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Questions about buying a new bike

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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.

Questions about buying a new bike

Old 07-31-18, 09:08 AM
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Questions about buying a new bike

I realize there are tons of "which bike should I choose?" threads on here, so trying to not duplicate those threads. But there are a few questions I have…

I got into cycling last fall, short version of a semi-long story is that it was an impulse buy. Bought a bike from the first bike shop I went to. The bike was a Tribe Urban Cross which, 10 months and 2700 miles later, has been both brilliant and horrible. I've learned the importance of having good components by having crappy ones. But it had 42mm tires which let me go places and do things I couldn't have done on skinny tires – which has made me realize that my next bike needs to be a gravel bike.

So first question… There seems to be a small discrepancy in tire sizing. So for example the same tire is both a 42-622 (ISO sizing) and a 700 x 40c ("French" sizing). My understanding is that the ISO sizing is the more precise of the two. But that's not really my question… Let's say a bike manufacturer says a bike has space for up to 40mm tires. Will the tire I just mentioned fit on the bike? In other words, which sizing do bike manufacturers use when they specify a max size – French or ISO? But I've also seen references to how nobby tires take more space than smooth tires, so is it actually even more complicated than just French vs ISO?

Related to tire size… Is it generally true that you can go wider if you drop down from 700c to 650B? In other words, if the max tire width on a bike is less than I'd like, how big of a deal is it to drop down to a 650 to get the width I'd like?

Next question… I've also learned over the past months why it's important to patronize reputable local bike shops. But my question is about how their stock levels work. If I were buying a car you'd go in and you'd get the best deal on what they have on the lot, but if you wanted a different configuration they would be able to look at what other car dealers have and they'd basically swap cars with another dealer to get you the car you want. I'm in NYC so a lot of the bike shops don't have much inventory because they just don't have the space for it. So what's going to happen if I go into a bike shop and say something like "I'd like a Trek Checkpoint, size 56" and they don't have it in stock (a likely scenario)? Sure they might order it for you, but in that scenario would they expect you to buy it not having test ridden it? Or do you just call around to all the LBS' in the area and hope one has it in stock and then buy from them, and then go to your favorite bike shop for service? What if none of them have it in stock and an LBS orders it for you and it's just not right for one reason or another?

And lastly, I'd just like a double check that there's not a bike out there that I should be considering that I'm not aware of… For starters, I'll keep the Tribe to use for smaller trips around the City – it will be the bike I use when I go places and lock up while I'm there. My new bike is for longer trips (25-80+ miles) and those trips will involve everything from city streets with potholes, to roughish gravel trails, to well-maintained cinder trails, to road biking. For the road biking I'm envisioning buying a 2nd set of wheels so I'd have 42ish mm tires on most of the time, but could quickly put swap those out for wheels with 28ish mm tires on if I'm staying on pavement all day. The roughest trail I'd be on with any regularity would be something like the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail – most of it is fairly well-maintained cinder / small stone, but there are parts that aren't maintained so well. See this YouTube video and jump to the middle of the video to see what I consider "rough".

So the bikes I'm considering are (starting with probable best fit):
  • Trek Checkpoint ALR5 – on paper this seems to be the best fit – 105 groupset, 700x45 max tire, lowish bottom bracket, etc.
  • Ridley X-Trail Alloy Shimano 105 HDB – not the greatest gearing for climbing hills, and it's unclear what the max tire size is (but it comes with 40s)
  • Specialized Diverge Comp E5 – Max tire of 700x38 is smaller than I'd like, and brakes are high end mechanical, not hydraulic, but otherwise good – bottom bracket is quite low, it has "Future Shock", and stack/reach ratio suggests a more upright riding position (not sure yest if I'll think that's good or bad)
  • Diamondback Haanjo Trail – Don't like the gearing – bad on hills and not great for speed on pavement either. Not sure max tire size, but comes with 40s. Bottom bracket is a bit high, and riding position a bit upright. Pluses are that it has Ultegra derailleurs.
  • Kona Rove NRB DL – Wheels are 650Bs (bad) but 47 (good), and it has an Ultegra rear derailleur which is nice.
I'm not considering the Bianchi Impulso All Road 105, the Fuji Jari 1.3, Cannondale CAADX 105 SE, or the Giant ToughRoad SLR GX 0 because their bottom brackets are really high (I'm pretty sure I'd prefer lower to have more stability) – and some of those max out at 38mm tires which is a negative as well. Is ruling those out a mistake? The drop bars are just a bit too weird on the Canyon Grail CF SL 7.0, so not considering that one either. And then there are the crazy expensive bikes like the Seven Cycles Evergreen SL that are out just because of price.

