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1975 Raleigh Competition gravel conversion? & sizing advice

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1975 Raleigh Competition gravel conversion? & sizing advice

Old 01-09-19, 11:51 AM
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DMC707
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1975 Raleigh Competition gravel conversion? & sizing advice


Was comsidering a new gravel bike but im currently on a post tax payment type budget (slim) and didnt wish to put a toy on a card, so i thought - hmmmm, i already have a bike with big time tire clearance hanging up in my loft

I dont have any fresh pics, but bike looks the same as when i first posted it a few months back


'76 Raleigh Competition

looks like it will easily fit 35's and maybe 40's as long as its not ridd n in a legitimate mudder -- however. Theyre tubulars so i would need to source some cyclocross tires if i kept the current wheelset

this bike is a 22.5, which translares into a 57c. I normally ride a 54. Question is this and its directed to the folks who were around back then, - but is this kind of the size bike that would have been sold to someone 5'8 or 5'9 back then? In that time era i had probably just gotten my first 20" banana seat bike , so i know nothing of adult bike sizing in the era

i took it for a ride as is, -i have close to proper leg extension without any seat adjustment (it might need to go down an inch, but not quite a french fit arrangement yet), but its a reach to the hoods so would need a shorter stem

its a fun trip back to yesteryear for sure, but i'll scrap the idea if the size seems too sketchy to you guys' - was just looking for another easy winter project and in my eyes, would have a lot more style on the group ride than a new Surly or Salsa

Also, i have done a quick search but does anyone know a source for chainrings for the 3 bolt TA crank?
52-42 combined with a 28 big cog in back was an eye opener on the shakedown cruise compared to the stuff i normally ride

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Old 01-09-19, 11:53 AM
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I'd get a 54 cm bike and keep looking. There is no doubt that an older road bike with center pull brakes can make a terrific gravel bike particularly if changing out 27 inch to 700c tires. Also cheap (and very good for gravel ridings) is an vintage MTB if you're good with flat handlebars. That will give you a very cushy ride with a quality 26 x 1.75 or wider tire.
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Old 01-09-19, 12:18 PM
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I'm not sure what 'gravel' means in your case, but the gravel I usually ride - Tuscan white roads and French rural tracks - are easily dealt with on 28mm Pasela or 30mm Challenge Strada Bianca tires. Both work well for me. I've tried Continental Sportcontacts in 38mm, and while they were comfy on cobblestones, I found them less reassuring while cornering on tarmac.

WRT your Raleigh: a beautiful bike and as it looks like you've got room for the necessary adjustments, at least seatpost-wise, I'd certainly try that first. If not for looks then for the lower center of gravity compared to an MTB or a hybrid.
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Old 01-09-19, 12:23 PM
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Are you sure that's a 57 cm? Looks much closer than a 54 cm to me. In any event, if I could clear the top tube, I would use it. As discussed in the other thread, these were intended for use on muddy roads, so they have great clearance for fenders and wider tires. If you wanna save some money, I would put a modern crankset on it, but that's just me. 35's should clear easily without fenders. No water bottle bosses could be problem when summer comes, but you have plenty of time to worry about fixing that.

I don't think you'll find a better vintage gravel bike. These really were the original gravel bikes. And IMO, you can't go wrong with a 70's Raleigh made with DB Reynolds 531. These cost a fortune back then in 1975 dollars, and few could afford to spend that much on a bike, so they're fairly rare.
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Old 01-09-19, 12:43 PM
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To answer the tire question only, you can run 650b x 42's on that Competition and still have room for properly fitted fenders. Peter Weigle uses that frame a lot for his 650b conversions.

Here's one he did for me:





































As far as sizing goes, if the saddle height in the picture is good for you, I'd say you may have been riding too small of a frame before. Proportions look just about right to my eye, and the handlebars and saddle are the same height, which leads to a comfortable riding position.

It's pretty hard to find chainrings for those TA 3 arm cranks, and you're limited on the inner chainring size. Forgive my lack of knowledge of Oklahoma, but compared to the PNW, I'm guessing you don't need the 24-30 combo I'm sporting on my bike above, so maybe you can get by with those cranks, and extend your low gear through the freewheel.

