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What kind of bike do I want?

Old 04-21-20, 02:06 PM
  #1  
aaronmcd
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What kind of bike do I want?

Background: I've raced road for several years, burned out a couple years ago. Never rode anything except road bike except for one season I raced track.


I live in SF and there's lots of fun trails. I've abused my Cervelo S5 on trails many times but it's not ideal.


Thinking of getting something that can ride on dirt for fun, but don't have any idea what exactly I'd want.


1) Do I want flat bars or drop bars? I've never tried flat bars so I have no idea. If I get full on hardtail mountain bike I'd obviously want flat bars.

2) Do I want front suspension? I've never ridden a bike with suspension and have no idea.

3) I'll probably get a bikes direct bike. What's the difference between these 2 other than tire size, that makes them call one a mountain bike and the other a hybrid?

https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...t-trail-sx.htm

https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...disc-brake.htm

4) If I go without suspension I figure I'd be limited to less rocky terrain, so what's the point of flat bars on a bike like this:

https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...tbar-bikes.htm


On the one hand, I've raced road so much I may get frustrated with suspension, bigger tires, flat bars, when I'm on the road. But on the other hand, I feel like point of a second bike is for something a bit different, and maybe a standard gravel bike (road bike with disc brakes and big tires) might be too similar to my current ride.


If you've gotten this far, you may have noticed I linked bikes with 1x. There are tons of hills around here - is 1x just gonna be too frustrating when I'm on pavement - with the lack of speed on the flats. These bikes range from 40x11 (for the "gravel" bike) to 32x11 (for the mountain bike) top gear ratio. None of these will work for fast straight road descents, and I guess that's not the point of these bikes. My current lowest gear is 34x28. I imagine I could climb MUCH steeper trails with any of the 3 bikes listed above or similar bikes. I have no reference point for what it's like to go on steeper trails.
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Old 04-21-20, 03:45 PM
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You need to do some more research and figure out what you want to do before anyone can really answer your questions. The difference between the first two bikes is some geometry, parts, what size tires they can handle. The pictures might make them look nearly the same but component wise and their overall shapes are different. One is a MTB and the other is a hybrid, hybrids can be built fairly ruggedly and often borrow parts from MTBs but lack any real performance to their geometry intending for a more laid back ride, fitness versions can be a little more aggressive but usually is closer to what can make a road bike aggressive rather then a mtb. The third just looks like a basic flat bar road bike, they call it a gravel version so it probably uses wider tires though how wide I didn't look for. Flat vs drops is up to you. There are plenty of MTB trails around me that a blast to tear through on a cross bike, its just faster and more fun, being a largely sandy island that's relatively flat I actually haven't found anything I could ride with a cross bike but I haven't ridden everything out to the east. Despite that some of the things I could ride can be done faster and more carefree with a mtb and heading off Long Island there are trails that you wouldn't want to go anywhere near with anything other then a MTB, the question is where do you want to ride.
I would lean you towards a MTB since, while it might be slower at times, it really can go most any place and be more enjoyable. But if you're not hitting serious trails then a gravel or cross bike would be more fun.
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Old 04-21-20, 03:52 PM
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Wow, where to start?
Sounds like you want a hard tail mountain bike. But of course one of the first questions is really what size tire do you want, because that will answer a lot of the questions about what you can and can't do effectively with the bike. I'm happy with 40mm tires on a gravel bike for a lot of my single and double track, but that isn't bombing down fast descents with rocks and roots. I have a different bike for that...

Not sure why you are looking at a hybrid...
Flat bars will be different, and are fine if your average powered speeds are below 15mph. Obviously I don't like riding a flat bar bike into the wind at speed. Try the hard tail - you can always make it perform similar to a gravel bike if you want to, or you can beef it up to more of a mountain bike...
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Old 04-21-20, 04:52 PM
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You are an ideal candidate to buy your bike at a bike shop instead of rolling your bones on a best guess at Bikes Direct. That would save you a lot of cash in the long run by avoiding buying bikes you do not like. I suggest finding a really good shop to help you decide what is best for you and let you take a few different types of bikes out for an extended test ride to see what makes you smile the most. Everyone here will tell you what they would do, and that will not be much help for what you should do.
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Old 04-21-20, 04:58 PM
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This one's easy.

