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Is a steel framed gravel bike too heavy to be a roadie?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) 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 : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Is a steel framed gravel bike too heavy to be a roadie?

Old 11-23-16, 02:00 PM
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Is a steel framed gravel bike too heavy to be a roadie?

This past spring I bought a Kona Rove ST. I love the bike! It is very comfortable, I love the compliance of the steel frame and I love how versatile the bike is. I can ride pavement, gravel, trails, even singletrack within reason. The benefit of enjoying the bike so much is I am riding more than I have in years.

With winter setting in, I have enrolled in an indoor training class with a local cycling/triathlon club. Many of the members are encouraging me to come out for their weekly group rides next season. I obviously wouldn't want to be switching tires back and for pavement versus gravel, so I'm looking at options for either a second set of wheels or a second bike.

My question: Would I be better off looking for an aluminum framed road bike instead of trying to adapt a steel framed gravel bike for road use? I am considering a Giant Defy which has a bit more relaxed riding position, like my Rove, but is significantly lighter. I am about 225lbs myself, so perhaps trimming a few pounds off a bike is irrelevant.
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Old 11-23-16, 02:15 PM
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I want to say; get a second bike, if that's not an option just get some fat slicks. I run 650bx42 for multi-surface rides and as long as it's not muddy I do fine on most gravel and have about the same performance in group rides as I did on a 700c race bike.

Better riding bike > lighter bike

What tires are you running now? But really, tt may be worthwhile to wait and do a few rides to see if you're handicapped or not with your current set-up. That's what I did, I had thought my bike would be slower and I'd need to get back to a road-style bike but turns out I sit in a draft/corner/sprint just fine in the groups I was riding in with with fat slicks. Get some funny looks sometimes though.
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Old 11-23-16, 02:31 PM
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That's essentially the same bike I ride on the road. I use my steel 1x bike to hang with the racer paceline training rides now and then. As they say, it's not the bike, its the rider

Just invest in some lighter wheels and Conti GP4000 tires and swap wheelsets out when you want to go fast.

Or if you're just itching for a new bike, go new bike
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Old 11-23-16, 02:32 PM
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If you decide to compete however, then get something that actually provides a competitive edge.

But just for the occasional up pace training ride, slap some lighter wheels on that puppy and go.
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Old 11-23-16, 03:36 PM
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Being one who has only steel bikes and 2 of those being road bikes, I would be in the camp that thinks you should stick with what ya got. The frame, in and of itself, isnt going to cause you to not do well.

A new wheelset would for sure be a good decision and a lot cheaper. You could buy a quality wheelset that will be lighter than your current one and the reduced rotational weight will be very noticable. If you got a Giant Defy, odds are the wheelset will be entry level and not nearly as nice(unless you got one of the higher level Defy models).

The one thing that may hold you back with the Kona is the single chainring. But 40x11 will get you to 20mph at 70rpm with 28mm tires, so if you can sustain 70rpm in that gearing, then you will most likely be OK. I would guess that the serious winter training you are going to do will help ensure you can handle 70rpm for most of a ride.
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Old 11-23-16, 03:44 PM
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I don't foresee much in the way of competing, other than against myself as my riding/fitness improves. There is a racing group in town, but that's not really my gig. There are some longer endurance rides that take place over the summer and I would like to do those. One of the guys in the group who just joined this past year was telling me how he showed up to his first group ride on his hybrid with slicks. Although he considered himself a strong rider, by the end of the ride he was totally bagged and realized he'd brought a knife to a gun fight. He promptly purchased a road bike just to have a chance at keeping up. I realize my Rove is a step up from a hybrid in this respect though.

For me, comfort is as important as anything. I'm up to a couple hours per ride now on my Rove and I feel no adverse effects because the bike is so comfortable. If I were to buy another bike, it would need to be equally as comfortable.
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Old 11-23-16, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr

The one thing that may hold you back with the Kona is the single chainring. But 40x11 will get you to 20mph at 70rpm with 28mm tires, so if you can sustain 70rpm in that gearing, then you will most likely be OK. I would guess that the serious winter training you are going to do will help ensure you can handle 70rpm for most of a ride.
My Rove is a 2014 so it still has the double chain rings up front (36/46) and 10spd rear. My LBS still had it as leftover stock and I preferred the double rings up front versus the single.
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Old 11-23-16, 03:52 PM
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The difference in weight would not be a significant factor. Riding a bike that fits you well matters a great deal more.
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Old 11-23-16, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by D-Fuzz
If I were to buy another bike, it would need to be equally as comfortable.
Then you should start looking at steel road bikes as carbon and certainly aluminum will not be as comfortable once you've gotten used to steel.
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Old 11-23-16, 05:15 PM
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Given the price of steel framed bikes, I think a steel framed roadie that would be appreciably lighter than my Rove is out of my budget range. Giant raves about the compliance of their hydroformed aluminum tubing but I doubt it is as good as a butted chromoly frame.
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Old 11-23-16, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by D-Fuzz
Given the price of steel framed bikes, I think a steel framed roadie that would be appreciably lighter than my Rove is out of my budget range. Giant raves about the compliance of their hydroformed aluminum tubing but I doubt it is as good as a butted chromoly frame.
It sounds like you are not unduly burdened by a strict budget, so you are in the fortunate position of doing some wonderful experimenting.


