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Could you please help me choose a gravel bike?

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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.

Could you please help me choose a gravel bike?

Old 04-13-24, 10:19 AM
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Could you please help me choose a gravel bike?

Hello everyone, I need help. I find myself at a crossroads and have been reading a lot on bike forums to make a decision. Finally, Iíve decided to ask in this forum. Iíve been looking for a gravel bike to get around the city mostly because I use my mountain bike, but I feel that I donít move fast and end up pedaling a lot without much progress. I was looking for a road bike, but sometimes I have to ride on rocky places, so I decided to look for a gravel bike. Based on what Iíve read, I finally have three options and wanted to ask for your help. Iíve seen many very interesting opinions on the forum, which could help me choose one. The options Iím considering might not meet what I need; honestly, Iím very new to this topic. I didnít know gravel bikes existed; I only knew about mountain and road bikes. But well, my options are:

1. Trek Checkpoint ALR 5
2. Cannondale Topstone 1
3. Canyon. At this point, Iím unsure because I donít understand the difference between single and double chainring, but in this brand, Iím interested in the Grail CF SL 7 and the Grail CF SL 8.

I ask for your help and opinions on which bike would be more suitable for me to move around the city about 20 km a day or maybe a bit more, mainly for city use. I thank you in advance for your help, and itís a pleasure to share ideas with you and appreciate all your comments. Thank you very much. Regards
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Old 04-13-24, 12:05 PM
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Your needs, as expressed, are only “moving around the city about 20kms” per day, which is a very low bar, and something well beyond the capacity of any of those bikes, and not the intended application for any of those bikes, so really, it doesn’t matter: pick the one that looks best.

If you have any other factors that might be at play and relevant to bike selection, it would be good if we could take those into consideration if you want earnest reccos. For example, is this commuting riding, or pleasure riding? Do you need to carry anything with you? Do you need all-weather protection? Is it being locked up outside in public, or kept in a secure area? Do you have ambition to do gravel/dirt road riding in the future? Is your city hilly, or flat?

As an alternative to the bikes you proposed, which seem to be the +$2k range, you could consider the Breezer Doppler Team+, which is a very fully equipped gravel bike rolling on wide, fast rolling 650b wheels and tires, offers full range 2x gearing, and is fully equipped with fenders, taillamp, and generator hub front light, making it a ready for any kind of ride. It’s a steel frame, so is durable if you’re parking outside on a rack or elsewhere it might get knocked (I’d caution against carbon fiber in those settings), but it is heavier than CF so a poor choice if you’ve got to haul it up and down stairs. It might also be a weaker choice if it never rains where you are or you never ride at night. It has rack mounts, which offer a variety of means to carry luggage. It’s also around $600 cheaper than the least expensive bike on your list, the Trek Checkpoint ALR 5.

Point being, there are thousands of ways to cut this, so some more info from you is needed if we’re to make meaningful suggestions.



Breezer Doppler Team+
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Old 04-14-24, 11:08 AM
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Thank you very much for your response; I appreciate that you have broadened my view of this type of bicycles.

You are right, the use I give to the bike is very little for what they offer, it’s true, I had not analyzed it. I think I liked them more for their aesthetics and components than for their real use. However, analyzing what you tell me, I think that with the bike I have, I had not considered using it beyond going to and from work. But I really enjoy cycling. I couldn’t calculate mileage, but there have been weekends when I go out for a bike ride and make trips of 4 or 5 hours. However, because it is cumbersome to travel far with a mountain bike, I do not move too far from the city where I live. I have been in situations where, no matter how much I pedal, I do not advance, and if I add fatigue, I feel that the bike is very slow, and I fear being stranded too far from where I live. That’s why, in my analysis, I had not considered that with a gravel bike, I could make trips, maybe further away, like more than 100 km on a weekend through the city and more wooded terrains that are near the city where I live, which is an area of false flats.There are many ups and downs where I live, so I liked using the mountain bike to make it easier to climb steep slopes.

What really catches my attention is the issue of speed. Obviously, I don’t want to compete against anyone, but I want a fast bike, and with the bike I have, if I want to make long trips, I think twice because I know the return will take a lot of effort. That’s why I have thought more about gravel; I want speed and distance.

