To say I'm new to gravel riding may be quite the understatement.  I've actually only done a couple of short rides, but it is a growing interest/obsession  with me.  I currently have two bikes...a hard tail mountain bike and a road bike.  A new bike is definitely not in the budget...but have decided that can't stop me.  Looking to used gravel riding like I use mountain break up the routine of my road rides and offer me a different experience/work out.  

My current options are pretty wheel set, larger tires, and perhaps larger cassette on my road bike (which has a double, compact chainring. Or, perhaps new tires on my mountain bike (triple chainring), which does have front suspension.

At this point I may be over thinking things and just need to ride...but what is y'alls experience as to which would be a better set up and fit for getting started?  I appreciate any helpful thoughts/comments.

- Pastor Joe
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The road bike will be much more efficient than the mountain bike, but it really depends on how big a tire your road bike will take.  I would not recommend riding gravel on anything smaller than a 32c.  I once did a 60 miler on 28s, and I really regretted it.  At the time I thought 60 miles was short enough that I would prefer the speed of the 28s, I was wrong.
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I was in the same boat, 2 bikes and a third out of the question at this point. I went with the hardtail MTB, couldn't fit anything larger than 28mm tires on the road bike. I got rid of the front suspension and put on a rigid cromoly fork. I will be putting drop bars on this weekend. Next will be different tires than the 2.1 knobby's I have on there now. maybe go single speed at some point. It's a real work in progress and I just make changes as I save up for parts, the nice thing about you can keep riding between upgrades.
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Surly ECR 3.0 inch knards! Wouldn't trade it for the world.
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I put some 40 c tires and a rigid fork on my MTB and it was great. Most of my gravel rides are in the mountains so the MTB geometry was a bonus on the decents. 
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You bring up an interesting discussion. In reality the "gravel bike" in one sense is not a new idea. Folks have been riding bikes on dirt and gravel roads - or worse - for over 100 years. The modern gravel bike just takes technology and design ideas from multiple bike styles - mountain bike, road bike (and touring), cycle cross, and marries them into a kind of do everything bike. Your choices today are almost mind boggling. A lot really depends of your riding skills, likely riding routes, and aesthetic preferences. My first GG bike leaned towards the Mountain bike spectrum - 40mm tires, disc brakes, sturdy alu frame. But as my skills on dirt and gravel improved, I found the bike to be a bit of overkill most of the time. I then purchased a high quality steel Cx bike, which I ride both on high speed pavement with road tires, and on dirt and gravel roads with 35mm GK tubeless tires. 2 Wheel sets. I'm moving more and more towards the road bike spectrum of gravel bikes. Others here ride much more challenging routes in much harsher conditions. They go towards the mountain bike spectrum. Eventually though, many of us find that one bike just isn't enough.
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Why not get a rigid fork and a second set of wheels for your mountain bike?  Or maybe just the second set of wheels.  Then a set of drop bars.  That would get you started for not too much $$$
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I think a lot of it comes down to how wide of a tire you can fit on your road bike, and how comfortable that bike is on long days on dirt. If it can't fit at least a 34c tire and isn't comfortable for longer rides, then adapt your mtn bike as needed.

I think one of the most exciting evolutions in bikes in the last few years is the melding of what used to be more neatly divided into "gravel" bikes and "mountain" bikes. The result are bikes that, at their best, are incredibly versatile and capable - bikes that aren't limited to skinny tires nor road-specific drivetrains. 

Honestly, I think the "gravel" genre has largely evolved for the better, and that we are getting to a point where some of these different definitions are just splitting hairs. One man's "All Road 29er" is another's "Gravel bike." Enough with all these labels, imo. 

Which is ultimately, a good thing. Look at what you want the bike to actually do - what your geometry needs are, what your basic drivetrain needs are, what your tire width needs are, etc. and then choose from there. I doubt there has ever been a better time to find a versatile bike that blends the genres you are talking about.
Unlearn pavement.
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