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How Have Your Opinions on Gravel Bikes Changed, if at All?

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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.

How Have Your Opinions on Gravel Bikes Changed, if at All?

Old 05-21-21, 08:05 PM
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DarKris
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How Have Your Opinions on Gravel Bikes Changed, if at All?

I started thinking about this as I brought my drop bar XC bike home from one of my LBSs after changing the rigid fork for a suspension fork and it hit me - I never expected this was going to be what I chose to be my ďgravel bikeĒ




When I first got interested in getting a gravel bike in ~2015, I was mainly looking for a bike that didnít have flat handlebars (they werenít comfortable for me), had big enough tires that could support my weight and still rolled well on road and was still capable off-road. I wanted a rigid frame because I thought I was too heavy to get any proper use of suspension, with geometry that was like an endurance road bike. But I wanted to run close to MTB sized tires, again for the volume to support my weight. But they needed to be designed for road/gravel, not for MTB trails.

So where am I at now? In terms of preferences I thought I would want a more racey gravel bike with monster tire clearance like the OPEN UP/3T Exploro. But I tried bikes similar to those and didnít like the super twitchy feeling, and toe overlap was a thing I discovered lol. So having a bike with a longer front center, and even slightly longer chainstays (~435mm+) is now what I prefer. And drop bars got wider and I only want to pair a wider flared drop with a shorter stem, similar to modern MTBs but not as extreme. For reference these are the 52CM PNW Coast drop bars and I just bought the 48CM bars for my Toughroad which will be my road plus bike. I now feel like 46CM bars are too narrow for me.

Thereís a bunch of other things like tubeless vs not, mechanical discs vs hydros (I use and like both), and wheel size 650b vs 700c (again I use both but in different ways that I thought I would use them). Iím also interested to see what you all think. Did your opinions on what you thought about gravel bikes, or what you wanted out of your gravel bikes change at all?
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Old 05-21-21, 09:11 PM
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Owning a gravel-bike has changed my perception of bicycles as a whole. I now have an appreciation for the joys of lighter weight AND for "underbiking". As much as I loved my high-end, full-squish mountain bike, which bought me a ticket into the cool-kids club on the local MTB trails, I realized that me on a full-squish bike was flatly in the "overbiking" category. Fun it's own relaxing way but very unnecessary so I recently sold it. I kept my older, 1x11 XC hardtail for riding circles in the dirt and it's fine for that (plus it has a second set of road wheels if one my sons wants to ride a greenway with me). Both bikes have nice, aftermarket wheels, set up tubeless, and having hydraulic disks is very important to me for the smooth, so smooth lever feel.

Years ago, I used to envy the guys who had nice, full-squish bikes. Been there, done that. Now, I have more respect for the guys on nice hardtails and I often wonder how many of the full-squish bikes seen out on the trails are NEEDED for the way they're being ridden - MY full-suspension bike never really was. I like the gravel-bike mindset, the sporty feel, and the experience of going to new places instead of just riding the same circles in the dirt.
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Old 05-21-21, 09:36 PM
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What I want out of a gravel bike is the same now as it's always been- comfortable and capable for mixed surface road rides.

Paved roads for 5mi to get to and from gravel roads, so something that is fun and capable on paved and unpaved roads is what I wanted and what I still want.

My gravel frame is very similar in geometry to my road bike frames- very slightly more relaxed, but quite similar.
My gravel bike is more capable than what I have talent for, so no desire to change for the foreseeable future.
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Old 05-22-21, 12:23 AM
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As long as I've been riding, there's always been a big difference between "what I thought would be totally awesome" and "what really works best for how I actually ride." For gravel, a steel singlespeed CX bike is what I reach for nine rides out of ten.
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Old 05-22-21, 04:27 AM
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They’ve adapted in an evolutionary way for me.