At any rate, that's an outstanding specimen. I do 650b conversions on frames just like that, but it's in such great shape I'd be hesitant.

So, 650b x 42's, and you'll need longer reach brakes, like MAFAC RAID's - that's as far as I'd take that.

A less expensive solution would be to rebuild the wheels with a wider rim and use 700c x 35's on it. I've done that on another similar frame, and found that it works well on gravel trails that aren't real nasty.

As @non-fixie notes above, gravel is in the eye of the beholder. Gravel in the PNW is often forestry roads that are fairly unused and aren't maintained much, even wider tires are recommended for them.
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Old 01-09-19, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
Are you sure that's a 57 cm? Looks much closer than a 54 cm to me. In any event, if I could clear the top tube, I would use it. As discussed in the other thread, these were intended for use on muddy roads, so they have great clearance for fenders and wider tires. If you wanna save some money, I would put a modern crankset on it, but that's just me. 35's should clear easily without fenders. No water bottle bosses could be problem when summer comes, but you have plenty of time to worry about fixing that.

I don't think you'll find a better vintage gravel bike. These really were the original gravel bikes. And IMO, you can't go wrong with a 70's Raleigh made with DB Reynolds 531. These cost a fortune back then in 1975 dollars, and few could afford to spend that much on a bike, so they're fairly rare.
I have a 54.6 (aka 21-1/2") and this is the next size larger, so yes, he has a 22-1/2" (aka 57).

Go for it. If you're staying with 700c wheels, I suggest 32's with full mudguards. I see no reason why you couldn't make that bike work.
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Old 01-09-19, 12:56 PM
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I agree with @Lemond1985 that sure looks short for a 57cm. It also looks like a fantastic steed for slaying grav'. With that tubular wheelset you're limited to 33mm tires. If you're planning on loose, sloppy conditions I bet it would look really nice with the newly updated Challenge Gravel Grinder Pro. Or if your gravel roads are a bit more bucolic, Challenge makes the Strada Bianca in a 30mm tubie. A set of those tubulars might be the same as a clincher wheelset, though, so depending on what you have on hand you may be better off with a swap to get more tire options. Either way, the ride will be sublime AND classier than anything from Salsa.

Get a shorter stem in there and let 'er rip. And definitely swap the crankset for a compact double, you can get down to a 34t on a 110bcd crank.
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Old 01-09-19, 12:57 PM
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If that picture shows the actual proper saddle height for you, the frame is the correct size. If you really do have to drop the saddle an inch, then it is possibly too big. Can you stand over the top tube with both heels flat on the ground? If you can, it is OK.

Many older race bikes were intended to be usable on gravel roads. The TDF and other races used to have gravel sections into the 70s.

Agree with the above that gravel is in the eye of the beholder. Most norcal gravel roads, where I grew up, are pretty solid and packed because it is relatively damp. I prefer to use 700x28 or maybe 700x32. In socal, the drier conditions, especially in the summer, mean you can get deep pockets of loose dry sand. Not so good with skinny tires. Knobbies can help in IMO two conditions: 1) mud, or 2) dry sand over hard packed clay. Most of the time I prefer normal tread. It's much better for riding to where the gravel starts... Knobbies on the road are not very fun.

Here is my Mercian on Tassajara road with 700x28 continentals, which actually measure 31mm wide on A23 rims. Most of the road is not this smooth.
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Old 01-09-19, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
(...) As @non-fixie notes above, gravel is in the eye of the beholder. Gravel in the PNW is often forestry roads that are fairly unused and aren't maintained much, even wider tires are recommended for them.
Well, maybe not so much in the eye as in the hands and buttocks ....

To further clarify: my vacation trips are usually a mix of paved and unpaved roads, ridden at moderate speeds, and for that I find that 28-32mm is the sweet spot for me. If I would only ride on unpaved roads I would probably choose slightly wider as well.

For reference: this bike is on 28mm Paselas at ~100 psi (I weigh ~100kg). It handled these roads well, but also felt very secure in the curvy high speed descents on tarmac that followed.

