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Retrofitting. Help me make a great gravel bike.

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Retrofitting. Help me make a great gravel bike.

Old 12-01-15, 02:08 PM
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Inpd
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Retrofitting. Help me make a great gravel bike.

Hi,

So I'm new to gravel/dirt riding and retrofitting an old ALU frame hybrid to be my steed and loving it! I like that I can ride a whole of different territory I can't on my road bike.

The configuration of the bike (a Schwin Tourist which is an $250 when new Target bike) is:

a) 12/32 cassette
b) 28/38/48 Chain rings
c) 28mm Kenda Kwest Tires
d) EZ-51 Trigger shifters
e) Drop bars with road levers
f) ALU frame
g) Steel forks
h) Swift Arriv 24 spoke deep wheels!

I did some trails recently on this and I like the configuration a lot. The cassette and chain rings means I can climb really steep hills effortlessly but I spend most of my time on the middle ring where I can get up to 15 mph which is plenty fast for me on dirt.

I know I need better tires and am going to get the Conti Speed Play 40mm as people recommended in another thread.
What else should I change?

Go from triggers to STIs?
Invest in a beter fork?
I'm guessing the wheels need to go. I have a set of no name boat anchor (2100g) 32 spoke wheels. Will they be better?
Anything else?
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Old 12-01-15, 02:30 PM
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If you are happy with it now, I'd just leave it as-is other than swapping tires, and wheels if you have a decent pair laying around. Any real money spent on it would probably be better put towards a new bike, as there are many decent gravel bikes in the $1,000-1,200 range. Parts like STI's and better forks can be expensive if bought new, and will take some sleuthing if you want to find decent deals on used parts.
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Old 12-01-15, 02:33 PM
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Can you post some pics of your current setup? I'm having a hard time picturing the bars and shifters you describe and don't know anything about the wheels.

Are you sure the 700x40 tires will fit?

Off the cuff, I'd say your best bet is to ride it as is (plus better tires) and save up for a whole new bike. Trying to piece something together with a string of upgrades will end up being twice as expensive.
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Old 12-01-15, 04:20 PM
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I agree with the others: swap in some better tires and ride it.

Don't invest much more in this bike; it will give you a lower return on your investment than if you saved that money up for a better bike.
You would spend another $250 to replace the fork, and it would still be attached to a heavy frame.

That said, cheap bikes can sometimes reward you with a good ride. For example, there were many cheap 10 speeds in the 1970s that were heavy tanks but cruised pretty well. Ride the heck out of this one, and then maybe look for a nicer bike in a year or two.
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Old 12-01-15, 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
Can you post some pics of your current setup? I'm having a hard time picturing the bars and shifters you describe and don't know anything about the wheels.

Are you sure the 700x40 tires will fit?

Off the cuff, I'd say your best bet is to ride it as is (plus better tires) and save up for a whole new bike. Trying to piece something together with a string of upgrades will end up being twice as expensive.
Sorry not at home so can't send pics.

It has v-brakes so 700x35 will fit and 700x40 probably.

Thanks for the advise. I'll buy the tires and see how it works out. Liking gravel riding a lot! Makes a nice change from riding on a MUP.
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Old 12-02-15, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
It has v-brakes so 700x35 will fit and 700x40 probably.
Your bike should be able to fit up to a 2.1"/55 mm 700c tire, with its v-brakes.
40 mm is a good width, though.

If you want a fast tire, find the lightest (and highest TPI) wide tire you can; low weight is usually a good indicator of a tire with low rolling resistance. I bet your stock tires are crazy heavy.
If you want a tougher tire, look for ones that specify added puncture protection. These tires may last longer but will roll more slowly.

I never get flats on gravel, just on city streets from glass shards. I find a wide, lightweight tire (without puncture-proof layers) does well in both conditions.

Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
Thanks for the advise. I'll buy the tires and see how it works out. Liking gravel riding a lot! Makes a nice change from riding on a MUP.
I agree, I like riding gravel because I'm usually the only one on the road (not counting my riding buddies).
My local MUPs are nice but usually congested with walkers, strollers, runners, and faster and slower cyclists.
On my local gravel, I'll get passed by a car maybe twice in an hour's ride. Of course, farm roads are much more congested during harvest time.

I highly recommend a mirror when riding gravel roads. That way, you can ride in the groomed tire tracks when the road is all yours, but you can see the cars approaching from the rear and scoot over when they approach.
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Old 12-02-15, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Tim_Iowa View Post
Your bike should be able to fit up to a 2.1"/55 mm 700c tire, with its v-brakes.
That really depends on the frame. I have a bike with V-brakes that won't take anything bigger than 700x35.
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