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Gravel Bike Thread

July 12, 2021, 8:57 a.m.
Posts: 34
Joined: Dec. 6, 2008

Posted by: craw

I made a few monster cross mountain bike conversion type road bike things over the years and never really rode them. It always seemed like the worst of both worlds. My gravel bike tries to blend a bunch of positive traits and it must be working because I ride mine as much as my mountain bike. It's got classic 90s mtb geometry at 71/73 but it's got a long road bike head tube and 700c/29" wheels. Also hydraulic discs and moderate 38mm tires since I use it more as a road bike  + than pure gravel. I'm not really trying to push the limit of what I can do on this bike terrain-wise because I have a mountain bike for that. The gravel bike is for tearing around the city, exploring stuff and finding unusual spots on the map.

Agreed. This is why I went the lightweight, quick handling 29er route instead. The King Kahuna in 22" (558mm seat tube) also has a crazy high stack height - 676 mm! - which I've been forever wanting on a XC bike.

Many gravel bikes are turning into what we rode 10 years ago. It's interesting to watch.

July 12, 2021, 9:14 a.m.
Posts: 888
Joined: March 15, 2013

I bought a Norco Search XR S1 about 8 months ago for commuting / gravel riding.

Removed front mech and put a 42t ring on the front cuz fuck front derailleurs.

Put a frame bag and bar bag on it, full fenders, bell, lights, the whole deal. Been a really great bike. I can't seem to get the fit quite right and I find myself adjusting position quite a lot during a ride. I've had that issue on my last 3 road bikes so I don't think it has anything to do with the Search, just my amateur setup skills I imagine. I would take it in and have it fitted and set up but the whole covid thing has made me hesitant to spend that much time up close with someone indoors.

I'd drop a pic but it's absolutely filthy right now lol. Maybe in a couple days when I have time to clean it up a bit. Overall I love the bike.

July 12, 2021, 10:07 a.m.
Posts: 15033
Joined: Nov. 20, 2002

IMO its really all about the tires how wide/ how heavy/ how much tread and its hard to find light block tread 26" tires in a 1.95 so its probably time to buy a new bike, with bigger wheels that will be faster

Yeh I end up riding the old kona mtn/gravel bike a lot because all the roads up here are paved for a bit just off the highway but end up in gravel SO I can't really ride the CAAD7 road bike unless I stop at the end of pavement so I can't do any circle routes, which is why i am looking at a real gravel bike, they are pretty popular up here

Did a tour in France where they pave EVERYTHING so all the grey roads on a michelen guide which would be gravel in Canada are paved even the acess roads in ski areas are paved , I was running 11/4 tioga city slickers, the GF was on 1" city slickers and we had no problems with flats or handling, but I realized I should have had more tire so I went to the 1.95 with block tread

July 12, 2021, 11:28 a.m.
Posts: 3397
Joined: May 23, 2006

Posted by: Couch_Surfer

Landyactz has started publishing good routes.  Fisherman’s is excellent, interested in that Squamish loop

https://landyachtzbikes.com/gravel-ride-route-guide-vancouver/

Oh thanks good resource. Rode up to the damn and back yesterday on the Baseline w/28c's, looks like I could do that w/o changing tyres.

July 13, 2021, 8:04 a.m.
Posts: 766
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

Posted by: gdharries

Posted by: craw

I made a few monster cross mountain bike conversion type road bike things over the years and never really rode them. It always seemed like the worst of both worlds. My gravel bike tries to blend a bunch of positive traits and it must be working because I ride mine as much as my mountain bike. It's got classic 90s mtb geometry at 71/73 but it's got a long road bike head tube and 700c/29" wheels. Also hydraulic discs and moderate 38mm tires since I use it more as a road bike  + than pure gravel. I'm not really trying to push the limit of what I can do on this bike terrain-wise because I have a mountain bike for that. The gravel bike is for tearing around the city, exploring stuff and finding unusual spots on the map.

Agreed. This is why I went the lightweight, quick handling 29er route instead. The King Kahuna in 22" (558mm seat tube) also has a crazy high stack height - 676 mm! - which I've been forever wanting on a XC bike.

Many gravel bikes are turning into what we rode 10 years ago. It's interesting to watch.

It all depends on what you want to ride. Mine really it set up to be a road bike+ and it's great for that. I'd set it up differently if I wanted to tackle gnarlier terrain and at some point it would morph into an XC mountain bike but then it would lose the roadie traits that I enjoy most about it (for my current particular application). I love seeing the huge range of gravel bike setups.

July 13, 2021, 8:44 a.m.
Posts: 277
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

Posted by: gdharries

Posted by: craw

I made a few monster cross mountain bike conversion type road bike things over the years and never really rode them. It always seemed like the worst of both worlds. My gravel bike tries to blend a bunch of positive traits and it must be working because I ride mine as much as my mountain bike. It's got classic 90s mtb geometry at 71/73 but it's got a long road bike head tube and 700c/29" wheels. Also hydraulic discs and moderate 38mm tires since I use it more as a road bike  + than pure gravel. I'm not really trying to push the limit of what I can do on this bike terrain-wise because I have a mountain bike for that. The gravel bike is for tearing around the city, exploring stuff and finding unusual spots on the map.