I would rather have two bikes than be messing around with tyres and wheels, unless once I changed, it wasn't going to be changed back for months.


If you don't have a second bike, having one can be pretty handy in case something happens to your primary bike and you then have a back up bike to ride till your primary bike is fixed.


Rather than fret too much at this stage, go do some test riding, for I would imagine this road riding group of yours would drop you badly going down hills as you only have a 40T chainring on your crank.


Whilst you don't want to buy an uncomfortable bike, I'm not sure that you should be insisting that any second bike must be as comfortable as your first bike, especially if a second bike trades off a little bit of comfort for a notable speed improvement.


In addition to Giant's Defy range, I would be looking at Trek's Emonda and Cannondale's CAAD and Synapse ranges, whether you end up going carbon or aluminium frame, the above 3 makers have some great options in both materials.
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Old 11-23-16, 06:29 PM
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Thanks Colonel for your counter argument. You make some good points.
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Old 11-24-16, 12:04 AM
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The impact of bike weight and road performance is pretty overblown. It matters a whole lot less than fitness and body position. A bike that weighs 5 lbs is not likely to be the difference between sitting in or getting dropped.
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Old 11-24-16, 04:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2
Then you should start looking at steel road bikes as carbon and certainly aluminum will not be as comfortable once you've gotten used to steel.
I'd probably believe the same if I, too, were a newcomer, but I rode the best steel bikes on the market from the mid-1960s until I bought my first aluminum bike in 2005, and I haven't bothered taking out my last steel bike (Reynolds 853) more than once or twice since then.

If there's a difference in comfort between the aluminum and steel bikes, it's negligible. What's indisputable is that steel bikes have less torsional stiffness than aluminum bikes (and than carbon bikes, too, I'd imagine), which means that steel bikes will never handle as predictably at speed.

The difference is most obvious in comparing steel touring bikes to aluminum touring bikes---fully loaded steel bikes tend to wallow down the road, whereas aluminum bikes track beautifully. But I find it easy to tell the difference in handling even with racing bikes.

To the OP: if you're a tubes over transistors/vinyl records over digital files believer, you should probably go with steel. If you're more of a skeptic, you might be happier with aluminum or carbon.
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Old 11-24-16, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by D-Fuzz
Given the price of steel framed bikes, I think a steel framed roadie that would be appreciably lighter than my Rove is out of my budget range.
What's your budget? There are some real deals out there on steel framed road bikes.

Originally Posted by D-Fuzz
Giant raves about the compliance of their hydroformed aluminum tubing but I doubt it is as good as a butted chromoly frame.
I went from aluminum bikes to carbon fiber and the ride was much better than my aluminum bikes. I was happy with my carbon fiber bike until I mistakenly rode some modern steel frame road bikes. Now I only ride steel.

But it also depends on the quality of roads you are riding on. If your roads are smooth, you likely won't be able to tell much difference. I happen to ride rough roads where I live and difference between frame materials is glaring.

Originally Posted by ColonelSanders
I would rather have two bikes than be messing around with tyres and wheels, unless once I changed, it wasn't going to be changed back for months.
I guess it does matter how comfortable you are with mechanical things. It takes me seconds to change wheelsets with no fear at all.
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Old 11-24-16, 09:05 AM
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Our roads up here are poor at best. Lots of cracks and shifting. My Rove with 35c tires does a good job of smoothing things out. I wouldn't expect any road bike with skinny tires to produce a similar ride, regardless of the frame material. For me, comfort has more to do with body position. While my lower back flexibility has improved with more riding, I am not flexible enough to ride in an aggressive position for long periods.

My budget is around $1500-2000 if I were to buy another bike. The money isn't burning a hole in my pocket though if I don't spend it. I'd just rather not spend a few hundred dollars on a set of wheels only to realize I should have bought another bike instead.

Last edited by D-Fuzz; 11-24-16 at 09:10 AM. Reason: Added text
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Old 11-25-16, 06:41 AM
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I wouldn't worry about the gearing right now. 40-11 will still let you pedal downhill about 30mph at 110 cadence (not unrealistic for short periods ...and at that point, you can tuck and coast.

I have a triple chairing (50, 39, 30, and even on fast group rides. With descents, I normally just stay in the middle 39 ring up to 30mph.

...And This is on a steel, entry level, 23lb. Bike. If I'm not keeping up on a certain day, It's not the bike, it's me.
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Old 11-25-16, 07:50 AM
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EDIT-- the OP has a double crank, not the 1x11. I'll leave this here anyway.


