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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 03-04-13, 07:42 PM   #1
el nicho
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Riding on Gravel: What Bike Should I Buy?

Question for those of you that venture off the paved road:

I bought a road bike last summer and can't wait for the weather to warm up a little more to get off the trainer and back outdoors. I live in an area with a lot of gravel roads and there are a few gravel road races in town as well. Obviously, I dont want or plan to take my road bike on gravel, and while I do own a mountain bike...it is very old and I'm leaving that for putzing around on trails.

So what is my best option for gravel riding? A 29'er with non aggressive tires? Cyclocross? Road bike with cyclocross tires?

Any specific bike suggestions? This would be a secondary bike so I don't want to drop a ton of cash on it...but open to any ideas.
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Old 03-04-13, 07:53 PM   #2
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A road bike than can fit 35mm tires would be a good choice, such as a Surly Cross Check. It might also be possible to find an older steel road bike which can fit tires that fat. There are lots of good options for tires in that size, 35mm or 37mm Panaracer Paselas aren't too pricy and will do great on gravel.
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Old 03-04-13, 08:00 PM   #3
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if it's hard packed dirt, I'd use my regular road bike. loose gravel requires some fatter rubber and floatation.
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Old 03-04-13, 08:38 PM   #4
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Gravel racing is growing quickly so there are lots of options including purpose-built gravel bikes. Wider tires are nice but you can be quite happy on 28s. Weight and gearing matter a great deal on gravel because the grades tend to be a lot steeper than on paved roads. Disc brakes can be nice for mud and ice. You really have to figure out what you're willing to spend and what trade-offs you're willing to make.
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Old 03-04-13, 08:47 PM   #5
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Salsa has a rather nice gravel racer - the Warbird. I think that I'd lump Hampsten's Strada Bianca in the same category. For the most part, gravel racers seem to be a lot like a CX, but without the higher BB (for clearance) or re-rerouted cabling (for shouldering).


Oops - just saw the "not a ton of cash" stipulation.
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Old 03-04-13, 08:59 PM   #6
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BMC Gran Fondo.... Not a road bike per-say and not a cross bike but a nice mix of the two.
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Old 03-04-13, 09:01 PM   #7
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Oops - just saw the "not a ton of cash" stipulation.
It would be my secondary bike and I probably won't use it nearly as often as my road bike. That said, I'm hoping for a $500-$1000 deal...probably something used.

Thanks for the advice so far - keep it coming!
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Old 03-04-13, 09:02 PM   #8
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^^^ I saw one of those through the front window of an LBS a couple days ago - nice lookin' bike.
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Old 03-04-13, 09:27 PM   #9
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I'd go with an aggressive-geo cyclocross bikes. Put on Kenda Happy Mediums, Clement X'Plore USH, or teh such on and your set up well.

Cyclocross bikes will handle turns in those conditions far better due to physics besides the clearance for such tires. The extended wheelbase and CS, more laid back HT angle and fork rake, etc. It's control when traction isn't ideal like dry pavement.
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Old 03-04-13, 09:36 PM   #10
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It would be my secondary bike and I probably won't use it nearly as often as my road bike. That said, I'm hoping for a $500-$1000 deal...probably something used.

Thanks for the advice so far - keep it coming!
At that price there isn't much at MSRP other than the most basic Specialized TriCross. Maybe look for last year's model Bianchi Volpe or Surly Cross Check.
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Old 03-04-13, 09:40 PM   #11
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I have These 37mm continentals on this:


click for big

Wonderful bike, goes anywhere on those tires as long as it's not ridiculously muddy or icy.

If you've got the wrenching skills, my mind says to pick up a BD cyclocross bike (or the frameset from bikeisland like the PO of my bike did) and see if you like the 'cross/swiss army knife bike world.
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Old 03-04-13, 10:35 PM   #12
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I took a cycling tour in Tibet which basically followed the Friendship Highway from Lhasa to Katmandu in Nepal. Most of the tour was on gravel with a variety of surfaces, any of which can be found here in Iowa.
There was mucky mud, hard pack, pea gravel, stony gravel, and even some macadam. With a lot of commercial traffic carrying goods in straight trucks, a lot of the road was washboard. Several of the riders were using double suspension bikes supplied by the tour operator, and were sorely disappointed when the rear suspension went out. Hard to go fast when you’re loosing fillings.
YMMV – you know your local conditions and own riding style better than I do. Just providing another option to consider.
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Old 03-04-13, 11:44 PM   #13
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Obviously, I dont want or plan to take my road bike on gravel
Why not? It's fun.
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Old 03-05-13, 06:47 AM   #14
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Why not? It's fun.
I'd rather keep my road bike for the road - its a '05 Madone 5.2 that I take very good care of - I'll ride a connecting gravel road, but I don't want to beat it up. My goal with another bike would also be something to ride into town, lock it up on a bike rack and not worry a ton about it.