2014: it was about using a CX bike to ride places a skinny tire road bike shouldn't be (or at least we though they shouldn't be), I could go fast, and the gearing was just right for gravel once I made some adjustments.
2015: got a first generation Diverge, which was really just a Spesh Roubaix with clearance for bigger tires and fender mounts, handled way better than the CX, but the tires seemed to be a bit of a limitation (effectively at 32/33mm they were just CX tires), regardless it was a fast bike to ride (I still do use it for my rain bike and commuting).
2018: started riding my full squish MTB on gnarlier trails, and gravel, but the gearing was too damn low and the suspension added a degree of inefficiency that made using a MTB a less than ideal solution. I've glad I never went down the rabbit hole of converting it to a drop bar, and it never fully replaced the Diverge Mk1 that preceded it for the fact it was just too inefficient for me to ride long distances.
2021: full on pandemic and new bike cravings, and the new 3rd gen Diverge is upon us with slacker geometry, longer chain stays, and room for lots of rubber….and like the MTB before, it is 1x11, but with no suspension, it is efficient. I didn't really care for the riding position as originally spec'd, reach to bars was a tad short, and the seat-bar drop was less than I liked, in part due to a 15mm rise on the bars. Swapped in a 10mm longer stem and new (slightly wider, but flat top flared drop) bars, and now it feels right.

Through this process, I've advanced from mechanical disc to full hydro. I've gone from CX geared 2x, to road geared 2x, to 1x. I've never ridden 650b because I've never felt the need for that much rubber, and as my desire for increased rubber has grown, so has the clearance available to me on my bikes. I will never use anything but full hydraulic discs, and I probably won't experiment with 650b, but I'm not adamantly opposed to it. I'm also not married to 1x, in fact I continually ponder going back to 2x on my current rig, just to bring back closer gear steps within the range.

So, what’s the point of that timeline for me? I started out viewing gravel as something to go fast on like pavement…and a gravel bike (whatever that would mean) was a means to access these other surfaces to do that. Over time, my opinion of gravel has not changed much, though how I solve the problem of riding on it has evolved. I don't bike pack or do adventure races, I do ride a lot of gravel with a definite preference for the "smoother" forest roads and two tracks, sprinkling in non-technical single track, and I do some amateur racing in Europe (think: long distances on gravel with lots of elevation).
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Old 05-22-21, 12:37 PM
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I used to think carbon might not be a good choice for gravel bikes but now I think it might be a good choice.
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Old 05-22-21, 02:57 PM
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Whatís changed is my view on what I want out of a gravel bike. I used to watch cycling videos in areas no where near where I live, including event documentaries, and I said that looks fun I want a gravel bike so I can do that too.

So after owning a few gravel bikes over the years Iíve learned that I donít need a gravel bike on steroids - and these now exist! - I just need a gravel bike tuned to where I ride. And these have existed for 10+ years.
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Old 05-22-21, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Cpn_Dunsel View Post
I used to think carbon might not be a good choice for gravel bikes but now I think it might be a good choice.
It is! Iíve got two carbon bikes, a Niner and flat bar Trek FX6S. My Niner is my Swiss Army knife. Hardcore gravel? Check! Long road ride with my non-gravel friends? Sure! Iíd buy another carbon gravel bike in a heartbeat. Iíve beat the crap out of my Niner RDO9 with zero issues.


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Old 05-22-21, 04:30 PM
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In the 1990s-2000s there were "cross commuters," good examples are the Cannondale XR800 and Surly Cross Check (still survivin'). I saw gravel bikes as an evolution of these with some modern conveniences, specifically endurance-bike gearing and fit, and up-to-date frames. But I wasn't really attracted to them, because they had drop bars, which I've never really gotten along with. And so far that's held pretty well.

There have been some attempts to make them more MTB-like, but they are far from universal and don't really seem to take hold of the market and create trends (Fox AX, Lauf, Niner MCR, Chamois Hagar) There was also an earlier fad for "monstercross" bikes that didn't fully take hold either.

There are some bikes I would put in a separate "drop bar MTB" category like the Fargo and Cutty, and the OP's.
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Old 05-25-21, 08:16 AM
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Honestly, I went from "Gravel bikes are a marketing gimmick" to "Everyone should be riding gravel bikes.".
I bought an REI ADV 3.1 during lockdown with my stimulus money and subsequently sold all my other bikes. To me, if you are not racing, gravel bikes make sense for most people. As for what else has changed: not much really. I experimented with lighter wheels and wasn't really impressed/couldn't tell a difference. A year after buying the 3.1, I've changed the handlebars, tires, and added a triple. I take this bike everywhere and love it.

