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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 10-21-13, 05:47 PM   #1
Niloc
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Mild mountain biking on a cyclocross?

Forgive me if this is a stupid question, but I'm attempting to return my Bianchi Reparto Corse steel cyclocross frame to it's off road roots now that I have dedicated road bike and some more time in my life. See my other thread about build options if you're interested.

I'm going to try to get this done this fall in time to try it out and maybe enter a beginner race around here (Seattle). Seems like a lot of folks try to have their cross bike do double duty as a road bike, a winter training bike, a commuter etc., I'm interested in going the other way and having it be more of a gravel trail bike, fire road bike, and maybe single track bike. I'm planning on trying out flat bars with classic mountain style shifters (XT thumbies) and brakes. I'm debating the crankset right now. I have a compact double on it now that needs new rings. I understand triples aren't needed for cyclocross racing, but a mountain triple with like 46/36/28 gives you the cyclocross rings, but also a granny for trail riding. You don't have to use the granny in the race or you could even take it off and swap BBs to get a double chainline for race season if you really wanted to.

So has anyone done this, other than for a lark? Can you get yourself basically a usable old school rigid mountain bike? I haven't mountain biked in a long time and I'm not real interested in full suspension, full body armor DH, hucking meat, etc. But a flat bar (maybe with bar ends you could remove for cx), triple cranks, and the biggest tires you can fit (700x40c with no fenders?) would be pretty mountainish. My bike is old has a 1 inch threaded headset that takes quill stems, one advantage of which is that changing the height is simple loosening of one bolt. I could try a long quill high rise stem that I could lower for cx and raise for xc.

Good enough for single track cross country or am I trying too hard to make it fit? The frame being traditional diamond and the lugged crown forks being a little slender I don't see it taking a ton of abuse but I'm getting old and can't take a ton of abuse anymore either! I can see open country trail riding where the tires stay on the ground and it's not too twisty or rooty. Faster on the multi-use trails and fire roads for sure. Not even sure what I'd ride around here.

I'd be happy to hear from anybody who went in this direction whether they liked it or not.
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Old 10-22-13, 10:48 AM   #2
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Look up "gravel grinder". A whole new sport is emerging and cyclocross bikes fit right in.
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Old 10-22-13, 02:36 PM   #3
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interesting. I had no idea. Seems like mainly a mid-west rural lands thing. Not as much of that habitat in the PNW. Yeah seems like cyclocross bikes would do well with it. But you wouldn't need a mountain triple, if anything gravel grinding is more roadie, so a compact double would work.
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Old 10-22-13, 03:20 PM   #4
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The Mountain bike came out of people bombing down Fire Roads , then deciding ,

it would be useful to have some lower gears to turn around and go back up..




with a 700c cross bike the wheels are lighter , you cannot slam them as hard

because the fat tire is not there to absorb the impact ,

So then you have to be ready to jump off ,

climb over stuff , then get back on the bike on the other side..

but the bike is lighter to enable the rider to carry the bike in those situations.
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Old 10-22-13, 08:13 PM   #5
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I ride my cx bike on the same trails i ride my mtb. I switched to mini v's because a) horrible chatter on my ritchey wcs fork and b) canti's suck for riding mtb trails. I have used 32's, 35's, but usually go with 42's. A flat bar makes the trails easier i suppose, i use drops on my cx and mtb so not much help there. I have a 46/36 front and a 12-28 rear. Have yet to walk a hill. I ride slower and jump off when some of the more severe dropoffs appear, dont want to destroy the fork/wheel/my face. I love the cx for offroad, and it makes for great looks from full suspension mtb guys. Only issue i really have on trails is i get people trying to fly by me on downhills, only to get stuck behind them as they spin like mad on the granny ring and large cog.
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Old 10-22-13, 08:23 PM   #6
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Ok I think I'll stick with my compact double and switch from 50/34 to 46/36 or 34. That's the easiest solution and let me try the cross thing. Need to start practicing carrying the bike. Pyze, I already run a Paul Mini Moto (a slightly bigger and fancier mini-v) up front because I had horrible chatter on my Bianchi fork. Yeah I don't think it's the burliest fork. I'll try fire roads and a beginner cross race. I should probably get another bike for cross country riding shouldn't I guys? ;-)
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Old 10-22-13, 10:06 PM   #7
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A cyclocross bike is great on relatively gentle, non-technical trails. When the going gets tough, though, it starts to get slow. Stuff that would fly over on a mountain bike requires much more careful attention to your line. This is mostly a matter of tire volume. With at most 35mm to work with, the kind of pressure that gives good grip makes you vulnerable to punch flats, and vice-versa. Avoid overly rocky or roots trails and you should be fine.
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Old 10-24-13, 09:41 AM   #8
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I've been having tons of fun on easy and intermediate designated trails in my usual riding area. I've been going a lot faster on my CX bike, and been suffering much less hand and neck pain than on my MTB. Flat bars don't work for me. Rough off-piste stuff is not so great. For mixed usages paths and abandoned train lines, a CX bike is the best thing since sliced bread.
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Old 10-24-13, 11:14 AM   #9
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I am going to hit the single track on my IF planet x after work. I think cross bikes are a blast on single track. The thing feels like a rocket on the flats. The technical sections and downhills can be a little sketchy and you will be on your brakes allot.
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Old 10-24-13, 11:23 AM   #10
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I regularly ride my road bike (25-28mm tires) on the same trails that people on MTBs ride. As long as it's not too rocky, and I don't do anything (too) stupid, the bike is just fine.
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Old 10-24-13, 04:11 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Niloc View Post
Forgive me if this is a stupid question, but I'm attempting to return my Bianchi Reparto Corse steel cyclocross frame to it's off road roots now that I have dedicated road bike and some more time in my life. See my other thread about build options if you're interested.

