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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.

Neo-retro vs modern bike

Old 09-12-20, 05:45 PM
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mack_turtle
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Neo-retro vs modern bike

I am going to acquire a new do-it-all steel, singlespeed "monstercross" bike soon. I might have the opportunity for one of the following bikes:
  • Black Mountain Monstercross frameset with nice donated parts from an older cyclocross bike. The BMMC would have 45mm tubeless tires, canti brakes, and 100/130mm road hubs.
  • Van Dessel WTF with thru axles, disc brakes, etc.
i have a hankering for a funky old-style bike, but I fear I might regret not getting all the modern options with no hope of updating it.
What should I consider, knowing that I would want to ride this bike a long time and it's one of two bikes that I have the space and budget to own?

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Old 09-12-20, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
I am going to acquire a new do-it-all steel, singlespeed "monstercross" bike soon. I might have the opportunity for one of the following bikes:
  • Black Mountain Monstercross frameset with nice donated parts from an older cyclocross bike. The BMMC would have 45mm tubeless tires, canti brakes, and 100/130mm road hubs.
  • Van Dessel WTF with thru axles, disc brakes, etc.
i have a hankering for a funky old-style bike, but I fear I might regret not getting all the modern options with no hope of updating it.
What should I consider, knowing that I would want to ride this bike a long time and it's one of two bikes that I have the space and budget to own?
Make sure you get really good brakes. I did see hour long gravel descent today with disc brakes. Did the same thing a few years ago with cantilever brakes. No comparison.

Dave
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Old 09-12-20, 07:52 PM
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I don't know much about Van Dessel, but IMO, the Black Mountain Monster Cross Disc should also be on your list. Mike Varney is one of the single best guys in the bike industry, and working with him on my BMMC was an absolute pleasure. I went with cantis on mine, because I'm kind of a retro guy and I live in a dry climate and appreciate the familiarity and simplicity of the Paul Component Neo-Retros. But if I did get a bike with discs, I'd get one with thru axles, because of the additional stiffness they bring, especially to the fork; I can't stand rotor rub.

I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything by riding a canti bike with QRs. If I lived in the mountains I'd probably feel differently.
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Old 09-12-20, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I don't know much about Van Dessel, but IMO, the Black Mountain Monster Cross Disc should also be on your list.
It would be, but setting it up singlespeed would be a pain in the butt. That's a deal-breaker for me. I asked, and Mike has no plans for a SS-friendly Monstercross Disc. Too bad.
I've been at this "pick a bike" game for a few weeks and everything is either not available due to the pandemic or blows my budget out of the water.

I could certainly live without thru-axles, but I wonder if the kind of riding I want to do might make me regret foregoing disc brakes. No mountains in central Texas and it's pretty dry most of the time, but I want to feel confident in foul weather and gravel racing.

The donor CX bike I have in mind appears to have Chris King hubs and TRP Euromax brakes with Campy Record levers.

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Old 09-12-20, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
It would be, but setting it up singlespeed would be a pain in the butt. That's a deal-breaker for me.
Sorry -- I spaced that you wanted a singlespeed. That takes the MCD out of the running.

Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
I've been at this "pick a bike" game for a few weeks and everything is either not available due to the pandemic or blows my budget out of the water.
Yeah, it looks like November or December for a lot of manufacturers. That gives you more time to research.

Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
I could certainly live without thru-axles, but I wonder if the kind of riding I want to do might make me regret foregoing disc brakes. No mountains in central Texas and it's pretty dry most of the time, but I want to feel confident in foul weather and gravel racing.
I guess one way to look at it is that Dan Hughes won the first DK with cantis. Not sure where you plan to race, but Castell and Smithville wouldn't be a problem unless the weather really goes to hell.

It sure seems like a Chumba Terlingua checks all of your boxes. Helluva bike!
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Old 09-13-20, 05:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
It sure seems like a Chumba Terlingua checks all of your boxes. Helluva bike!
That would automatically be at the top of my list but it would be waaaaay over my wildest dreams of a budget.

