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What are Some Good yet Basic Upgrades New Gravel Bike Owners Should Look at?

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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.

What are Some Good yet Basic Upgrades New Gravel Bike Owners Should Look at?

Old 04-04-21, 12:20 AM
  #26  
Sertsa
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After getting a bike and riding again a little over a year ago I've bought: 1) Padded liner shorts, as they make rides more comfortable (I mainly wear standard workout clothes over them). 2) A bell as hikers/runners with headphones weren't hearing me give notice. I think it's been more effective in alerting animals, though. 3) Front and rear lights for early morning and evening rides. 4) Small bag with a spare inner-tube, multi-tool, tire levers, and patch kit. 5) Water bottle and cage. 6) Maintenance and cleaning supplies. That's been it, except for replacing worn parts.

I've been using a couple GPS/tracking apps, though. I may get a bike computer, especially as I want to explore longer rides in unfamiliar places. And I plan to convert to tubeless at some point.
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Old 04-04-21, 12:27 AM
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Haven't read the entire thread, and know that this has already been mentioned, but....

#1 thru #10 priorites: spare no expense or effort on finding a saddle you like! If the stock saddle is satisfactory, that's great, you can put on 500-1000 miles and then decide what you'd like to improve upon (lots of people change tires and wheels next).

If the saddle is not satisfactory for at the very least a two hour ride (preferably more), you need to find a better one. Find a shop or online company that will allow you to test them and return for full credit until you find the one you like.
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Old 04-07-21, 07:51 PM
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What kind of pedals does it have? If it came with those plastic sort of "temporary" pedals, that's something I'd swap out right away even if you're not sure yet if you want to stick with flats or try clipless(whatever works for you--plenty of people, myself included, prefer flat mountain bike-style pedals on gravel bikes, but clipless certainly has it's appeal as well - neither is "better" than the other, it's personal preference).
If you take that rig out on any remotely rough stuff you're gonna want more grip than those cheapo stock pedals provide, IMHO. I just got some Kona Wah Wahs--the composite/plastic ones--for my son's bike and they're great bang for buck at $60. Plenty of grippy pins, and light. At least your feet won't be slipping around while you get used to riding this beast.
Other than that, tubeless FTW - no reason to wait on that.
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Old 04-07-21, 10:20 PM
  #29  
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On my 3rd handlebar and stem combo now. Increasing cockpit height by going from FSA A-wing Pro bars with aero flats to Surly Truck Stops with 30mm rise. Also throwing on some foam pipe insulation (from the plumbing section at Home Depot) under parts of the bar tape for extra cushioning. Those handlebar-specific gel cushion inserts aren’t cushy enough.

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Old 04-07-21, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Wilbur76 View Post
Also throwing on some foam pipe insulation (from the plumbing section at Home Depot) under parts of the bar tape for extra cushioning. Those handlebar-specific gel cushion inserts arenít cushy enough.
Interesting approach, though not one I'd ever be inclined to experiment with. Regular round bars are about 1" (27-28mm) diameter at the outer dimension. That pipe insulation would add significantly to the OD. I'm guessing your plan is to install it to just one side of the bar. For round numbers based on eyeballing that picture, your ~1" bar would become 1.5-1.6" total OD if applied to just the bar tops...before you put tape on it. The greater circumference (would increase by the same amount as the OD) would cause the bar tape to be too short. Something else to consider, pipe insulation is designed to insulate and it is made with closed cell foam that isn't very compressibleĖthicker likely won't mean more shock absorption.

That is a long way to say, IMO, this is unlikely to provide the result you're looking for. Honestly, if the bumping and buzzing in the handlebar on gravel is bothersome, don't ride gravel. It's a feature of the surface. There are ways to reduce it, it is impossible, in my experience, to eliminate it.
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Old 04-07-21, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
Interesting approach, though not one I'd ever be inclined to experiment with. Regular round bars are about 1" (27-28mm) diameter at the outer dimension. That pipe insulation would add significantly to the OD. I'm guessing your plan is to install it to just one side of the bar. For round numbers based on eyeballing that picture, your ~1" bar would become 1.5-1.6" total OD if applied to just the bar tops...before you put tape on it. The greater circumference (would increase by the same amount as the OD) would cause the bar tape to be too short. Something else to consider, pipe insulation is designed to insulate and it is made with closed cell foam that isn't very compressibleĖthicker likely won't mean more shock absorption.

