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Best comparison of gravel vs CX yet (canyon)

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Best comparison of gravel vs CX yet (canyon)

Old 12-06-18, 10:28 AM
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chas58
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Best comparison of gravel vs CX yet (canyon)

While Gravel is the latest fashion, most articles tend to say gravel is better for...X without really contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of both types of bikes.
This article does it far better than any I have seen - clearly calling out the good and the bad for each type (thanks Grand Fondo):
https://granfondo-cycling.com/review...-canyon-grail/

While the bikes compared are both Canyon (grail vs inflite), the design concepts speak well to the benefits of either design direction.

CX - Inflite strong points:
  • Agile at start up and on acceleration. IMHO this is one of the biggest difference between this bike and a more traditional gravel bike like the Warbird, Checkpoint, Roker, etc.
  • Navigate tight corners at low speed (or IMHO to corner hard and sharp at high speed like a crit bike)
  • More playful handling of twisty trails and very direct steering (may be too precise for beginners?). More predictable handling.
  • For the steering, they commented on the quick reaction of the 33mm tires. In my experience on this bike, 54mm tires (front) slow down the steering response a lot!
  • Bottom line: “The playful character begs you to blast out of every corner and tickles the competitive spirit of all passionate lactate junkies with off-road skills.

Gravel - Grail strong points:
  • Good directional stability at speed (i.e. likes to go in a straight line).
  • Confident in wide and fast corners. Unpredictable handling and less “balance” I’m not sure what they mean by this. Maybe it’s a drawback of the long wheelbase?
  • Bottom line: Grail feels most comfortable on gravel highways and in a straight line

My comments:

I’ve never found geometry like the Inflight to “require constant attention” on long tours. Its not quite as brainless as being a stoker on a tandem, but the only thing I notice is it might need a little more attention when riding without touching the handlebars. Although I do find that more of an endurance gravel bike is a bit slow to respond to more all around riding or more of an aggressive urban style, its these traits that make it easy to handle on loose, sketchy gravel.

Like with the GNC video, I think it is irresponsible journalism to complain about 1x on a bike that can be purchased stock 2x. I agree with the complaints, but that is why I got 2x. Reference: “requires a massive pair of quads and a high tolerance for large gear jumps.” That is soley the drivetrain and not the bike or a limitation of a cx bike. In reality, many gravel bikes are 1x while many CX bikes can be configured either way. Racers tend to prefer the gear options and tight spacing of 2x, while more recreational riders are more flexible in gearing.
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Old 12-06-18, 11:31 AM
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The best comparisons between gravel and cx have been posted by you and others on this forum.

I'm not impressed with the article, there's no mention of trail which should be the primary discussion point re: gravel/cross geometry as it's the reason for most of the handling difference. It's also written in the overwrought prose common in high school term papers where the author needs to meet a word count. Could have been a quarter of the length and 10 times as informative.

But the shorter stem doesn’t spoil the sporty riding position at all — quite the opposite. The position feels very sporty indeed but doesn’t stretch beyond the head tube making for a comfortably centred riding position.
Despite reaching the threshold much sooner the Inflite remains honest and predictable at all times. The honest and direct feedback also reflects on the riding comfort of the Inflite: it’s simply a full-blooded and finely tuned racing machine.
When riding at the limit the Grail lacks predictability —the unbalanced comfort distribution is mainly responsible for this.
"Unbalanced comfort distribution" is right up there with "stack/reach ratio."
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Old 12-06-18, 12:00 PM
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gravel highways.

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Old 12-06-18, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
gravel highways.

This is what I envision with that comment:


Yeah, its a bit loquacious.

Canyon does not publish trail for some reason (although they have it in one of their graphics showing why they use 650b in small frame sizes.

I agree, some of the descriptions have me scratching my head. That unbalanced comfort seemed to apply directly to the Inflite, although I have adapted to it. But the front is super stiff and precise (especially with smaller tires), while the rear is the smoothest I've ever experienced. The front end is fine with some fineness for the rider, but a death grip with that stiff responsive steering would not work out well.