I join some gravel races occasionally but not competitively. I am sure the brakes don't matter much for competition until you reach elite levels, and that's not for me. I participate in these races purely to have fun and challenge myself.

my main goal for a bike like this is long, fun, exploring rides where I ride around my local roads and singletrack, trying to find the most interesting way to hidden trails, obscure roads, and bike paths. the brake concern is more of long-term durability and value. I don't want to pigeonhole myself into something that costs more to maintain in the long run.

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Old 09-13-20, 09:40 AM
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I don't think I could go back to riding a bike with cantilevers as my main bike bombing down steep descents and dirt B-roads. Looking back and what I did on a bike with crummy brakes, I am honestly pretty shocked things didn't end badly at least once.

Like you, I also do gravel races for fun, and to have a goal to maintain a good level of fitness instead of lollygagging all the time during adventure type rides. I think it's just common sense to have maximum control of your bike if you ride in the bunches that happen at these events, and also being realistic about not taking it easy on every decent if you don't have confidence in your brakes.
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Old 09-13-20, 04:02 PM
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I've had a rim brake Black Mountain for over 4 years now and love it. Its no longer my gravel frame, but I can't see getting g rid of it.
I turned it into a commute/touring bike and since covid shut down me using it in that capacity, I turned it into a single speed for flat twisty singletrack.


I get that disc brakes are better in most measurable ways. My current gravel frame is disc.
But I have never thought twice about how i ride that frame. I am 215# and can ride it with gear and it stops me perfectly. My canti brakes are '80s Suntour even.


You mention you are concerned with not having modern options, which is totally understandable, but there really isnt much progression of tech when it comes to a singlespeed bike. Basically, its just the brakes. Thats the only tech that has updated.

I guess brakes come down to the terrain you ride. Mine is a mix of rolling, flat,, and short steep climbs. Plenty of overall climb, but no multi-mile descents. Cantis have been great.

Oh, and Varley is awesome.
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Old 09-13-20, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
my main goal for a bike like this is long, fun, exploring rides where I ride around my local roads and singletrack, trying to find the most interesting way to hidden trails, obscure roads, and bike paths. the brake concern is more of long-term durability and value.
You said earlier that you wanted "to feel confident in foul weather and gravel racing." If your real goal is exploring country roads and trails, cantilevers and quick-release axles are simple, easily serviced, and have been time-tested and well proven for decades. Best of luck with your search.
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Old 09-14-20, 10:37 AM
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I have two bikes - a geared 2019 Rove ST w discs, and a singlespeed Cross Check with rim brakes. I ride them both in the same conditions, terrain, etc. No problem with the rim brakes stopping me, including on some pretty long, hot SoCal fireroad descents. Doesn't get very wet here though, admittedly.
You mention it will be one of a two bike quiver? I really like having a "modern" geared gravel bike, and a more retro singlespeed. To me it's sort of a perfect duo!
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Old 09-14-20, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by pbass View Post
You mention it will be one of a two bike quiver? I really like having a "modern" geared gravel bike, and a more retro singlespeed. To me it's sort of a perfect duo!
my other bike is a singlespeed Surly Karate Monkey with 29x2.4 tires and a 120mm fork. it's a blast on trails, not so much on roads—paved or otherwise. I always want to have a second bike for roaming around roads and gravel paths. I am more likely to ride the drop bar bike when the trails are too muddy to ride on the mountain bike or when I want to cover more distance on a lighter bike.

I am currently considering a Twin Six Standard Rando or a Van Dessel WTF. each could be converted to SS with an PF30 BB eccentric adapter. So far, Twin Six is working with me to build a semi-custom bike with SS parts. I am waiting to hear if Van Dessel will do something similar.
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Old 09-14-20, 01:35 PM
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What about a Surly Cross Check? I wanted a BMC Monstercross but didn't like the most recent yellow color, and the older blue and green ones were sold out in my size by the time I got hip to Black Mountain Cycles.