So is there anything I'm missing that I should be considering?

Sorry for covering so many bases in one post. Thanks in advance for your input!

Last edited by JayNYC; 07-31-18 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 07-31-18, 10:51 AM
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  1. This tire sizing discrepancy is puzzling for me as well. Usually both widths are the same but sometimes they are not. And real width of a tire depends on the rim - on a wider rim tire will be wider. To give you an example: I had Clement X Plor MSO 700x36c (36-622) tires installed, they were about 37.5 mm wide in real life on my bicycle rims (measured with digital caliper). Replaced them with Vittoria Voyager Hyper 700x35c (37x622). On the same rims they measure 39 mm...
  2. True and AFAIK not a big deal provided you have disc brakes.
  3. Yes, there is a big chance they'll not have exact model you want in stock. In our LBS they take a deposit about 20-25% of the bike price if they order it for you. I'm not sure what happens if you decide not to buy it.
  4. Well, as you are located in NY, you are missing an obvious candidate - Jamis Renegade. Jamis HQ are in NJ, they are not as big as, say, Trek but are very well known and reputable company. Renegade line is considered one of the best gravel bikes available (and generally regarded higher than Trek Checkpoint). There is actually a huge thread here about Renegades (Jamis Renegade owners). Renegades come in aluminum, steel and carbon fiber versions. I may be a bit biased as I just bought Jamis Renegade Escapade (https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/renegadeescapade.html) in June and I'm very happy with it.
PS. Store where I got my bike has one 2017 Jamis Renegade Expert 54 cm in stock for $2400.

Last edited by Oso Polar; 07-31-18 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 07-31-18, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Oso Polar
  1. ...
  2. Well, as you are located in NY, you are missing an obvious candidate - Jamis Renegade. Jamis HQ are in NJ, they are not as big as, say, Trek but are very well known and reputable company. Renegade line is considered one of the best gravel bikes available (and generally regarded higher than Trek Checkpoint). There is actually a huge thread here about Renegades (Jamis Renegade owners). Renegades come in aluminum, steel and carbon fiber versions. I may be a bit biased as I just bought Jamis Renegade Escapade (https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/renegadeescapade.html) in June and I'm very happy with it.
PS. Store where I got my bike has one 2017 Jamis Renegade Expert 54 cm in stock for $2400.
Thanks for the reply. Can you point me to the aluminum Renegades? They mention them in some of the marketing copy, but I'm only seeing carbon and chromoly.
https://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/renegadeseries.html

My current bike is chromoly. I was really hoping for something lighter. To me aluminum makes sense. I don't see paying $800 for carbon to save 2/3rds of a pound and have a somewhat less harsh ride (taking the price & weight difference for Checkpoints as an example). 23.75 pounds for a Renegade Exploit is pretty heavy. 21 pounds for the Expert is decent, but they're missing the aluminum model in between those two points.

Last edited by JayNYC; 07-31-18 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 07-31-18, 12:14 PM
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Entry level Renegades, Exile and Explore, are aluminum but they are not exactly light, steel and carbon fiber models are same weight or lighter. It is because weight difference comes not only (or even not much at all) from the frame but from all the other components that are better and lighter on more expensive Renegades. Lighter wheels, carbon forks and seat posts, lighter groupsets etc. BTW, the whole point about Renegades is not light weight but versatility and comfort for long rides. High quality components (for any given price point), tons of mount points for anything you want to mount, clearance for wide tires, very stable smooth ride (well, at least on my Escapade it is) etc.
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Old 07-31-18, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Oso Polar
Entry level Renegades, Exile and Explore, are aluminum but they are not exactly light, steel and carbon fiber models are same weight or lighter. It is because weight difference comes not only (or even not much at all) from the frame but from all the other components that are better and lighter on more expensive Renegades. Lighter wheels, carbon forks and seat posts, lighter groupsets etc. BTW, the whole point about Renegades is not light weight but versatility and comfort for long rides. High quality components (for any given price point), tons of mount points for anything you want to mount, clearance for wide tires, very stable smooth ride (well, at least on my Escapade it is) etc.
Ah. Yeah, now I see the aluminum models. Hill climbing is something I'd like the bike to be good at given the terrain around here, so weight and gearing are important to me.
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Old 07-31-18, 12:45 PM
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Test ride all of them at your favorite bike shop, since you can.

