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First gravel bike, need advice

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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 : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

First gravel bike, need advice

Old 06-09-20, 08:31 AM
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Aviv
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First gravel bike, need advice

Hi!

Coming for MTB (own a full suspension Trek cross country mountain bike), and I want to get into gravel biking.

My usage will likely be:

1. Mostly gravel maybe some easy single tracks here and there. It can range from 20-30K and sometimes longer one-day trips.

2. Commuting to work on tarmac paths.

3. Very little road.


For now, I don't have any plans for adventure kind of trips (multiday, attached equipment, and so on), but who knows what the future holds.


The options available in my country are quite limited, here they are (converted the price to USD):

1. Niner 2019 RLT 9 Steel 3-Star - for 2,896 USD

2.
Cannondale 2020 topstone carbon 105 - for 3,183 USD

3. Orbea 2019 TERRA M20-D - for 3,183 USD.

Edit: Found another bike that might fit:
4. MERIDA SILEX 7000 2020 - for 3,287 USD


The way I see it:

Comfort levels: The Niner is made of steel while the other 2 are carbon. Supposedly that means greater comfort? (Coming for MTB I don't know much about steel frames). On the other hand, the Canondale has pseudo suspension (KingPin) which I hear works quite nicely.

Gearing: Both the Niner and the Cannondale uses 105, which I understand is quite good while the Orbea uses ultegra which afaik is much better (but is it critical?).

Geometry: I really don't know. I'll be happy to hear from you guys what are the big differences (if there are any) between the frames. All I know is that I don't need a racy machine, I prefer comfort over speed.

Tires width: the Niner comes with 38, Cannondale with 37, and Orbea with 40. Does this hint that the Orbea is more focused for off-road?


The only bike I can demo is the Niner.


Thank you!

Last edited by Aviv; 06-11-20 at 03:44 AM.
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Old 06-09-20, 06:39 PM
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I would rule out the Niner, simply because it is steel and is, more or less, the same price as the other two. And it's not like you are getting a better groupset, either. And carbon will also provide a smoother ride (generally speaking).

Now, when I was shopping for a gravel bike, the Topstone and Terra were towards the top of my list...I ended up going with the Terra, and have been very impressed by it. It is a "race focused" bike, but it is still very versitle on and off-road, and, despite it's very stiff and responsive frame, it is also provides a very comfortable (to me, at least) ride. For the type of riding that you are looking to do (very similar to what I do), I don't think comfort will be an issue. Especially with some 38 or 40mm tires. But don't expect it to to be ultra plush like a full suspension mtb. You also get a better bang-for-your-buck with Orbea (i.e. Ultegra vs 105).

What made me pass on the Topstone was, their problematic BB standard, the weird dishing on the rear wheel (makes upgrading a bit of a pain), the geometry, and I was a little worried that the KingPin suspension would soften the responsiveness/power delievery of the ride. However, if you prefer to side on the side of comfort, it would probably be great for you.
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Old 06-09-20, 07:38 PM
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I guess the big thing would be 'How' do you want to ride it?

I test ride the Niner RDO, and the Niner steel. Both were fun, but!!!! the RDO felt like it had more instant gratification from the pedals. I did the RDO down some singletrack and fun, but holy toe overlap. Not that big of a deal just need to learn to ride it. Umm actually it has been the only drop bar I took down MTB trails!
after the test rides I decided steel for long days in the saddle day in day out, and RDO for more spirited fun rides, including single track. But I however eventually bought the Carbon RDO. Well it is ordered.

the other big difference was the Niner steel frame had a very unique ability to mute Vibration!!! That made it Plush, back to back the weight difference between the 853 and carbon frame was very feelable. So really It comes down to 'how' you want to ride, and what you want from the ride.

I test rode the Topstone Kingpin. and while I did not get to hit any gravel, I was able to hit a few potholes in the parking lot, and WOW!!!! that kingpin really takes the edge off larger hits! Which brings me around to wondering how many guys are going to be pinch flatting, by not being aware of how hard they are hitting rough edges. The Topstone is, well it felt Rather Largish! Like I ride 54's and the Medium Topstone, is just too big! So if you choose Topstone consider sizing.
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Old 06-10-20, 04:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
I guess the big thing would be 'How' do you want to ride it?