On the other hand, what you were telling me about the purpose of the bike, I think it would not be to carry a lot of equipment; it would be more long day trips to go and return. I like to travel light on the bike; I don’t think I need equipment to carry objects or anything like that. I usually go out with a backpack that contains the basics: a bottle of water, money, and tools, and that’s all. As for where I would leave it, I tend to be very distrustful and always keep my bike inside the apartment where I live. I don’t usually leave it outdoors. I don’t usually go camping; I just like to ride in the city and return to my home. For that reason, I think a light bike is better because I have to climb stairs; I live on the fourth floor.

I was looking at the bike you mentioned; honestly, I did not know the brand. I am very new to these bicycle issues. The bike I have is $200; it’s one of the first bikes I bought to get around the city. I have always liked to ride a bike, and I have given this one a lot of use, but I feel that it is time to change since I have had it for more than 10 years. As I have become more interested in practicing cycling, I have been looking a lot at components and types of cycling, etc. I have always liked mountain bikes, but seeing what they are for, I would never practice those types of activities. I would really only use them to ride in the city and occasionally enter rocky terrains. I have never tried to go up and down hills or mountains; I always use it more for flat surfaces or steep climbs or terrains with a lot of gravel, but I would never use it to go to a mountain. That’s why now that I am seeing and reading a little more about this, I opted for a gravel bike, which I feel is more my profile. Looking and reading about components and others, I considered that these were the three options that offered me better quality for the price with the budget I was planning to use.I hope this bike will also last me a long time. I was interested in the aluminum frame, but I have gone to see them physically, and the carbon frame is very light and aesthetic, and they tell me that it helps a lot with vibrations.

As I mentioned, I am very new to this topic, and I think these bikes are way above the real use I will give them. They simply catch my attention because I would like to buy a bike that, if I demand more from it, can handle it. I hope to gradually progress in this area and have the right equipment. Thank you very much, and regards.

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Old 04-14-24, 12:35 PM
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Any of the bikes you mention are very suitable for 'city' riding, as well as much light/medium offroad.
You mention your 1st bike, and mtb, was $200
there are so many considerations for what anyone might want of their bike and what equipment is on it, 1x-2x, wheel/tire size, position/fit. and on go the options, many which are important.
your listing $2K to $3K bikes, one of which is available only online.... are you sure you want to spend that much - not having much idea of what you really might want for use?
my thoughts
develop some idea of what bike sizes might fit you best - you'd need to give a bunch of info to get anyone here to even hazard a guess...
go to as many local bike shops as you can, ask what they have to offer, which might fit/work for you
consider an 'entry level' gravel bike - they're mostly great bikes which can give you 95% of the performance, if the motor is up to it...
test ride as many bikes as you can.
just because you ride now with a backpack, don;t rule out a future desire to carry things differently... most gravel bike designs do allow some light duty racks, and many are design to carry quite large loads...
Try to initially look a bike with blurred vision, don't let 'cosmetics' prejudge. develop a feel of how the bike rides for you. Ultimately cosmetics will sway your decisions, but a cool/pretty bike which isn't the enjoyment you hoped for, will be a disappointment...
Please use carriage returns to make your posts more 'readable' for the forum members...
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 04-14-24, 02:29 PM
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If you are fairly new to this and are not getting a new bike based on current fit on an existing road bike, maybe would not be doing mail order from Canyon, or whomever. I would be at a local bike shop that sells the brands you are interested in. Not sure if there’s an REI near you, it would be a good shop to be looking at assorted bikes, they sell Cannondale as example. I think a gravel bike is probably a good choice for your needs, but there are others out there.
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Old 04-14-24, 03:34 PM
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Thank you very much for your comments. Youíre right; I know they are expensive, and thatís what has held me back from spending so much on those bicycles. Thatís why Iíve been researching forums on these topics to make the right purchase. I think I might be getting too caught up in brand names rather than focusing on what I truly need. Upon reflection, I realize I need a simpler bicycle, but Iím not sure which one is right for starting in the world of gravel riding. Iíve been contemplating my choices quite a bit.