I cannot, only Trek is sold here and this is out in the countryside , Mountains and Trees,
most sales are in MTB's I'll never see any on your list.. since no one asks for them..

everything on your list is brands made by a different larger OEM Corporation ,
Who makes many brands for export from Port of Taipei..

Its just how the bike business works these days.
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Old 08-01-18, 06:13 PM
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Missing from your list is the Salsa Journeyman which can fit 700x50 tires.
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Old 08-02-18, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by katsup
Missing from your list is the Salsa Journeyman which can fit 700x50 tires.
Thanks, I remember looking at the Salsas, but 105 or better is one of my criteria and all of the Journeymen are Sora or Claris – not even Tiagra. In general it felt like to get good components you had to get a pretty expensive bike with Salsa…
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Old 08-02-18, 07:17 AM
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Jay - Tire sizing is not specific. I have various 28mm tires that measure between 27 and 31mm. The width of the rim can make a huge difference. The gravel king series recently relabeled their tire size because they were measuring so much differently than labeled.

ISO frame standards require 6mm clearance on each side of the tire and frame. Thus, you can often go a little wider than spec, if you are not worried about mud or wheel wobble.

NO, you can’t just drop down to 650b. It depends on the frame design. Most frames I have seen don’t flare out much at the chain stay, so a smaller wheel doesn’t give you more width. Some frames are specifically designed for both 700c and 650b and will flair a lot. These tend to be 1x bikes as you can't flair out a 2x bike as much. Also, 650b will drop your bottom bracket substantially. The bikes you list have low BB already - putting a 650b on there would take them too low.

Don’t write a bike off because of high bottom bracket. I have bottom brackets with 50mm and 30mm drops (the latter is a mountain bike). You aren’t going to feel much of a difference just from BB drop – it is all the other things added together that make a difference. You will however feel it if you strike a pedal because your BB is too low.

Checkpoint is a nice bike. I liked how it had a longish wheelbase and a steepish headtube angle, so that it was both stable and responsive. The Diverge has way way too low a BB for me. This made the bike sluggish to accelerate and prevented me from pedaling through even shallow turns. YMMV.

Salsa Warbird is nice (not cheap)

For urban riding I prefer CX over pure gravel bikes, as a CX bike is much more athletic and agile. If you are doing downhill 20-30mph turns on loose gravel, a gravel bike is better.

You are right about Aluminum. Tough and light – it’s a great performance/cost price point.

If you are interested in Canyon, look at the aluminum inflite. Its not as aggressive as the carbon model – In Europe it is their commuter bike (even sold fully decked out with fenders and rack if you choose in the EU).
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Old 08-02-18, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by JayNYC
So the bikes I'm considering are (starting with probable best fit):
  • Trek Checkpoint ALR5 – on paper this seems to be the best fit – 105 groupset, 700x45 max tire, lowish bottom bracket, etc.
  • Ridley X-Trail Alloy Shimano 105 HDB – not the greatest gearing for climbing hills, and it's unclear what the max tire size is (but it comes with 40s)
  • Specialized Diverge Comp E5 – Max tire of 700x38 is smaller than I'd like, and brakes are high end mechanical, not hydraulic, but otherwise good – bottom bracket is quite low, it has "Future Shock", and stack/reach ratio suggests a more upright riding position (not sure yest if I'll think that's good or bad)
  • Diamondback Haanjo Trail – Don't like the gearing – bad on hills and not great for speed on pavement either. Not sure max tire size, but comes with 40s. Bottom bracket is a bit high, and riding position a bit upright. Pluses are that it has Ultegra derailleurs.
  • Kona Rove NRB DL – Wheels are 650Bs (bad) but 47 (good), and it has an Ultegra rear derailleur which is nice.
I'm not considering the Bianchi Impulso All Road 105, the Fuji Jari 1.3, Cannondale CAADX 105 SE, or the Giant ToughRoad SLR GX 0 because their bottom brackets are really high (I'm pretty sure I'd prefer lower to have more stability) – and some of those max out at 38mm tires which is a negative as well. Is ruling those out a mistake? The drop bars are just a bit too weird on the Canyon Grail CF SL 7.0, so not considering that one either. And then there are the crazy expensive bikes like the Seven Cycles Evergreen SL that are out just because of price.

