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Hybrid or MTB as 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 : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Hybrid or MTB as Gravel bike?

Old 01-09-20, 02:07 PM
  #1  
zjrog
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Hybrid or MTB as Gravel bike?

I've been following a few threads here, and had many questions answered... I've been interested in a gravel bike for awhile. But no idea what I wanted. In the late 70s, as a teen, I rode my 10 speed on gravel roads and cow trails, simply because I didn't know any better in rural Kansas...

Current road bikes are not candidates, 700x28 is the most either will fit, my trainer bike might fit 700x32. But that won't work for me.

My 29er is great, heavy.


Sometimes feels huge though...

I considered a 1998 Schwinn hybrid I have. But it is a bit small. And then I found a 2002 Marin San Rafael hybrid...

That might be a bit too big. But picked it up anyway. Alivio RD, 8 speed cassette and Rapid Fire shifters. But the suspension fork might be the sweetest item on the bike.

So picking up the Marin, if I can get comfortable with the height, I have drop bars, CX brakes and Sora 3400 brifters.

And since my 29er has Sora 3500s, CX brakes and Salsa Woodchippers, I am already comfortable on drops in the dirt.

I have not had a chance to even air up thec700x37 tires on the Marin yet. But I did fit my spare 700x54 tire and wheel in the Marin's fork. Room to spare. I did measure the seat and chain stays for clearance. 700x40 fits, maybe 42s, depending on rim width. I considered a 650b swap, but that won't really offer me any wider rear tire options. The fork is disc ready, the frame is not.

I'm not sure the Marin frame will work for me, now. So keeping an eye out for another hybrid, or tall MTB. I am a heavier rider, at 240 or so, 6'1". 34" inseam starts getting personal on a frame...

I'm considering entering a gravel race in May, so not in a great hurry. I could ride the 29er which was my first gravel idea anyway, second set of wheels were bought for 700x40 42 or 45 tires. Or my 91 Trek 7000 MTB (doesn't get ridden enough as it is) if need be.

Love reading of the other conversions, and other builds...
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Old 01-09-20, 02:28 PM
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sounds like you have plenty of experience to know what you want to try & the ability to make it happen! very cool! I was torturing hybrids w/ rigid forks on bad terrain & was glad to move on to a legit MTB w/ bigger tires & a suspension fork (albeit a cheap one). last year I mounted studded tires on the MTB too early so I'm holding off longer this year hoping to get more rides in with it before the long lasting snow pack arrives. hence I mounted up some studs on one of my hybrids so it's torture continues. lately some of the trails have been quite bumpy w/ frozen footprints & I miss that MTB fork!

good luck & have fun! keep sharing!
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Old 01-10-20, 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
sounds like you have plenty of experience to know what you want to try & the ability to make it happen! very cool! I was torturing hybrids w/ rigid forks on bad terrain & was glad to move on to a legit MTB w/ bigger tires & a suspension fork (albeit a cheap one). last year I mounted studded tires on the MTB too early so I'm holding off longer this year hoping to get more rides in with it before the long lasting snow pack arrives. hence I mounted up some studs on one of my hybrids so it's torture continues. lately some of the trails have been quite bumpy w/ frozen footprints & I miss that MTB fork!

good luck & have fun! keep sharing!
Meh, I'm not always sure on experience or ability. Thanks though. But I was the King of trash/Franken bikes 30 years ago...

That said, I was checking the Marin hybrid bike out tonight in my basement, it is snowing outside. It isn't as tight as I was worried about for stand over height. But it is close. I'm sure I can ride it otherwise. Slack cables move in the housings ok, but they are too slack to shift. The chain doesn't bind. The wheels are filthy, and have loose spokes. But the 700x37 tires are ok. One tube doesn't hold air long. And the brake pads are toast. For a steel frame, it is light, for the size, I ought to weigh it, I suppose. I had hoped for a 1 1/8" headset and steerer, but nope. 1" and corresponding 25.4 bars. And the odd 27mm seatpost. The post has some cushion to it, and the fork compresses and rebounds ok. As near as I can tell indoors. And the seat has a couple small tears, but not really worried about that for now.

