Mountain Bike or Gravel Bike - Which Should I Buy?

If you’re just getting started in off-road cycling and want to purchase a bike, figuring out which investment to make can be a little confusing. Most off-road cycling is done on either a mountain bike or a gravel bike. If you ask any experienced cyclist, they’ll tell you that you should just get both. That’s probably not an option for your budget or even your living space. The type of bike you purchase should reflect the primary ways that you will enjoy cycling and your goals.

Rather than get into all of the technical differences between the two bikes, I’m just giving you a basic overview and use-cases. You can decide which best fits your goals as you purchase a new bike.

Mountain Bike

A mountain bike is going to be the bike with the flat handlebars and wider tires. It also has suspension built in -which means that the bike ‘gives’ as you move over holes, ruts, rocks, etc.

mountain bike

The two most popular types of mountain bikes will be hardtail, which means the suspension is only in the front and full suspension, which means the back and front will have the suspension which makes it a much more comfortable ride but also a bigger investment.

The downside of a mountain bike is it will be heavier and slower on gravel or road.

If you think you’ll be primarily riding gravel and mountain bike trails, then a mountain bike is a good choice.

Gravel Bike

A gravel bike is going to look like a road bike at first glance. It has the curly handlebars and a more narrow tire set. Unlike a road bike, a gravel bike will have a wider wheel base for wider tires.


A gravel bike is going to typically be more lightweight than a mountain bike which makes it a better choice for longer riding longer distances or climbing.

If you want a bike that you can ride on gravel, on the road and bike paths, and maybe even some easy mountain bike trails (I’ve ridden by gravel bike on beginner trails), then a gravel bike is a good choice. I love the versatility of my gravel bike because I also have a triathlon specific bike and a bike that I ride around town because I’m okay if it gets stolen. I wanted to add one bike that would allow me to ride with multiple different kinds of groups and although I occasionally enjoy mountain biking, I find it impossible to keep up with a road group on my mountain bike.

To find out more about the differences between the bikes, watch this video where Teri and Beth show you their bikes and explain the differences.