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"Gravel Bike" is just the newest term for "Sports Touring Bike" of the C&V era

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"Gravel Bike" is just the newest term for "Sports Touring Bike" of the C&V era

Old 05-16-20, 05:35 AM
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For some historical perspective check out https://www.rsf.org.uk/general-information.html, which started in the mid 1950s. It has a great photo archive though it always seems to me that in the gnarliest terrain, folks are usually walking their bikes.
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Old 05-16-20, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by TenGrainBread
I'd say a modern gravel bike is a lightweight bike with >40mm tires, sensible gearing for steep terrain, and a more upright geometry for long distance. Sure, C&V sports tourers might have had sensible gearing and more upright geometry, but the wide tire and lightweight categories kill the comparison.

In my mind the only C&V subset that is truly comparable are the old 650b x 42mm French or Japanese randonneur-style bikes, the high-end ones that are below 25 pounds.
I'd add rigid mountain bikes, the Bianchi Project series, and the Bridgestone XO bikes to this list. Maybe these bikes are more classic than vintage but they all work very effectively as gravel bikes.
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Old 05-16-20, 06:04 AM
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Originally Posted by nlerner
For some historical perspective check out https://www.rsf.org.uk/general-information.html, which started in the mid 1950s. It has a great photo archive though it always seems to me that in the gnarliest terrain, folks are usually walking their bikes.
I always liked the rough stuff fellowship. That is a neat perspective.
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Old 05-16-20, 06:23 AM
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I think it is trying to just label a bike that is capable on multiple terrains and need to call it something. Useful bike didn't sound as good. Wider tires obviously make them travel in multiple areas. Compare the geometries to hybrids around the 91-94 range and you'll find a lot of similarities.

I like that a lot of them are made steel but really could care less over the disc brakes.
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Old 05-16-20, 06:24 AM
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ThermonicScott, I was hoping someone would mention the early Tours. You did even better with the photo! Great illustration of the how capable bikes were/are, and how tough those riders were. The geometry then was slacker and tires were wider. The term “gravel bike” is in part marketing to a perceived niche. I think there is good reason this is the case. Road bikes evolved in a time when pavement was the norm for riding and so narrower tires and frames were adjusted accordingly. These will not accommodate wide tires and as Gugie correctly pointed out, tires have improved a lot. Increasingly more riders are looking to get away from traffic.

Here in rural Southern Michigan we don’t have a lot of gravel, but we do have a lot of dirt roads connecting to paved roads with a few sections on the dirt with loose rock and gravel. I ride old Treks with 32’s quite happily on them. My wife, who likes new bikes (Carbon) has decided she needs some wider tires for her old aluminum Raleigh (or another new bike) so we can do more dirt road rides as part of her triathlon training. There are fewer paved roads that feel safe here. Unlike Indiana just south of here our roads typically have very little paved shoulder. Like everywhere, the number of distracted drivers seems to keep increasing. It is rare to be driving and not see a large proportion of drivers looking at phones and the number of vehicles we follow that do the weave, mostly between the lines is high. We frequently see cars and trucks weave onto the shoulder. There are also aggressive drivers that cross the centerline when coming towards you to threaten and some we suspect try ti see how close they can get when they pass going the same direction. A couple riders we know have been clipped or hit.

Last edited by bnewberry; 05-16-20 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 05-16-20, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
This!

no derailleur jockey cages there, maybe cambia corsa forks. True Hard Men
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Old 05-16-20, 06:45 AM
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~35 mm tires? Some pretty slack geometry on the bike in front. I gotta get some of those handlebar water bottle cages.
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Old 05-16-20, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by bnewberry
ThermonicScott, I was hoping someone would mention the early Tours. You did even better with the photo! Great illustration of the how capable bikes were/are, and how tough those riders were. The geometry then was slacker and tires were wider. The term “gravel bike” is in part marketing to a perceived niche. I think there is good reason this is the case. Road bikes evolved in a time when pavement was the norm for riding and so narrower tires and frames were adjusted accordingly. These will not accommodate wide tires and as Gugie correctly pointed out, tires have improved a lot. Increasingly more riders are looking to get away from traffic.