What do you all think of the Motobecane Phantom Cross Pro on BikesDirect? $1200 is more than I want to spend, but paying a bit extra for new is okay.

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._pro_rival.htm

If my frame size in my Madone is a 62cm, am I safe to buy a 61cm from another company?
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Old 03-06-13, 03:58 AM   #15
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Question for those of you that venture off the paved road:

I bought a road bike last summer and can't wait for the weather to warm up a little more to get off the trainer and back outdoors. I live in an area with a lot of gravel roads and there are a few gravel road races in town as well. Obviously, I dont want or plan to take my road bike on gravel, and while I do own a mountain bike...it is very old and I'm leaving that for putzing around on trails.

So what is my best option for gravel riding? A 29'er with non aggressive tires? Cyclocross? Road bike with cyclocross tires?

Any specific bike suggestions? This would be a secondary bike so I don't want to drop a ton of cash on it...but open to any ideas.

HT 29-er. Steel one.
You're wellcome.
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Old 03-06-13, 02:40 PM   #16
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It would be my secondary bike and I probably won't use it nearly as often as my road bike. That said, I'm hoping for a $500-$1000 deal...probably something used.

Thanks for the advice so far - keep it coming!
Cross Bike from Bikes Direct.

I got an aluminum framed CX bike with Ultegra for $899.

I'm going to race Dirty Kanza on it.
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Old 03-06-13, 02:43 PM   #17
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^ hadn't read down to your BD post when I posted above.

I have that frame. Not bad, a bit heavy. That one is spec'd with better wheels than mine, but $1200 seems a bit pricey. I think you might find a better price for something comparable, or waiting to BD puts it on sale.
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Old 03-06-13, 02:47 PM   #18
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I'd also suggest a cross bike.

You'll have more options, both with bike models and in versatility of use, than with a dedicated "gravel racer."

On finely crushed gravel, I've done OK with 28c's. Wider tires will let you use lower pressures, which can improve comfort but (for various reasons) may be a little slower than 28's, which in turn will be a little slower than 25's or 23's.
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Old 03-06-13, 04:33 PM   #19
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I'd also suggest a cross bike.

You'll have more options, both with bike models and in versatility of use, than with a dedicated "gravel racer."

On finely crushed gravel, I've done OK with 28c's. Wider tires will let you use lower pressures, which can improve comfort but (for various reasons) may be a little slower than 28's, which in turn will be a little slower than 25's or 23's.
Not necessarily. A true dedicated cross bike is more likely to have a higher bottom bracket and a shorter head tube. After all, cross races aren't particularly long. That won't be as comfortable as a bike designed for 6+ hour days. Pay more attention to the particulars than the marketing.
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Old 03-06-13, 06:03 PM   #20
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OP - What about a road frame built for 57mm brakes?

If you don't plan to run fenders (and I wouldn't for gravel) you'd be able to fit a 30-33mm tire in there no problem.
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Old 03-06-13, 10:21 PM   #21
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Not necessarily. A true dedicated cross bike is more likely to have a higher bottom bracket and a shorter head tube. After all, cross races aren't particularly long. That won't be as comfortable as a bike designed for 6+ hour days. Pay more attention to the particulars than the marketing.
In that case do you still recommend a Surly Cross Check or Bianchi Volpe? I'm having a hard time finding either of those used. Any more main stream recommendations?

At this point after trying to gather information I'm torn between a hardtail 29'er and a CX bike.
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Old 03-07-13, 02:42 AM   #22
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Check out the new Giant Anyroad; this bike, currently only available here in Taiwan looks pretty sweet. USD1000 with Tiagara. http://www.giantcyclingworld.com/web...6-f29c0aedb6e7

Should generate quite a bit of buzz at teh bike show next week.
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Old 03-07-13, 04:07 AM   #23
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Get a cyclocross. A 29er hardtail is wasted on gravel.
Like normal road riding, gravel riding is about speed and a cx bike will give you just that with the road bars, aero position and quicker stiffer handling. A 29er is designed for singletrack and much much rougher terrain than mere gravel. Also a 29er is not going to be as comfy on longer rides since it has less hand positions, much wider bars and a more upright riding position.

I have both and for gravel riding I would always take the cx. And a shorter headtube on cx bikes is a flexibility issue. Flexibilty can be quite easily be attained by stretching. At least for younger folks.
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Old 03-07-13, 06:10 AM   #24
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In that case do you still recommend a Surly Cross Check or Bianchi Volpe? I'm having a hard time finding either of those used. Any more main stream recommendations?

.
I love my Cross Check. It's a cross bike, a road bike and a touring bike all wrapped up in one..

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Old 03-07-13, 07:15 AM   #25
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Sweet CC,my friend! (I have nothing new to add to the OP,there are some great suggestions on here already )(rowebr,for the record,CX bikes are not just "road bikes that can fit 37mm tires"...)
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