The You Yangs regional park is a great little adventure playground located about 50km from Melbourne's CBD. Hiking, rock-climbing and MTBing are some of the Youies main attractions and has been a great test ground for many Curve products. In this write-up, Adam weighs up what's faster around the Youies - a gravel bike or an MTB.
I’ve been riding the Youies for what feels like forever. It’s a special place for me and for Curve. It all started in the 90s with my first MTB race, then 20 years later it's where I first met my now business partner, Jesse Carlsson, who totally inspired me on a bike and told me about this crazy little ride called the Tour Divide. I’ve also spent many sessions with Steve and Rhino testing products and ourselves on the fast, rocky descents. JTS, (Jimmy our mechanic), is often seen ripping around at the No Frills Friday races hosted by the Geelong MTB Club, and in another touch of trivia, I even designed the trail signage out there when I was part of Swear Words design group.
Steve Varga testing the Curve GMX
The mixture of rocky terrain, gravel roads, fast singletrack and awesome sunrises, has proven to be a great testing location for many Curve products. While there are still plenty of technical black diamond trails, which are more suited to a DownRock trail MTB, many of the flowy green and blue trails are an absolute hoot on a gravel or adventure bike like the Kevin or GMX+.
Looking for ideas? This route is a gravel bike friendly blast around the Youies, where you can take Kevin, your MTB or your CX bike.
So what are the major differences between a gravel bike and MTB? What’s faster around the Youies? Many old school mountain bikers are claiming that gravel bikes are like MTBs of the 90s, and while there may be some argument for that, let's focus on the obvious differences between current MTBs and adventure bikes.
The orginal pre-production Titanium Curve GXR, now known as Kevin
MTBs are designed around flat bars, and generally speaking, place you in a more upright position. Over the years MTBs have continued to get bigger - Fatter tyres, longer suspension travel and wider bars. Our DownRock (Curve’s trail bike) is designed around 2.4” tyres, 140mm of front travel, and 800mm wide bars.
Modern day MTBs are designed to increase rider confidence and give you more stability over technical sections and descents. The advancements in MTB technology allows you to take your MTB through gnarlier terrain. We didn’t design the DownRock to be ridden all day, we designed it for fanging around the harder trails at the Youies, like Trav’s Diamond, Link Track and even Bandages or Glory.
Curve DownRock vs Uprock
A drop bar gravel or CX bike often has a more forward position with your body and head positioned forward and over the bars. Not as much as a road bike or course, but it definitely puts you in a position where you feel like you can cover plenty of distance at a nice speed. Tyres on many gravel bikes sit in the 700 x 35-40c range but with some bikes, like Kevin, you can even fit a 27.5 x 2.2” MTB tyre. So while tyres are not as wide as modern MTBs, the new wider tyres available for ‘all road’ and light trail use, mean you get plenty of grip and comfort just like the old MTBs of the 90s.
Tommy P and his Kevin.
Drop bars have traditionally been narrow, but now with bars like the Walmer Bars, they are tending to get wider for additional stability and control. In some ways, a gravel bike is taking your road bike and putting it on steroids for some fun off-road use or putting your MTB on a diet for speed and less gnarly terrain.
Which one is faster? Well, a lot of it depends on tyre choice and the trail you're riding. With the route provided it could go either way. I think through the flatter trails of the Kurrajong Plantation side a gravel bike is faster, but if we hit up some of the rougher terrain on the Stockyards side, then the MTB will claw its way back. Either way, there is plenty of fun to be had, just get out there and ride it!
- Adam Lana
Alby and Steve