Here in rural Southern Michigan we don’t have a lot of gravel, but we do have a lot of dirt roads connecting to paved roads with a few sections on the dirt with loose rock and gravel. I ride old Treks with 32’s quite happily on them. My wife, who likes new bikes (Carbon) has decided she needs some wider tires for her old aluminum Raleigh (or another new bike) so we can do more dirt road rides as part of her triathlon training. There are fewer paved roads that feel safe here. Unlike Indiana just south of here our roads typically have very little paved shoulder. Like everywhere, the number of distracted drivers seems to keep increasing. It is rare to be driving and not see a large proportion of drivers looking at phones and the number of vehicles we follow that do the weave, mostly between the lines is high. We frequently see cars and trucks weave onto the shoulder. There are also aggressive drivers that cross the centerline when coming towards you to threaten and some we suspect try ti see how close they can get when they pass going the same direction. A couple riders we know have been clipped or hit.
time to move
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Old 05-16-20, 09:31 AM
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Another endlessly rewarding topic! Mike Kone made this case at the Philly Bike Show last year, too. As gugie points out, there's very little that hasn't been tried before in cycling, although there is constant refinement in materials, design, and marketing. 35-40 years ago I rode miles and miles of Vermont dirt roads on racing frames and sewups, and spent some of those nights sewing my tires into the wee small hours. In the late 80's - early 90's I had a hardtail MTB and reveled in bashing around on stuff I couldn't access otherwise and started taking that to Vermont instead of my Mercian. Today I run 35s on early 70's Worksop Raleighs with modern wide-range drivetrains over a wide variety of surfaces. Maybe one day I'll get a contemporary gravel-designated setup but really it's all about individual sensibilities and even more so, capabilities - especially my own which are gradually going to diminish.
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Old 05-16-20, 09:51 AM
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Tires! The Rat Trap Pass has made the gravel bike a passing fad. I had a sport touring bike that barely had room for 1 1/8 inch tires.

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Old 05-16-20, 09:54 AM
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Crossover-SUV is just the latest term for the horseless carriage.
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Old 05-16-20, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Classtime
Tires! The Rat Trap Pass has made the gravel bike a passing fad. I had a sport touring bike that barely had room for 1 1/8 inch tires.
Lacking wide tire acceptance is one thing that would dissuade me from a C&V Sports Touring bike, and even several Gravel Bikes.
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Old 05-16-20, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
I'd add rigid mountain bikes, the Bianchi Project series, and the Bridgestone XO bikes to this list. Maybe these bikes are more classic than vintage but they all work very effectively as gravel bikes.
Bianchi was so ahead of the curve during the Sky Yeager years, and I can't fathom why they discontinued their steel "proto gravel bike" models like the Volpe right when that market went nuts.


Like seriously, this is the exact kind of bike All-City/Surly are making bank on right now. Why discontinue it?

Last edited by sheddle; 05-16-20 at 10:20 AM.
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Old 05-16-20, 10:17 AM
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Twice riding Eroica California proves that you can ride a lot of gravel on even road bikes.



I'd bet a lot of Kansas gravel looks kinda like this?




On the more extreme side, I've twice hosted a large group of riders on a mostly forestry road ride from Portlandia to Tillamook. It's a perfect experiment, nearly 20 different riders and bikes over two years with a wide variety of bikes. Disk brakes and 42+ tires did well, a few riders with 32's had multiple flats and had difficulty descending on long, twisty, loose gravel sections.

One of the riders is a good friend of mine from work, aggiegrads . Like many of us, he's got several bikes. He also races cyclocross, so he's no stranger to imperfect trails and roads. After riding over the hump to Tillamook, he decided he needed to up his gravel game.



Now that's definitely a gravel bike. I don't think anyone would confuse it with a "sports tourer"
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Old 05-16-20, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Classtime
Tires! The Rat Trap Pass has made the gravel bike a passing fad. I had a sport touring bike that barely had room for 1 1/8 inch tires.

Nice bike & tires combo, a proper signature as well /except the bead head nymphs part/. 🤔
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Old 05-16-20, 10:37 AM
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Nor would I confuse this with a sports tourer.

