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Will more reach on a gravel bike make for better descending?

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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.

Will more reach on a gravel bike make for better descending?

Old 11-20-21, 08:49 AM
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FrankTuna
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Will more reach on a gravel bike make for better descending?

First off....I'm sorry the text is huge I don't know what happened.

Im 65" and my gravel bike is a Lynskey GR300 XL with 400mm of reach and a 120mm stem. I found this put me very far forward on steep descents and its frankly terrifying at my skill level. As a function of my height too, I feel on top of the bike rather than in it if that makes sense. Its fine on the road but gravel has me worried. It has Di2 so Im not sure what to do about a dropper which I think I need on my next bike.
Given the crazy bike market now, I put it up for sale just to test the waters and I can sell it without losing much. Im thinking that a different bike with more reach and a dropper might make it a better descender. Mountain bikes have been getting longerwould this translate to gravel bikes?

The new Checkpoint in 61cm has reach of 417 mm (+17mm) and the Canyon Grizl XXL has a reach of 436 mm (+36mm). Id get a shorter stem to compensate. Both would allow internal droppers which is a must.

Would pushing out the reach and potentially the wheel base help me from feeling too far forward? Im thinking that and a dropper could be the solution.

Any tips are appreciated!

In defense of the Lynskey, its an absolutely beautiful bike and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to someone if they like the geo.

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Old 11-20-21, 09:51 AM
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I'm not really understanding your question: you state that you feel "very far forward on steep descents," but you're wondering if MORE reach will make you feel safer on descents?
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Old 11-20-21, 09:52 AM
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FrankTuna
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More reach therefore a shorter stem...kind of like the trend in MTB. Same distance to the bars.
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Old 11-20-21, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
The new Checkpoint in 61cm has reach of 417 mm (+17mm) and the Canyon Grizl XXL has a reach of 436 mm (+36mm). I’d get a shorter stem to compensate
What is the suggested stem length for those frames? Running a dramatically shorter one might introduce other handling characteristics that you may not like.

Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
Would pushing out the reach and potentially the wheel base help me from feeling too far forward? I’m thinking that and a dropper could be the solution.
I'd play around with stem length and seat height on your current bike just to test the theory before committing to selling and buying.
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Old 11-20-21, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
More reach therefore a shorter stem...kind of like the trend in MTB. Same distance to the bars.
You'd be in the same riding position, but, all other things being equal, the increased (frame) reach puts the wheel farther out front, and that is better for descending.
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Old 11-20-21, 12:24 PM
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FrankTuna
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
What is the suggested stem length for those frames? Running a dramatically shorter one might introduce other handling characteristics that you may not like.



I'd play around with stem length and seat height on your current bike just to test the theory before committing to selling and buying.
Both come with 100mm stems...i think the Checkpoint would be spot on, and I'd probably throw an 80mm stem on the Canyon.

I've tried different stems on my Lynskey and anything shorter makes me feel to upright and actually causes more hand discomfort.
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Old 11-20-21, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
I've tried different stems on my Lynskey and anything shorter makes me feel to upright and actually causes more hand discomfort.
I wasn't suggesting it as a permanent fix, but just as a means to confirm whether a less forward position makes you feel less sketchy on descents.
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Old 11-20-21, 12:37 PM
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I am 6'5 and have a gravel frame with 405mm of reach plus a 100mm stem.
The front center measurement is 635mm.

It'd be nice if Trek or Canypn listed the front center geometry of their bikes. That is the measurement you are asking about.

I dont feel too far over or in front of my bike when descending.
maybe see if you can get the front center measurements for your Lynsky and the bikes you are considering. A longer front center will help push the front wheel out further for sure.
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Old 11-20-21, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
I am 6'5 and have a gravel frame with 405mm of reach plus a 100mm stem.
The front center measurement is 635mm.

It'd be nice if Trek or Canypn listed the front center geometry of their bikes. That is the measurement you are asking about.

I dont feel too far over or in front of my bike when descending.
maybe see if you can get the front center measurements for your Lynsky and the bikes you are considering. A longer front center will help push the front wheel out further for sure.
Super helpful.. thanks! I just looked on 99spokes. Front center measurements:

Grizl XXL: 662 mm
Lynskey GR300 XL: 650 mm
Checkpoint 61cm: 646 mm

The Grizl also has the longest wheelbase (+11 mm over the Lynskey) Do you think the longer front center and wheel base would make it a better descender? Not sure if these amounts are meaniful in practice. Thanks!!!

Last edited by FrankTuna; 11-20-21 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 11-20-21, 09:03 PM
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If you are newer to gravel, before you buy or sell anything have you had a chance to go over riding technique with an experienced rider? Many of us slide our butt back on the seat or even behind the seat on a steep descent to get more weight on the rear wheel for better traction back there and to let the front wheel track better in loose stuff.

I'd also have your fitter double check your seat position to see if you can set it back further.