That is a long way to say, IMO, this is unlikely to provide the result you're looking for. Honestly, if the bumping and buzzing in the handlebar on gravel is bothersome, don't ride gravel. It's a feature of the surface. There are ways to reduce it, it is impossible, in my experience, to eliminate it.
Wasnít planning to cover the whole bar in insulating pipe foam. Will cut into small sections lengthwise and place only on the tops but angled toward me and on the top of drops. Pretty much where youíd use a gel insert. And more for general cushioning vs specific bumps or buzz which never really bothered me as my carbon fork absorbs most of it.
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Old 04-08-21, 01:21 AM
  #32  
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I figured you weren't trying to make your bars the size of the business end of a baseball stick...but, I'm really curious what making them significantly fatter does? The purpose of a gel insert is to provide cushion, and it invariably adds size. Closed cell foam is far less compressible than the gel, but definitely more than an aluminum or carbon bar. In essence while minimally softening the actual place you grip, it really is just making the bar fatter....maybe I am missing something, does making the bar fatter increase comfort? Legitimately asking.
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Old 04-08-21, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by pbass View Post
What kind of pedals does it have? If it came with those plastic sort of "temporary" pedals, that's something I'd swap out right away even if you're not sure yet if you want to stick with flats or try clipless(whatever works for you--plenty of people, myself included, prefer flat mountain bike-style pedals on gravel bikes, but clipless certainly has it's appeal as well - neither is "better" than the other, it's personal preference).
If you take that rig out on any remotely rough stuff you're gonna want more grip than those cheapo stock pedals provide, IMHO. I just got some Kona Wah Wahs--the composite/plastic ones--for my son's bike and they're great bang for buck at $60. Plenty of grippy pins, and light. At least your feet won't be slipping around while you get used to riding this beast.
Other than that, tubeless FTW - no reason to wait on that.
**Update**

I wanted to close the loop on this, but also let people know about a shoe I found. I ended up getting the Shimano 540 pedals (they were out of the A60s). Then the woman at the shop showed me a Shimano shoe for about $120 but when she looked for it, they were sold out of that model. Then she showed me the Shimano XC7 which were about $220. I appreciated her recommending the lesser-priced shoe first, also I was sure about the plastic looking cable on the XC7. But I really like the micro adjust mechanism on these shoes, it's easy to adjust on the fly.

I didn't want to spend $320 that day but there you have it.
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Old 04-08-21, 09:17 AM
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A lot depends on what kind of terrain you'll be on:

A dropper post can be helpful, if you take the gravel bike down any steep dirt descents.

Tubeless at a lower psi, for better traction over roots and rock gardens, if that's what you deal with on your gravel routes.

I prefer clipless pedals/shoes when doing slow technical uphill climbs, so I can engage more of the pedal stroke using the hamstrings.
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Old 04-08-21, 09:19 AM
  #35  
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That plastic cable is actually a wire cable that has been coated. It is super durable. In 6 years using Boa adjusters, I've never had a cable break...but Boa has a really awesome warranty, and they will replace it if the adjuster or cable malfunction or break. Ride with confidence!
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Old 04-08-21, 10:53 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
I figured you weren't trying to make your bars the size of the business end of a baseball stick...but, I'm really curious what making them significantly fatter does? The purpose of a gel insert is to provide cushion, and it invariably adds size. Closed cell foam is far less compressible than the gel, but definitely more than an aluminum or carbon bar. In essence while minimally softening the actual place you grip, it really is just making the bar fatter....maybe I am missing something, does making the bar fatter increase comfort? Legitimately asking.
For me, a fatter bar works because it spreads the load for my palms a little more. Helps with slight carpal issues. Also why I got the riser bar so Iím putting less weight on my hands by sitting a little more upright.
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Old 04-08-21, 01:44 PM
  #37  
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Regarding the benefit of tubeless...I have a good direct comparison that I found a little surprising. On my previous gravel bike I had 650x47mm GKSK on 25mm internal rims. I ran them with a tube, and went as low as I felt save to do so avoiding pinch flats. Never got a pinch flat and the ride on my local double track was good. My current bike has 700x40, 23mm internal rims, tubeless, and they're way better at cornering and handling than the previous set up, even though the Touareg tire isn't as flat across as the GKSK. Not sure exactly why, but I chalk it up to tubeless and lower pressure.
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Old 04-09-21, 07:46 AM
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My 2 upgrades I couldn't live without are my Redshift stem and my Selle Anatomica saddle.
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Old 04-09-21, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
Mine will be 62 this year. I mean it, work on YOU; after that nothing else matters as much.
Yep. 61 this year, right behind ya. There's a coupla guys in my area who look like Gandalf - gotta be 70-something - who shred the singletrack I regularly ride like beasts. And their rigs are also old - nothin' fancy there!
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Old 04-09-21, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by pbass View Post
Yep. 61 this year, right behind ya. There's a coupla guys in my area who look like Gandalf - gotta be 70-something - who shred the singletrack I regularly ride like beasts. And their rigs are also old - nothin' fancy there!
I hope I'm like them when it's that time!

