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Chromoly Frameset on Gravel

Old 06-07-21, 01:22 PM
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Noonievut
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Chromoly Frameset on Gravel

Have any of you ridden a chromoly frameset on gravel (plenty of them out there)? Did you previously ride carbon, aluminum or 'light' steel and how did it compare?

I have my name on an order list for a chromoly frame/fork, as I'm thinking of using that as my gravel bike going forward. I would be running a full GRX400 groupset on it, 700c wheels (i23) and 40mm tires, tubeless. I would be porting these over from another bike, including bars, stem if it is the right length, saddle, seatpost, etc.. Bike would be used mainly for mixed surface rides that include gravel rail trails and gravel roads (in addition to paved).

I have a dedicated road bike that is light and fast.

I know chromoly has a reputation for being heavy, in particular if the frameset includes a chromoly fork (which this does); but I don't race or do group events and as such I don't care much (hard to say, at all) about speed. I want long lasting durability, a bottom bracket that is threaded, mounts on the fork (has them) if I go deeper into bikepacking (just scratching the surface at the moment).

I'm slightly worried about how it will perform on short, steep climbs as it will be heavier than the alternatives...but I guess it's like me being a few pounds heavier, right? I like stability over snappy.

The frameset I'm looking at is a good price, and while not custom geometry, starting with the right size and adjusting stem and seatpost as necessary usually gets me there. The other alternative I'm looking at is a custom steel frame (geometry) with lighter tubing (Columbus spirit/zona), but ends up being at least 3x the price. I'm feeling like that extra cost isn't worth it for what I want out of the bike.
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Old 06-07-21, 01:48 PM
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shelbyfv
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I had a Raleigh Tamland which was 631 and carbon fork. It always gave the impression of being heavy. I have a Gunnar Sport road bike with a steel fork and it has never seemed heavy. I haven't weighed either of them, just impressions. There are now some nice aluminum gravel bikes with threaded bottom brackets. If buying new, that would be my choice. As it turns out, I've ended up with another steel frame and fork that will become a gravel bike. It will have lighter wheels and components, will be interesting to see if feels different from the Tamland.
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Old 06-07-21, 09:27 PM
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I've owned 3 steel frames that I've used for gravel bikes.
An older early 90s basic butted cromoly frame, a modern heat treated double butted cantilever frame, and a modern 853 oversized and shaped disc frame.

Your description of this frame you've already ordered could be great or it could be a slug. Basic cromoly can be 1/.8/1 butted or .8/.5/.8 butted and those will give you very different feeling rides when the geometry is identical. Add to that the fact that geometry differences will impact feel as much as or more than tubing specifics, and all this is up in the air.

A small builder handmade disc gravel frame in medium/large will weigh 1850g-2050g.
A stock steel disc gravel frames in medium/large from various brands will weigh 2000g-2200g.
A stock steel disc fork for that framesize uncut will weigh 1200g. Then probably 1050g once cut.

Compare that to carbon, where a gravel frame in medium/large will weigh 1100g and a carbon fork will weigh 425g.


So 1000g more for the frame and 625g for the fork. 1625g give or take is the difference. So 3.5# difference between a general carbon gravel frameset and a general steel gravel frameset.
This tracks with what I've experienced for my steel bike weights when comparing them to others who have carbon bikes.

In my view, 3.5# can be felt on hills. But that hasn't driven me to want to change. Geometry will make a frame feel snappy or sluggish. Geometry will make a frame feel quick or slow.


