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Thinking of doing a cheap gravel conversion

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Thinking of doing a cheap gravel conversion

Old 08-06-22, 02:22 PM
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ClydeRoad
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Thinking of doing a cheap gravel conversion

So Iím mostly a roadie but I have a state forest with a ton of gravel roads right by my house and have been thinking of trying gravel out for a while. Iíve been trolling the web for deals and reading blogs and was wondering what others that have done gravel conversions thought of a few options Iím considering:

1. There are a few Trek Multitracks around, mostly 700s for about $100 that I could convert to drop bars.
2. Thereís a Schwinn Crisscross for $25, early 90s that Iíd do the same thing.
3. I have a Ď08 Cannondale 29er SL3 hard tail that Iíve considered converting but I think the reach would be too long.
4. Pick up an old steel road bike but then I feel like Iím stuck with a freewheel instead of hub if I want to change any gearing and Iím not trying to buy wheels, which is the same reason Iím not really looking at any old mtb.


Iím pretty bummed because I missed a chance at Ď93 Marin Muirwoods that looked pristine and had all its original pretty high end components.

I think ideally Iíd like to get a Trek Multitrack 750 thatíd be double butted cromoly and throw on the Microsoft advent drivetrain but it looks like they were all 7 speed so that wonít work and all the 750s around here go for too much to frankenbike them.
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Old 08-06-22, 02:51 PM
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You already have the Cannondale. Put some narrower tires on it and go out and ride it. You don't need drop bars to ride gravel. If you want more hand positions throw some bar ends on it for $15. If you love it then worry about buying/building something nicer.
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Old 08-06-22, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
You already have the Cannondale. Put some narrower tires on it and go out and ride it. You don't need drop bars to ride gravel. If you want more hand positions throw some bar ends on it for $15. If you love it then worry about buying/building something nicer.
totally agree! a 29r convert would be a great gravel bike. Reach wouldn't be a problem because short stems are plentiful. And I also like the dropbar hand position and have short bar ends on my mtbs. You can cut the bars down to get closer to a 'road' type width - maybe 660-680. Throw on some fast 42mm tires with TPU tubes and you'll be amazed how fast the bike becomes.
The smaller tire will also lower the bike a bit, but BB clearance is not a big deal on gravel/mtb-lite. But it will reduce trail a bit and make the bike less 'heavy' steering on road-like sections.
Biggest deal with 'older' frames is that clearance for wider is often an issue. My CX bike from the 90's could barely fit 35mm... so very border line for a real gravel convert.
With the suspension fork, you can firm it up a bit; but having suspension is a big plus, when the surface gets rough.
Tires, tubes, bar ends, quite a 'value' convert, allowing you to ride offroad and wait for something really very suitable to become available - or decide whether a 'new' gravel bike is really in the cards...
I converted an '06 Spec Roubaix - and it was pretty OK, but I was very limited on tire width to only 30mm (28mm when on the wheels/rims) - it was ok... but now riding a 42mm on a gravel bike makes a big difference in riding some knarlier sections... My old mtbs are 26rs, and just not worth converting...
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 08-06-22, 04:30 PM
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Yep, what they said. Converting an old MTB to drop bars often means you want the bars right on top if the steerer tube which is not very easy to do and does not handle all that well.
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Old 08-06-22, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ClydeRoad View Post
So I’m mostly a roadie but I have a state forest with a ton of gravel roads right by my house and have been thinking of trying gravel out for a while. I’ve been trolling the web for deals and reading blogs and was wondering what others that have done gravel conversions thought of a few options I’m considering:

1. There are a few Trek Multitracks around, mostly 700s for about $100 that I could convert to drop bars.
2. There’s a Schwinn Crisscross for $25, early 90s that I’d do the same thing.
3. I have a ‘08 Cannondale 29er SL3 hard tail that I’ve considered converting but I think the reach would be too long.
4. Pick up an old steel road bike but then I feel like I’m stuck with a freewheel instead of hub if I want to change any gearing and I’m not trying to buy wheels, which is the same reason I’m not really looking at any old mtb.


I’m pretty bummed because I missed a chance at ‘93 Marin Muirwoods that looked pristine and had all its original pretty high end components.

I think ideally I’d like to get a Trek Multitrack 750 that’d be double butted cromoly and throw on the Microsoft advent drivetrain but it looks like they were all 7 speed so that won’t work and all the 750s around here go for too much to frankenbike them.
The old GT Arette could be worth a look. Takes about a 700x43 or so. Frame triangle proportions don't look too bad for a dropbar.
You can see some dropbar build pics on R e d d i t.