You want a hardtail mt. bike for the trails that are too technical for a gavel bike. It'll have a suspension fork and will let you ride about everything once your skill level rises to the occasion. Flat bar is better for the technical trails.

You also want a gravel bike with lower than normal gearing that'll get you up the hills in the SF area. A bike with GRX components, maybe a mt. bike rear derailer that'll accept one of the really wide range mt. cassettes (11-46, etc...). The gravel bike will be more fun on the pavement to get to the gravel/dirt roads that are all over the Marin highlands and East Bay area.
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Old 04-21-20, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
You need to do some more research and figure out what you want to do before anyone can really answer your questions. The difference between the first two bikes is some geometry, parts, what size tires they can handle. The pictures might make them look nearly the same but component wise and their overall shapes are different. One is a MTB and the other is a hybrid, hybrids can be built fairly ruggedly and often borrow parts from MTBs but lack any real performance to their geometry intending for a more laid back ride, fitness versions can be a little more aggressive but usually is closer to what can make a road bike aggressive rather then a mtb. The third just looks like a basic flat bar road bike, they call it a gravel version so it probably uses wider tires though how wide I didn't look for. Flat vs drops is up to you. There are plenty of MTB trails around me that a blast to tear through on a cross bike, its just faster and more fun, being a largely sandy island that's relatively flat I actually haven't found anything I could ride with a cross bike but I haven't ridden everything out to the east. Despite that some of the things I could ride can be done faster and more carefree with a mtb and heading off Long Island there are trails that you wouldn't want to go anywhere near with anything other then a MTB, the question is where do you want to ride.

I would lean you towards a MTB since, while it might be slower at times, it really can go most any place and be more enjoyable. But if you're not hitting serious trails then a gravel or cross bike would be more fun.
Thing is I don't really know what I'll want to do since I haven't ever ridden anything but a road bike. I can't even fit 25mm tires on my bike, I've never ridden anything over 25. So I'm not sure how much bike I need for what I'd do. Just looking for opinions on what might be more fun, considering there will always be many miles of pavement before hitting dirt. As for the hybrid, how is it lower quality? That was my question as they look pretty much the same except for tire size and chainring size. Not sure about geometry differences. I ask about flats vs drops because I've never ridden flat bars. IF I go with a rigid gravel bike, would flat bars make sense?


Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Wow, where to start?

Sounds like you want a hard tail mountain bike. But of course one of the first questions is really what size tire do you want, because that will answer a lot of the questions about what you can and can't do effectively with the bike. I'm happy with 40mm tires on a gravel bike for a lot of my single and double track, but that isn't bombing down fast descents with rocks and roots. I have a different bike for that...


Not sure why you are looking at a hybrid...

Flat bars will be different, and are fine if your average powered speeds are below 15mph. Obviously I don't like riding a flat bar bike into the wind at speed. Try the hard tail - you can always make it perform similar to a gravel bike if you want to, or you can beef it up to more of a mountain bike...
Yeah it does sound like I want a MTB, but I'm concerned about riding on road with one. I'm not really used to speeds that low, and just thinking it might not be "fun" on the road. I was looking at a hybrid cuz I thought it might be slightly better on the road than a mountain bike and still infinitely better on trails compared to a stiff carbon road race bikes with 23mm tires.


Originally Posted by gravelslider View Post
You are an ideal candidate to buy your bike at a bike shop instead of rolling your bones on a best guess at Bikes Direct. That would save you a lot of cash in the long run by avoiding buying bikes you do not like. I suggest finding a really good shop to help you decide what is best for you and let you take a few different types of bikes out for an extended test ride to see what makes you smile the most. Everyone here will tell you what they would do, and that will not be much help for what you should do.
I don't think I'll ever buy a new bike at a shop. I can't really justify spending 2 grand on a second bike. I can always replace components down the line as long as I get a good frame and fork.


Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
This one's easy.