I test ride the Niner RDO, and the Niner steel. Both were fun, but!!!! the RDO felt like it had more instant gratification from the pedals. I did the RDO down some singletrack and fun, but holy toe overlap. Not that big of a deal just need to learn to ride it. Umm actually it has been the only drop bar I took down MTB trails!
after the test rides I decided steel for long days in the saddle day in day out, and RDO for more spirited fun rides, including single track. But I however eventually bought the Carbon RDO. Well it is ordered.

the other big difference was the Niner steel frame had a very unique ability to mute Vibration!!! That made it Plush, back to back the weight difference between the 853 and carbon frame was very feelable. So really It comes down to 'how' you want to ride, and what you want from the ride.

I test rode the Topstone Kingpin. and while I did not get to hit any gravel, I was able to hit a few potholes in the parking lot, and WOW!!!! that kingpin really takes the edge off larger hits! Which brings me around to wondering how many guys are going to be pinch flatting, by not being aware of how hard they are hitting rough edges. The Topstone is, well it felt Rather Largish! Like I ride 54's and the Medium Topstone, is just too big! So if you choose Topstone consider sizing.
Thanks for the detailed response!
Did you feel that the Niner is more upright? The Topstone more aggressive?
As for the sizing, I'm sort of between sizes no matter which brand I go (I'm 5.7` - 174 cm) so I'll likely go with the smaller size in each of the brands.
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Old 06-10-20, 08:31 AM
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In my area tire clearance mattes and I was really put off by the fact that the Topstone can only take 40c tires. Too small for our borderline MTBing that we call gravel...and too small if it gets muddy.

I'm a Giant fanboy personally. Too bad you can't get a Revolt Advanced in your area. Very underrated bike and amazing value.
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Old 06-10-20, 09:01 AM
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On an all purpose adventure/road/gravel bike, it comes down to flexibility with tires and sizes. I think they define the bike more than anything else assuming you have the right size bike and your stance and position is comfortable. Tire choices can change comfort, capability, and confidence on various terrain 100x more than any specific frame/fork/handlebar or stem design can (exception is I avoid noodle frames). I'll go out on a limb and suggest even a 5-10psi difference in tire pressure will over shadow any long day on gravel comfort difference between any two different frames of equal geometry but different materials and design. Having multiple wheel sets and cassettes or just swapping them as needed gives a gravel/adventure bike a wide range of possibilities to be "better" at a lot of different things. Just an example but I have 37, 42, and 45c of different capability and tread. They make a HUGE difference in my overall quality of my ride on any given day. You can change tires to tweak relatively cheap and after you already have the frame/fork.

Coming from an MTB background, you may like a more wider/flared handlebar for more control, easy to swap later. Going that route was a game changer for me.

Last edited by u235; 06-10-20 at 12:35 PM.
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Old 06-10-20, 11:37 AM
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I would take a look at what the max tire clearance is for each of those. The difference between 37s and 40s is not huge, and with the discrepancy in tire measurements, I would not give that a whole lot of thought. What REALLY matters is how big of a tire CAN you fit in there?

I would also look at things like rack mounts to make sure they have what you need and think you might need in the future.

Both of those things are more important to me than steel vs CF (both are good), and 105 vs Ultegra (again, both are good).
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Old 06-10-20, 01:24 PM
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It's so subjective. For me the Niner would be numero uno because it's steel.
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Old 06-10-20, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Grasschopper View Post
In my area tire clearance mattes and I was really put off by the fact that the Topstone can only take 40c tires. Too small for our borderline MTBing that we call gravel...and too small if it gets muddy.

