Gravel Bike Vs MTB | Iceland Bikepacking Epic – Which Is The Ultimate All-Rounder?

Gravel Bike Vs MTB | Iceland Bikepacking Epic – Which Is The Ultimate All-Rounder?


(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. (mumbles) 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! 400K! 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. 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 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. (unintelligible) (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 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.