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Help me choose a rig, and come along for the ride!

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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.
View Poll Results: Which bike would you recommend?
Specialized Diverge Expert EVO
0
0%
Specialized Chisel Comp
60.00%
Specialized Epic HT
0
0%
Surly ECR or equivalent rigid steel (please specify)
20.00%
Custom build (please specify)
20.00%
Voters: 5. You may not vote on this poll

Help me choose a rig, and come along for the ride!

Old 09-03-21, 02:10 PM
  #1  
koselig
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Help me choose a rig, and come along for the ride!

Hi all!

We live in beautiful, heavily wooded Two Harbors, MN on a gravel road which is along the Heck of the North route, near the Lake County Demonstration Forest. I am looking for a bike which can do as many different things as possible, within reason. I have too many hobbies already, so I would like decent components that don't need upgrading. Realistically, I could see having a few sets of wheels so I could switch out tires between Summer and Winter. Aside from that I just want a rig that works.

We are friends and neighbors with Cedaero, so whatever I end up will be outfitted with a full complement of their bags.

I would categorize potential usage as:
  • 2-10 mile family rides in the area, to the mailbox, into town - mixed fire roads, hard-pack gravel, pavement/shoulder, and ATV trails
  • "Mountain bike" trails in the area at the Demonstration Forest and elsewhere (Duluth, Silver Bay, etc.), nothing too aggressive
  • Paved trails up the North Shore of Lake Superior, between state parks, etc.
  • Bikepacking routes between here and Grand Marais (100mi or so)
  • Winter snow (Mostly packed, but Demo Forest has groomed trails, guessing this is a stretch for a universal "just a bike")
I have been looking at the Diverge Expert EVO (2022 in Satin Pine/Forest!), hardtails like Chisel Comp and Epic HT, Surly ECR(I realize it's discontinued...tank green is such a great color), and the like.

For some reason I keep coming back to the Diverge, it seems like it would be versatile. And I recognize from looking through lists like "Rigs of the Tour Divide" that people ride all sorts of things! I see statements that touring/adventure rigs must have drop bars and rigid forks, then I see someone riding thousands of miles on a full suspension mountain bike or fat tire... As a complete novice this makes it hard to choose something when no shops have stock to try!

With 4 kids and a working homestead I really need one "pretty good" thing, not multiple optimized things. If I were single living out here I might have a mountain bike, adventure/camping rig, and a dedicated fat tire for deep snow. But I need to cram as many of those uses into one tool for less than $3k. What say you?

Last edited by koselig; 09-03-21 at 02:15 PM.
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Old 09-03-21, 02:40 PM
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I should mention - I develop products for a living, so while it may seem like some of these options (like Epic HT) might be overkill, it's by design. It's interesting and helpful in my work, to have access to unique things to understand other company/domain/category design processes and to keep ideas flowing. So riding a "racing" bike to the mailbox is obviously ridiculous, but in the process of interacting with it, I can make sure my own design process in a completely different product domain is well informed, focused on quality experiences, and challenged.
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Old 09-03-21, 02:53 PM
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So the Diverge is probably the best option. (Look left, I'm not biased or anything.). in reality, however, a drop bar Diverge with a Future Shock will suit you much better. The bar tops and hoods of a drop bar offer a similar "upright" position of a flat bar (not as wide, but still upright), and the drops give several more positions to use when the time is right. The fork is rigid, but the small amount of vertical travel in the steerer will soften the buzz of the gravel roads, while still giving you the kind of control you seek with a rigid fork.
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Old 09-03-21, 05:50 PM
  #4  
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Originally Posted by koselig View Post
What say you?
If you are not planning on multi hour daily rides... the diverge is a little over the top.

I'd 'say' that a hardtail, with a rigid fork would be perfect... you could ride on 700x40 or 70x50 Donnelly MSO tires all summer and then some 2.4 for winter riding.
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Old 09-03-21, 06:19 PM
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Not sure I see anything in the list that will handle snow.

