Monster bikes are mountain bikes with drop bars. This is the phrase we often hear, the shortest summary of this bike. In fact, this is not the case, even if the similarity is huge. In fact, this is not the case, even if the similarity is huge. But some technical points distinguish the two types of bikes, which seem like details but actually make a big difference in choosing one bike or the other.
Monster bikes: what is it?
Let’s start with a small introduction to this type of bike, starting from the assumption that everyone knows what a mountain bike is. The Monster is an extreme gravel bike with the same tires as the mountain bike. This means that a monster bike can tackle stonier and harder routes than a gravel bike while maintaining the comfort of the drop bar.
Monster bike versus mountain bike: facts in common
We just said that Monster Bike and Mountain Bike tires are the same. Obviously, we mean a cross-country mountain bike, therefore with 2.00″ -2.20″ tyres. So obviously, the rim will also be the same, and any tricks to mount the tubeless system. But when choosing a monster bike, you have to pay attention to one fundamental thing: the width of the hubs. Today’s mountain bikes have practically all switched to the Boost standard, i.e. a 110 mm front hub and a 148 mm rear hub. It is the most modern standard, therefore offering the largest number of spare parts available. Many monster bikes are designed with the classic standard 100mm at the front and 142mm at the rear. This makes them less willing to accommodate different brands and types of wheels.
We chose to build our Annibale monster bike with the Boost standard.
If, at first glance, a monster bike and an mtb frame may seem identical – especially in models like our Annibale and our Julius, both built with ultra-light steel tubes – the differences are important.
- First, the monster bike mounts a drop bar. This puts the cyclist’s hands in a very different position from the typical mtb straight bar. The hands on the brake levers will be much further away, while the enlargement of the arms is reduced from the classic 68 – 72 cm of the mtb to just 44 – 48 cm of the Monster. This requires the design of a significantly shorter frame – even 2.5 cm – 3 compared to the mtb for the same cyclist.
- Second, the suspended fork. Most monster bikes do not use a suspended fork, like our Annibale, but a rigid carbon one. Suspension forks can be mounted later but usually have lower excursions than mtb forks. This leads to a different fork height. So with the same structural measurements, the monster bike will have a higher head tube.
- Third, the bottom bracket should be roughly in the same position, but with a lower fork, the rear triangle must also be redesigned to maintain the bike’s ground clearance.
Monster bikes and mountain bikes have similar but not identical components. The brake and gear levers are the most glaring difference, typical of the gravel world. Gearbox and brake callipers must be compatible with these commands. The saddle of a monster bike is usually more comfortable because it is designed for long rides, as opposed to a mountain bike, where the focus is more on lightness, given that you often pedal standing up on the pedals. While tubeless is a common factor, other accessories, such as a dropper seatpost, are rarer to see on monster bikes since they don’t have to tackle very steep descents. Typical of the monsters is the predisposition for luggage, racks and mudguards.
Should I choose a monster bike or a mountain bike?
The choice is – as always – personal and depends on two main factors: the use we are going to make of it and our natural predisposition for one or the other bike. The Monster is designed for travelling. If you like comfort and the possibility of gripping the handlebar in different positions, this is your choice. On the other hand, if you like to risk more descending technical downhills and have fun on jumps, a mountain bike is more suitable for you. When these two points of view are taken to the limit, the differences between the two types of bikes become abysmal.
During a long journey, the mountain bike loads shoulders and arms and doesn’t even allow you to change position. The back is too erect and suffers the shocks of the ground. Conversely, with the monster bike, you cannot tackle a stony descent at the same speed as with mtb. Even when cornering it leads to leaning less. It is simply another way to experience off-road cycling.