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Gravel-capable road bike

Old 02-28-20, 04:52 AM
  #1  
guadzilla
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Gravel-capable road bike

Hi all - I've been on the quest for a rain bike and was initially looking at an AL bike capable of fitting 32c wheels.

However, i am now considering something that is more gravel-capable - my wife and i travel a lot, and it would be nice to be able to take bikes that can handle some dirt roads, non-technical single track and such. However, the bike will still see more duty on the pavement (let's say 70-80%), so dont want an absolute boat (or a boat anchor, for that matter). A lot of our holidays involve climbing on tarmac, so the bike definitely needs to be able to climb well and not be a noodle

My leading options are:
- Trek Domane
- Lynskey Gravel
- a custom 853 with SS couplers (sounds ideal, but i dont know if the guy has made any gravel bikes before, and knows how to make a frame with the attributes I want)

Anything else I should consider? I'd like to get a sub-9kg build, if possible.
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Old 02-28-20, 04:57 AM
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I'd be looking for a frame with a shorter chainstay. Domane has that.

Cervelo Aspero another example.

Depends on budget.

Defy. Roubaix perhaps, if you don't want larger tyre clearance.
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Old 02-28-20, 05:18 AM
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There's lots of gravel bikes that would work great as a road bike. If you are going to do lots of climbing while traveling, all of them should have gearing that works well, you just need to decide how important weight is. Lynskey makes some really nice gravel bikes, but there is a significant weight penalty that comes with them as an example as compared to other options. It's pretty easy to find sub 20lb bikes that fit your description and aren't noodley.
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Old 02-28-20, 10:55 AM
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My Aspero is both my gravel bike and road bike, I just swap wheels. The geometry feels more 'Road' than 'Gravel' , but it handles both very well. As TangerineOwl mentioned, the Giant Defy is another bike you could consider, the new model can handle up to a 35c tire.
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Old 02-28-20, 11:49 AM
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3T Exploro? I saw one at LBS the other day and it was quite a bit lighter than the Domane SL 5.
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Old 02-28-20, 12:41 PM
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before you get someone to build you a frame, make sure they have already done some in the style you want.
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Old 02-28-20, 05:23 PM
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Old 02-28-20, 06:55 PM
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Thanks for the comments, all.

Agreed about getting a bike from someone who has already built some stuff in that style. This builder has made some pretty nice steel bikes (and a carbon with steel lugs), so he should be able to make a gravel bike. But that's not the same as proven.

I'd prefer to avoid Spesh and Cervelo for the silly reason that I already have one bike from each (well, 2 from Big Red if I count my Shiv). Giant, Trk, Lysnkey would all work.

Am wondering about ty4 viability of bikes like Defy and Domane as opposed to full-on gravel bikes. Geometry aside, how much would I miss not having anything bigger than 35? I realize this is a very broad question, so let me rephrase it - how many folks here are using these bikes for light gravel duty and if so, are you satisfied with it?
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Old 02-28-20, 08:29 PM
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I've been very surprised/impressed by my Orbea Terra...It's plenty stiff/responsive for climbing (I'm very picky about bikes when it comes to climbing), knows how to go around a corner, holds its own on the tarmac, and doesn't have the super relaxed geometry of most gravel or endurance bikes. Then it's equally as good on gravel...very comfortable and stable. It's just a very fun bike.

I owned a 2018 Domane, and feel that the Terra does everything better.

Tire wise, I think you'd be fine with 35's for what you are looking to do. I've been running 38's and would be comfortable going with something smaller.
But, the option to go wider is a nice thing to have, especially if you plan on travelling a lot.
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Old 02-28-20, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
Hi all - I've been on the quest for a rain bike and was initially looking at an AL bike capable of fitting 32c wheels.