So is there anything I'm missing that I should be considering?
In reading one of the links off the 700 vs 650 thread I realized I was thinking wrong about BB height. Bottom line - higher BB heights aren't necessarily higher, and a low BB height (which I thought might be great for stability) might actually get too low in some circumstances. Basically I'm envisioning eventually having two sets of wheels one with 40-45ish tires and another with 25-28mm tires. Based on the article moving between those two size ranges will lower my bottom bracket by 20-30mm. So that changes how I view BB height, which actually changes my thinking quite a bit. Using the data in that article, and doing better calculations…

The Specialized Diverge is out. It's max tire size is 38, and that might be with slicks. So to get 40+ you'd need to go to 650s and the BB height would only be 247. I don't mind a bit lower than standard, but that's way below standard.

And the CAADX (105 & Ultegra) is in, and the Scott Speedster Gravel 10 and Specialized CruX Sport E5 are maybes.

And on a lot of the bikes I'm considering it makes sense to have the wider tires be 650s since a 650x47 is the same diameter as a 700x28 – the only difference is in tire deflection. Which means the ability to take a 700x40+ isn't absolutely necessary. Though that would give me the ability to raise my bottom bracket and worry less about clearance on rougher trails.

So lots to think about… I'm sorta glad I'm drawing this process out and thinking things through…
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Old 08-03-18, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58
Jay - Tire sizing is not specific. I have various 28mm tires that measure between 27 and 31mm. The width of the rim can make a huge difference. The gravel king series recently relabeled their tire size because they were measuring so much differently than labeled.

ISO frame standards require 6mm clearance on each side of the tire and frame. Thus, you can often go a little wider than spec, if you are not worried about mud or wheel wobble.

NO, you can’t just drop down to 650b. It depends on the frame design. Most frames I have seen don’t flare out much at the chain stay, so a smaller wheel doesn’t give you more width. Some frames are specifically designed for both 700c and 650b and will flair a lot. These tend to be 1x bikes as you can't flair out a 2x bike as much. Also, 650b will drop your bottom bracket substantially. The bikes you list have low BB already - putting a 650b on there would take them too low.

Don’t write a bike off because of high bottom bracket. I have bottom brackets with 50mm and 30mm drops (the latter is a mountain bike). You aren’t going to feel much of a difference just from BB drop – it is all the other things added together that make a difference. You will however feel it if you strike a pedal because your BB is too low.

Checkpoint is a nice bike. I liked how it had a longish wheelbase and a steepish headtube angle, so that it was both stable and responsive. The Diverge has way way too low a BB for me. This made the bike sluggish to accelerate and prevented me from pedaling through even shallow turns. YMMV.

Salsa Warbird is nice (not cheap)

For urban riding I prefer CX over pure gravel bikes, as a CX bike is much more athletic and agile. If you are doing downhill 20-30mph turns on loose gravel, a gravel bike is better.

You are right about Aluminum. Tough and light – it’s a great performance/cost price point.

If you are interested in Canyon, look at the aluminum inflite. Its not as aggressive as the carbon model – In Europe it is their commuter bike (even sold fully decked out with fenders and rack if you choose in the EU).
You posted your response while I was composing mine, so initially I missed what you wrote. Good points though… Especially about 650B wheels not enabling wider tires on some bikes. Hmmm… The calculations get a bit complicated and that's just one more point of complication…

Just based on BB height/drop the Fuji Jari 1.3 comes pretty close to what I think I'd like – it can take a 700x42 or a 650x2.0. BB height at 700x42 is on the high end at 280, but that means at 700x25 would yield the "ideal" 265 for road cycling, and for gravel I could get a high clearance with 700c wheels and a lower, but still reasonable clearance with 650B wheels – ranging from a BB height of 268 for 650x50 to a height of 261 for 650x42. That would give me a lot of options…

Right now my list of bikes to consider has gotten longer, I'll add the Inflite to that list. First quick look is it's nice and light, I'm not opposed to a 1x setup, but I'd need a wider-ranging cassette.