I'm a Giant fanboy personally. Too bad you can't get a Revolt Advanced in your area. Very underrated bike and amazing value.
Unfortunately the only Giant gravel bike they import is the Revolt 1.
I tried contacting them about possibly getting other models but no answer yet.
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Old 06-10-20, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Aviv View Post
Thanks for the detailed response!
Did you feel that the Niner is more upright? The Topstone more aggressive?
As for the sizing, I'm sort of between sizes no matter which brand I go (I'm 5.7` - 174 cm) so I'll likely go with the smaller size in each of the brands.
I am a bit over 5'8" and I fit the 53 niner well. however the RLT Steel has a higher stand over and I rub slightly than the RLT 9 RDO. just 1 more reason I went with the RDO. and IF I ever do extended bike traveling, I'll probably pick a fargo, or Bombtrack Beyondor some such bike.

As far as knowing which is more aggressive I don't really have the answer because the bikes at the Niner demo bikes had flipped stems and spacers on top, It was super nice ! I liked it! and well the Cannondale was too large for me.

Pretty sure you'd like the 50 Niner, so compare that to the Small Topstone geo.
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Old 06-11-20, 03:43 AM
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I contacted a few more shops. While Specialized and Giant don't import gravel bikes that fit my budget. But I did found out the there is a MERIDA SILEX 7000 2020 for 3,287 USD.
From the information I was able to gather, it has a more upright position, GRX 800, and can fit up to 42c tires which is nice (comes with 38). Even larger on 650b but I don't think I'll go there.
Any feedback on this bike?

Last edited by Aviv; 06-15-20 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 06-15-20, 04:32 PM
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The shop that imports Niner just told me they are bringing in the 2020 models.
That means I can get the Niner RLT 3 star steel for 3,580 USD, it is more expensive than the rest of the choices but will fit a MUCH larger tire if I need it. Other than that it comes with rival 22,
I could also order just the frame and pick the other parts, this is an option that might be worth considering.


I think I won't go for the Topstone and the Terra because of their more aggressive geometry.
That leaves me with the Merida Selix 7000 and the RLT 3 star steel 2019/2020.
The Merida stands out with GRX 800 and full carbon.
The RLT 2020: huge tire clearance: 50c for 700c, compared to the 42mm of the Merida.
The RLT 2019: Just cheaper.

Not sure if the higher tire clearance worth the extra 300 USD over the Merida.
I feel like the full carbon is better than steel and the Merida got better specs other than the clearance.
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Old 06-15-20, 05:42 PM
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a 42c resolute is a nice tire if your not riding on sharp gravel or picking up broken glass commuting. Just throwing that out there for your singletrack mostly gravel rides... Tires like the 700x45 riddler or 700x50 MSO might be fun, but OMg the weight penalty. so the real reason for more clearance is a 42 + mudguards. For me anyways.

I don't know anything about the Merida brand.....

I do know I would pick GRX 800 over Rival 7 days a week.

if your 20-30K was more like 60-80k then the steel would be more attractive.

last thought, just looked it up, I love that Green on the Merida website Edit: oh and the ramblers that come on the Merida, nice tires!
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Old 06-15-20, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Metieval View Post
a 42c resolute is a nice tire if your not riding on sharp gravel or picking up broken glass commuting. Just throwing that out there for your singletrack mostly gravel rides... Tires like the 700x45 riddler or 700x50 MSO might be fun, but OMg the weight penalty. so the real reason for more clearance is a 42 + mudguards. For me anyways.

I don't know anything about the Merida brand.....

I do know I would pick GRX 800 over Rival 7 days a week.

if your 20-30K was more like 60-80k then the steel would be more attractive.

last thought, just looked it up, I love that Green on the Merida website Edit: oh and the ramblers that come on the Merida, nice tires!
I've done mixed terrain centuries on 45 Riddler's (40 miles asphalt, rest various gravel). Wasn't great on the asphalt but great on the gravel. Done the same route with 37 Hutchinson Overide and 42 Conti Speedride (tubed) and no different in effort or my average speed for the route. I get more value from comfort than a little more weight on the long haul off road I guess. Self supported and I wear a backpack for those too so maybe its all relative. I wouldn't commute on the Riddler, the others I mentioned are perfect for that and handle better on the road. I'm a huge fan of having multiple wheel/tires/cassette combos which i think I mentioned in this thread already.