However, i am now considering something that is more gravel-capable - my wife and i travel a lot, and it would be nice to be able to take bikes that can handle some dirt roads, non-technical single track and such. However, the bike will still see more duty on the pavement (let's say 70-80%), so dont want an absolute boat (or a boat anchor, for that matter). A lot of our holidays involve climbing on tarmac, so the bike definitely needs to be able to climb well and not be a noodle

My leading options are:
- Trek Domane
- Lynskey Gravel
- a custom 853 with SS couplers (sounds ideal, but i dont know if the guy has made any gravel bikes before, and knows how to make a frame with the attributes I want)

Anything else I should consider? I'd like to get a sub-9kg build, if possible.
Do you need gearing for pedaling over 36mph? Most gravel bikes have the same geometry as endurance bikes. They just a bit wider in the seat stay by the crank, which may limit the gearing, and are wider at the top of the fork by 10mm or so.

The differences my Checkpoint and Emonda on the same, or similar, tires are nonexistent. The road bike has a 48t and the gravel bike has a 40t, so itís really about if the group ride is going to be above 32mph for a bit. The Emonda drafts a touch better because of the steeper fork and would be better in some insanely tight slalom course for the same reason.
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Old 02-28-20, 09:30 PM
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I use my Niner RLT RDO as both a road and gravel bike, just swap wheels. If all you ever ride off pavement is nicely packed dirt/gravel, you can easily do so with 32mm tires. However if you encounter sand and ruts, bigger is better. I run 38s, and would not go narrower for my local trails. Hit several sandy spots just this afternoon, I can manage them reasonably well with the 38s. I think most road bikes max out at clearance for 32s right now.
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Old 03-01-20, 02:56 AM
  #12  
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Go with a 'cross bike or an aggressive gravel bike to get that road bike feel. You'll have the tire clearance if you ever want to go bigger (you will) and the fun aggressive handling of a road bike.
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Old 03-01-20, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
Thanks for the comments, all.

Agreed about getting a bike from someone who has already built some stuff in that style. This builder has made some pretty nice steel bikes (and a carbon with steel lugs), so he should be able to make a gravel bike. But that's not the same as proven.

I'd prefer to avoid Spesh and Cervelo for the silly reason that I already have one bike from each (well, 2 from Big Red if I count my Shiv). Giant, Trk, Lysnkey would all work.

Am wondering about ty4 viability of bikes like Defy and Domane as opposed to full-on gravel bikes. Geometry aside, how much would I miss not having anything bigger than 35? I realize this is a very broad question, so let me rephrase it - how many folks here are using these bikes for light gravel duty and if so, are you satisfied with it?
Very similar to the Aspero and in that similar type of geometry I thinks is the Scott Addict Gravel.
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Old 03-03-20, 05:22 AM
  #14  
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I have a Domane SL6 Disc that I love as a road bike and I use 32mm tires on it for road riding, but I don't want to use it on real gravel roads or trail riding. The wheels are fast but not built to be that strong. (I weight 225) I also want to do some bikepacking and the Domane doesn't have the brazeons for all that - and it would just mean added weight on those wheels and the frame.

I've using a 25 year old Schwinn hybrid as my beater bike/gravel bike, decided to donate that to charity and buy a gravel bike. My use for it is mostly flat rides with my wife, some bikepacking on rolling hills type areas and unloaded rail trail/gravel road rides. I went with a Jamis Renegade steel bike with a 1x drivetrain - did a 3 day bikepacking ride across FL, lots of rail trail and gravel road riding - loving it.
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Old 03-03-20, 02:42 PM
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I went with a Fuji Gran Fondo. Nice relaxed geometry. I had to go with 650b wheels to get it to accept 40cm gravel tires.... but it turned out nicely gravel capable with a quick wheel swap- and back to road after a quick wash/ wheel and pedal swap.!
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Old 03-03-20, 03:47 PM
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I'd recommend the Felt VR range, the VR stands for Variable Road and theyre a very capable bike on and off gravel. I have a VR30 which is the alloy frame bike as its a wet weather/winter bike and so sees a lot of crappy roads during the winter but is still a very capable road bike in dry weather. The gearing 46/30 with 11/32 cassette is also more suited to gravel and climbing than all out speed.
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Old 03-15-20, 05:25 AM
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Apologies for disappearing, guys... got caught up in some real life stuff and forgot to follow up on this thread.