Last edited by JayNYC; 08-03-18 at 06:58 AM.
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Old 08-03-18, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by JayNYC
Hill climbing is something I'd like the bike to be good at given the terrain around here, so weight and gearing are important to me.
Then you want a cross bike.
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Old 08-03-18, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by shoota
Then you want a cross bike.
There's not anything magical about the label "cross bike" that makes it easier for hill climbing.

It took me a bit of thinking, but generally a bike that's good at climbing has a chainring that's no bigger than the largest cog on the cassette (or just barely bigger). Overall wheel size factors in as well. Everything else being equal, it will be easier to climb a hill on 650x42 tires than on 700x42 tires.

Just as two examples, the Fuji Jari 1.3 has 46/30 chainrings and an 11-34 cassette (ratio = 0.88). So that should be great at climbing, while the Specialized CruX Sport E5 has 46/36 chainrings and an 11-28 cassette (ratio = 1.29), so it would probably suck at climbing.
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Old 08-03-18, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by JayNYC
There's not anything magical about the label "cross bike" that makes it easier for hill climbing.

It took me a bit of thinking, but generally a bike that's good at climbing has a chainring that's no bigger than the largest cog on the cassette (or just barely bigger). Overall wheel size factors in as well. Everything else being equal, it will be easier to climb a hill on 650x42 tires than on 700x42 tires.

Just as two examples, the Fuji Jari 1.3 has 46/30 chainrings and an 11-34 cassette (ratio = 0.88). So that should be great at climbing, while the Specialized CruX Sport E5 has 46/36 chainrings and an 11-28 cassette (ratio = 1.29), so it would probably suck at climbing.
gear ratios for climbing are completely personal, like saddle preference.
what works for one person is terrible for another.

I am 6'5 230# and my 700x40mm gravel bike has a granny of 34x36. That is what works for my size, fitness, and type of hill climbing.
if I were lighter or heavier, or if i rode gravel mountain routes with long climbs instead of relatively steep and short climbs, my gearing would be different.

Many are perfectly fine to climb with a 34x32 granny due to their size and fitness.


I will say that in general, I think gravel bikes have not been geared well overall(last 5 years) and applaud some for going to the 46/30 cranks that have hit the market recently.
there isnt a downside to such a crank because even if someone is strong enough to not need 30/34 to climb, a simple cassette swap will give them a tighter cassette which is nice for smaller shift jumps and still provide them with whatever bailout gearing they need.

many people may like the specialized bike's gearing for climbing, even though you think it sucks.
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Old 08-03-18, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by JayNYC
There's not anything magical about the label "cross bike" that makes it easier for hill climbing.

It took me a bit of thinking, but generally a bike that's good at climbing has a chainring that's no bigger than the largest cog on the cassette (or just barely bigger). Overall wheel size factors in as well. Everything else being equal, it will be easier to climb a hill on 650x42 tires than on 700x42 tires.

Just as two examples, the Fuji Jari 1.3 has 46/30 chainrings and an 11-34 cassette (ratio = 0.88). So that should be great at climbing, while the Specialized CruX Sport E5 has 46/36 chainrings and an 11-28 cassette (ratio = 1.29), so it would probably suck at climbing.
I completely, and respectfully, disagree with everything you said.
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Old 08-03-18, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota
I completely, and respectfully, disagree with everything you said.
Clearly you’re not technically inclined, otherwise you would have explained yourself. I am, so I’ll explain myself. The science of it it pretty simple…

If you’ve ever ridden a bike with a 2x setup (I assume you have), you’ll know you use the small chainring and the big cog on hills. So the smaller the chainring, and the bigger the cog, the better the bike will be at climbing. If you look at common configurations you’ll see most road bikes have a chainring/cog ratio of slightly less than 1 to slightly more than 1, with 1.0 and 1.06 (34/32) being the most common ratios.

Next, the net effect a large chainring and a big cog is to spread your power output over fewer wheel rotations and hence a smaller distance. (More watts per distance traveled). A wheel with a smaller circumference accomplishes this objective as well.

So that’s a pretty simple explanation of the science of it. Disagree all you want. But good luck getting up a hill on your big chainring and little cog!

Last edited by JayNYC; 08-03-18 at 05:18 PM.
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