I'm going to try to get this done this fall in time to try it out and maybe enter a beginner race around here (Seattle). Seems like a lot of folks try to have their cross bike do double duty as a road bike, a winter training bike, a commuter etc., I'm interested in going the other way and having it be more of a gravel trail bike, fire road bike, and maybe single track bike. I'm planning on trying out flat bars with classic mountain style shifters (XT thumbies) and brakes. I'm debating the crankset right now. I have a compact double on it now that needs new rings. I understand triples aren't needed for cyclocross racing, but a mountain triple with like 46/36/28 gives you the cyclocross rings, but also a granny for trail riding. You don't have to use the granny in the race or you could even take it off and swap BBs to get a double chainline for race season if you really wanted to.

So has anyone done this, other than for a lark? Can you get yourself basically a usable old school rigid mountain bike? I haven't mountain biked in a long time and I'm not real interested in full suspension, full body armor DH, hucking meat, etc. But a flat bar (maybe with bar ends you could remove for cx), triple cranks, and the biggest tires you can fit (700x40c with no fenders?) would be pretty mountainish. My bike is old has a 1 inch threaded headset that takes quill stems, one advantage of which is that changing the height is simple loosening of one bolt. I could try a long quill high rise stem that I could lower for cx and raise for xc.

Good enough for single track cross country or am I trying too hard to make it fit? The frame being traditional diamond and the lugged crown forks being a little slender I don't see it taking a ton of abuse but I'm getting old and can't take a ton of abuse anymore either! I can see open country trail riding where the tires stay on the ground and it's not too twisty or rooty. Faster on the multi-use trails and fire roads for sure. Not even sure what I'd ride around here.

I'd be happy to hear from anybody who went in this direction whether they liked it or not.
Bikes are a lot more flexible than people realize. I don't know whether this is due to the bike industry pushing ever more specialized models for each activity, or people being too timid to experiment. (This is not a dig at you, OP, just a general observation.)

Here's the bike that handles everything but mud and snow/ice. I've got another bike for that.
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Old 10-24-13, 04:21 PM   #12
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No suspension, no discs, no derailleurs. Don't need 'em.



This is in Burton Creek State Park, near Tahoe City, CA. Lots of jeep tracks and old logging roads. Sounds a lot like what the OP is talking about. Hardly any technical stuff, yet most riders I saw had the full suspension-body armor thing going on. Pure overkill for 90% of the riding there.
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Old 10-25-13, 06:34 PM   #13
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Nice. A SSCX has been my next n+1 for some time now!
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Old 10-26-13, 10:22 AM   #14
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Lots of fun, just have to avoid rock gardens, sand pits and insane climbs, but that's what running is for.
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Old 10-26-13, 10:25 AM   #15
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No suspension, no discs, no derailleurs. Don't need 'em.



This is in Burton Creek State Park, near Tahoe City, CA. Lots of jeep tracks and old logging roads. Sounds a lot like what the OP is talking about. Hardly any technical stuff, yet most riders I saw had the full suspension-body armor thing going on. Pure overkill for 90% of the riding there.
I debated getting a pompino (still on the radar) but I'm not sure if i'll want to gear the bike in the future as I have the crazy idea of doing some short tours that probably need gears.
I like them though!
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Old 10-26-13, 11:44 AM   #16
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interesting. I had no idea. Seems like mainly a mid-west rural lands thing. Not as much of that habitat in the PNW. Yeah seems like cyclocross bikes would do well with it. But you wouldn't need a mountain triple, if anything gravel grinding is more roadie, so a compact double would work.
Not much of that in the PNW? Dude, there are so many logging roads in western WA you can practically get from the columbia to northern tip of the peninsula without hardly touching pavement!