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Old 06-15-20, 11:29 PM
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I don't know if its possible for you to check out in your area but I recently bought a Felt Breed 20. It comes with 650 x 47 but can be fitted with 700 x 45. I absolutely love it and the tires don't feel slow like I was worried about. It's very comfortable on all terrain that I've taken it out on. The only downside is that is a 1x11 so I don't have much top end and just spin out on descents.
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Old 06-18-20, 01:24 AM
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No Felts gravel bike here, unfortunately.

BTW, I found out that the wheels on the Merida Silex 7000 (fulcrum racing 700 db) will only fit a certain number of tires for tubeless (all are Schwalbe) but the tires on the silex 7000 are Maxxis Ramler.
So essentially to go tubeless on the Silex 7000 you need to buy a new set of tires (from a limited list) or a new set of wheels...

I contacted Merida about it, they said it will be checked with their R&D guys and get back to me.
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Old 06-23-20, 01:46 PM
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Update:
Due to the fact I can't test ride the bikes, I went to do bike fitting and its a good thing I did. Turns out I have really long legs for my height but a short torso.
Basically using the mock-bike we reached the optimal geometry for me and then compared it to the geometries of all the bikes available here.

Because of my unusual legs-torso ratio, most bikes will either be impossible to modify (using different stem size/spacers) to reach the optimal position or will be pushed to the limit (max spacers, etc`)
In the end, it left us with Merida Silex in medium size.

So now my final decision is between:
Silex 6000+ 650b wheels. Sram Force 1.
Silex 7000 700c wheels. Shimano GRX 800.

Bikes have the same frame, just different components, and different styles:
650 x 38x vs 700 x 45c wheels.
1x gears vs 2x gears. (Sram Force1 vs GRX 800)

What do you think?
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Old 06-23-20, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Aviv View Post
Update:
Due to the fact I can't test ride the bikes, I went to do bike fitting and its a good thing I did. Turns out I have really long legs for my height but a short torso.
Basically using the mock-bike we reached the optimal geometry for me and then compared it to the geometries of all the bikes available here.

Because of my unusual legs-torso ratio, most bikes will either be impossible to modify (using different stem size/spacers) to reach the optimal position or will be pushed to the limit (max spacers, etc`)
In the end, it left us with Merida Silex in medium size.

So now my final decision is between:
Silex 6000+ 650b wheels. Sram Force 1.
Silex 7000 700c wheels. Shimano GRX 800.

Bikes have the same frame, just different components, and different styles:
650 x 38x vs 700 x 45c wheels.
1x gears vs 2x gears. (Sram Force1 vs GRX 800)

What do you think?
Personally I'd start with 700c as that will roll a bit faster than 650b.

With your proportions I'm a little surprised you ended up choosing the Merida with its long reach and very short seat tube. At least it is a rather upright frame to suit your taller saddle position.

Perhaps you have pretty long arms? (or maybe you'll end up running the fit with a shorter stem).

Anyway the carbon 2x GRX model is one of the lighter gravel bikes when compared to similar other brands.

Good luck.
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Old 06-23-20, 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by tangerineowl View Post
Personally I'd start with 700c as that will roll a bit faster than 650b.

With your proportions I'm a little surprised you ended up choosing the Merida with its long reach and very short seat tube. At least it is a rather upright frame to suit your taller saddle position.

Perhaps you have pretty long arms? (or maybe you'll end up running the fit with a shorter stem).

Anyway the carbon 2x GRX model is one of the lighter gravel bikes when compared to similar other brands.

Good luck.
Compared to the average with my height:
Torso is 3.5 cm smaller.
Inseam is 5.3 cm longer.
Arms are 3.4 cm longer.

It came down to the fact that I need a bike with high enough stack which makes sense: Long legs -> high seat post -> need to lean more to reach the handlebar.
Compared to other gravel bikes, the Silex has a very high stack.