Mitch Pryor's MAP "Rambo" would be ideally suited for most of the gravel and fire roads I ride in Northern Minnesota.

It's not graded class five. It's often mud when it rains, sandy when you wish it wasn't or filled with golf ball/baseball sized rocks.

No way would I ride a road bike in that stuff.

Rambonneur after a good shake down ride. by Mitch Pryor, on Flickr
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Old 05-16-20, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by repechage
time to move
Moving is certainly an option, but I think a pair of wider tires, or even a whole new bike for my wife might be cheaper and easier!
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Old 05-16-20, 11:49 AM
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I seem to remember the marketing concept of an “all-road” bike from about 10 years ago or so. Maybe it was a G. Petersen/Rivendell thing?
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Old 05-16-20, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by The Golden Boy
My 86 Trek 400 Elance was happy on 32s, but you weren't getting any more out of it. Right now it's rolling with 27x1 1/8" and that's all the brake bridge will let through.
.
So clearance on 700X 28s should be plenty...

Did it ever have fenders, or just dust-throwing tire fun ?
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Old 05-16-20, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by bnewberry
Moving is certainly an option, but I think a pair of wider tires, or even a whole new bike for my wife might be cheaper and easier!
Naw, just ride farther. There's good gravel out there somewhere!
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Old 05-16-20, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by nlerner
I seem to remember the marketing concept of an “all-road” bike from about 10 years ago or so. Maybe it was a G. Petersen/Rivendell thing?
Naw, that's Gugificazione.
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Old 05-16-20, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie
Naw, that's Gugificazione.
Oh, yeah.

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Old 05-16-20, 04:02 PM
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I've been working on the renovation of my 1971 Raleigh Super Course for an embarrassingly long time. The bike originally had a lot of tire clearance, and it has even more because I've replaced 27" wheels with 700c wheels. I told a guy at the LBS that I'm converting it to a gravel bike, and he said, "A 1971 Raleigh Super Course *IS* a gravel bike." Heh, that's one way to look at it.

In the meantime, I'm riding my McLean everywhere. It has 28mm tires. I guess it's less than ideal for trails etc, but I can keep it upright, and I'm having fun.
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Old 05-16-20, 04:54 PM
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Originally Posted by bnewberry
ThermonicScott, I was hoping someone would mention the early Tours. You did even better with the photo! Great illustration of the how capable bikes were/are, and how tough those riders were. The geometry then was slacker and tires were wider. The term “gravel bike” is in part marketing to a perceived niche. I think there is good reason this is the case. Road bikes evolved in a time when pavement was the norm for riding and so narrower tires and frames were adjusted accordingly. These will not accommodate wide tires and as Gugie correctly pointed out, tires have improved a lot. Increasingly more riders are looking to get away from traffic.

Here in rural Southern Michigan we don’t have a lot of gravel, but we do have a lot of dirt roads connecting to paved roads with a few sections on the dirt with loose rock and gravel. I ride old Treks with 32’s quite happily on them. My wife, who likes new bikes (Carbon) has decided she needs some wider tires for her old aluminum Raleigh (or another new bike) so we can do more dirt road rides as part of her triathlon training. There are fewer paved roads that feel safe here. Unlike Indiana just south of here our roads typically have very little paved shoulder. Like everywhere, the number of distracted drivers seems to keep increasing. It is rare to be driving and not see a large proportion of drivers looking at phones and the number of vehicles we follow that do the weave, mostly between the lines is high. We frequently see cars and trucks weave onto the shoulder. There are also aggressive drivers that cross the centerline when coming towards you to threaten and some we suspect try ti see how close they can get when they pass going the same direction. A couple riders we know have been clipped or hit.
This is why I wear a helmet, run cameras, lights front and rear 24/7 as well as GPS to to track/prove direction, speed, etc.

Not going to get you out of the grave or wheelchair but will help get the offender and insurance companies held accountable.

Only so much you can do, sixth sense, spidey sense, head on a swivel is the best defense but won't help much in extreme cases, you gotta have some proof and evidence to make anything stick.
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Old 05-16-20, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
I've been working on the renovation of my 1971 Raleigh Super Course for an embarrassingly long time..
Will it break your International's record?
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