I ended up finding a used, complete Cross Check on craigslist for less than the cost of a Monstercross frame and shipping...and for the price, I won't complain (much) about the color I ended up with.

As for parts, I can't imagine cantilever brakes and parts will become impossible to find for a very long time...certainly longer than my remaining cycling years, I figure.
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Old 09-14-20, 01:56 PM
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A lot of bikes in the Facebook Rohloff group seem to be 'monstercross' .. 29er plus , with drop bars or not..

they're not single speed because unlike Austin Texas, Germany, Belgium etc, has a lot of un flat or barely hilly areas ..
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Old 09-14-20, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Squeeze View Post
What about a Surly Cross Check?
I was thinking the same thing. I've been looking for a Surly CC used and keep finding the wrong size every time. in fact, I keep looking at the geometry of the CC and I can't figure out how I would get it to fit me. I think it's the tiny little head tubes they put on that frame. sizing from ETT, I'd have to put a short, super upright stem and a giant stack of spacers on on a 52cm frame, or a slightly less absurd stack on a 54. not sure why they designed it that way, but it might work for actual cyclocross racing. I suspect that's why surly makes the Truck Stop handlebar—so people with Surlys can ride their low-stack bikes.

as cool as that still sounds, I think I can move ahead toward a more modern bike.
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Old 09-14-20, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
I, I keep looking at the geometry of the CC and I can't figure out how I would get it to fit me. I think it's the tiny little head tubes they put on that frame. sizing from ETT, I'd have to put a short, super upright stem and a giant stack of spacers on on a 52cm frame, or a slightly less absurd stack on a 54.
Funny -- I sold my Cross Check and bought my Black Mountain for this very reason. Surly has said that their long top tube/short head tube design is a purist CX thing, which is ironic considering that NO ONE races a Cross Check.

Here's a Cross Check compared to a Monster Cross:


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Old 09-14-20, 05:02 PM
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If you're interested in steel, the Soma Wolverine (A type) is an under-the-radar frameset that checks most of the boxes. Really nice Tange Prestige frame with sliding dropouts (geared or single speed), contemporary gravel geometry, doesn't cost a fortune. The one problem with it is that it uses obsolete IS brake mounts, so you'd have to run IS to post, which is also becoming obsolete.
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Old 09-14-20, 05:25 PM
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I ride an old Voodoo Wazoo that's basically gravel before it was a thing. It's not appreciably different than a modern canti and QR gravel bike.

My experience and gut tell me to tell you to get disc brakes. One of the major things I use that bike for is huge climbs and descents. The canti's can handle it but discs would do a better job.

However, you're talking single speed. Little chance that a one speed would get up what I'm talking about unless that one gear was 40x36 or 42. That would make for an awfully lousy bike. In a reasonable range, 40x18 or 22, you just won't be using that bike in the Rockies or Sierra's, so the brakes won't matter as much.

If you ever want to get shifting though, you just bought a brand new obsolete bike. It's kinda cool on an old bike, I'd never buy a new one that's not disc and thru axle.
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Old 09-14-20, 07:23 PM
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I might have to put this on hold until the apocalypse is over. I had few other options including some custom builds and I keep hitting roadblocks with stuff that is out of stock with no ETA in sight.
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Old 09-15-20, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
Funny -- I sold my Cross Check and bought my Black Mountain for this very reason. Surly has said that their long top tube/short head tube design is a purist CX thing, which is ironic considering that NO ONE races a Cross Check.