I'll go to the LBS in one of the upcoming days to seal the deal.
Now I just need to decide on pedals (rode flat on MTB).

Last edited by Aviv; 06-23-20 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 07-11-20, 04:44 AM
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We are looking for the exact same thing from a bicycle and have the same hight and everything besides legs-torso ratio. I tried Merida Silex 7000 size M. The bike looks amazing but it wasn't comfortable at all, I was too stretched out and none of the Merida branches have size S in their stores to try.
I am also going to do a bikefitting tomorrow which will hopefully help me out to choose the right bike and size. Did you do your bikefitting at the Vernik Bikefitting or somewhere else? I heard good stuff about him and still not sure whether it worths 200 bucks to pay or just keep it for a better budget for a better bike.
Also did you end up buying the Silex?
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Old 07-11-20, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by cemark View Post
We are looking for the exact same thing from a bicycle and have the same hight and everything besides legs-torso ratio. I tried Merida Silex 7000 size M. The bike looks amazing but it wasn't comfortable at all, I was too stretched out and none of the Merida branches have size S in their stores to try.
I am also going to do a bikefitting tomorrow which will hopefully help me out to choose the right bike and size. Did you do your bikefitting at the Vernik Bikefitting or somewhere else? I heard good stuff about him and still not sure whether it worths 200 bucks to pay or just keep it for a better budget for a better bike.
Also did you end up buying the Silex?
Yes, I went to Vernik, he is a really nice guy. Tell him how you felt with the 7000 in M. He can mimic the geo of the S size and you can try it in the clinic.
I think it is worth the money when you buy a 2500$+ bike. Better be safe than sorry with the fit when you are already paying that much money.

Yes, I went with the Silex 7000 and enjoying it a lot. Had a dilemma between the 6000+ and 7000. Went with the 7000 for the better specs, if in the future I'll decide I need wider tires I can always buy 650b wheels and put them on the frame.
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Old 07-11-20, 05:09 AM
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Enjoy your bike. Great looking bike with perfect geometry for comfort.
I want the 7000 so much but unfortunately over my budget and looking for a second hand but no one is selling size S in the mean time. If you didn't buy the 7000 i was going to suggest you to look at the marketplace. Someone is selling 6000+ size M for 10.5K with some other accessories. By the way if you need any kind of service from the Rosen&Meents just go to Velodrom branch. Their salesperson/manager is a really nice/helpful guy. Customer service of the other branch is just miserable, especially the one next to Azrieli.
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Old 07-11-20, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by cemark View Post
Enjoy your bike. Great looking bike with perfect geometry for comfort.
I want the 7000 so much but unfortunately over my budget and looking for a second hand but no one is selling size S in the mean time. If you didn't buy the 7000 i was going to suggest you to look at the marketplace. Someone is selling 6000+ size M for 10.5K with some other accessories. By the way if you need any kind of service from the Rosen&Meents just go to Velodrom branch. Their salesperson/manager is a really nice/helpful guy. Customer service of the other branch is just miserable, especially the one next to Azrieli.
That's the branch I bought the bike in Its 15 min ride from where I live so it works great for me. Also, Vernik works with he guy there because it's the nearest branch to the clinic.
If it's out of your budget you can try the aluminum frame, but the tire clearance is lower there. Or you can wait for the 2021 models and then get the 2020 cheaper, don't know when this is expected though.
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Old 07-11-20, 06:21 AM
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That guy also suggested me to see Vernik for bikefitting. I don't mind the tyre clearance so much. 40mm would be more than enough for me but aluminium versions's color scheme looks pretty bad for my taste. Not like that mat green beauty. Also they are asking almost 6k for their entry level one. They had a discount for 2019 Silex 7000 which i missed because of corona time. I asked them whether they would offer that discount for one time but they refused, (Rosen&Meents's amazins customer service). Now they raised the price to 10700 for a 2019 version which has only size XS. Such a shame that they are the sole supplier of Merida. Like the brand hate the supplier.
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