Why not start with the snow--the most "demanding" requirement--and work backwards? I'm on my seventh fat bike, a carbon Mukluk frameset that I built up. I rode it for the first two times last night and the night before. It's a rocket with 26"X4" tires, every bit as fast as my Kona Rove NRB gravel bike, which I love. With a 29er or 27.5" wheelset it would be remarkable. I'll be riding it this winter in the Arrowhead Ultra with 5" tires. My point is, with a second wheelset, the Muk, which is designed to do what those others can't do, can be about as fast and capable in every other area. As for expense, I took the parts and wheelset from a 9:zero:7 Aluminum Whiteout that I bought for $900. When I bought the Muk frameset for another $900, I sold the Whiteout frameset for $500, so I have $1300 in it. Add another good wheelset for $500 and you've cut $1200 off your ceiling. By the way, I love the Cedearo framebag on my Salsa El Mariachi.
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Old 09-03-21, 07:35 PM
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IMHO I'd go Salsa Cutthroat with different sets of wheels for roadish and MTBish riding options. It is extremely versatile, fairly light for what it is and has rack and fender mounts. If you are doing "Mountain Bike Trails" and winter riding this will be better suited and more versatile option than a Diverge.
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Old 09-03-21, 08:31 PM
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Funny that your list has 3 bikes I have been looking at. Have you looked into availability of those bikes? The Epic and Chisel are sold out for the 2021 MY. There are bare Chisel frames available with a fancy paint job for $1500 right now but that's all I can find on the west coast.

The Diverge Evo was a bike I was very much interested in but was disappointed by the limited tire clearance. You would be hard pressed to get a bigger tire than the 38c's if you want any type of mud clearance.

If you could wait for the 2022's to hit the stores I would swoop up a complete Chisel and invest in an extra set of wheels that you can mount some more low rolling resistance gravel friendly tires on. Which is what my current plan happens to be.

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Old 09-03-21, 09:59 PM
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Look into the Bombtrack line up.
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Old 09-04-21, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Gravel Rider View Post
Look into the Bombtrack line up.
This is another good option. Bombtrack was the only brand out of 7 we carry that delivered our original order this year and they were pretty close to on time as well. We still have them in stock for the Beyond 1 and Hook EXT-C. I bet other shops have them as well. They are a very high quality company based in Germany. Frames are Columbus steel.
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Old 09-04-21, 07:28 PM
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I think trying to ride snow on a gravel bike is going to be disappointing. There is a road near here that gets a lot of traffic in the winter, and it's covered in ice at least from December to early March. I used to ride on my 1985 mountain bike with 2" studded tires, but as soon as I turned off that road it was just impossible. That's why I bought my fatbike.
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Old 09-04-21, 08:11 PM
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Snow, if it isn't mud or it isn't ice.... a 700x25 slick works just fine.

I ride my hard tail mostly on snow.


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Old 09-05-21, 06:57 AM
  #12  
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The 25 inch slick was on pavement though, right?

I used to ride a 10 mile commute on pavement in Wisconsin through a very snowy winter on 25mm tires. Not too bad. There was one day I had to catch a ride because the snow conditions weren't right.
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Old 09-05-21, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
The 25 inch slick was on pavement though, right?

I used to ride a 10 mile commute on pavement in Wisconsin through a very snowy winter on 25mm tires. Not too bad. There was one day I had to catch a ride because the snow conditions weren't right.
Mostly pavement on 25c.
Once the snow is packed then I could ride gravel.
Frozen gravel (limestone) with no snow is brutal on a 25c slick, the gravel doesn't move and it does weird washout, tosses the front wheel around.
Hence the 29er.

It should be stated that I ride for 100% fun. Part of that "fun" is riding in inclement weather.

I have no real experience on a fat bike.
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Old 09-06-21, 05:11 PM
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Hey everyone, thanks for all of these helpful replies!

I had never heard of Bombtrack and with German heritage that especially got my attention The Beyond+ ADV with the Jones bars looks well-specced and well-designed for adventure touring. I see MyBikeShop sells them, but unclear if they actually have stock.

No matter what I choose, it seems like I would have 2 sets of wheels with maybe some fatter knobbies for Winter and something more pavement- and gravel-friendly in the Summer. As for ice I am not too worried about that. Despite huge lake effect MN snow falls, we have decent packed snow on our gravel roads, otherwise warm days leave exposed gravel.