You want a hardtail mt. bike for the trails that are too technical for a gavel bike. It'll have a suspension fork and will let you ride about everything once your skill level rises to the occasion. Flat bar is better for the technical trails.


You also want a gravel bike with lower than normal gearing that'll get you up the hills in the SF area. A bike with GRX components, maybe a mt. bike rear derailer that'll accept one of the really wide range mt. cassettes (11-46, etc...). The gravel bike will be more fun on the pavement to get to the gravel/dirt roads that are all over the Marin highlands and East Bay area.
Yeah I want both of course but 3 bikes would be altogether too many. I'm not really an N+1 guy. Technically I also need a beater that I can lock up outside, and maybe a fixie for fun.
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Old 04-21-20, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
I don't think I'll ever buy a new bike at a shop. I can't really justify spending 2 grand on a second bike. I can always replace components down the line as long as I get a good frame and fork.
Buying the wrong bike a couple of times does not save anything... If you knew exactly what you want it would be a different story. The incremental cost of a shop bike vs a BD bike is probably a few hundred bucks and you can get alot of great bikes at shops for under $1500 that may fit your interest. You will find that to make a profit with the higher-end components on a BD bike they save $ by cutting corners in the less obvious places like the frame. That means the "good frame and fork" is the one thing you may not get with a BD bike.
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Old 04-21-20, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by gravelslider View Post
Buying the wrong bike a couple of times does not save anything... If you knew exactly what you want it would be a different story. The incremental cost of a shop bike vs a BD bike is probably a few hundred bucks and you can get alot of great bikes at shops for under $1500 that may fit your interest. You will find that to make a profit with the higher-end components on a BD bike they save $ by cutting corners in the less obvious places like the frame. That means the "good frame and fork" is the one thing you may not get with a BD bike.
I've had bikes direct bikes in the past and their frames are fine. Anyway I didn't want to turn it into a bikes direct debate. I may end up buying used. If I buy from a bike shop and don't know what I want I'm out twice as much money. I probably won't know what I want until I ride a thousand miles anyway. That's why I titled the thread "what do I want" and not "what should I buy". Just looking for opinions on what might be most fun as an additional bike, and maybe some experience with them and/or reasons to get one vs the other.
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Old 04-21-20, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
Thing is I don't really know what I'll want to do since I haven't ever ridden anything but a road bike. I can't even fit 25mm tires on my bike, I've never ridden anything over 25. So I'm not sure how much bike I need for what I'd do. Just looking for opinions on what might be more fun, considering there will always be many miles of pavement before hitting dirt. As for the hybrid, how is it lower quality? That was my question as they look pretty much the same except for tire size and chainring size. Not sure about geometry differences. I ask about flats vs drops because I've never ridden flat bars. IF I go with a rigid gravel bike, would flat bars make sense?
I never said the hybrid was lower quality. Price for price a hybrid can often be equipped very similar to a mtb though most companies don't make one that's more then 1500-2000 while even hardtails can soar to 5k. Geometry difference and tire size are two huge considerations for what it means to ride off-road. I'll happily bomb down a lot of singletrack on a cross bike and a mtb but wouldn't touch those trails with a hybrid; the handling just isn't there and its not meant to be, it's designed to be laid back and more relaxed. A 29er mtb with a lighter 2.1-2.3 tire isn't fast on pavement but it will cruise along at a good clip; with my 1x when riding with the kids I can do 12-13mph on mine towing a trail-a-bike for 10 miles and I wouldn't consider myself to be in great shape though not in bad shape either. If I had to do distance on the bike to get to the trails I would do a 2x and make sure that I had a good chainring for more road speed; 16mph wouldn't be that hard.
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Old 04-21-20, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
I've had bikes direct bikes in the past and their frames are fine. Anyway I didn't want to turn it into a bikes direct debate. I may end up buying used. If I buy from a bike shop and don't know what I want I'm out twice as much money. I probably won't know what I want until I ride a thousand miles anyway. That's why I titled the thread "what do I want" and not "what should I buy". Just looking for opinions on what might be most fun as an additional bike, and maybe some experience with them and/or reasons to get one vs the other.
there are plenty of online consumer direct/house brands to consider- Bikes direct, diamondback, Raleigh, canyon, fezzari, ribble, merlin, and more.