Regarding size, Iíve visited several bike shops, and the ones Iíve found most suitable are Trek, Specialized, and Giant. Based on my height (172 cm), Iíve test-ridden these bikes, and I know that a frame size of S or 54 suits me. Specifically, at Trek, they offered me the basic gravel variety, the Checkpoint, which I used as a reference point when exploring other brands. I also noticed the Giant Revolt 1, which caught my attention , but I leaned more toward the Checkpoint to get an idea of prices.

Speaking of more basic gravel bikes, Iíve seen that prices start around $1500. Compared to the $200 I spent on my first bike, that seemed like a lot. Considering that Iím investing significantly in a bicycle, I want it to last a long time, so I set a maximum budget of $3000.

As for test-riding the bikes, thatís a good point. I believe it would be a great way to determine if I feel comfortable on a particular bike. Unfortunately, I havenít had many opportunities to ride them outside of the store, but Iíll actively seek out chances to try these types of bikes to see if the riding experience aligns with what Iím looking for.

I greatly appreciate your comment and would be grateful for any recommendation of a more basic gravel bike that performs well. I would really appreciate it. Iíve been looking at the recommendation that Chaadster gave me, and it seemed very interesting. I wasnít familiar with the brand, so I hadnít considered other options.

Thanks Steve B i also believe that buying a bicycle online is quite risky. Iíve noticed that Canyon has a good reputation for deliveries, but Iím afraid I might not feel comfortable with it. Iíd like to try it before making a purchase, which is why Iíve had many doubts. I would appreciate any recommendations, and thank you for your comment; itís been very helpful. 🚲👍

And I apologize for the previous response; Iíve edited it. I wrote too much and only responded without realizing how long it was my comment.

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Old 04-14-24, 03:38 PM
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If this is your first drop bar bike, not Canyon, because you need to test ride the bikes.
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Old 04-15-24, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
If this is your first drop bar bike, not Canyon, because you need to test ride the bikes.
Yep. If you don't know what you like or want, go do some test rides at your local LBSs.
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Old 04-17-24, 06:11 PM
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I was in the same situation 3 months ago and bought a Topstone 1 alloy for $2,200. As they only offer five different sizes in the model I was somewhere between sizes and per Cannondale's recommendation I bought the medium size at REI. Didn't test ride the bike though probable should have. After a few rides and tweaking the adjustments I realized the medium was too small and returned the bike. Because the large size was unavailable, (and I believe remains unavailable), I ended up spending more for a $3,000 Specialized Diverge Sport Carbon in 58 cm size. The model is available in eight different sizes. The advantages I noted of the Specialized over the Topstone include a full carbon frame, significantly more frame size options, 2 x 12 gearing compared to 2 x 11 for the Topstone, Future Shock suspension in front, Shimano GRX crankset and bottom bracket compared to FSA for the Cannondale, and a carbon seatpost. I have a few hundred miles on the Specialized now and couldn't be happier with the purchase. Good luck with your search - There's so many choices.
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Old 04-20-24, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jevery57
I was in the same situation 3 months ago and bought a Topstone 1 alloy for $2,200. As they only offer five different sizes in the model I was somewhere between sizes and per Cannondale's recommendation I bought the medium size at REI. Didn't test ride the bike though probable should have. After a few rides and tweaking the adjustments I realized the medium was too small and returned the bike. Because the large size was unavailable, (and I believe remains unavailable), I ended up spending more for a $3,000 Specialized Diverge Sport Carbon in 58 cm size. The model is available in eight different sizes. The advantages I noted of the Specialized over the Topstone include a full carbon frame, significantly more frame size options, 2 x 12 gearing compared to 2 x 11 for the Topstone, Future Shock suspension in front, Shimano GRX crankset and bottom bracket compared to FSA for the Cannondale, and a carbon seatpost. I have a few hundred miles on the Specialized now and couldn't be happier with the purchase. Good luck with your search - There's so many choices.
Hello, thank you for your comment. Yes, I had seen the Specialized ones, particularly the Diverge Elite E5. It caught my attention, and even though it was cheaper, I dismissed it. But based on your comment, I think itís a good option. I have also considered the Giant Revolt, but your comment is swaying me towards the Specialized. Regarding your size, how did you solve it? I have the same problem and am between the sizes of two frames, particularly between 52 and 54. I am at the upper and lower limit of both. Which size did you go for? I am very concerned about what you mention, that in the end, you donít feel comfortable with the size of the bike. What size are you? And what was your choice? Between which limits were you, and which one did you choose?