Personly, I would go for light steel and geometry that fits how I like to ride, if money isn't an issue. Otherwise, basic cromoly steel and the nicest/lightest components I can afford would be my goal.
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Old 06-08-21, 07:40 AM
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My Space Horse Disc with a steel fork has been great on gravel, but really excellent all around. I am not one to get concerned about bike weight, so I can't say I really feel the weight. It's my gravel and commuter bike, so I also like the steel frame for when I have bags on. I do have a carbon road bike, and on pavement, it's definitely faster, but I wouldn't say the Space Horse feels sluggish either. I usually pick this bike over the carbon one, even on pavement.
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Old 06-08-21, 07:58 AM
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My Breezer Radar Pro frame was decent, stable and handled all types of gravel really well, but it was a bit of a tank. Road bike is fairly light aluminum CAAD10 and the Breezer's weight was noticeable on climbs. Bulletproof? Yep. Mounting points galore? Yep. At the time I didn't want to wait several months for a new bike, so I bought what was available in my size that I could test ride, knowing that I would later swap to a different frame.
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Old 06-08-21, 11:07 AM
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I did for a couple years. It was fine. It was a pre-bankruptcy Nashbar steel cyclocross frame, pretty sure it was just whatever standard CX frame they sourced from Taiwan. Maybe a little sluggish compared to Reynolds 853 or Columbus SL road bikes but also it wasn't a road bike. With fairly mid-range components it was about 22-23 pounds but I could've easily gotten under 20 with just a better wheelset.

The advantages of steel being a smooth ride are less obvious on gravel where dirt is softer and you're on wider tires with lower pressure, in my opinion. Also, that frame turned me off of frames that don't have replaceable RD hangers. Bent mine up on a nasty corner and I could never get it quite right ever again -- the threads got ovalized and I had to use a dropout saver but the shifting was always finicky after that.

Ended up riding an aluminum frame for several years and, idk, 10,000+ miles. I absolutely hate aluminum... or at least I thought I did because my first road bike was an aluminum Trek 1000 that would rattle the fillings out of your teeth. But this frame (2008-ish Specialized Tricross) has been really, really good. Again, with the dirt surfaces, wide tires with low pressure, that absorbs most of the vibrations. I went ahead and got a Redshift suspension stem for some added bouncy points. This particular bike has a carbon fork and rear triangle, too. It's been a workhorse and with a quick wheel swap it does just fine as a road bike on the fast Wednesday night group ride.

I just ordered a carbon bike that should allegedly be shipped in July. Nothing wrong with my current bike except I would really like disc brakes and more of an all-day stable geometry (the Tricross is pretty much a typical CX geo and gets sketchy on fast gravel descents). Why carbon? Because I'm not as skinny as I used to be and I need all the help I can get going up hills.

Tl;dr: Steel is perfectly fine for gravel. So is aluminum and carbon.
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Old 06-08-21, 11:40 AM
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^ how heavy was the wheelset that you could drop 3 pounds off the bike with a better wheelset?
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Old 06-08-21, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
^ how heavy was the wheelset that you could drop 3 pounds off the bike with a better wheelset?
Idk it's been several years and I'm not good with remembering numbers so I'm just kind of ballparking. Maybe I should've said better wheelset + other carbon bits. I just remember thinking it wouldn't be hard to get that bike to be 20 pounds.
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Old 06-08-21, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Have any of you ridden a chromoly frameset on gravel (plenty of them out there)? Did you previously ride carbon, aluminum or 'light' steel and how did it compare?
My current gravel project is sporting a chromoly frame (butted main tubes + hi ten everything else). It tips the scales at ~22.5#, quite a bit lighter than I thought it would. It's a blast to ride through the unpaved roads in my area. Lot's of flowy dirt trails with tons of short, punchy climbs. I haven't felt like the weight was holding me back any and the lower gearing helps quite a bit on the climbs.

In the past I've ridden different steel bikes and one aluminum bike with a mix of carbon forks in there. The things that have had the most impact to me have been gearing, tire size and geometry...
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Old 06-08-21, 05:20 PM
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Noonievut
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Thanks for the responses so far.

BTW frame set Iím referring to is Kona Rove DL
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Old 06-09-21, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Thanks for the responses so far.

BTW frame set Iím referring to is Kona Rove DL
I mean small sample size but I've never heard anyone with a Kona who didn't like it.
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Old 06-09-21, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
I mean small sample size but I've never heard anyone with a Kona who didn't like it.
I would be one of them. Picked up a 2018 Rove NRB a few weeks ago. Love it. It's a different animals than talked about here, as it's aluminum with a cf fork, but it's a great bike.
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Old 06-09-21, 04:30 PM
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Kona makes a great steel frame. If it is 1/3rd the cost of the lighter custom frame, you could spend a bit of the savings on better components, wheels, etc, and come out with a really nice rig.
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