From what I can read, you would enjoy a drop bar monstercross. Basically something that is drop bar and can handle a 700x50 tire. Drop bar because you are used to it and would benefit for pavement to trails, clearance for 50mm to benefit on gravel and tame single-track.

Since you are in SF, ill suggest a local shop that contracts its own frame brand- Black Mountain Cycles. I have a rim brake monster cross frame that was my gravel bike for a handful of years and is now built as a commute/touring bike. They have a disc version too. You could buy the frame and build it up or buy the bike spec'd to what you want for components.
Yes technically this is from a shop, but I would never categorize it in the way you are referring to shop brands. Also, the owner Mike has forgotten more about bikes and design than many will ever know.

or something like these lesser known brands which have enough clearance for tires that can capably handle pavement, gravel, and smooth singletrack/fire roads.
https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...oadbike-xx.htm
https://www.ribblecycles.co.uk/bikes/gravel-bikes/
https://www.rei.com/product/159859/c...es-adv-22-bike
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Old 04-22-20, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
Yeah it does sound like I want a MTB, but I'm concerned about riding on road with one. I'm not really used to speeds that low, and just thinking it might not be "fun" on the road. I was looking at a hybrid cuz I thought it might be slightly better on the road than a mountain bike and still infinitely better on trails compared to a stiff carbon road race bikes with 23mm tires.
Riding a hard tail on the road is fine. The biggest drag (pun) is from wind resistance and tire resistance. I have some 60mm tires on a mtb that have the same rolling resistance as a good 23mm training tire. Wind can be a serious problem in some conditions, but solo off road, my average speed is rarely over 15mph and at that point wind isn't a big deal. No, its not "fun" on straight flat pavement, but that isn't going to be the bulk of what you are doing. I've done long rides on a high end gravel bike and my wife's heavy hard tail and other than weight being a factor, my average speed was pretty similar.

I have some hybrid frames. While I'll kiss 40mph at the velodrome, the hybrid bikes really don't want to do more that 15mph. Its odd. Obviously they can go faster (with effort), but the sweet zone is 10-15mph. They have longer wheel bases, can't cut a tight corner, and have me sitting a lot more upright. They are great for what they are (cruising around), are very stable on gravel, but not what I would call fun (but yeah, still infinitely better on trails compared to a stiff carbon road race bikes with 23mm tires.)

you are right, used hard tail mtb might do you well. I rather like my '90s era mountain bikes because they have "modern" gravel bikeish geometry but with flat bars and with fat tires. Since then mountain bikes have gotten longer, lower, slacker to make them easier to ride fast downhill. With the 1x craze, modern MTBs can have a pretty low top end.

Last edited by chas58; 04-23-20 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 04-23-20, 01:14 AM
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I just bought a gravel bike topstone 105 and love it for all the reasons you listed. I would never get heavy full suspension bike unless I plan to bomb hills. Go to Tahoe take a lift up bomb the hill down.
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Old 04-24-20, 05:50 PM
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I'm leaning gravel bike since it may be better for general city riding and bikepacking.
The bikes direct one up there is cheap, but I'm not sure about flat bars. Flat bars may be better off road? Then there's this gorgeous bike that I really want now:
https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/20-gestalt-x11
Can get it for $1800
Not sure I can convince my wife I should spend 1800 on a bike, especially considering I burned out and haven't been riding very much for the past year and a half. Not sure if I'm getting the itch again just cuz of this quarantine thing...
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Old 04-24-20, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
I'm leaning gravel bike since it may be better for general city riding and bikepacking.
The bikes direct one up there is cheap, but I'm not sure about flat bars. Flat bars may be better off road? Then there's this gorgeous bike that I really want now:
https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/20-gestalt-x11
Can get it for $1800
Not sure I can convince my wife I should spend 1800 on a bike, especially considering I burned out and haven't been riding very much for the past year and a half. Not sure if I'm getting the itch again just cuz of this quarantine thing...
There's also the X10... 10 speeds seems like maybe not enough on a 1x but it has the same low range, just missing the 10. I was thinking I could swap out the 42T ring for 40T if I had a 10 in the back, but 40x11 might not be tall enough. Still, much cheaper, same frameset... is a dropper seatpost really all that useful? Or is it just an annoyance that has to be maintained on a gravel bike?
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Old 04-24-20, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
I'm leaning gravel bike since it may be better for general city riding and bikepacking.
The bikes direct one up there is cheap, but I'm not sure about flat bars. Flat bars may be better off road? Then there's this gorgeous bike that I really want now:
https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/20-gestalt-x11
Can get it for $1800
Not sure I can convince my wife I should spend 1800 on a bike, especially considering I burned out and haven't been riding very much for the past year and a half. Not sure if I'm getting the itch again just cuz of this quarantine thing...

