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Please help me choose a gravel 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 :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Please help me choose a gravel bike

Old 11-20-19, 03:44 PM
  #26  
grannygears
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
ohh alloy XR now, nice!
see if you can go test ride one.
I also noticed that Norco have a chromoly steel version called the Search XR S2, grx components for $2,799 Canadian. It is however a 2x10 drivetrain.

What is everybody's thoughts on a steel frame for this type of bike I did notice it's about 1.5 pounds heavier than the alloy frame.
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Old 11-20-19, 04:13 PM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
I also noticed that Norco have a chromoly steel version called the Search XR S2, grx components for $2,799 Canadian. It is however a 2x10 drivetrain.

What is everybody's thoughts on a steel frame for this type of bike I did notice it's about 1.5 pounds heavier than the alloy frame.
if weight is a concern then... the alloy Topstone is heavy too.

anyways size 53 1x apex 725 steel XR is 10.24kg / 22.5 lbs. I am thinking the 105 Topstone is around 22-23 lbs. regardless it all varies between whats being compared and wheels/tires can heavily impact weight on a full build, as can 2x vs 1x

I honestly don't think the weight of the steel be too big of a burden over a heavy alloy bike. This coming from a guy that likes everything light.

I think you'll find the comfort of the 725 steel a huge plus! especially if you have the budget.

I have had these links book marked forever. , Whoops only 1 the other is a dead link. but they do have a few steel Search XR builds

https://www.projectbikebend.com/drop-bar-builds

this one is a review.

https://www.bikeexchange.com.au/blog...st-impressions
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Old 11-20-19, 04:27 PM
  #28  
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wow I just looked , the alloy version has really ugly chain stays. It's not bad, it's just ... I can't lol

if you can do 1x the Search XR Steel Apex 1 from previous years is good price.

https://www.norco.com/bikes/2019/dir...-steel-apex-1/
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Old 11-20-19, 07:41 PM
  #29  
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Gravel Bike?

Yeah I'm not to crazy about the Norco Search XR A1 frames chainstays either. It looks like to me they just welded in a flare to accommodate wider tires. That really sucks because I have not seen a bike yet for $2399 Canadian that is spec'd like that with full GRX.

Norco does make the Search XR S2 which is $2799 Canadian but that is at the maximum end of my budget. This is a Reynolds 725 chromoly steel frame bike but it looks like the chainstays are normal. It is a 2x10 system with all GRX components.

My 3 local dealers carry: Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Kona, Specialized, Opus, Salsa, Norco, Bombtrack and Devinci.

Is there anything I am missing here, are there any bikes by these manufacturers that are spec'd as well?

How does a chromoly frame bike compare to an aluminum frame bike for the type of gravel bike I'm looking for?

My max budget is around $2400 CDN or approximately $1800 US give or take a couple $100 bucks.

Last edited by grannygears; 11-20-19 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 11-21-19, 01:37 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
Y
My 3 local dealers carry: Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Kona, Specialized, Opus, Salsa, Norco, Bombtrack and Devinci.

My opinions,

the steel frame will make all the micro micro vibrations vanish! So it will feel better at the cost of being heavier. Yeah big tires helps, but so do steel and carbon frames.
that reported weight on the steel Search XR in the review isn't too shabby for a steel bike. The truth is Entry level Aluminum is heavy too. So the advantage of aluminum is cost?
Not sure if you want 1x or 2x. 1x is nice. I want 1z, but I dislike SRAM, so I need to wait on a GRX 1x offering. Or I build and Norco sells Frame & fork. but then it cost more a lot more. Anyways, you'll be just fine on Aluminum. And you'll be just fine spending a bit more too. It's an investment and a bike that is enjoyable to ride will get ridden a LOT more
  • Trek I don't like their aluminum, neither do I like their Low BB. I like a bit more lively bike. Of course i am on the shorter side. 5'8" so the long reach low BB makes a weird fit.
  • Cannondale Topstone is nice, love the threaded BB, dislike the weight, and lack of mid fork mounts. Probably the nicest AL frame to have of all the Aluminum.
  • Giant Revolt, Really good bang for the money. If you want GRX you'll have to wait. The bad on the Revolt is a lot of trail. It will feel weird at slow speeds in comparison to other bikes. that will go away after you get used to riding it. The great, it will be super stable down gravel descents at high speed.
  • Salsa Journeyman is really cheap QR wheels, cheap components, the cheapest has aluminum fork. They bring Utility though. I'd go with the sora Topstone for same money, or the Alloy Revolt First. However Salsa has a fit that is to be loved. The Salsa Vaya, really nice ride, but is really heavy
  • Norco steel was / is on my hit list, I need to go test ride one.
  • Kona, I hear good things!
The rest, I am not sure about. Diverge also has a really low BB. Bombtrack seem to have really high standover.