The plan, may move forward. Debating on having these wheels tried, or if doing something different. I guess it depends on whether I can fit a 9 speed cassette on it or not. I'm comfortable keeping the Suntour crankset, for now. Though the BB needs serviced. And I'll service the headset as well. Not caring about the cables, as I need new cables for the Sora brifters anyway. I expect the existing mechs will work just fine. I have 12 to 32 available, or I could steal the 12 to 36 off my 29er. Or, go crazy with 11 to 42, I have the road link on hand. I will need a quill to threadless stem adapter, and stem to fit the drop bars. And new brake pads...

If money were no object, I'd source a disc front wheel, add a Avid BB7 road caliper, and a new rear wheel. I had considered 650b, but I don't think that will make any difference given the tight chain stay distance. (Steel frame, maybe consider dimpling the inner chain stays?) But, taxes are due soon, so money is an issue. Grrrr...

Need to stop at my local bike Collective some time, see what I can source for this build. Maybe a long cage Deore RD of sorts, maybe a better FD. Maybe different brakes... Since my 29er wheel and 700x54 fit the front, I don't really care if the wheels match on this bike...

Probably on the back burner until I finish collecting more parts.
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Old 01-10-20, 11:00 AM
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Your 29er looks very similar to mine with the woodchipper and BB7's there. I'd say just keep rolling the 29er, maybe with some fast rolling tires in the 50-60mm area. I ran mine with the squishy front for years but recently put on a rigid Soma fork to save some weight since I ride dirt roads more than anything else. Ours here in MI are probably smoother than the KS roads from what I hear We don't have local deposits of rock so the roads are more hard packed dirt and sand. Either way, I find the bike nearly as fast as my Salsa Warbird when I am feeling good.


If the hybrids have geometry more like a road bike, they could be fun on 40's with drop bars but I'm not sure if the hybrid frame is going to stick you with trail and head angles more like the 29er. If so, then there's not so much point to the duplication in your stable is there?
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Old 01-10-20, 11:42 AM
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I had reversed the ad picture to compare to my 29er. The Marin is tall, but the seat tube is more laid back... The seat tube is an inch and a half higher than my 29er...

29er is a 2010 Performance Access XCL 9r frame, built by a guy that we fostered when he was a teen. He built it as a "Monter Cross" bike. For the desert around Phoenix. I haven't been in the desert with it yet, but I have in my local foothills. And I rather like it. Except it is heavy, for aluminum...

As I mentioned. It was my first thought to just use it, drop to 700x42 tires and go. And that might still be the path to choose...

Rocks, yeah, they show up here in the desert to though. And we get hard pack, deep sand is no fun on a bike. The race I'm considering is in Utah's border with Nevada, and includes a stretch of the Salt Flats. That ought to be a fast section, if it isn't soaked...
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Old 01-10-20, 04:24 PM
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What size is the Marin? IMHO riding the wrong size bike is a recipe for not enjoying the ride. A hybrid won't be too fun to race even if you change out some of the parts.

It looks like you have quite a few spacers on the monster cross and taking some of those out will change the feel and which muscles you are using. Sacrificing a little bit of weight on the bike for a more comfortable race type fit would be the way I would go.
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Old 01-10-20, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by grubetown View Post
What size is the Marin? IMHO riding the wrong size bike is a recipe for not enjoying the ride. A hybrid won't be too fun to race even if you change out some of the parts.

It looks like you have quite a few spacers on the monster cross and taking some of those out will change the feel and which muscles you are using. Sacrificing a little bit of weight on the bike for a more comfortable race type fit would be the way I would go.
The Marin is kind of odd. Listed as a 52cm/20.5" frame... And yet, it is huge.