oooo. Now I want your gravel bike instead of mine. That's gorgeous.

I think bikes is one of those hobbies that price paid / hours used you will more than get your moneys worth.

I like how the top bar is lower. My gravel bike if I straddle over the top bar with no shoes on it touches.




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Old 04-24-20, 06:26 PM
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From looking at the photo if you plan to ride this on the street much getting between gravel spots like I do in the south bay I am not so sure you will like the wide gear spacing.

My Topstone 105 is fun to ride on the bumpy streets on my way to the gravel spots.
Crank FSA Omega ME alloy, 46/30
Shimano 105, 11-34, 11-speed

How much pavement will you be riding on before you hit dirt?
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Old 04-24-20, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by sean.hwy View Post
oooo. Now I want your gravel bike instead of mine. That's gorgeous.

I think bikes is one of those hobbies that price paid / hours used you will more than get your moneys worth.

I like how the top bar is lower. My gravel bike if I straddle over the top bar with no shoes on it touches.




What do you think of the dropper seatpost on a gravel bike? What about hydraulic vs mechanical brakes?
Those are the other differences between the 2 versions.
You're of course right that I'll get my moneys worth over time. But the upfront out of pocket makes it feel like a lot.
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Old 04-24-20, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
What do you think of the dropper seatpost on a gravel bike? What about hydraulic vs mechanical brakes?
Those are the other differences between the 2 versions.
You're of course right that I'll get my moneys worth over time. But the upfront out of pocket makes it feel like a lot.
I wish my bike had the drop seat post. The bike is fine the way it is on the gravel roads that I do around here. If I was to do something more like a mountain bike trail I would want more room to move around on.

" hydraulic vs mechanical brakes" is that a religious question you just asked me? ha-ha. I prefer hydraulic TBH that's just a preference. I don't have any real knowledge or experience to say one way or another.
https://road.cc/content/buyers-guide...ed-know-172389


If you want to spend less out of pocket sportsbasement has 20% of sale

I just bought this one Topstone 105 $1750 - %20 = 1400. Not as cool as yours though
https://shop.sportsbasement.com/prod...30308885200968

the rest
https://shop.sportsbasement.com/sear...ke%20Hardgoods
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Old 04-24-20, 07:52 PM
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$1800 gets you a carbon warbird right now.
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Old 04-25-20, 10:31 PM
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Alright I test rode the Marin Gestalt X10 and X11.
Now I just have to decide which one.
X10 is $1100
X11 is $1800
​X11 gets me 1x11 vs 1x10, 21 vs 19 rim inner, a better for me saddle. It also get me hydraulic brakes and the dropper post, and I far prefer the paint job.
​​​​​​
I really don't think I need the seatpost. I've gone down some super steep rocky trails on my road bike and had no problem shifting my weight back. It might be nice though.