Last edited by chas58; 12-06-18 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 12-06-18, 01:41 PM
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Trail is easy to calculate after measuring offset (as not supplied by canyon) by removing the front wheel, measuring bb to fork ends, turning the fork 180 degrees, measuring again and taking the difference. They should have been able to perform this for the article.

MTBs have the same issue and use head angle as an analogue even though trail varies greatly between frame/fork combos with the same value. Trail and the corresponding flop are the most important geometrical calculations - especially for off-road riding.

Symptom of modern bike reviews; limited data, lots of hard selling.
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Old 12-06-18, 01:55 PM
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Have you posted your thoughts on the Inflite elsewhere? I’d be curious to read.
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Old 12-06-18, 02:03 PM
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Trail seems easy to calculate using online calculators, but often my numbers don't match what the vendor advertises.
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Old 12-06-18, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
gravel highways.

They are a German(ic) thing.
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Old 12-13-18, 12:06 PM
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We got gravel highways out here, although a lot of folks would call them F&M roads (farm & market)
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Old 12-13-18, 05:21 PM
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Is it fair to say that CX is more playful and race feely with potentials of having less tire clearance and limited gearing. Gravel is more stable, endurance geometry with potentials for more tire clearance and wider gearing?

For me, I really think I made the right choice in buying CX over gravel.

I would love to ride a Giant Revolt and then hop on my TCX. That would be interesting.

Side note. I think Specialized AWOL's are beautiful. I know they are on the touring side. But they are badass.
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Old 12-18-18, 01:10 PM
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I have a Grail. I will say that standing and sprinting on pavement with road wheels/tires it does feel sluggish - I really can feel the effects of the longer wheelbase/chainstays. That's compared to my road bikes.

But... so many of the expert reviews of bikes make the geometry difference seem so pronounced that they render the bike useless for all but the single thing the bike was designed for. I also have a Scott Addict and Scott Foil. I was told by a shop "Oh, that's a race bike - it'll be horrible on long rides." Huh? Isn't the TdF a race? Sort of long too. I've ridden those bikes on plenty of centuries, mountain rides, etc. They do just fine.

I bought the Grail because I didn't have a CX or gravel bike and was planning on doing gravel races and rides. If I'd had a CX bike... ;-)
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Old 12-18-18, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
Is it fair to say that CX is more playful and race feely with potentials of having less tire clearance and limited gearing. Gravel is more stable, endurance geometry with potentials for more tire clearance and wider gearing?
For me, I really think I made the right choice in buying CX over gravel.
Yes, but a CX bike with 2x doesn't really have limited gearing (besides a cassette change is easy). A Gravel bike with large tire clearance will have limited gearing because you can't have a road bottom bracket, wide tire clearance, and 2x gearing. Pick two.

I find a CX style bike can corner a lot harder (and accelerate harder) when traction is good or at low speed, while a gravel bike can corner harder (more stable) with the traction is poor or at high speed (i.e. downhill).
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Old 12-18-18, 09:43 PM
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I have a Voodoo CX bike from the late 90s. It's been set up as a semi modern gravel bike.

I'll say it's a super responsive ride. Wheelies if I want. Hard technical climbs and descending. Hard corners. Boy does it sprint.

It does have to rub though. It hasn't screwed me up but it is there. If a climb was too technical, it'd make me dab.

I ride it on the same mtn bike trails you see full suspension and other aggro bikes on around here. I get the sense that if my geometry was more relaxed, I couldn't do this.
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Old 12-19-18, 01:04 PM
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What exactly is dabbing in relation to bikes?
Mountain bikes have been going extreme with relaxed geometry - and gravel bikes are following that trend.

