"Gravel bikes are just 90s MTBs"

Aren’t gravel bikes a whole lot more multi-use than 90s MTBs? Whenever I think 90s MTB it conjures up thoughts of super heavy steel frames, heavy 4x 36h rims, big heavy tires and painfully slow for anything other than mountain biking. Built for durability way more so than gravel bikes. Like built to crash over and over. I don’t know how the crashing was so funny back then or why we rode in ways that could only end-up in crashes. A gravel bike definitely would not have suited purpose!

I’m sorry, but that is a staggering amount of wrong for a single post.


I decided not to feed the troll


It was honestly almost impressive for the sheer density of inaccuracy.

1 Like

To be clear, not all the CT staff think the more aggressive/capable gravel bikes are silly. Caley and Zach are somewhat in that camp, sure, but Dave and I have ridden a bunch of more MTB-inspired gravel bikes that we really like.


That’s not what we’re saying! Those comments were primarily directed at flat-bar gravel bikes, many of which truly are not much more capable (if at all) than old mountain bikes.

All of our tech staff have gravel bikes that we ride regularly, if not as our primary machines. We love gravel bikes. The issue we have is when companies seem to be trying too hard to push the envelope on what gravel bikes are trying to do, which is when we feel that oftentimes people would be better served by a mountain bike.


I think this is the critical point, and one I largely agree with. When I see “gravel” bikes that’s de designed more for singletrack or technical stuff, I also shake my head and say “jeez, just ride a MTB there.” A good example, IMO, is the Evil Chamois Hagar. The crew at TrainerRoad were debating whether that would be a good bike for Unbound….and my response was “I don’t think anyone ever came out of Unbound wanting a MTB with drop bars”.

It was inevitable that this trend was going to happen….product managers love to push the edge so they can do something “unique” when the reality is it eventually moves the product farther away from what the buying public wants / needs….and then there is a correction.

1 Like

Well that’s kind of my point when I said 90,s MTBs would have evolved into gravel bikes; the slacker geo that you get on a gravel bike now, is where rigid MTBs would have gone, but suspension meant that rigid MTBs just stopped being a thing for a long time.

The thing is MTB cover a very broad range of use and even if you pin down to one, say “Cross Country”, you’ll see that it overlaps in some context what some people call trail riding, gravel and backpacking on the other end.

Most world cup XC race have evolved with much more technical courses. Amateur races? Many of them have stagnated and are no more technically challenging than a gravel course.

Twice I raced a marathon MTB race on my cyclocross bike. Not because it was the best bike for the job, I would have clearly traded for more volume in the tires in a few sections, but out of boredom because the course was so technically dull, and a large part of the climbs were paved.

I somehow understand why some people attach drop bars to MTBs, or want MTB like gravel bikes. The drop bar is very appealing when you actually ride to the trail in long sections of roads or when touring. It will never be as capable as a full blown MTB on really challenging stuff but I know that I hate it when I’m stuck on flat bars on the road for half an hour and end up on the fake TT position. The whole thing is about finding a good compromise for the entirety of the ride and have fun, not necessarily be the fastest.


Can’t you read lol it’s simple…

Yes, in several languages… Don’t worry little guy, you’ll get there. Just keep up with those night school classes and you’ll figure out how it works eventually.

My, you’re very friendly, I’m glad I’ll never meet you! #pathetictroll

Did you seriously just call someone else a troll after posting this less than 24 hours ago?


This is all Mountain Bikers’ fault anyways.

By continually pushing the envelope of what kinds of things get ridden on MTBs and what kind of MTBs they basically reopened the niche of bike available for people who want to cruise around on nothing much gnarlier than doubletrack. That’s always going to be a kind of riding people want to do because it gets you out in the woods away from cars without being a major technical challenge and/or injury risk. There will always be a need for a bike that does that kind of riding. It used to be a rigid MTB, now it’s a gravel bike. The nomenclature is pretty needless to debate over.


I already said that, but tried to say it shorter so people kind of missed my point, so thanks for typing it all out.

And yes, let’s blame mountain bikers.

I might be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure Lael Wilcox won the Unbound XL 2021 on a mountain bike with drop bars. So, if I’ve remembered correctly, at least one person had that idea, and it worked pretty well. Not to start an argument, of course, just to say it can be done with good results in at least one instance.

And many riders doing things like the tour divide end up on bikes that are pretty close to that (for example, the Salsa Cutthroat)

Sure…and people do it on fat bikes, too. Doesn’t mean it isn’t the ride style of bike for the majority of people doing that event.

Henrik Djernis won MTB World Champioships on a Softride stem vs. a suspension fork. Still doesn’t mean that suspension stems are a superior suspension system.

Correlation, not causation.

No, but it does mean “it’s a good enough tool for the job.” Which, for most riders going out on a gravel ride, is the #1 driving factor.

Gravel riding is not an extreme-case riding condition. It’s a bit like MTB, but without the need for 140mm of travel. It’s a bit like road riding, but you’ll never get into the 53x11. Etc etc for other types of riding. So generally, almost any bike you get can ride on gravel, with some minor adjustments/equipment changes (skinnier/wider tires, steeper/slacker angles, lower/higher gearing etc) to be made for optimization the more gravel you choose to ride.

So for somebody who already has a fast road bike, and a full-squish MTB, almost all terrain is covered by those 2 bikes, and the need for a 3rd bike in between them is debatable (except in case of n+1, which is obviously non-negotiable).

I think you have now moved well past the point I was making.