The hydraulic brakes felt a lot nicer. I might not need all that brake though. I would spring for the X11 except I'm worried the hydraulic brakes might just be a pain in the ass for someone like me who doesn't like complexity. I also worry about their reliability. I've never had a cable brake fail in maybe 70k miles of riding and racing. Can one say the same about hydraulics?
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Old 04-25-20, 11:26 PM
  #21  
gus6464
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
Alright I test rode the Marin Gestalt X10 and X11.
Now I just have to decide which one.
X10 is $1100
X11 is $1800
​X11 gets me 1x11 vs 1x10, 21 vs 19 rim inner, a better for me saddle. It also get me hydraulic brakes and the dropper post, and I far prefer the paint job.
​​​​​​
I really don't think I need the seatpost. I've gone down some super steep rocky trails on my road bike and had no problem shifting my weight back. It might be nice though.

The hydraulic brakes felt a lot nicer. I might not need all that brake though. I would spring for the X11 except I'm worried the hydraulic brakes might just be a pain in the ass for someone like me who doesn't like complexity. I also worry about their reliability. I've never had a cable brake fail in maybe 70k miles of riding and racing. Can one say the same about hydraulics?
Hydro brakes are set and forget for the most part. Might need a bleed every couple of years which is easy to do. Have you ever had disc mechanical brakes? Because disc mechanical brakes are not the same as rim. Hydro disc is better in every way.
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Old 04-26-20, 12:45 AM
  #22  
sean.hwy
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
Alright I test rode the Marin Gestalt X10 and X11.
Now I just have to decide which one.
X10 is $1100
X11 is $1800
​X11 gets me 1x11 vs 1x10, 21 vs 19 rim inner, a better for me saddle. It also get me hydraulic brakes and the dropper post, and I far prefer the paint job.
​​​​​​
I really don't think I need the seatpost. I've gone down some super steep rocky trails on my road bike and had no problem shifting my weight back. It might be nice though.

The hydraulic brakes felt a lot nicer. I might not need all that brake though. I would spring for the X11 except I'm worried the hydraulic brakes might just be a pain in the ass for someone like me who doesn't like complexity. I also worry about their reliability. I've never had a cable brake fail in maybe 70k miles of riding and racing. Can one say the same about hydraulics?
Do you ever plan to upgrade your bike? I had redux 2 which I loved but it was kind of snow flake having 9 gears 650b wheels. Frame to narrow to put mounting bike rims/tires. Too expensive to switch to 11 speed gear so I could get 700 road wheels on it.
It cost me a lot to try and put 700 wheels on it. almost all the 700 wheels had like a 11 spd. Seems like there are a lot more
options for shifters, cassettes, everything for 11spd. So after owning my bike for only 4 months I sold it. I made sure my next bike was shimano 105 or better with 11spd.

I basically wanted my next bike to come with a chevy LS* engine in it. Bazialion options on upgrades.
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Old 04-26-20, 01:46 AM
  #23  
aaronmcd
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No I have never ridden disc at all. Nice to know hydraulic stuff works... but Is it easy to self service?

Yes I plan to upgrade as **** wears out, but I'd rather get stuff I'm not upgrading right away. I'm sure I don't wanna be changing groupset within a couple years at least. I may swap big ring or cassette for whatever fits, after a while.
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Old 04-26-20, 04:04 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
No I have never ridden disc at all. Nice to know hydraulic stuff works... but Is it easy to self service?

Yes I plan to upgrade as **** wears out, but I'd rather get stuff I'm not upgrading right away. I'm sure I don't wanna be changing groupset within a couple years at least. I may swap big ring or cassette for whatever fits, after a while.
You just need a bleed kit. For sram just get the bunnyhop tribe one from universal cycles for 19 bucks. As for for dot5.1 fluid go to an auto parts store that carries motul. One 10 buck bottle of motul will last ages.

Although you buying the bike all ready to go so I doubt you'll need to bleed for a long time.
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Old 04-26-20, 11:55 AM
  #25  
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I lived there 15 years ago. I wonder if the trails in SF really warrant a suspension fork? If not, then you've got the extra weight penalty, and if it's not a good quality fork, then the ride/feel will be...meh--it might not be worth it. From what I recall about that area, I'd go with a rigid fork all day long.
Personally, I think want you want is a gravel bike, possibly 650B(fun on trails and fine on the road IMHO), lots of rubber. I ride in the mountains in SoCal and 1x works for me, and I'm old, FWIW.
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