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Old 01-09-19, 01:49 PM
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I don't get why some over hyped marketing is making one believe that a 'gravel grinder' has to have this or that gearing, tires type and size.

Stuff a respectable tire appropriate to 70 percent of planned usage in that Raleigh and just ride.

There's an incredible choice in 700c rubber that will make that Raleigh a super gravel machine.

Samples of my fun and swift vintage rides. I find a 32 width is ideal. That's just my opinion but I like the flotation over soft terrain yet not slugs on fast surface hardback. Clinchers or tubular -

72 LeChampion with 32 width Vittoria clincher Cross XN Pro and file pattern.









Dugast tubular knobby in 32 width for the Bottechia


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Old 01-09-19, 02:26 PM
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I've been impressed by the tire clearance on older racing bikes from the 70s. My '72 Fuji Finest and '77 Motobecane Grand Record can take very large volume tires. I have them currently set up with 27 x 1 and 1/4 and there's lot of room for a fatter tire. Plus I could run 700c wheels and gain a little more space for a larger volume tire.
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Old 01-09-19, 03:56 PM
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If you like the frame and it fits you, you have everything you need but the tires. I put 32mm tires on my 1974 Raleigh International and have taken it on trails. It's great. I don't think my frame's rear will take wider, and that's a little compromise, but it's not that bad.
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Old 01-09-19, 04:04 PM
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Living in mostly dry California, I find 28's to be more than adequate ... as long as there's no soft (non-hardpacked) mud or sand. With 32's and 35's, I can make it through some light mud and sand. But if you ride in a lot of mud, even a 35 or 38 mm tire might not be enough, and at some point you're gonna want fenders, which are gonna require even more clearance.

So it really comes down to what conditions you plan to ride in. 99% of the time I ride in dry conditions with very little sand, and so I have no problems with 28's, YMMV.
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Old 01-09-19, 04:11 PM
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There is a ride called Ruff Stuff that a bunch of us do every October. It's along a rough trail, not as rough as those singletracks but still rough. I loaned my International to a friend, leaving me with my road racing bike with 27mm tires. Other riders thought I was nuts, and everyone had wider tires. But I survived just fine. It may not be ideal, but to show that 32mm tires are fine for most trails, the fact that I survived on narrower tires supports that notion.
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Old 01-09-19, 04:21 PM
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I'm pretty comfortable in most gravel with 32mm. But I bumped my C-dale up to 35mm (because I could) and my Nishiki Semi Pro up to 38mm (because I could). That may be as far as my fat-gravel-tire experimentation goes. Unless I score too-good-to-pass-up deal on a nice set of 650b rims (inevitable, eventually).

I'm glad I tried it, but I don't think I've ever ridden on a road that 'needs' anything bigger than 35mm. Including quite a bit of PNW single track.


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Old 01-09-19, 04:30 PM
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You gotta love those 70's road bikes and the tire clearance they have. I love my 80's and 90's road bikes, except for the fact that most won't take anything bigger than a 25 mm tire. That was the style then I guess.

I agree regarding the 35's, my philosophy is that if you need anything bigger than that, you really outta be on an MTB or something designed for off road riding. Very few people put 23 mm tires on an MTB, I mean, you could, but WTF would be the point? Just get yourself a damned road bike and be done with it.
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Old 01-09-19, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by DMC707 View Post

Was comsidering a new gravel bike but im currently on a post tax payment type budget (slim) and didnt wish to put a toy on a card, so i thought - hmmmm, i already have a bike with big time tire clearance hanging up in my loft

I dont have any fresh pics, but bike looks the same as when i first posted it a few months back


'76 Raleigh Competition

looks like it will easily fit 35's and maybe 40's as long as its not ridd n in a legitimate mudder -- however. Theyre tubulars so i would need to source some cyclocross tires if i kept the current wheelset

this bike is a 22.5, which translares into a 57c. I normally ride a 54. Question is this and its directed to the folks who were around back then, - but is this kind of the size bike that would have been sold to someone 5'8 or 5'9 back then? In that time era i had probably just gotten my first 20" banana seat bike , so i know nothing of adult bike sizing in the era

i took it for a ride as is, -i have close to proper leg extension without any seat adjustment (it might need to go down an inch, but not quite a french fit arrangement yet), but its a reach to the hoods so would need a shorter stem

its a fun trip back to yesteryear for sure, but i'll scrap the idea if the size seems too sketchy to you guys' - was just looking for another easy winter project and in my eyes, would have a lot more style on the group ride than a new Surly or Salsa