I was going to say that all you need is a second wheel set for road tires. I've heard that 28c GP4000S tires are actually about 30c in size. At 225 pounds, these could be run at a reasonable tire pressure for a smooth ride and would still be fast.

But your gearing would be a limiting factor if you ride with some faster groups. I need fairly close shifts near 20 mph so I can be in a good cadence to try to hang on the group.

However, there's all kinds of group rides, from casual to race training. Some of my group rides average about 18 mph, with flat roads speeds of 21-22 mph. Other groups are 15 mph average with flat road speeds at 17-19 mph. (Hills and slowing for stop signs really affect the average speed.)

~~~~

Here's your setup, 1x11 with the 11-42 Sram cassette. At 95 rpm, it has speeds of 17.5 mph, 20 mph, and 23 mph. Those are pretty big jumps. See the Mike Sherman Gear Calculator link for your setup.

Or, if your hills aren't very steep, your road wheels could have the Sram 11-32 cassette. Much better for flat to rolling roads, but it loses the two lowest climbing gears. You could try your hills without shifting past your 32 cog, and see if it would work. I like this.

Charts
40 chainring with 11-42
40 chainring with 11-32
Attached Images
File Type: jpg
11-42.JPG (57.7 KB, 279 views)
File Type: jpg
1x11 11-32.JPG (57.9 KB, 283 views)

Last edited by rm -rf; 11-25-16 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 11-25-16, 08:17 AM
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It depends a lot on the tires you are running. There has been a lot of research done lately that shows the wider tires actually have less rolling resistance.

However if your tread pattern is knobby that will slow you down a lot.

Where bike weight and wheel weight make a big difference is in hill climbing and sprints. Getting dropped usually happens on hills and once you are dropped you will be riding alone.

Your condition level will have the biggest factor. To start buy some nice road tires, with your weight I would stick with at least 28mm or 32mm.

Changing tires is a little slower than changing wheels but you need to transfer your cassette if you are changing wheels. Not a big deal unless you make it one. Some people putz with their bike all the time and enjoy it, others just ride and never work on their bikes.

You may not like riding in a group...
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Old 11-25-16, 08:22 AM
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As OP mentioned in post 7, his bike has a 46-36 double crank. So the issues of a 40T single ring dont apply.
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Old 11-25-16, 08:55 AM
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My Rove is 36/46 front & 11-32 rear SRAM, so not terribly different than the 34/50 & 11-32 on the Giant Defy.
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Old 11-25-16, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by D-Fuzz
This past spring I bought a Kona Rove ST. I love the bike! It is very comfortable, I love the compliance of the steel frame and I love how versatile the bike is. I can ride pavement, gravel, trails, even singletrack within reason. The benefit of enjoying the bike so much is I am riding more than I have in years.

With winter setting in, I have enrolled in an indoor training class with a local cycling/triathlon club. Many of the members are encouraging me to come out for their weekly group rides next season. I obviously wouldn't want to be switching tires back and for pavement versus gravel, so I'm looking at options for either a second set of wheels or a second bike.

My question: Would I be better off looking for an aluminum framed road bike instead of trying to adapt a steel framed gravel bike for road use? I am considering a Giant Defy which has a bit more relaxed riding position, like my Rove, but is significantly lighter. I am about 225lbs myself, so perhaps trimming a few pounds off a bike is irrelevant.
I would start off with the Rove before switching bikes. Who knows if you will even enjoy club riding with a bunch of triathletes? My guess is, you will do fine with the Rove. Buy a second wheelset if you feel you must, but even there, don't go too crazy. Maybe just try a few rides with your bike as is. If the stock tires on your Rove seem a bit sluggish, switch to a lighter more roadish tire. But at 225, you might appreciate having a wider tire for greater comfort.
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Old 11-25-16, 10:50 AM
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There is a huge difference between steel and aluminum, and it's not just a weight issue . My aluminum cyclocross bike is a lot faster than my steel race bike . Aluminum is stiffer and transfers power much more efficiently allowing to greater acceleration and slightly faster cruising speed. And the weight advantage of aluminum helps a little bit too. The trade-off with the stiff frame is that, although it's more efficient, and also rides more stiffly. I do find that some nice on 120 tpi or greater tires in a high-volume can do a lot to smooth out the ride and make my aluminum bike ride as well as the steel bike on skinnier tires . Try running the steel bike, and if you can, get a second set of wheels with some smaller lighter tires for the training rides. If you're not getting dropped and can just draft off the faster guys, you'll be quite fine on steel . If you can't keep up with the sprints or, in the hill climbing, then you need a new lighter stiffer bike (or get in better shape).
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Old 11-25-16, 12:54 PM
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I honestly can't tell if your post is parody or not?

'spose it's funny either way.
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Old 11-25-16, 03:53 PM
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I'd say get a second wheelset with some fatter road tires (28,30,32's) and save your money..
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