Personally for me and for mixed riding purposes I am looking at the Revolt Advanced, Norco Search XR steel, or the Niner RLT 853 steel, possibly the Niner RLT RDO.
short rides, utility rides, Long rides, Grocery getter, Occasionally extended over night trips.
I built up a steel framed hybrid. I love the ride. but at 28 lbs it is a beast!!! in town It doesn't matter. But 15 miles to town and then 15 miles home it becomes work instead of fun.
For comparison purposes my Trek Crossrip was aluminum size 52 and with fenders and a rear rack it was 25+ lbs. Both the Niner RLT 853 steel, and the Norco Search XR 725 steel are on on the same par.

I mention these because I ride a kinesis made singlespeed frame sold by Bikesdirect.
If I was just looking for a ride then bikesdirect has a mulekick Alloy GRX 1x for $1,200 that is very Tempting. The Problem being 1 want midfork lugs for that occasional over night thing.
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...oadbike-xx.htm

Or a GRX 2x build $1,200
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...oadbike-xx.htm
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Old 11-21-19, 10:05 AM
  #31  
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So far my front-runners are the Cannondale Topstone 105 and either the Norco Search XR A1 or the Search XR S2. I guess my question is why does the A1 have the 2x11 system while the S2 has a 2x10 system. Are there different quality levels of Shimano GRX components? Would the GRX 810 11 speed rear derailleur be cosidered a more premium derailleur than a GRX 400 10 speed? By that I mean is the 800 level made out of better materials than the 400 level?

Also what advantages is a threaded bottom bracket going to get me?

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Old 11-21-19, 12:06 PM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
So

Also what advantages is a threaded bottom bracket going to get me?
Potentially no creaking. Press fits are possibly the worst trend in bottom brackets ever, somewhat understandable in carbon, but in alloy just a way for the manufacturers to save a buck.
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Old 11-21-19, 12:57 PM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
So far my front-runners are the Cannondale Topstone 105 and either the Norco Search XR A1 or the Search XR S2. I guess my question is why does the A1 have the 2x11 system while the S2 has a 2x10 system. Are there different quality levels of Shimano GRX components? Would the GRX 810 11 speed rear derailleur be cosidered a more premium derailleur than a GRX 400 10 speed? By that I mean is the 800 level made out of better materials than the 400 level?

Also what advantages is a threaded bottom bracket going to get me?
Yes there are levels of GRX. There are basically levels that equate to Tiagra and 105/Ultegra. 10 speed and 11 speed.
Either will be perfectly reliable and the only difference is small grams weight savings with the 11sp components.


My guess as to why the Aluminum frame has 2x11 while the Steel frame has 2x10 is that they wanted to hit specific price points and to do so, they spec'd the drivetrains accordingly.
I have no doubt that the aluminum frame costs them less to make than the steel frame. That is then mostly offset with a lower tier drivetrain for the steel frame to bring the overall costs of the two closer together and right at/around the $2000 mark.
Besides 10 vs 11 speed, the difference in frames is that the steel frame has better quality spokes(butted), nicer tires(subjective) for more diverse riding, and a wider range cassette. Oh- the other difference is that the steel frame has external cables and the aluminum has internal.


Steel frame - quality steel, better spokes(in theory a lighter and 'stronger' wheel), a lower level drivetrain that is plenty capable with wider range gearing, and external cables.
Aluminum frame - lighter frame weight, higher level drivetrain with more limited gearing that is still plenty wide, and internal cables.

Some opinions from me-
- the steel frame is made with quality steel, but I would bet a paycheck that it is not light due to the butting used. Norco almost certainly spec'd it to be durable and support a wide range of weight, so it will be overbuilt and heavier than necessary for most applications.
- the aluminum frame will be identical feeling to any other aluminum frame with the same geometry.
- butted spokes and WTB Resolute tires are nice.
- internal cabling is trendy and looks neat, but is not necessary. External cabling works perfectly fine and is easier to service.
- both drivetrains will perform perfectly fine. They have the same crankset even.
- press fit bottom bracket on an aluminum frame is curious and not necessary. Press fit bottom bracket on a steel frame is flat out dumb.