First couple years of the GT Cirque with the Tange Infinity tubing take a 700x50. https://www.flickr.com/photos/79568674@N04/8563587571
Last frame I came across went for around 400 tho.

As mentioned, frame reach for a dropbar conversion on the Cannondale is generally an issue. Position in the drops also sometimes depending how low the front end is.
Alexscycle Japan sells the sub-50mm-reach alu Dixna Neither Cross that has a decent amount of rise and is flared. A few different widths.
There's also the Veno Borderless carbon from Japan, but that costs the bomb.

Last edited by tangerineowl; 08-06-22 at 05:36 PM. Reason: txt
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Old 08-06-22, 09:07 PM
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Crisscross and multitrack are great options, if they fit.
Modern standards, wide enough to fit 40mm tires, and typically goof top tube lengths to allow for drops to be used.
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Old 08-08-22, 06:22 AM
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convert a MTB? Naw, just get out and ride the thing as is.

I've mucked around converting a MTB, but for the most point there is no advantage in putting drop bars on a perfectly fine MTB. If you really really need drop bars, you need everything else a gravel bike gives you.
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Old 09-16-22, 09:19 AM
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hi just curious--in your reply to post converting an older MTB to gravel you mentioned 26er's not "worth" it--was that in relation to your specific bikes or is there general consensus that 26er's do not make good gravel bikes. I was possibly thinking of rebuilding a Trek 4100 or Rock Hopper I have lying around.
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Old 09-18-22, 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by rpollaro View Post
hi just curious--in your reply to post converting an older MTB to gravel you mentioned 26er's not "worth" it--was that in relation to your specific bikes or is there general consensus that 26er's do not make good gravel bikes. I was possibly thinking of rebuilding a Trek 4100 or Rock Hopper I have lying around.
mainly itís because 26ers are an obsolete tire size and finding a good 26Ē gravel tire might be difficult. Can you fit a 27.5 or 650b into your frame?
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Old 09-18-22, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by M Rose View Post
mainly itís because 26ers are an obsolete tire size and finding a good 26Ē gravel tire might be difficult.
Ahh..I think not.

rpollaro I would look around for 26 tires before skipping a 26" gravel bike conversion. There are lots of options in 26 tires yet. Do a search here on BF as there's been a fair amount of discussion on this. There's 2 or 3 threads in the last couple years that discuss available 26 inch tires. My touring bike is a drop bar converted '93 Trek 970. I run Schwalbe Big Ben tires. Fun bike to ride..pavement, gravel..doesn't matter. The fit is very similar to my road bikes. (pre-1994 trek 900 series has a shorter top tube than '94+). It feels like a road bike..for what it is, it's a fast bike.

Trek Multitracks are a good starting point also. The early 750s had the same frame geometry as a Trek 520..a drop bar road bike. Data is in the online Trek archives.
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Old 09-18-22, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by rpollaro View Post
hi just curious--in your reply to post converting an older MTB to gravel you mentioned 26er's not "worth" it--was that in relation to your specific bikes or is there general consensus that 26er's do not make good gravel bikes. I was possibly thinking of rebuilding a Trek 4100 or Rock Hopper I have lying around.
In my case, I have 2 26r's , a '04 Specialized Stumpjumper and an '04 Spec. Epic FS.
I did 'convert' the Epic to 'Mullet', by putting a 27.5 (650b) wheel on the front, and left the 26 on the rear. It works great ! Especially for tight, difficult, chunky mtb terrain. It is heavy (Alu not CF) at 33.5 lbs without gear. The reason this worked is because the Sus Fork - FOX - had great clearance to easily fit a 27.5 2.4" wheel/tire.
The Stumpy has a Rockshox Reba fork which will not fit a 27.5 wheel/tire.
The big deal issue with 26, especially if changing to 'gravel' type tire width, is the rollover is small. So obstacles like exposed roots, rocks, ditches/holes are much more difficult to ride.
IF, you're just doing a real 'gravel' road, then rollover isn;t much of an issue.
650B and 700c are much better with rollover, and will maintain speed easier than a 26r - which makes a difference on gravel or dirt, because there's significantly more rolling resistance. SO with a 26r, you will be pedaling harder over the same terrain. This becomes more apparent when you start doing miles on either.
But if you're not concerned with handling on the type of riding you're doing, and pedaling a little harder over the distance, and don;t have a need for a certain speed level, then 26r certainly are good bikes. Nothing wrong with 26. Change the mtb lugged tires to a narrower, faster profile and go ride !
Doing a tire swap is certainly a good, inexpensive way to decide if 'gravel' is a fun thing for anyone, and also will point out things that 'work' and 'don;t work'.
The idea of 'gravel' is really ride most everything, with one bike - certainly mtb overlaps quite a bit, as does 'road' on the other end. 'Gravel' bikes are the 'jack of all' and the 'master of the middle ground' when it comes to what's out there to ride.
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 09-18-22, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by M Rose View Post
mainly itís because 26ers are an obsolete tire size and finding a good 26Ē gravel tire might be difficult. Can you fit a 27.5 or 650b into your frame?
I was just exploring that last night. I should have room for 27.5 but will probably require a retrofit to disc brakes which isnít the worst thing.
thanks for the reply.
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Old 09-18-22, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by M Rose View Post
mainly it’s because 26ers are an obsolete tire size and finding a good 26” gravel tire might be difficult. Can you fit a 27.5 or 650b into your frame?
Panaracer Pasela 26x1.5 and 1.75