Thanks and greetings.
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Old 04-20-24, 07:04 PM
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I can speak to the Topstone - I am 169 cm tall with a 75cm inseam - I tried out a small Topstone and immediately tired a 52 cm Synapse. I wanted to like the Topstone but it was too small. The Synapse was just right. When I inquired about a medium Topstone, the LBS told me the Medium would feel too big.

If you want one of the bikes on your list and it is in your means, then ride them and see what fits you best.

I'm still thinking about that Synapse...
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Old 04-20-24, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Mtbgrvbiker
Hello, thank you for your comment. Yes, I had seen the Specialized ones, particularly the Diverge Elite E5. It caught my attention, and even though it was cheaper, I dismissed it. But based on your comment, I think itís a good option. I have also considered the Giant Revolt, but your comment is swaying me towards the Specialized. Regarding your size, how did you solve it? I have the same problem and am between the sizes of two frames, particularly between 52 and 54. I am at the upper and lower limit of both. Which size did you go for? I am very concerned about what you mention, that in the end, you donít feel comfortable with the size of the bike. What size are you? And what was your choice? Between which limits were you, and which one did you choose?
Iím 6í 1Ē tall. I do have long legs/short torso. For the Cannondale that I took back I used the online size calculator which returned a result of Medium size. Once I had the bike and started making adjustments the seat post was raised to the limit and it felt that I was not getting enough knee extension on the down stroke. The frame also felt small compared to my previous road bike. I would likely have been happy with the Cannondale in large, however, the size/color combination was and remains unavailable. The online calculator for Specialized uses height plus shin length and returned a result of 58cm which is significantly larger than their medium sizes of 54/56. The 58cm also comes with the longest crank arms and Iím now getting sufficient knee extension without the seat post raised to the limit. The Specialized lineup does offer significantly more size increments than Cannondale which should help with the ďBetween sizesĒ dilemma.
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Old 04-20-24, 09:29 PM
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Where you are located can matter for what else might be available to you. Personally I would want to get a State All-road for a commuter and general use bike due to a combination of quality and cost. However, if I were in Europe which I'm guessing you are, I might look at brands like Dolan which offers a good value and well tested bikes for the money or something from planetx, where you could get an all day comfort riding Ti, steel or carbon.

1x vs 2x, for a general use bike, 1x is more than adequate. 1x can give you similar range to older 2x systems but without the complication of figuring out if you needed to change the front gearing and the back gearing for the next best gear. For riders that spend hours every other day on their bike the next best gear is known and shifting is easy, for everyone else changing the front is an afterthought to use once you've run out of gears in the back. 1x you just shift to easier or harder and no real thought needed. Most 1x gearing will work fine if you aren't trying to make real speeds or distance, a 40/42 or 45 low gear might climb some steep grades easily but the corresponding 40/11 isn't going to be fast. It also has the disadvantage of having some larger jumps in the climbing gears that aren't always optimal.
2x can be better if you like shifting gears, or are at least willing to learn all of them and how to use them. There's just more gear options to pick which gear will optimize your effort based on hills, wind, and how you are feeling. A lot of gravel will run a 46/30, 48/32 or some sort of compact road bike a 50/34. A 48/11 will be noticeably easier to maintain a higher speed in over flats but easy enough to spin away in for long periods of time. However a lot of gravel 2x still doesn't have the low gearing of a 1x since the rear der has to also take up the longer chain for those front gearing changes. While a 32/36 is a very low gear it isn't as low as a 40/45 since those rear gears have a greater effect than the front on how much easier or harder the pedaling is.
Personally, I like kicking around the city on my single speed, it isn't the fastest but it just cruises. If I were to look for a new gravel bike that would be used to ride around and even go for longer partial day trips on I'd probably go 1x unless I was worried about becoming a serious rider with ambitious plans. A 1x gravel bike with the right tires can ride a lot of local mtb trails with no effort, do 40 miles comfortably at a decent pace, maybe not truly fast, but faster than a mtb, and has a simplicity that makes it easier to just pick a gear and ride.
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Old 04-21-24, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Trav1s
I can speak to the Topstone - I am 169 cm tall with a 75cm inseam - I tried out a small Topstone and immediately tired a 52 cm Synapse. I wanted to like the Topstone but it was too small. The Synapse was just right. When I inquired about a medium Topstone, the LBS told me the Medium would feel too big.