Agreed. This is why I went the lightweight, quick handling 29er route instead. The King Kahuna in 22" (558mm seat tube) also has a crazy high stack height - 676 mm! - which I've been forever wanting on a XC bike.

Many gravel bikes are turning into what we rode 10 years ago. It's interesting to watch.

As much as it is interesting, I have disagree with the its a mountain bike from 10 years ago.  Although I have rode mine down Espresso for a laugh it's a brutal punishing ride. I demo'd one thinking it would be lame but was blown away on how fast these bikes rip on smoother gravel trails. Every time a friend has shown up with a light XC mtb on a gravel bike ride they have never been able to keep up with the group.. Since I have bought one I really have no need for a XC mtb around here. There is very little XC riding on the shore and the ones that do exist most lead to the Janky fun stuff so just stick with the enduro bike for all that. Maybe if I lived in the Okanagan or something an XC mtb would come in more handy.

July 13, 2021, 9:39 a.m.
Posts: 1071
Joined: Feb. 5, 2011

Can someone explain gravel bikes to me? I'd never heard of them up until about a year or two ago, and now it seems like everyone has one. 

Does it just feel like riding a road bike (with slightly beefier tires) on a dirt road? Or is the bike more forgiving than a road bike in other ways too aside from just the tires? 

Can you ride a gravel bike on the road with similar efficiency to a true road bike or is there a pretty significant difference?

Is it anywhere near as fun as mountain biking?

July 13, 2021, 10:27 a.m.
Posts: 2249
Joined: April 2, 2005

yes, yes and yes

July 13, 2021, 10:30 a.m.
Posts: 46
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

I picked up a 2017 Norco Search from a buddy when the local bridge broke and turned my neighborhood basically into an island. 

It's one size "too big", which is perfect with wider PNW bars and a shorter 80mm stem. I put 36mm tubeless WTB slicks on when I burned through the tires it came with. So it's basically a road bike that doesn't suck and won't break. Roadies are weird with their geo that only makes sense for Le Tour. I figure 90% of gravel bikes are doing what I'm going, riding around town for exercise + errands, and a really only see gravel when on a weekend getaway with the wife. I'm quite enjoying a chill 60-90 minute road ride for exercise a couple times a week.

Having the MTBs plus one bike optimized for what you can ride out your back door makes for good times and good fitness.

July 13, 2021, 10:31 a.m.
Posts: 4942
Joined: Nov. 25, 2002

about a quarter century ago i had a bianchi cx bike (with mini 35mm knobbies & canti brakes) that i used to offroad extensively (like up singing pass into the alpine @ whistler, back when you could do such things).  guess i was ahead of my time.  

while i don't *need* one, i like the idea. aesthetically, anyways. would totally rock one of these if i had reason to justify a road-ish type bike. maybe with a lauf fork for extra freak factor? 

July 13, 2021, 11:07 a.m.
Posts: 34
Joined: Dec. 6, 2008

Posted by: craw

Posted by: gdharries

Posted by: craw

I made a few monster cross mountain bike conversion type road bike things over the years and never really rode them. It always seemed like the worst of both worlds. My gravel bike tries to blend a bunch of positive traits and it must be working because I ride mine as much as my mountain bike. It's got classic 90s mtb geometry at 71/73 but it's got a long road bike head tube and 700c/29" wheels. Also hydraulic discs and moderate 38mm tires since I use it more as a road bike  + than pure gravel. I'm not really trying to push the limit of what I can do on this bike terrain-wise because I have a mountain bike for that. The gravel bike is for tearing around the city, exploring stuff and finding unusual spots on the map.

Agreed. This is why I went the lightweight, quick handling 29er route instead. The King Kahuna in 22" (558mm seat tube) also has a crazy high stack height - 676 mm! - which I've been forever wanting on a XC bike.

Many gravel bikes are turning into what we rode 10 years ago. It's interesting to watch.

It all depends on what you want to ride. Mine really it set up to be a road bike+ and it's great for that. I'd set it up differently if I wanted to tackle gnarlier terrain and at some point it would morph into an XC mountain bike but then it would lose the roadie traits that I enjoy most about it (for my current particular application). I love seeing the huge range of gravel bike setups.

Yeah, my terrain has a lot of rough gravel and steep pitches that I find more comfortable and safer on a XC bike. If I hit asphalt in a group, it's definitely harder to keep up.