Regarding "rigs are also old - nothin' fancy there!", I'm starting to get jaded about new, high end components. I'm not sure the quest for lighter, slick looking, and more gears is the way to go. Give me something with a solid track record, that is easy to service and not expensive to replace/repair.
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Old 04-09-21, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Wilbur76 View Post
For me, a fatter bar works because it spreads the load for my palms a little more. Helps with slight carpal issues. Also why I got the riser bar so Iím putting less weight on my hands by sitting a little more upright.
Consider the Redshift Shockstop stem. Because of arthritis in my elbows I've gone from minimalist tape and gloves to gel inserts, padded tape and gloves. I got a Shockstop stem last year it's really nice for rough surfaces. Subtle, but at the end of the ride you realize that it was working well, kind of at a background level.
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Old 04-09-21, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
Consider the Redshift Shockstop stem. Because of arthritis in my elbows I've gone from minimalist tape and gloves to gel inserts, padded tape and gloves. I got a Shockstop stem last year it's really nice for rough surfaces. Subtle, but at the end of the ride you realize that it was working well, kind of at a background level.
Considered it but the Redshift stem doesn’t give me the cockpit height I still needed. TBH it’s more about getting a little extra bar real estate to spread my hands over, then it is about road buzz. If it were I’d probably plop down some cash for a Lauf Grit fork. Besides I already have these when the road gets bumpy.


Last edited by Wilbur76; 04-09-21 at 10:31 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 04-11-21, 05:46 PM
  #43  
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Yeah, it's too bad they don't make a shockstop with a higher angle.
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Old 04-20-21, 09:41 AM
  #44  
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I agree with the general recommendation of tubeless being the number one thing to do - if you have not already. Being able to run low tire pressure will do more than just soften the ride (like suspension parts) as it also improves traction.
Bars are a very personal choice - I really like my flared low-drop bars (Ritchey VentureMax). You want to be really comfortable in the drops as it is the best position for tricky descents.
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Old 04-20-21, 09:53 AM
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I was wondering if I could get some advice on forks? My current gravel bike is an alloy frame with steel fork, hydraulic brakes and running a QR hub on the front wheel. Is it worth getting a carbon fork to lighten the weight? Also is there any recommendations on what CF forks to look at? Thanks!
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Old 04-20-21, 10:00 AM
  #46  
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Whisky carbon forks are well regarded and they make QR with disc brake mounts.
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Old 05-02-21, 07:40 PM
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Redshift ShockStop stem

After setting up my bike tubeless, the next most significant and worthwhile upgrade I made was buying a Redshift ShockStop stem. The ShockStop stem completely transformed my bike (2020 Specialized Diverge Elite E5). I’ve never seen a negative review of the ShockStop stem anywhere (though many of the positive reviews are recreational riders using the high-rise version).

Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
Yeah, it's too bad they don't make a shockstop with a higher angle.
Redshift already sells a +30 degree version of the ShockStop stem. That's not enough up angle?

Last edited by Motorazr; 05-03-21 at 02:22 PM.
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Old 05-02-21, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Motorazr View Post
After setting up my bike tubeless, the next most significant and worthwhile upgrade I made was buying a Redshift ShockStop stem. Iím VERY surprised that no one mentioned this one item. The ShockStop stem completely transformed my bike (2020 Specialized Diverge Elite E5). Iíve never seen a negative review of the ShockStop stem anywhere (though many of the positive reviews are recreational riders using the high-rise version).
I second this. Got one this winter and it's the best thing since sliced bread.
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Old 05-02-21, 08:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jonathanf2 View Post
I was wondering if I could get some advice on forks? My current gravel bike is an alloy frame with steel fork, hydraulic brakes and running a QR hub on the front wheel. Is it worth getting a carbon fork to lighten the weight? Also is there any recommendations on what CF forks to look at? Thanks!
Is it a motobecane branded bike? Not many offerings that I know of with aluminum frame and steel fork.

Things you need to know to change your fork-
- what size headtube do you have? Does it only handle a 1 1/8 straight steerer tube or is it larger and can handle a tapered steerer tube? This matters since most modern gravel forks come with a tapered steerer. There are some carbon forks with a straight steerer tube though.
- what is your current forks axle to crown measurement? To replicate your current steering feeling, you will want to buy a replacement fork with that same measurement, or close to it.
- what is your current forks rake? Again, matching this will help make steering feel the same.

Post these numbers here if you can find em.
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Old 05-03-21, 08:33 PM
  #50  
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Straight steerer forks can still be good- Ritchey actually only made straight steerer forks until very recently, and most of their fork offerings are still straight steerer.

Ritchey, fixation sparta, and Soma have qr disc gravel forks.
a lot of thru axle wheelsets come with adapters for QR too.

As for the tapered fork...meh. tapering the steerer stiffens the fork, but I've ridden straight steerer steel forks and a tapered steerer carbon, but can't say ive ever felt like any of the bikes had a noodly flexible front end.
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