Maxxis DTH 26x2.15 and 2.3

Billy Bonkers 26x2.1

there are more options - I just listed the above tires I've recently purchased / used

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Old 09-18-22, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post

The big deal issue with 26, especially if changing to 'gravel' type tire width, is the rollover is small. So obstacles like exposed roots, rocks, ditches/holes are much more difficult to ride.

Yuri
I don't find this to be a case or at the least an issue - but my experience is dated and limited to 26" off road

but my youngest kid that does have a 29r off road bike prefers 26" - possibly due to his bmx background
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Old 09-18-22, 10:47 AM
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26" is fine. European pro mtb'ers stuck with 26" until their sponsors force them to switch. Then the manufacturers reintroduced 26" disguised as 650b. Don't take that last sentence literally. It's fun to go down to Raystown lake and see all the old 26" bikes still in heavy use. Although there were some really ill-considered suspension ideas in the 26" era.

I hope the OP is out riding his mtb unmodified. I don't know where he lives in Central PA, but here in Centre county a mountain bike works fine on our gravel. Which varies from almost paved to football sized rock. I suppose it depends on how much paved riding is involved, my gravel bike is significantly faster on pavement than my mountain bike, but once I get on to gravel it's not faster at all.
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Old 09-18-22, 12:54 PM
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I'm going to agree with the not using a 26. I like the wheel size just fine but I would no more spend any kind of decent money on a 26" than I would on 27"
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Old 09-18-22, 07:09 PM
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So there's no confusion on my comments about 26rs. They are as good as they were when first available. And certainly fine, as is, for anyone who's happy with their 26r.
But the qualification of my comments were relative to 'conversion' to what is currently considered 'gravel bike'; and further qualification is 'cheap conversion'.
Main point being, 'conversions' can be quite pricy, and the result might still fall far short of a similar newer gravel bike - at same cost as the result of the conversion.
So, my idea of a 'cheap conversion' is = changing tires to type which a good compromise of 'road type surface' and light mtb terrain.
Bar ends might be considered a good all-round addition for all riding, and dependent on the rider. I find bar ends to be a necessity for my mtbs.
Anything further would be quite costly to do properly, and fall short of expectations (expectations being what are currently 'gravel bikes')..
Certainly ride your 26r mtb anywhere, and enjoy. ! (They also make good shopping bikes because of the low risk of theft !)

We're all talking about a continuum of cycling venues, from paved roads to serious crazy mountain/rock/boggy, iced winter,offroad terrain. What portion of that continuum you call 'gravel' will determine what might work best. Rider decides.
Ride On
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Old 09-20-22, 02:26 PM
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Same here, 26ers are fine, even still have an old school hardtail. But if going to start a new project, I'd go with 700c/29er. Just less to think about when sourcing parts.
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Old 09-23-22, 01:58 PM
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fwiw - I tried hard to adapt my hybrids for forest roads & gravel but wound up really liking an entry level 29er style MTB instead

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Old 09-23-22, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by M Rose View Post
mainly itís because 26ers are an obsolete tire size and finding a good 26Ē gravel tire might be difficult.
You don't need special gravel specific tires on a 26 inch wheeled MTB...Just use regular MTB tires, the widest that will fit in the frame.
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Old 09-23-22, 06:37 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
You don't need special gravel specific tires on a 26 inch wheeled MTB...Just use regular MTB tires, the widest that will fit in the frame.
I remember having a lot of fun w/ 26" Maxxis Holy Rollers
not my bikes, but this is the tire




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Old 09-24-22, 09:32 AM
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since we're into 26r tires...
I been a huge fan of Kenda Small Block and K-Rad, for my 26rs... and they roll among the best for gravelish/mtb-lite type terrain
Kenda Small Block 8 - 26

Kenda Small Block 8 - 26

and the Kenda R-Rad 26

Kenda K-Rad 26

Ride On
Yuri
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