I do know on a CX bike on single track I can cut a much harder/tighter corner at higher speed. I've had mountain bikes try to hang with me (I mean, what mountain bike can't keep up with a drop bar bike on single track, right), but they usually drop after they get exhausted. My speed and cornering and extreme ease at climbing is hard to compete with. Obviously a mountain bike would kill it on a gravity related route though...
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Old 12-19-18, 01:13 PM
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So CX bikes are now just as good as XC bikes? I know you like your Inflite and all but come on... On a basic cross country course of course an All-Mountain or Enduro bike will be slower. But an XC bike will run circles around you in speed, cornering, etc.
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Old 12-19-18, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
So CX bikes are now just as good as XC bikes? I know you like your Inflite and all but come on... On a basic cross country course of course an All-Mountain or Enduro bike will be slower. But an XC bike will run circles around you in speed, cornering, etc.
I'll defer to Kabush https://www.velonews.com/2018/11/news/the-dirt-how-and-why-kabush-won-iceman-on-a-gravel-bike_481072

I'm not a particularly good handler but I can certainly hang on single track with novice mtbers on my cross bike as I prep for the cross race season
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Old 12-19-18, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
A Gravel bike with large tire clearance will have limited gearing because you can't have a road bottom bracket, wide tire clearance, and 2x gearing. Pick two.
My gravel bike has clearance for up to 50mm tires, a 68mm BB, and can run a compact double crank.
Its apparently the trifecta. A true unicorn.
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Old 12-19-18, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
My gravel bike has clearance for up to 50mm tires, a 68mm BB, and can run a compact double crank.
Its apparently the trifecta. A true unicorn.
50mm is about the limit, when people start wanting 55mm+(2.2 MTB) that is where clearance issues really start being an issue
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Old 12-19-18, 03:57 PM
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I notice no one has said a word about BB height. Maybe the article doesn't either. (I haven't read it.) BB height changes both how a bike feels and what you can do with it. Many of the raves re: gravel bikes in the past have talked of the stable feel brought about in real part by the low BB. Yes, well and good, but ... everything you an do on a low BB bike you can also do on a high BB bike. (You might have to pay more attention.) But high BB bikes can do things and go places low BB bikes cannot.

BB
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Old 12-19-18, 04:25 PM
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That's because BB height is nearly irrelevant in the face of several other design considerations, it's overstated importance is a carryover from market differentiation done by cross bike manufacturers. Blind test most people and they won't be able to tell the difference between significantly different BB heights, do the same thing with trail/flop and all of them will have a preference and be able to discern differences almost instantly.
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Old 12-19-18, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
I'll defer to Kabush https://www.velonews.com/2018/11/new...el-bike_481072

I'm not a particularly good handler but I can certainly hang on single track with novice mtbers on my cross bike as I prep for the cross race season
Cept he was running 2.1in tires on an actual gravel frame (Open UP). A CX bike is lucky to fit 40mm tires. Or are you telling me he would have been able to do the same thing in a modern cx bike?
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Old 12-19-18, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
50mm is about the limit, when people start wanting 55mm+(2.2 MTB) that is where clearance issues really start being an issue

Well yeah, thats pretty understandable too. once you hit 50+mm tires, you are in 29er sizes. There is no right or wrong way to ride gravel, but I have yet to come across gravel roads where a 2+" 29er tire is needed. There definitely are scenarios I could imagine, but it seems like everywhere ive ridden(and thats in many states with very different gravel), a tire under 50mm would be quite enough for traction, float, and comfort.

I view a drop bar 29er as different from a gravel bike in the same way a gravel bike is different from a CX bike. They all exist along a spectrum, but there are inherent limitations that differentiate them.
A 73mm bottom bracket drop bar rigid 29er rocking 2.2" tires would be really neat. A tank to run over most anything and adventure out on remote unpaved overnights, etc. But there are limitations to that setup just like there are limitations to what I consider a gravel road bike.

Splitting some fine hairs here, i guess.
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