Hmmm yeah, a cross bike could be an option: in fact, i did the bulk of my training on a Ridley XFire, as i was living in a place with really crappy, potholed roads. But the idea of a more relaxed, stable geometry of a gravel bike does appeal. I wont be racing it or doing fast group rides on it - have other bikes for that. So dont need something super agile.

jimincalif I checked out the Niner steel but i am getting to the point where i like clean builds and so want internal cabling. Also, my perception is that the Niner is more weighted towards gravel/off-road whereas what i am looking for is something more weighted towards road. Is that correct?

jfranci3 no, i dont need gearing to go faster than 30mph, let alone 36. This wont be used in a paceline - at most, riding with friends while on vacation. A typical use case for this bike would be my upcoming trip to Uzbekistan next month (if Corona doesnt play spoilsport) - a week of relaxed group rides with some riding buddies on good tarmac and lots of hill, and then a week of cycle exploring where we dont know what we may encounter as far as roads go (roads may become gravel or double track). I'd still like to be able to climb well (at 180lb, that's always a bit of a struggle compared to my riding buddies who are all 140-160lb - i dont want to shoot myself in the foot further)..

jpescatore thanks for that info. I dont really need the ability to carry gear, so lack of mounts in the Domane isnt an issue. And i can always swap wheels if i have to - any thought on how the bike handle when you go off-road? It can fit a max 35c tire, if i recall correctly.

Fuji, Felt, Addict Gravel and Orbea - thanks for those suggestions, guys. I will go check them out. I have a soft spot for Orbea back from the Euskadi days, so if i can swing one and get it customized, that would be pretty nice.

From what i can gather, there are plenty of off-road capable road bikes like Domane, Roubaix, etc which can fit in 35c tires. There are also plenty of more off-road oriented bikes like the various Salsas, Niner, etc which appear to be overbuilt for my needs. But if i hear you guys correctly, 40c would be nice to have (which makes sense) - and as far as i can tell, to get that clearance, i will have to make some allowances in terms of tarmac performance.

Am gonna go check out some of the bikes mentioned here and come back if i have more questions. Thanks everyone!
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Old 03-15-20, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
jimincalif I checked out the Niner steel but i am getting to the point where i like clean builds and so want internal cabling. Also, my perception is that the Niner is more weighted towards gravel/off-road whereas what i am looking for is something more weighted towards road. Is that correct?

From what i can gather, there are plenty of off-road capable road bikes like Domane, Roubaix, etc which can fit in 35c tires. There are also plenty of more off-road oriented bikes like the various Salsas, Niner, etc which appear to be overbuilt for my needs. But if i hear you guys correctly, 40c would be nice to have (which makes sense) - and as far as i can tell, to get that clearance, i will have to make some allowances in terms of tarmac performance.

Am gonna go check out some of the bikes mentioned here and come back if i have more questions. Thanks everyone!
RLT 9 Aluminum and RLT 9 RDO (Carbon) both have internal cables and would work well as road bikes. I've used my RLT9 Aluminum many times as a road bike. I even beat a friend on a morning ride sprint on it (who is typically faster than me) and he was quite surprised! Both of these bikes have lots of mounts for stuff including on the forks. You really will not give up much in terms of performance with a gravel bike used as a road bike unless there's a significant weight penalty. My RLT9 RDO is under 19 lbs with road wheels and tires.

On tire size, yes I think for any gravel stuff I wouldn't consider something that didn't have room for 40mm tires with room to spare for mud clearance.

Last edited by srode1; 03-15-20 at 05:57 AM.
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Old 03-15-20, 07:50 AM
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My Jamis Renegade works great for road and gravel. I got the 1x11 gearset which isn’t optimal for road but is good enough for me. They have 2x gearing options too.

I replaced my old Trek Domane road bike with the Jamis Renegade and could not be happier with the much wider versatility.
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Old 03-15-20, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by gravelED View Post
My Aspero is both my gravel bike and road bike, I just swap wheels. The geometry feels more 'Road' than 'Gravel' , but it handles both very well. As TangerineOwl mentioned, the Giant Defy is another bike you could consider, the new model can handle up to a 35c tire.
Curious, which Aspero do you have? Im thinking about getting the Apex 1 because the jump to Ultegra or GRX is a big one - $1500.
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Old 03-15-20, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by srode1 View Post
RLT 9 Aluminum and RLT 9 RDO (Carbon) both have internal cables and would work well as road bikes. I've used my RLT9 Aluminum many times as a road bike. I even beat a friend on a morning ride sprint on it (who is typically faster than me) and he was quite surprised! Both of these bikes have lots of mounts for stuff including on the forks. You really will not give up much in terms of performance with a gravel bike used as a road bike unless there's a significant weight penalty. My RLT9 RDO is under 19 lbs with road wheels and tires.