Also, i have done a quick search but does anyone know a source for chainrings for the 3 bolt TA crank?
52-42 combined with a 28 big cog in back was an eye opener on the shakedown cruise compared to the stuff i normally ride

Interesting pic of your Competition. Looks like it's running a long cage Huret Jubilee RD as opposed to a short cage RD. Did that bike come that way or was it changed at some point? I've had a couple Competitions and have seen the catalog and all info indicates they came originally with the short cage. Just wondering. Great riding bikes, BTW.
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Old 01-09-19, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by non-fixie View Post
I'm not sure ...
The "SOFT BROOKS" link suckered me in; I had to click it. I was expecting some sort of leather treatment process. PFFT!

What I got was MUCH better. Thanks for that.
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Old 01-10-19, 10:31 AM
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I have a ‘77 competition (58cm), which was the first year for the ‘GS’, and the tire clearance was actually reduced, with the changed frame. I can fit 35’s but it’s especially tight in the rear and fenders are a no-go. I could run larger if I ‘crimped’ the tubing on the inside. I run 32’s (panaracer gravelking’s) on a set of h+Son tb14’s and they are more than good enough for a typical hardpack gravel road. Fenders are still a no-go though. I would need to go down to a 28, to have the clearance for fenders, particularly in the rear.

unless you’re an especially heavy rider, or you’re dealing with proper singletrack, not a general unpaved road, I would think a 32 or a 35 if you prefer, would be all you would need.

as far as your crankset, your ring choices are extremely limited. I believe the TA had the same 116bcd as the campagnolo gransport crank. There were a few other makes that used this design, including simplex and nervar. the inner ring was bolted to the outer ring on the campagnolo version, so I’m not sure if those inner rings would work on yours, but the campy version did have smaller 38-39 inner rings. eBay is likelybyour best bet, but I don’t think it’s worth it. My advice would be to sell the crankset and update it. Also, that long cage jubilee derailleur is pretty rare. You could get a pretty penny for that. If you want to maintain some authenticity, you could switch to a vintage TA 5-pin (50.4bcd) ‘cyclotouriste’ crankset and get some new TA ‘pro-5 vis’ or velo-orange rings. That’s probably what I would do.



Last edited by seamuis; 01-10-19 at 10:59 AM.
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Old 01-11-19, 05:53 AM
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Super Mondia Special
I bought this bike a while back and I believe it was cyclocrossed as it came with mountain bike pedals and 27" wheels laced to the Campy high flange hubs . It had some knobby tires that were 1 1/4" wide and the brake levers were of the mountain bike variety mounted near the stem. I bought some Michelin Protek tires at REI that are labeled 1 1/4" . When I mounted them and inflated to 85 lbs they measured 1.390" wide! I thought I was not going to get them to work . After deflating the tires I was able to mount the wheels and then inflate the tires to 85 lbs . The problem was a little zip noise on my front wheel only noticed after starting out down the road. I mounted the wheel without seating it correctly and that cured it until I got home. I then took a die grinder and ground the inside of the fork /steering tube area where it was rubbing only removing about .030" and now it is perfect. I love these tires because If I want to ride dirt or gravel roads , I can comfortably . I would definitely run them down to 75lbs if it was an off road ride .

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Old 01-11-19, 06:40 AM
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Wow! "WANT"

Another thing you can do if your front tire is not clearing the fork / buzzing / shedding mud, is just leave a small gap in the front dropout when you tighten down the skewer. It's a cinch with pre-lawyer lip forks. As long as there's enough metal in the front dropout for the front skewer to "bite" into, I think you're fine, and if the skewer were to loosen somehow from hitting a large bump with the front tire, all it's gonna do is get knocked flush with the front dropout (due to gravity). I would much rather do that than grind away part of the underside of the fork crown.