There ya go- take it all for what its worth!
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Old 11-21-19, 01:48 PM
  #34  
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Wow, thank you mstateglfr for all the information!There is one thing that I know for sure is that by the time I spend $3000 on this bike I am going to be riding it for the next 20 years. With that being said I want to make sure that I "futureproof" myself as much as I can.

The Cannondale Topstone 105 appeals to me because its a nice aluminum frame with a threaded bottom bracket and is something I can always upgrade down the road to GRX as the components wear out?


The Norco XR A1 appeals to me because it has top tier components right out of the gate however the weird chain-stays and press fit bottom bracket are strikes against it?


The Norco XR S2 is a steel frame but has a press fit bottom bracket and a tier down in components for $400 more than the A1.


Here is another option, my local shop is a Salsa bike dealer and I was looking at the Salsa Vaya line with their GRX for $2950 and the 105 for $2500 Canadian $$$. Both are steel frames with threaded bottom brackets.


I guess I want to make sure whatever I buy I will be able to have the frame through a couple of component swaps and get me 10-20 years of service. So a press fit bottom bracket on a aluminum frame is ok but it sucks on a steel frame? Why?
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Old 11-21-19, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post

The Cannondale Topstone 105 appeals to me because its a nice aluminum frame with a threaded bottom bracket and is something I can always upgrade down the road to GRX as the components wear out?
I just ordered a Topstone aluminum 105. The local shops don't carry Norco, though they are nicely spec'd bikes. The Topstone is priced smack between the 2 Norco's at $1750, comes with a 105 group, excepting the crank which is an FSA 30/46. I like that crank configuration and steered away from gravel bikes that had 105 cranks with 50/34 rings. The Norco is as BTW, the first bike I've seen spec'd with GRX.

105 is about the best deal in a road group, IMO. I've got some of these parts on my Chinese road bike, which is why I went this route.

Plus I hate press-fit and as I do all my own maintenance, would not want to deal with anything other than BSA. As well I think we are seeing a trend back to frames with threaded bottom brackets, you certainly read enough about issues in the assorted road forums.

Good luck with your decision, the red Norco is a nice looking bike, as BTW, the A2 sand, not as much.
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Old 11-21-19, 03:30 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

105 is about the best deal in a road group, IMO.
the thing with 11 speed 105 is for $90 you can just run the Ultegra RX rear derailleur. If you want a clutched RD. I mean GRX has it's purpose, but for the lower end GRX, I'd rather have the 105, with the Ultegra RD option.
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Old 11-21-19, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
Wow, thank you mstateglfr for all the information!There is one thing that I know for sure is that by the time I spend $3000 on this bike I am going to be riding it for the next 20 years. With that being said I want to make sure that I "futureproof" myself as much as I can.

The Cannondale Topstone 105 appeals to me because its a nice aluminum frame with a threaded bottom bracket and is something I can always upgrade down the road to GRX as the components wear out?


The Norco XR A1 appeals to me because it has top tier components right out of the gate however the weird chain-stays and press fit bottom bracket are strikes against it?


The Norco XR S2 is a steel frame but has a press fit bottom bracket and a tier down in components for $400 more than the A1.


Here is another option, my local shop is a Salsa bike dealer and I was looking at the Salsa Vaya line with their GRX for $2950 and the 105 for $2500 Canadian $$$. Both are steel frames with threaded bottom brackets.


I guess I want to make sure whatever I buy I will be able to have the frame through a couple of component swaps and get me 10-20 years of service. So a press fit bottom bracket on a aluminum frame is ok but it sucks on a steel frame? Why?
In general, I would expect the Topstone, the A1, and the S2 to all last 20 years. That is based on them all having current standards and the fact that tech standards from the 90s is still available now, so whats new now should be available in 20 years.

I really like the Topstone and strongly considered it, but ultimately eliminated it due to geometry- the largest just wasnt going to fit without some compromise. It is well spec'd for the price. Ive seen the wheel weight and that is a place where you could spend $250-450 and drop almost 1 pound. Sure you could change over to GRX, but most likely once you wear out the 105 components, there will be something new to go to besides GRX...or new GRX. Drivetrain components can last years and years, and shifters can last decades.

The chainstays on the A1 are necessary to get really good tire clearance. Aluminum is soft/bendy and so big stays are needed to retain rigidity. Wide chainstays arent friends with road drivetrains that use wide tires, so the chainstays needs to be dropped like that. It isnt aesthetically great, but its necessary. Function over form. Just mentioning this in case you werent sure why they drop and bend like that.