On tire size, yes I think for any gravel stuff I wouldn't consider something that didn't have room for 40mm tires with room to spare for mud clearance.
Damn, i didnt even bother checking out the other RLT versions... how's the ride quality of the RLT9 Al, may i ask - specifically, the BB stiffness when climbing and comfort over broken roads (i realize wheels play a big role here)? If it is a comfy bike, it may be a contender as well.

Also - any love for the Canyon Grail here? It's quite competitively priced and gets pretty good reviews/
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Old 03-15-20, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
Damn, i didnt even bother checking out the other RLT versions... how's the ride quality of the RLT9 Al, may i ask - specifically, the BB stiffness when climbing and comfort over broken roads (i realize wheels play a big role here)? If it is a comfy bike, it may be a contender as well.
My experience, the BB is plenty stiff climbing in the Aluminum version. With the right tires and wheels is comfortable to me. I ran 28mm GP 4000 SII or 35mm bon jon pass tires both with tubes with 19mm internal width rims and had no complaints with either set up, plenty of 100 mile+ rides and 4 consecutive Dirty Kanza 200 finishes (with 40mm for DK and tubeless). A tubeless road tire set up would be awesome. Of course the Carbon model will ride a bit better, more noticeable with skinnier tires. You can find some good deals still on the 2019 models. Haven't had a chance to take my new 2020 RLT9 RDO build for a spin yet.
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Old 03-15-20, 08:19 PM
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Yeah, re the Niner, I have the carbon model, 2018, yes internal cables. I have the OEM Stanís wheels fitted with 38mm G-One All Arounds. I also have a set of November RCG 36 carbon wheels with 30mm Schwalbe Pro Ones for road. Both are tubeless.

I also have a 2008 Specialized Roubaix Comp and I alternate between bikes for road rides with my club. Performance wise there is not a lot of difference, certainly nothing I can see in Garmin/Strava figures, nor perceive as compared to my club mates. I have set new PRs on the Niner as well as the Roubaix. According to my Garmin, Iíve hit my fastest speed ever - 49.9 mph - on the Niner. The November rims are 28.4mm wide I think, with the 30mm tires they are reasonably aero. I probably lose a little aero with the slightly flared bars in the Niner. I have the ďcockpitĒ dimensions set up identically on both bikes.

I can feel a little difference, first the Niner is smoother on the road since I am running tubeless 30mm tires at about 63/77 psi and tubed 25mm Continental 4000s (measure 28 inflated) at about 85/100 on the Roubaix. I can also feel a slight difference in turning, the Roubaix turns a bit quicker, but I really notice this only if Iím trying to notice it. Probably the wheelbase. The Niner feels a bit bigger than the Roubaix, in part because it is a 59, my Roubaix is 58, and because of the higher stack.
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Old 03-16-20, 12:04 AM
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Thanks for the clarification on the Niner - that's definitely on the list now.

Another question - do the various suspension alternatives offered by Trek, Specialized, etc have any value or is the compliance of low-PSI tires coupled with smart frame design sufficient? By value, i mean both in terms of comfort (where there is a tradeoff vs pedalling efficiency) as well as helping the bike hold its line better.
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Old 03-16-20, 04:38 AM
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I can't speak to the Specialized, but I can say the Iso-zone seat tube set up on the Domane (which I have) is noticeable/effective. You can get some of that benefit by choosing a seat post that is designed to have some flex though too, there are several options out there. Tires and inflation will trump any frame design substantially though in my experience. Choices for saddle, bars and bar tape all contribute of course, which is why I like to build bikes myself from the frame up vs off the shelf. If I buy an OEM bike I'll end up changing so much I would have been better of starting from scratch cost wise.
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