People depend on skewers to hold the rear wheel in the rear dropout in a spot where the skewer is the only thing holding it in place, and the wheel generally stays in place. And the rear dropout is under MUCH more stress from pedaling forces, that want to pull the wheel forward. Which can happen sometimes under heavy torque when sprinting, etc. in situations where you don't clamp the rear skewer down tight enough. BTDT. YMMV.
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Old 01-11-19, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by seamuis View Post
I have a ‘77 competition (58cm), which was the first year for the ‘GS’, and the tire clearance was actually reduced, with the changed frame. I can fit 35’s but it’s especially tight in the rear and fenders are a no-go. I could run larger if I ‘crimped’ the tubing on the inside. I run 32’s (panaracer gravelking’s) on a set of h+Son tb14’s and they are more than good enough for a typical hardpack gravel road. Fenders are still a no-go though. I would need to go down to a 28, to have the clearance for fenders, particularly in the rear.

unless you’re an especially heavy rider, or you’re dealing with proper singletrack, not a general unpaved road, I would think a 32 or a 35 if you prefer, would be all you would need.

as far as your crankset, your ring choices are extremely limited. I believe the TA had the same 116bcd as the campagnolo gransport crank. There were a few other makes that used this design, including simplex and nervar. the inner ring was bolted to the outer ring on the campagnolo version, so I’m not sure if those inner rings would work on yours, but the campy version did have smaller 38-39 inner rings. eBay is likelybyour best bet, but I don’t think it’s worth it. My advice would be to sell the crankset and update it. Also, that long cage jubilee derailleur is pretty rare. You could get a pretty penny for that. If you want to maintain some authenticity, you could switch to a vintage TA 5-pin (50.4bcd) ‘cyclotouriste’ crankset and get some new TA ‘pro-5 vis’ or velo-orange rings. That’s probably what I would do.


That's a fantastic build! I find that 32mm Gravel Kings are pretty great as an all-purpose tire, in either the file tread or the SK. I run the file tread 32s on my 510 rando build, good for everything but mud and sand.



I ran the 32mm SK on some rooty, sandy singletrack and they were a blast. I was worried about pinch flats but only because I'm a big dude. I didn't get any! Crazy grippy and very fast, even on pavement.

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Old 01-11-19, 10:09 AM
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Thanks everyone for weighing in.

i'll try a few more rides on it as is to try amd see if the size is going to be ok. Probably best to be sure of it before spending a lot of momey on tubulars and chainrings

i love the looks of the bike
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Old 01-11-19, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Bad Lag View Post
The "SOFT BROOKS" link suckered me in; I had to click it. I was expecting some sort of leather treatment process. PFFT!

What I got was MUCH better. Thanks for that.
You're welcome. And I agree.

I like the play room of the sig. It provides a nice opportunity for adding some depth to one's profile.

(For those who wonder what this was about, this was my sig for the past few weeks: Soft Brooks)
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Old 01-11-19, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by tiredhands View Post
That's a fantastic build! I find that 32mm Gravel Kings are pretty great as an all-purpose tire, in either the file tread or the SK. I run the file tread 32s on my 510 rando build, good for everything but mud and sand.



I ran the 32mm SK on some rooty, sandy singletrack and they were a blast. I was worried about pinch flats but only because I'm a big dude. I didn't get any! Crazy grippy and very fast, even on pavement.
Thanks mate, it’s proven itself to be a very versatile and exceptionally reliable bike. The GS frames may lack some of the elegance of the earlier competition frames (and some of the tyre clearence) but it’s still one of the funnest bikes I own. Great fun in the city, the open road and where the pavement ends. Being in savannah, ga, my bike rides the same things yours do, and I agree that the gravelkings are some of the best all around tyres, period. I’ve never experienced the level of grip these exhibit, outside of a racing tyre before. Amazing value for money. I haven’t yet had a reason to try the SK’s, but the slicks perform amazingly on hard pack gravel. They feel just as confident there, as they do on hot summer southern blacktop.
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