And yes I can see it being tough to accept paying $400 more for the steel S2. Oddly, its only $100USD more than the aluminum. A1 is $1999 and S2 is $2099. The frame costs more though. For sure it costs more. Across the board, a Reynolds 725 branded frame will cost more to produce than an aluminum formed tube frame. The same is true for 631 even and definitely true for 853 tubing too.
For $100USD more, I could see the appeal of the steel frame due to the material(for those that prefer it), external cables(for those that prefer it), better spokes, and better tires(for those that prefer em). Sure the drivetrain has 1 less shift, but thats pretty minimal in my mind.
For $400 more though, well that may be a tipping point as to which you consider/eliminate.

As for pressfit- it really isnt a big deal most likely. Most likely, you will ride the bike and never care how the crank attaches to the frame. If you do have an issue, there are multiple remedies to eliminate creaking. The pressfit on aluminum is dumb too, but I gave it a pass because aluminum frames are pretty darn cheap to make at this point so they are cheaping out on the bottom bracket too. Basically, it isnt a surprise to me.
Its simply not necessary for any metal frame and there is no benefit especially since Shimano cranks are used.
But at the same time, pressfit really isnt a huge deal. The only reason to have it, that I can see, is to save money. There is no upside to the user. But really, it isnt a big deal. I think its a popular thing to complain about since its so unnecessary and is a seemingly glaring spot where money is being saved at the expense of quality and reliability.
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Old 11-21-19, 03:43 PM
  #38  
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Yeah it just sucks because I think we are in a transition period right now where in 2 years from now all of these bikes will have Shimano GRX components.

The way im looking at the Norco XR A1 right now is that its a really nice well spec'd bike for the money but 10 years from now I don't think I will want that frame with the bent chain-stays and press fit bottom bracket? I am kind of looking at it as I want to buy the best bike with the nicest frame I can so in 10 years from now when I have to start replacing components I will still like the frame and want to build upon it.

How does the Norco have flared chain-stays like this but the Topstone does not???

Am I giving up anything from buying a gravel bike that has 105 components vs the newer ones that will have GRX? Is GRX more durable or able to handle dirt and gravel better?

Last edited by grannygears; 11-21-19 at 04:06 PM.
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Old 11-21-19, 03:51 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
Here is another option, my local shop is a Salsa bike dealer and I was looking at the Salsa Vaya line with their GRX for $2950 and the 105 for $2500 Canadian $$$. Both are steel frames with threaded bottom brackets.
I have an older Vaya and they are nice bikes, but built heavy so expect that. Mine has a steel fork, so a carbon fork on the new ones will help. I have recently changed mine over to a 105/Ultregra build (pending crankset). One thing I was not happy with was the stock wheels, but I've noticed that they have changed the hubs since I bought mine:

105 Build
Novatec 32h w/ WTB ST i19
GRX Build
WTB Serra with WTB ST i19

The rim has stayed the same and mine cracked at the spoke nipples, I was not alone: Major Wheel Fail/Suggestion for New Wheels. I'm happier with the new wheels I bought for it.

Also note that with the current models, the front wheel is thru axle while the rear is quick release. This doesn't affect how it preforms, TA may make it a little easier to align the wheel, but you'll need to take this into account when buying different wheels.

I also intended the Vaya to be my 20+ year bike, but now I'm looking to add another. The Soma Fog Cutter (more road oriented) is at the top on my the list, but they only sell it as a frame so it may not be right for you.
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Old 11-21-19, 04:04 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
the thing with 11 speed 105 is for $90 you can just run the Ultegra RX rear derailleur. If you want a clutched RD. I mean GRX has it's purpose, but for the lower end GRX, I'd rather have the 105, with the Ultegra RD option.
Can you expand on this? You would rather have the Shimano 105 rear derailleur than the GRX RX-810 11 speed? Or you would rather have the 105 over the GRX RX-400 10 speed? Thanks
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Old 11-21-19, 04:07 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
Can you expand on this? You would rather have the Shimano 105 rear derailleur than the GRX RX-810 11 speed? Or you would rather have the 105 over the GRX RX-400 10 speed? Thanks
Metieval is saying the latter, that R7000 plus an Ultegra RX rear derailleur would be preferable to RX400.
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Old 11-21-19, 04:16 PM
  #42  
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Is it just me or does this Giant Revolt 0 not have mounting holes for a rear rack?

https://www.giant-bicycles.com/ca/revolt-0-2020
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Old 11-21-19, 04:18 PM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post

Am I giving up anything from buying a gravel bike that has 105 components vs the newer ones that will have GRX? Is GRX more durable or able to handle dirt and gravel better?
In my opinion. 105 is better than the bottom line GRX.

what GRX brings you, is an offset on the crank/chainrings to move the chain out for more tire clearance. That is not typically needed for a 38/40c tire. GRX also brings you a clutched rear derailleur.
However you can buy a bike with 105, and then upgrade the rear derailleur to an Ultegra clutched RD and still come in for less $ than comparable GRX components.