If you want one of the bikes on your list and it is in your means, then ride them and see what fits you best.

I'm still thinking about that Synapse...
Originally Posted by jevery57
Iím 6í 1Ē tall. I do have long legs/short torso. For the Cannondale that I took back I used the online size calculator which returned a result of Medium size. Once I had the bike and started making adjustments the seat post was raised to the limit and it felt that I was not getting enough knee extension on the down stroke. The frame also felt small compared to my previous road bike. I would likely have been happy with the Cannondale in large, however, the size/color combination was and remains unavailable. The online calculator for Specialized uses height plus shin length and returned a result of 58cm which is significantly larger than their medium sizes of 54/56. The 58cm also comes with the longest crank arms and Iím now getting sufficient knee extension without the seat post raised to the limit. The Specialized lineup does offer significantly more size increments than Cannondale which should help with the ďBetween sizesĒ dilemma.
Hello Trav1s, thank you for the help. Iíve been looking at bike sizing information, and Iím 172 cm tall with an 84 cm inseam. For the Topstone, Iím torn between sizes S and M. I tried both, and the M frame left about 1 finger width of space between the top tube and my inseam, while the S had more room. Unfortunately, I couldnít test-ride them in the store to assess the reach.

The shop recommended the M size, but Iím unsure how it will feel with the seat post raised. Thatís why I was considering buying the S so that the raised seat post would compensate for the size. However, as you mentioned, jevery57, considering your height on the Topstone, they recommend M or L. In your case, you mentioned that the larger size fits you better, correct?

Thanks to your recommendation, I also checked out the Specialized sizing calculator, 42 cm leg, which suggests a 54 for me. Based on this, I believe the M in the Topstone would be the right choice for me. Thank you bothóI feel much more confident about my size now. Itís just a matter of deciding on a specific bike. Your comments have been greatly appreciated!.

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Old 04-21-24, 01:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth
Where you are located can matter for what else might be available to you. Personally I would want to get a State All-road for a commuter and general use bike due to a combination of quality and cost. However, if I were in Europe which I'm guessing you are, I might look at brands like Dolan which offers a good value and well tested bikes for the money or something from planetx, where you could get an all day comfort riding Ti, steel or carbon.

1x vs 2x, for a general use bike, 1x is more than adequate. 1x can give you similar range to older 2x systems but without the complication of figuring out if you needed to change the front gearing and the back gearing for the next best gear. For riders that spend hours every other day on their bike the next best gear is known and shifting is easy, for everyone else changing the front is an afterthought to use once you've run out of gears in the back. 1x you just shift to easier or harder and no real thought needed. Most 1x gearing will work fine if you aren't trying to make real speeds or distance, a 40/42 or 45 low gear might climb some steep grades easily but the corresponding 40/11 isn't going to be fast. It also has the disadvantage of having some larger jumps in the climbing gears that aren't always optimal.
2x can be better if you like shifting gears, or are at least willing to learn all of them and how to use them. There's just more gear options to pick which gear will optimize your effort based on hills, wind, and how you are feeling. A lot of gravel will run a 46/30, 48/32 or some sort of compact road bike a 50/34. A 48/11 will be noticeably easier to maintain a higher speed in over flats but easy enough to spin away in for long periods of time. However a lot of gravel 2x still doesn't have the low gearing of a 1x since the rear der has to also take up the longer chain for those front gearing changes. While a 32/36 is a very low gear it isn't as low as a 40/45 since those rear gears have a greater effect than the front on how much easier or harder the pedaling is.
Personally, I like kicking around the city on my single speed, it isn't the fastest but it just cruises. If I were to look for a new gravel bike that would be used to ride around and even go for longer partial day trips on I'd probably go 1x unless I was worried about becoming a serious rider with ambitious plans. A 1x gravel bike with the right tires can ride a lot of local mtb trails with no effort, do 40 miles comfortably at a decent pace, maybe not truly fast, but faster than a mtb, and has a simplicity that makes it easier to just pick a gear and ride.
Hi, thank you for your explanation. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of those bicycle brands before—I had been swayed by the more well-known ones. I’ll definitely take a look at them.