With your height you may be able to significantly benefit from using a dropper while descending to lower your center if gravity.
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Old 11-21-21, 05:39 AM
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Are you on the drops or hoods on these sketchy downhills? I know it goes against what you feel is right in the world but ride in the drops.
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Old 11-21-21, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
Are you on the drops or hoods on these sketchy downhills? I know it goes against what you feel is right in the world but ride in the drops.
Drops. I had 44cm bars to match my road fit. But I'm thinking wider would be better for this.
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Old 11-21-21, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
Drops. I had 44cm bars to match my road fit. But I'm thinking wider would be better for this.
Have you considered using bars with a flared drop? Lots of opinions exist on just how much flare is the right amount, but general consensus is that flared bars provide better control.
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Old 11-22-21, 07:45 AM
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Yeah, it helps a bit. My bike has a long top tube and a crazy short stem. Humorously, my old school MTB has a 120mm stem, and my gravel bike has a 70mm stem.

With gravel. you can go wide. Easily 2cm wider, but there are some bikes that go crazy wide on bars. Could be the next new fad in gravel.
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Old 11-22-21, 08:14 AM
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Thanks all for the help. There was a shop relatively near me that had a Cutthroat....I figured it take it for a spin just for hahas. Well, that was a mistake and I bought it. With a longer front center, wide flared drops, slightly more upright position, and a short stem....I think this along with practice will get me where I need to be.
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Old 11-22-21, 10:55 AM
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+1 for a check on your technique, should be descending in the drops, off the seat, with your weight as far back as you can get it (which is def where a dropper post can help). Some people like wider bars, I run 42cm road bars on my gravel bike, but that's just me. Also, keep a loose grip on the bars, have to let the bike float and guide it more than steer it. Brake with the rear to keep the front from sliding/washing out, a rear slide is much easier to control and recover from. And like anything else, practice, practice, practice. There's a pretty rough descent where I used to live, steep, big rocks and ruts, I was pretty sure I was going to die the first few times I went down it. Then after riding gravel for about a year, I did that descent in a race, and didn't even notice it. Just takes time.
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Old 11-22-21, 12:34 PM
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I don't get too concerned about having a long front-center distance on my gravel bike. Main reason it is a benefit on MTBs is that it prevents going over the bars. I am seldom riding in situations steep and rough enough for that to be an issue on my gravel bike. I guess if you are riding MTB trails on your gravel bike, that might be different, and I guess then I'd want more of a drop bar MTB which is going to have a longer front-center (longer top tube and slacker head angle). Yeah, I know the line between gravel bike and drop-bar mtb is a wide blurry one.

I think getting low is more important than getting back, and I am more likely to start running a dropper than lengthening my front end on my gravel bike.
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Old 11-22-21, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
Thanks all for the help. There was a shop relatively near me that had a Cutthroat....I figured it take it for a spin just for hahas. Well, that was a mistake and I bought it. With a longer front center, wide flared drops, slightly more upright position, and a short stem....I think this along with practice will get me where I need to be.
Ha, ha, that is great. best mistake ever. I think you will love it - and after reading through this post, you can appreciate it even more. Enjoy!!!
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Old 11-22-21, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankTuna View Post
Thanks all for the help. There was a shop relatively near me that had a Cutthroat....I figured it take it for a spin just for hahas. Well, that was a mistake the best choice I made all week and I bought it. With a longer front center, wide flared drops, slightly more upright position, and a short stem....I think this along with practice will get me where I need to be.
FTFY.
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Old 12-02-21, 09:24 PM
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On extremely steep descents I like to keep my hands in the drops and lower my ass behind the saddle so that my crotch is pretty close to the rear tire. The upper part of my body is sort of vertical but I'm extending my shoulders forward, my knees extremely bent and I'm basically squatting over the pedals.. This is surprisingly easy to do unless your setup has excessive reach. I run Thunder Burt micro knobbies and they very rarely lose traction in this scenario, but if they did I would simply step off the rear of the bike and grab the seatpost while transitioning to a squatting-sitting position on the ground. Obviously platform pedals make all this possible. I don't like clip-in pedals now.

On descending switchbacks it's also important to keep your center of gravity as low as possible, but you also have to have adequate weight on the front tire. A high handlebar setup won't work. You need substantial bar drop and your hands have to be in the drops. In this scenario I'm typically standing on the pedals with my lower stomach over the saddle, and my ass is hanging way out over the rear wheel. The upper part of my body is flat and parallel to the trail surface at saddle level.

So in my opinion your overall reach should allow you to get behind and lower than the saddle while keeping your hands in the drops. If you can master that squatting behind the saddle maneuver it'll allow you to go down insanely steep trails with a feeling of complete safety and control at very low speed.

Last edited by Clem von Jones; 12-02-21 at 10:02 PM.
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Old 12-03-21, 03:57 AM
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
A dropper would help greatly in taking away that "too forward" feeling. Been there, tried, but eventually, I settled with more conventional approach, that is simply raising the handlebar instead.
The dropper would help to get the body towards the rear but the basic issue is not solved; reading the thread, the op has his weight towards the front.
When going down on rough, his weight is towards the front rather than well behind the gravity center. As mentioned before, flared drop will help with stability as they offer grater leverage. If you look at gravel flared dropped bar, they tend to ordered more leverage but also less reach to give a more upright position.

Also a quick free mod would be to set the stem in +6deg rather than -6deg, it will give a more upright position for free.
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