I've ridden bikes that "don't fit" a lot. But have to agree, something this size is probably not a great idea off pavement. Then again, I've done lots of bad idea things...

On my 29er, I was looking at a lower back issue, and tried that stem extension. I didn't like it. slightly lowering the seat resolved that temporary issue.

I found this morning, on the Marin, a bit of trouble. Wheels don't center in the chainstays. There is tire rub on the drive side...

Not sure how that happens with vertical dropouts. There isn't any apparent damage. I did try a different wheel, but same result.

No idea if it tracks straight or not. Proceeding further depends on having that chainstay issue looked at. Or, cut bait and start again. If nothing else, I've got a complete "kit" for a different frame.
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Old 01-10-20, 06:12 PM
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Hmmmm....go for the Schwinn then?
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Old 01-10-20, 10:48 PM
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52cm is 20.5 which is probably their XL size.
The frame can be bent without obvious evidence of damage. If its the wrong size not worth the hassle of repair.
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Old 01-11-20, 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by grubetown View Post
52cm is 20.5 which is probably their XL size.
The frame can be bent without obvious evidence of damage. If its the wrong size not worth the hassle of repair.
Certainly leaning that way. As for sizing, it just seems odd overall. Slack seat tube angle, steeper rake than my 29er. Standover height for 6'4", but seat tube length for 5'4". Hmm. Forgot to look at crank arm length.
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Old 01-11-20, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by 2cam16 View Post
Hmmmm....go for the Schwinn then?
It is as heavy as my 29er. For the race (I'm only hoping for proof of participation), might just be in my better interest to ride the 29er on something narrower than the 700x54 tires. I plan to go check some of the course before too long. Ride is in May... Plenty of time.
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Old 01-11-20, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by zjrog View Post
Certainly leaning that way. As for sizing, it just seems odd overall. Slack seat tube angle, steeper rake than my 29er. Standover height for 6'4", but seat tube length for 5'4". Hmm. Forgot to look at crank arm length.
It looks like a standard hybrid. No way that seat tube is for someone who is 54
I think your decision to preride the course and use your 29er is the best choice. Both the Schwinn and the Marin are not designed for anything like The riding you are describing.
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Old 01-11-20, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by grubetown View Post
It looks like a standard hybrid. No way that seat tube is for someone who is 54
I think your decision to preride the course and use your 29er is the best choice. Both the Schwinn and the Marin are not designed for anything like The riding you are describing.
I was sort of joking. A52cm road frame would be quite short.
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Old 01-11-20, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by zjrog View Post
I was sort of joking. A52cm road frame would be quite short.
True. Its a different measurement for road sizing, not the seat tube.
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Old 01-11-20, 02:13 PM
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Do gravel bikes have to have drop handlebars? I would think any hybrid or MTB would be a good gravel bike.

Anyway I'm building up my own "gravel" bike from the frame up (mostly for the new tech stuff) and at my age I'm trying to get away from drop h/bars.
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Old 01-11-20, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by smurfy View Post
Do gravel bikes have to have drop handlebars? I would think any hybrid or MTB would be a good gravel bike.

Anyway I'm building up my own "gravel" bike from the frame up (mostly for the new tech stuff) and at my age I'm trying to get away from drop h/bars.
Drop bar or flat bar, not for me to say. After breaking my back 8 years ago, I thought I'd never ride drops again. And honestly, I ride the hoods far more than I ever did before. But even 25+ years ago, my favored MTB bars were the Scott AT4 bars. At nearly 57, I'm no where near as strong as I was, or fast. I've had to overcome years off the bike due to life in general, getting fat, knee replacement, breaking my back, ankle issues, and now weight loss surgery has brought me back to the bike...

Building one up from scratch sounds fun, entertaining. But first, I need to know what I want in a gravel bike... I well imagine, my original thinking of skinnier tires on my 29er may be the better choice. For now.
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Old 01-14-20, 09:22 AM
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Pretty sure this Marin hybrid is NOT a good choice for gravel. Based on size, geometry and lack of rear tire width. But a good exercise in fixing a slightly tweaked steel frame...