Regarding gears, I’d prefer speed over anything else. I’m quite new to understanding gear ratios. Basic physics taught me that for speed, the front gear should be larger, and the rear gear should be smaller. If you want to climb hills, the front gear should be smaller than the rear gear. However, I wasn’t aware of the variety of teeth on the gears. I’ve seen specifications like “46x30T” and “2x10” on bikes like Specialized, but I didn’t understand those values.

Based on what you’ve explained, I now understand that the front gear has 46 teeth, the rear gear has 30 teeth, and there are 2 front gears and 10 rear gears. Therefore, the largest gear up front would have 46 teeth, and I realize that the rear has 10 gears, with the smallest having 30 teeth. According to your explanation, a configuration with a greater difference in teeth would result in higher speed.

Usually, I ride my bike in the largest front gear and rarely change it—I tend to use the rear gears more. So, I think a single-chainring bike would be more suitable for me. However, I wonder how challenging it would be to pedal on very steep inclines. I believe it’s more about leg strength than anything else, but based on your comments, it seems that a single-chainring setup would indeed be more optimal.

Thank you very much for your insights!

Regards.
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Old 04-24-24, 04:11 PM
  #16  
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If one is in between two adjacent sizes based on one's height, then it depends on the ratio between torso length and leg length:
  • If one has long legs and a short torso (for a given height), go for the smaller of the two adjacent sizes;
  • If one has short legs and a long torso (for a given height), go for the larger of the two adjacent sizes.
Please note that leg length is evaluated based on cycling inseam, which is longer that the inseam of one's pants.
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Old 04-29-24, 07:47 PM
  #17  
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Trek opinion

I have the Trek you are considering. It seems quite capable as a road bike ,mine wears Maxxis Re-Fuse road tire in 40 mm, with tubes at 50# it handles cracked roads, chip seal, clay and light gravel, and even the occasional horse trail for myself and gives up very little to a dedicated road bike. I personally prefer the two chainring system over the one. I find it easier for me to find the just right gear for me as I can lessen some of the jumps .Don't be to worried about the aluminum vs carbon thing. I have a newer carbon Domane shod with 32's and the Checkpoint is a lot smoother overall. with the wider lower pressure tires. Some may argue but I consider aluminum more durable for thrashing around in the rough stuff . I wish you luck in finding the right bike for yourself. I find myself grabbing this bike quite a bit more than I had expected I would. Just wanted to give you a review/opinion of one of the bikes you were considering. It just seems to make me smile.
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Old 04-30-24, 07:28 AM
  #18  
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pattrick

have you tried any other tires on the Checkpoint ? those tires are great for avoiding punctures but not the best rolling tires Ö

I might be headed down toward Sewickley / Beaver County roads later this week / weekend - I will keep my eyes open for a Checkpoint
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Old 04-30-24, 06:23 PM
  #19  
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Not really.

Originally Posted by t2p
pattrick

have you tried any other tires on the Checkpoint ? those tires are great for avoiding punctures but not the best rolling tires Ö

I might be headed down toward Sewickley / Beaver County roads later this week / weekend - I will keep my eyes open for a Checkpoint
The original tires rolled poorly on pavement and cut easily , highspeed corners were sketchy at best so I replaced them immediately. In an area where coasting at forty five mph is rather easy down hills the ability to take the bends at the bottom at speed was a concern of mine and these just work. The tires seem to roll fairly well, some reviews had them being used at RAAM in smaller widths. I appreciate the lack of tread. Around here cinders and debris tend to stick in the treads till they work their way into the tire so I tend to go with smooth tires if possible. I also believe it helps ride smoother on my given rides. I feel they roll quite well given their size and pressure but even on the road bikes I tend to stick with Continental Four Seasons for a performance / durability compromise. I only have a few thousand miles on the bike so have not yet tried any others, they just ticked a lot of boxes for me when I l was looking for a decent rough road tire.
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