Here are the options I am considering:
  • Specialized Diverge E5 Expert EVO
  • Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV
  • Specialized Chisel Comp (wildcard option - Epic HT)
Not considering custom, since I have too many commitments and hobbies currently to do it justice. I want a fitness/exploration/adventure/fun tool I can just enjoy.
I don't understand the idea that the Diverge would be "overkill" unless I am riding multiple hours per day. And who knows, maybe I will do that eventually. I'm looking for flexibility. The HT (Chisel or Epic HT) does seem like a really versatile option, would the added weight and/or difference in geometry be frustrating on the occasional long stretch of pavement? The Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV is an interesting middle ground between the road/gravel biased Diverge and the more trail-friendly HT, as more of a rigid MTB with carbon fork which can handle 29" x 3.0" tires. I will need to find out if they are even available. I am pretty sure the Specialized options could be had by October-ish from an almost-local bike shop.

Is a 29x3.0 just obnoxiously large for occasional paved trail riding? Would it make sense on something like the Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV to just run something like a 700x42 Pathfinder Pro on a second set of wheels and hold onto the 3.0's for winter? Or go back to the hardtail, Diverge, or equivalent Salsa?

Last edited by koselig; 09-07-21 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 09-07-21, 03:56 PM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by revcp View Post
Why not start with the snow--the most "demanding" requirement--and work backwards? I'm on my seventh fat bike, a carbon Mukluk frameset that I built up. I rode it for the first two times last night and the night before. It's a rocket with 26"X4" tires, every bit as fast as my Kona Rove NRB gravel bike, which I love. With a 29er or 27.5" wheelset it would be remarkable. I'll be riding it this winter in the Arrowhead Ultra with 5" tires. My point is, with a second wheelset, the Muk, which is designed to do what those others can't do, can be about as fast and capable in every other area. As for expense, I took the parts and wheelset from a 9:zero:7 Aluminum Whiteout that I bought for $900. When I bought the Muk frameset for another $900, I sold the Whiteout frameset for $500, so I have $1300 in it. Add another good wheelset for $500 and you've cut $1200 off your ceiling. By the way, I love the Cedearo framebag on my Salsa El Mariachi.
Cool, I am going to try whatever Dan has at SpokeNGear. I have been reading about "Q factor" and I probably have a relatively narrow 5'10" frame, so this could be an issue for me. Is it true the Beargrease is "narrower" at the crank vs. the Mukluk? I think you're right, a Mukluk/Beargrease with 29 x 3.0 could be a really great multi-surface option (including paved like the Gitchi-Gami trail up along the shore). Similar to the Bombtrack in that it would "ride over everything" but with the capability to ride "fatter" 26/27.5 if that works better in the snow. And being carbon I'd be well under 30lb, right?
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Old 09-07-21, 04:38 PM
  #16  
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Hard to find one these days, but have you looked at Salsa Warbird? Just another option to add to your list, Sorry, a very fast very flexible gravel bike, I was able to get one when REI had some for sale very breifly this past summer, :-) 😊
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Old 09-08-21, 08:25 AM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by koselig View Post
Cool, I am going to try whatever Dan has at SpokeNGear. I have been reading about "Q factor" and I probably have a relatively narrow 5'10" frame, so this could be an issue for me. Is it true the Beargrease is "narrower" at the crank vs. the Mukluk? I think you're right, a Mukluk/Beargrease with 29 x 3.0 could be a really great multi-surface option (including paved like the Gitchi-Gami trail up along the shore). Similar to the Bombtrack in that it would "ride over everything" but with the capability to ride "fatter" 26/27.5 if that works better in the snow. And being carbon I'd be well under 30lb, right?
I had a Beargrease and a Rocky Mountain Suzi Q with the narrow(er) Q factor. I presently have a Mukluk with the wide(r) Q factor. I can't say my body jumped for joy or groaned over either. Some people say they really notice a difference. Some, like me, really don't. The narrowest tire you could go with on a 27.5 with a Beargrease or Mukluk (or an Otso Voytek, which SpokeNGear could probably get in, is also a narrow Q, but pricier) is 3", but with a 29 you could go all the way down to 2.25", which would feel significantly different on the road. Really, if you live in Two Harbors (I'm on the northern edge of the Twin Cities and go up to the north shore usually at least once a winter. I also ride trails around here in the winter, Cuyuna, do the Arrowhead 135 in January, etc.) and you want a "do it all" bike, it would be kind of odd not to consider a fat bike. And, yes, with a carbon frame and tubeless on 27.5 or 29 you would be significantly under 30 pounds.
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