Siza da bike was a real quandry for me when I re-entered this sport some years back. I wanted to have a do-all unit for my part of the world, lots of mountain roads, desert, and 2 lane highway, so ended up buying this thing
Did what I asked of it, feels a bit smallish on long highway runs, just right on fire roads, piggy on single track.
Soon after buying the DR, Mrs Shady decides to get back into riding too, and we get this
Heck I love the little thing. The smaller the road and trail, the more I like being on it. If I were at Lake Wenatchee and heading up Dirty Face mountain to ride trails all day the XT is the bike. It's just a bit small when I have 90 miles of pavement to head home.
My rides take me farther and farther these days to explore new areas, so I bought this:
Ah, smooth on the highway, and still does the dirt roads just fine.
I have all three in the garage right now, and luckily can match the bike to the ride. I take the smallest one that will comfortably perform the task at hand. I do look forward to some superlight camping off the XT which I haven't done yet.
So in summation, I'd be on the little bike for pretty much any gravel/dirt route, the determining factor is what surface and how far I have to ride to get to the dirt route.