Here's a Cross Check compared to a Monster Cross:

Yep, the CC can be hard to fit. I started with a 52, flat-bar. I then went through alt bars, drop bars, various stems, etc in a combination of simply experimenting but mostly trying to get comfortable. "Technically" the 52 fit me, but it wasn't until I swapped my 52 frame for a 50 that I got much more comfy on it. Now I can run drops or flats and make it work. All that said, my Rove ST with the geo more like the MCD is undeniably a more comfy bike, especially for long days in the saddle.
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Old 09-16-20, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
Surly has said that their long top tube/short head tube design is a purist CX thing, which is ironic considering that NO ONE races a Cross Check.
I did... I’ll grant you, it was 7 years ago now. The Cross-Check isn’t a great race bike, but that’s because of the weight and the parts spec of the complete, not the geometry, which is good albeit outdated. Back in 2012 it was an ok entry level race bike if you had built it up from the frame with integrated shifters. Heck my solitary win in a sanctioned cyclocross race came on a Cross-Check. It is weird if that’s their stated reason though, because yeah, in modern times there really is nobody racing on a Cross-Check, and Surly’s webpage copy is pretty reticent when it comes to even suggesting that it’s a cyclocross bike. I’m not sure, though... the Straggler is, or was, basically the Cross-Check 2.0, but with the suggestion of cyclocross essentially removed as “cyclocross” as a category had ceased to mean “do-it-all roadish bike” and become much more race specific. And yet, the Straggler’s geometry is about as aggressively long and low as the Cross-Check’s, a bit less so in some sizes, but even more so in others. I don’t really get it, but for some reason Surly has a tendency to design their road bikes long and low. It’s actually one of the few things I like about them, but my preferences are unusual and also heavily influenced by being a bike racer, which definitely isn’t their median customer. So I don’t understand why they still design their bikes this way, but they do.

ETA - regarding frame sizing on the Cross-Check, the big issue is reach. I rode a size 46. I’m a small rider, but as a nominal size, that’s way below my usual range. A more typical road or cross bike size for me is about 50, in some brands I would ride a 48, in others maybe a 52. I think where people get into trouble is expecting a Cross-Check in their usual nominal size to fit them, and it ends up being far too long. I think they corrected for this on the Straggler sizing, from their geo chart the best fit for me would be size 50.

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Old 09-17-20, 09:34 AM
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It seems like Surly designs their frames with the assumption that riders are going to use and upright stem with a ton of spacers under it, so the sizing scheme probably fits in a conventional way. the long and low measurements are deceiving like that. my mountain bike is a Karate Monkey and I ride it with a low handlebar and a small spacer under the stem, but that works on a bike with a long suspension fork.
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Old 09-17-20, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
It seems like Surly designs their frames with the assumption that riders are going to use and upright stem with a ton of spacers under it, so the sizing scheme probably fits in a conventional way. the long and low measurements are deceiving like that. my mountain bike is a Karate Monkey and I ride it with a low handlebar and a small spacer under the stem, but that works on a bike with a long suspension fork.
Surly's geometry decisions are something to really behold.
They basically refuse to care that all other brands design differently, and they are proud of it, even when a bunch of their bikes are rolling around with 100mm of spacers.

Whats so amazing is that sister brands AllCity and Salsa very much design for modern geometry. Surly isnt interested and wants to keep rocking tiny head tubes and low stack heights.

It's a case study in how sometimes there can be success in spite of bucking established modern design trends.
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Old 09-17-20, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Surly's geometry decisions are something to really behold. They basically refuse to care that all other brands design differently, and they are proud of it, even when a bunch of their bikes are rolling around with 100mm of spacers. It's a case study in how sometimes there can be success in spite of bucking established modern design trends.
Yes -- and to be fair, the Cross Check is really the worst offender. Compare a few of their 54cm frames:
Cross Check: 102 mm head tube, 538mm stack height
Midnight Special: 125, 560
Bridge Club: 130, 576
Pack Rat: 145, 566
Disc Trucker: 205, 595
While still lower than some, those numbers aren't wildly different from other brands' geometries. Plus, the CC is one of Surly's longest-running and most successful models, so who am I to criticize?

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Old 09-18-20, 06:51 AM
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derail: I know a guy with a slick-tired Pugsley. most of it is black and he put every orange ano part he could find on it. it's a sight to behold! Of course he has a riser bar and 6" worth of orange and black alternating spacers under the stem to match the orange ano spoke nipples.
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