July 13, 2021, 2:22 p.m.
Posts: 766
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

Posted by: gdharries

Posted by: craw

Posted by: gdharries

Posted by: craw

I made a few monster cross mountain bike conversion type road bike things over the years and never really rode them. It always seemed like the worst of both worlds. My gravel bike tries to blend a bunch of positive traits and it must be working because I ride mine as much as my mountain bike. It's got classic 90s mtb geometry at 71/73 but it's got a long road bike head tube and 700c/29" wheels. Also hydraulic discs and moderate 38mm tires since I use it more as a road bike  + than pure gravel. I'm not really trying to push the limit of what I can do on this bike terrain-wise because I have a mountain bike for that. The gravel bike is for tearing around the city, exploring stuff and finding unusual spots on the map.

Agreed. This is why I went the lightweight, quick handling 29er route instead. The King Kahuna in 22" (558mm seat tube) also has a crazy high stack height - 676 mm! - which I've been forever wanting on a XC bike.

Many gravel bikes are turning into what we rode 10 years ago. It's interesting to watch.

It all depends on what you want to ride. Mine really it set up to be a road bike+ and it's great for that. I'd set it up differently if I wanted to tackle gnarlier terrain and at some point it would morph into an XC mountain bike but then it would lose the roadie traits that I enjoy most about it (for my current particular application). I love seeing the huge range of gravel bike setups.

Yeah, my terrain has a lot of rough gravel and steep pitches that I find more comfortable and safer on a XC bike. If I hit asphalt in a group, it's definitely harder to keep up.

Yeah as soon as the gravel gets rough enough I bitch out. Getting banged around takes the fun out of this bike for me. The gravel I've most enjoyed on mine is pretty graded and technically tame and that's exactly how I want it. 38mm tires offer just enough protection on that kind of terrain and still quick on the road. I love that there's so many ways to skin this cat depending on application.

July 13, 2021, 9:56 p.m.
Posts: 961
Joined: May 11, 2018

Posted by: Bull_Dozer

Can someone explain gravel bikes to me? I'd never heard of them up until about a year or two ago, and now it seems like everyone has one. 

Does it just feel like riding a road bike (with slightly beefier tires) on a dirt road? Or is the bike more forgiving than a road bike in other ways too aside from just the tires? 

Can you ride a gravel bike on the road with similar efficiency to a true road bike or is there a pretty significant difference?

Is it anywhere near as fun as mountain biking?

@bux bux,  I am referring more to the geometry than anything else. In my case the bike is exactly the mtb I was riding 20 years ago as it is my rigid 29er surly karate monkey. Got me through medical school and residency as well as 5 years before that! Now it's a gravel bike. I saw no reason to shell out for a gravel specific bike as the numbers were almost identical.

The, the biggest leap forwards that make gravel bikes their own thing is the tires. Great treads that roll efficiently but good enough to get you down a greenish blue mtb trail if need be.

In response to bull dozer, they are fairly efficient up to around 30-35km/h. I can cruise on mine with 42cc tires at 30km/h on flats comfortably. When you hit fine gravel, it rolls just about the same. It's pretty fun to go down a gravel or dirt path at 25km/h trying not to fly into a tree. In comox there are tons of little dirt and gravel paths connecting everything so you can go out for a road ride and blast through all these connectors making all sorts of routes. There are enough gravel riders in comox that the corners have developed some little berms. You can nail those at full speed without even hitting your brakes. 2 wheel drifts through corners - check. Feeling nervous and unsafe blasting down gravel hills - check. Getting a great workout without having to drive to the trailhead - check. It's basically the most freedom you can have on a single bike. 

My wife and I joke that we are constantly saying "where are we?" "Where do you think this goes?" "Is this the same trail we were on earlier?" Its basically an adventure on a bike.

July 14, 2021, 7:36 a.m.
Posts: 4883
Joined: July 9, 2004

RAHRider summed it up perfectly “it’s an adventure on a bike”. I’ve found some fantastic locations I would never ride my big bike to due to the long road approach. 

I built up a Coptic Escapade last year with 1x and 38mm rubber. It’s been a pleasure just jumping on the bike and riding from my door and going down any numerous paths, dirt roads, double track, or paved roads with an eye on exploring. Working from home I can jump out the door and smash out a quic 60 min, the MTB has at least 15 min drive on each end. 

I find with MTB I tend to seek out the more challenging trails by default. The gravel bike fills that desire for a ride on days I don’t have time to drive to trailhead or just want a more leisurely ride. This also means I don’t have any overlap with n=2, gravel bike and 160 enduro bike.

July 14, 2021, 8:58 a.m.
Posts: 766
Joined: Jan. 31, 2005

Totally. My mountain bike rides require a drive and then tend to be super intense due to the nature of the shore. An instant steep long climb with no warmup then white hot intensity the whole way straight down. I prefer my mountain bike when I want to 100% clear my brain, replace it with 100% focus. My gravel bike is for the opposite experience. Ride straight out the door. Look at stuff, cruise, drift in and out or maintain tempo, explore new places, at intersections opt for the way I haven't been before, etc. I find if I need to clear my head I ride the mountain. If I need to think and work through stuff the gravel bike is a better choice for turning stuff over. Reconnecting with spaces is a nice change to riding defined trails. There are so many spots around Vancouver you would never bother to ride on an enduro bike.

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