisingly really good fun haven’t they?

– Yeah they have.

– Some of that single
track is, well it’s not

sand is it?

It must be volcanic dust, but it’s soft.

I feel like I’m floating
nicely over the top,

really enjoying it.

Where you must be digging in a little bit.

– Yeah, I’m getting a bit
of suck across, reminiscing.

– I’ve got some good shots
from you going sideways and

almost going over the bath.

– Whoa!

(dramatic peaceful music).

– The scenery, can’t be real sometimes.

– No.


(dramatic orchestral music)

– It cuts it very fine in here.

– I tell you what mate,
that looks like a pretty

banging hut.

Could do that, I just didn’t want to.

– Well, look at this place.

– Aw!

So good.

Right, day two coming up.

Once again, Iceland has come
up trumps on the weather.

Although, looks might
be slightly deceiving.

It is bitterly cold this morning.

Now having said that, we had
an amazing night sleep in

that hut just next to us there.

Now, according to
Kamoots, today is a little

bit shorter than yesterday
which given all the

filming we did, we finished
properly late yesterday.

So that’s a bit of a bonus.

Just 63 kilometers and
also this is a little

bit less technical.

So probably gonna go in
favor of the gravel bike as

opposed to yesterdays three
star technical difficulty.

This is just one star.

Otherwise, we are entirely
off road on gravel or

unpaved roads.

So potentially a little bit more of that

lava feel, dust action
which we had yesterday.

So, I can’t wait to get started honestly.

(high octane percussive music)

Right Neil, shall we?

– We shall.

(high octane dramatic music)

This is the last river
we’ll see today so two each

should do us right shouldn’t it?

– Yeah, it’s weird isn’t it?

It’s so dry, like the trail
is dry, the air is dry,

but yet it rains a lot here.

It’s weird isn’t it?

So anyway, we’re going
through quite a bit of water.

Even though it’s cold.

– Unfortunately, I think
it’s the two driest days

they’ve had in ages
and we’re here to ride.

– Yeah.

Man you know when you
just feel like you’ve

stuck it so lucky.

There is basically no point
in coming back to Iceland.

It’s never going to be this good again.

(dramatic percussive music)

We can’t come all the way to Iceland,

ride for a couple hundred
kilometers and not

talk about geology.

So bear with me for one minute.

Behind me, those rocks
there, they’re probably

going to be younger than
many of you watching at home.

That is magma that cooled
in 1970 and it erupted

from that mountain behind
us which is actually

Icelands most active volcano Hekla.

It erupts like clockwork,
apparently, every ten years.

Except, it last erupted 12 years ago.

So, we won’t hang around too long.

(lively synthesized music)

The roads today have been
pretty different than

yesterday haven’t they Neil?

We’ve had a lot more big
wide open gravel tracks,

and an awful lot more wind.

It’s got us thinking about two more really

important points.

Differences between the
gravel and mountain bike.

The first one is position.

So this bike has allowed
me to pretty much get in

my road position on it.

So I’ve got quite a big
drop between the saddle

and the bars.

It’s impossible to replicate that position

on a mountain bike isn’t it?

– Yeah, I defintely feel like I’m much

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more sat up.

When you tow me in that
wind, I can see over

your should most of the time.

– That is good.

When it comes to riding
fast, or riding long

distances, the fact that
you are so much less

aerodynamic makes quite
a significant difference.

You are having to work an
awful lot harder not just

because of your fatter
tires, but also because

of that wind resistance.

People think that air
dynamics is feared about in

pro racing and stuff, but it’s not.

Just riding a 10K into a head
wind, makes a difference.

The other thing is the weight of the bike.

A mountain bike is always
going to have a weight

penalty over a gravel bike.

Again, you’ve got that
penalty, when climbing

as well.

It’s also going to change the way the bike

feels I guess.

(energetic music)

– Woooo!

So we’re in an abandoned pool
of magma or (unintelligible).

It’s 42 degrees outside.

I’m boiling.

– Yeah, it’s a bit like
swimming in a bath isn’t it?

But before we get relaxed,
I think we should address

our initial question.

Which is, is a mountain bike the best bike

for riding off road?

What can a gravel bike do better?

Can a gravel bike do anything better?

– Well we rode some really varied terrain.

The first time I’ve ever
ridden gravel roads I’d

like to be fair.

But I loved that bike.

For me, at home especially,
the mountain bike is

more versatile and is
the bike I would choose.

– It’s interesting that you’re right.

Technically, the more
a bike can do, the more

versatile it is.

Because there is nothing stopping it from

riding on the road.

But, what can a gravel bike do better?

Gravel bikes can do roads better.

Which I know, technically,
is not off road.

But they can also do simple
gravel trails better.

Actually, I think they
can make simple mountain

bike trails more fun too as well.

Because they do make things
a little difficult and

they reduce that kind of
speed that you can sustain.

But without a doubt,
anytime it got technical,

or down hill, you were
absolutely flying past.

– What I loved about that
Mountaineer as well is

I could swap out the 29 inch wheels.

So I can imagine that
bike at home on my trails

with 29 inch wheels would
absolutely fly as well.

It’s a great versatile bike.

– Yeah.

What I think was super interesting though,

was the fact that we rode
these vastly different

bikes on this incredible
ride that touched on

loads of different
terrain, and actually both

of us were super happy with
the bikes that we were on.

Yeah, there were times
when you could drop me,

there were times when I
could drop you, but actually

at the end of the day
we both had a massive

grin on our faces.

– I loved it.

Great experience.

I’ve fallen in love with
that bike a little bit.

I love it.

It’s amazing.

I wouldn’t have chosen a different bike.

– Yeah.

So no surprises there perhaps.

The mountain bike is
better at riding off road.

But where the gravel bike
comes into it’s own, I

think, is the variation.

So the longer the rides
we’re doing, the more of

the influence of tarmac,
and faster smoother gravel

roads, the less you want
to actually do proper

mountain biking, the better that bike is.

Your mountain bike could
not feel like a road bike.

My gravel bike would be
super fun with 28 mil tires.

– I’m sure yeah.

– Right.

I’m getting a bit of a sweat on now.

Which has never happened
in a swimming pool before.

Do make sure that you
head over to GMBN because

Neil has another perspective
on our Iceland epic.

Plus, if you head over to
the tech channels, there is

more info on your Moots Mountaineer.

There is more info on my Moots Route 45.

So basically, you’ve got
an evening to fill with

amazing bike riding videos.

– Yeah.

Thumbs up if you like watching
us having a great time.

– Ha!

This is going to be the least
thumb down video ever Neil.


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