It was a little bit funky...


but this is much better than before. Tire shouldn't rub the chainstay now. The tire is a 700x37. Measured right at 35mm. I might get 40s to fit. Maybe 42s. If I went down that path.

Pretty much decided this bike is going to live at my son's s house, so I don't have to cart a bike back and forth every time I visit the grand kids. If I fit. Needs new brake pads first. The hard rocks won't do any good...

Unless a better choice pops up, I'm going to prep my 29er for the planned gravel ride in May. It has 3x9 setup presently. And I think it will stay as such. (Unless a screaming deal lands in my lap for something else...) Fork needs serviced, new seals. And needs new cables in general...

Last edited by zjrog; 01-14-20 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 01-19-20, 10:35 AM
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Well. 45s do not fit. Let me rephrase. I got it in there, the wheel spins, but the lugs hit the chainstays. 700cx45, measured 42.5 with my calipers.

I picked this and a 700x40 at the Bike Collective yesterday. The 40 ought to fit. The 45 can be on the front I suppose. I also picked up 4 different lengths of stems for my other bikes... Fine tuning positions.
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Old 01-19-20, 11:08 AM
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Well the frame was definitely way off. What method did you use to tweak it? Did you check the rear dropouts to make sure they were parallel afterwards?
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Old 01-19-20, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by MrStroker View Post
Well the frame was definitely way off. What method did you use to tweak it? Did you check the rear dropouts to make sure they were parallel afterwards?
I did the big bending in my basement. Literally wedged the triangle in the exposed studs and pulled, pushed. I have a length of all thread with appropriate washers and nuts, so I spread for axle width. Next step will be with the spreader in place and one more small tweak. Then take it to my local shop to check dropout alignment and the derailleur hanger.

Still need some new brake pads. I spent too much this past week on cold weather riding stuff, and a new Tickr X heart rate monitor belt...
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Old 01-19-20, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by zjrog View Post
I did the big bending in my basement. Literally wedged the triangle in the exposed studs and pulled, pushed. I have a length of all thread with appropriate washers and nuts, so I spread for axle width. Next step will be with the spreader in place and one more small tweak. Then take it to my local shop to check dropout alignment and the derailleur hanger.

Still need some new brake pads. I spent too much this past week on cold weather riding stuff, and a new Tickr X heart rate monitor belt...
Check out RJ the bike guy on YouTube. He has videos and homemade tools for checking that stuff.
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Old 01-19-20, 03:11 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by MrStroker View Post
Check out RJ the bike guy on YouTube. He has videos and homemade tools for checking that stuff.
I like his videos, and if I think I'll do more of this work, I'll make the tools.

Oh, also Sheldon Brown's cold setting info.
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Old 01-22-20, 03:42 PM
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I've also been eyeing a Marin hybrid to convert to a gravel bike with drop bars as there is one for sale locally. It's a Fairfax from 2004/5. Has a carbon fork instead of the suspension. What I'd like to know is the top tube length as the as seat tube on these "compact" frames means nothing. The official frame sizes were 13.5", 15.5", 17.5", 19", 20.5" so your bike was probably XL.

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Old 01-22-20, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by bluehills3149 View Post
I've also been eyeing a Marin hybrid to convert to a gravel bike with drop bars as there is one for sale locally. It's a Fairfax from 2004/5. Has a carbon fork instead of the suspension. What I'd like to know is the top tube length as the as seat tube on these "compact" frames means nothing. The official frame sizes were 13.5", 15.5", 17.5", 19", 20.5" so your bike was probably XL.

I imagine at 52cm/20.5" it is the XL... I'm still quite shocked at how tall it is compared to a 20" MTB... Or my 60cm roadbikes...

Brake pads arrived today, likely get them on tonight and maybe spend some time adjusting the rear derailleur. It needs cables, bad, but not going to get till I see if I can ride it...
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