Some basic singtrack during a road ride. One of the perks of a gravel bike.
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Old 05-25-21, 02:36 PM
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My opinion has gone from, "unnecessary niche bike" to, "if I were swimming in money," to, "maybe," to "N-1". I picked up a little used 2018 Kona Rove NRB (pic below is not mine, but color and model of mine) over the weekend. I'm selling my road bike and touring bike. So, I'm going from 9:zero:7 fatbike, Miyata Twelve Hundred rebuilt with Campagnolo road bike, Trek 720 touring bike, Salsa El Mariachi trail/commute bike to the Rove, 9:zero:7 and El Mar. Actually, I thought the same thing about fat bikes initially. Then my sister-in-law got me on one and I was 7 years old again. I'm now on my sixth fat bike.
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Old 06-01-21, 09:32 AM
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My drop bar disc brake gravel bike has become my favorite bike over the three years I've had it. Average speed is a bit lower than road bike, but comfort and versatility are worth it. Variety is the spice of life, so road bike still gets used maybe 1/3 of the time now.
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Old 06-01-21, 12:47 PM
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I like it more than i thought i would.
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Old 06-01-21, 09:25 PM
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My Gravel Bike (Jamis Renegade, 700x40 tires) became my (all) road bike as it is just so much more comfortable and versatile than my old skinny tire road bike. I don’t care about speed or racing.

I wanted a “cushier” gravel bike so now I also have a flat bar Salsa Fargo.
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Old 06-02-21, 03:37 PM
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I haven't been into bikes too long, only since 2015. When I got my first gravel bike (2016) I was determined to get 700c, highly not recommended due to my size (5' tall). Now, I've turned the internet upside down looking for a 650b wheen bike to go n+1. Also I was against carbon for gravel (my first bike is full steel) and now I want at least a carbon fork (which is what I can afford lol). I also used the biggest tyres I could fit in my frame, then realized I'm good with 700x35mm (I live in a dry area, so no need for aggressive wide tyres)
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Old 06-02-21, 07:37 PM
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Looking back, I'm kinda embarrassed at how long it took me to get on the wide tire wagon (32 -> 35 -> 40 -> 45). Whether you really need the comfort or not, it's a lot easier to go faster when you're comfortable, and even on fast gravel surfaces like limestone rail-trails and smooth hard pack, the wider tires seem to cost nothing, while on rougher stuff they pay far more in speed than whatever you lose on climbs from the weight. Current bike will easily fit 700x50, so I guess I'll won't say never to even bigger...
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Old 06-02-21, 09:05 PM
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I picked up a canyon inflite cross bike as I couldn't find a new in stock gravel bike in my area * at my price point, and every used bike I contacted the seller about was sold before I could see it. I rode my first gravel race two weeks later, and then did the 100 km at the gravel locos event in TX and was hooked. I had not been interested in gravel, but have found it incredibly enjoyable. I am on the lookout for something with more mounts that I can use for commuting and bike packing, but I do love the inflite for the gravel in my area. It was perfect for gravel locos. So my opinion went from, "why would I want to ride gravel" to, "I'm training for the gravel locos 155 next year." I'm considering a 100 mile gravel ride in July over a road race. I guess I'm saying I like it. Now I need a rig that will fit wider tires...

*edited to add "at my price point"
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Old 06-06-21, 09:46 PM
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I hadn’t considered buying a bike until the pandemic and boredom. So not having ridden a bike in 25 years, and having never bought a new bike in my life, I researched and found out about this new gravel bike trend. Finally after weeks reviewing online, with my adult money, I splurged and bought a new 2020 Lynskey titanium gravel bike. I even paid for the GRX groupset upgrade and custom IndustryNine wheelset. There’s my baby.

My Lynskey was my one and only “forever bike” or so I thought. One year later, and with the itch to tinker, I now own six other bikes. They’re all vintage mountain bikes, one of which I converted to dropbars. Do I still love my new Lynskey gravel bike. Yes I do. But it’s my comfortable long hauler. Sometimes I just want to have fun around town, run an errand, or play in the dirt. Having other bikes in my stable make the rides more interesting.

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