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Old 10-26-13, 02:24 PM   #17
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I debated getting a pompino (still on the radar) but I'm not sure if i'll want to gear the bike in the future as I have the crazy idea of doing some short tours that probably need gears.
I like them though!
It is a fun bike and has a lot of nice touches, like fender and rack bosses, and a chain hanger. It has some drawbacks too, notably the 120mm rear spacing. But it was very inexpensive .

You might want a Cross Check if you think you want the ability to gear it.
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Old 10-29-13, 12:25 AM   #18
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Right, but those are steep more like mountain biking terrain. I don't think anybody's organizing "gravel grinder" rides on them.
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Old 10-29-13, 10:27 AM   #19
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Check out the folks over at Rivendell Bicycle Works. Love em or hate em, the main purpose of their bikes seems to be riding anything from smooth pavement to mild singletrack so they can go "stealth bicycle camping". Most of their bikes are close to Cyclo-cross bikes with skinny fork blades and they seem to do fine.

Having said that, I've been surprised at the number of accounts I've read (and actually heard from a local frame builder...he repaired a broken Atlantis) of Rivendell frames breaking. It's not a huge number but I've heard of close to a dozen instances and these are hand-built, $2000 frames. It makes me wonder if some of them might be a bit under-built for the type of off-road riding that Rivendell advocates.

I almost posted a very similar question over on the Mountain bike sub-forum. I've got a fairly stout cro-moly bike taht will take up to 45mm tires and I'm thinking of trying some beginner trails. My only real concerns are that I'd prefer a little more standover and the bike has road bike trail (60mm) rather than the usual mid-60's to 70's that most off-road bikes seem to have. I don't see either concern causing serious problems. If I like the single-track I'll pony up and get a bike with MTB geometry that will take 29'er tires. New bikes are half the fun anyway!

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Old 10-29-13, 10:43 AM   #20
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Free your mind, and your bike will follow.

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Old 10-29-13, 10:53 AM   #21
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Can you get yourself basically a usable old school rigid mountain bike? I haven't mountain biked in a long time and I'm not real interested in full suspension, full body armor DH, hucking meat, etc. But a flat bar (maybe with bar ends you could remove for cx), triple cranks, and the biggest tires you can fit (700x40c with no fenders?) would be pretty mountainish.
An old school rigid mtb will have rim brake posts for 26" rims. 700c wheelsets will not work without some sort of crazy adapter. I'd recommend a CX bike.

I have really come to enjoy mixed terrain rides on my CX bikes. I take a combination of paved roads, greenways, and gravel roads from my front door to the trail head. Then do a lap or two on the single track. Then back home. I also commute on my CX bike and try to throw in a couple of lunch time mixed terrain rides from the office each week.

My favorite bike is my SSCX with riser bars, V-brakes, and 700x35c tires. I highly recommend a flat or riser bar CX bike.

You don't need a bike with a triple that can handle everything a traditional mtb is designed for. Just accept the limitations of a CX bike, learn to ride smoothly on the trail with a rigid frame and skinny tires, and have fun with it.

That being said. Nothing beats a trail ride on my mtb and I have bikes dedicated for that purpose as well.

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Old 10-29-13, 11:24 AM   #22
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Nice. A SSCX has been my next n+1 for some time now!
Do it!

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Free your mind, and your bike will follow.

Bad ass! Very jealous!
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Old 10-30-13, 07:55 AM   #23
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Lots of good times to be had off road on a CX bike in the Seattle area. Check out the Thrilla route from the Brewery in Woodinville and just over on the peninsula there is a great park - Banner Forest. I've heard there are fun trails you can link up on Bainbridge too. Then there is the gravel rail trail in the Snoqualmie Valley.
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Old 10-30-13, 04:19 PM   #24
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You might want a Cross Check if you think you want the ability to gear it.
Argh! Don't remind me!
I had a cross check, loved the size, and versatility, but I sold it instead of my lightweight CX bike to finance a mtb build and instantly wanted it back. I've been going around in circles resisting putting down "new money" to get one. I've settled on finding out if a vintage tour will fit the bill... for now.

Ugh, that's one sale I regret...
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Old 11-04-13, 11:13 PM   #25
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Lots of good times to be had off road on a CX bike in the Seattle area. Check out the Thrilla route from the Brewery in Woodinville and just over on the peninsula there is a great park - Banner Forest. I've heard there are fun trails you can link up on Bainbridge too. Then there is the gravel rail trail in the Snoqualmie Valley.
Thanks for local tips! I'll have to look into those once I get the bike put back together.

I've decided to go with a flat bar - well it's not really flat - I found an Origin8 space bar - and thumbies and mountain bike brake levers. I've been wanting to try out a set up like this and it'll be a little more trail friendly and bombproof than drops with brifters. My understanding is that it won't hurt me on the course either - and I'd be newbie racer strictly for fun. I'm going to stick with a CX type double, I found some different rings for my Ritchey compact double so I'll run 46 and either 36 or 34. Leaning towards the 34.
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