GRX also brings you Shimano 48/31 or Shimano 46/30 chainrings. However, Easton, Praxis, FSA etc.. also brings you smaller chainring combos. I am a huge fan of the Praxis forged chainrings.

GRX also brings shimano 1x options

and the best thing GRX brings to the table is an offset pivot for the brake levers, but only on the di2 option.

So if you don't need/want 1x. If you don't need/want electric shifting. So the only advantage GRX really gives you is a clutched RD, but so does the Ultegra RX w/105.
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Old 11-21-19, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
Is it just me or does this Giant Revolt 0 not have mounting holes for a rear rack?

https://www.giant-bicycles.com/ca/revolt-0-2020
they are inside the seat stays, and really small. However Giant offers a D-fuse seat post ring to allow for rack attachment.
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Old 11-21-19, 04:21 PM
  #45  
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Same with this Specialized?

https://www.specialized.com/ca/en/me...=239512-154247
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Old 11-21-19, 04:42 PM
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Now that I can post links, here are the bikes I am considering at my local dealers... Note Canadian pricing...


Alloy Frames

Cannondale Topstone 105: https://www.cannondale.com/en/Canada...ntid=undefined

Norco Search XR A1: https://www.norco.com/bikes/2020/dir.../search-xr-a1/

Giant Revolt 0: https://www.giant-bicycles.com/ca/revolt-0-2020

Specialized Diverge E5 Comp: https://www.specialized.com/ca/en/me...=239512-154247



Strikes against the Giant and the Specialized for their 48/32 gearing...




Steel Frames


Salsa Vaya 105: https://salsacycles.com/bikes/vaya/2019_vaya_105-------------$2500 CDN


I have basically written off the Trek Checkpoint ALR-5 and the Devinci Hatchet 105 due to their full road gearing of 50/34, am I right in thinking I may be able to deal with the Specialized and Giants 48/32 gearing or should I just be focusing on bikes with 46/30?


Any other suggestions for a 2x gravel bike around the $1800 to $2000 US price tag is very welcome!!!
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Old 11-21-19, 04:55 PM
  #47  
katsup
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For the Specialized, read about it's future shock. Some people love it, others hate it. I have no personal experience beyond what I have read.

I wouldn't strike off from a 48 chain ring. Considering the gears I am normally in on my Vaya, I'd prefer it over a 46. Obviously this is personal preference. Plus it can always be changed.
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Old 11-21-19, 05:14 PM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by grannygears View Post
Can you expand on this? You would rather have the Shimano 105 rear derailleur than the GRX RX-810 11 speed? Or you would rather have the 105 over the GRX RX-400 10 speed? Thanks
In my opinion 105 is > than GRX RX-400
If you need a clutched RD, then swap the 105 out for the (non GRX) Ultegra RX clutched rear derailleur.

I have nothing against RX-810 etc..... However in your case, the higher end GRX is going to considerably raise the price tag above your budget! Also the higher end GRX will almost always, if not always. Sell with the 48/31 crankset.


So with all the GRX hoopla of "it's the newest latest greatest" , 105 is still the best bang for the $. If you really do need a clutched rd, then there is a cheaper option than buying a bike with GRX.

E.G. buy the Topstone 105, Sell the new/unused/take -off 105 rd from it for $50. buy an Ultegra RX rd for $90. Added cost to the 105 Topstone $40. Plus labor if you have someone else swap it for you.
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Old 11-21-19, 05:31 PM
  #49  
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Norco

Gotcha, the Norco Search XR AL1 is fully loaded with GRX RX-810.

Can you take a quick look at that bike and tell me what you think, for $2399 CDN it's right in my price range.

Is GRX RX-810 not the higher end GRX offering?
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Old 11-21-19, 06:13 PM
  #50  
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Can you get the 2019 Fuji Jari 1.1 alu in Canada?

46/30 with threaded bb. Lots of mounts.
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