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Help me build/buy a sub $1K Bikepacking 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.

Help me build/buy a sub $1K Bikepacking bike

Old 05-24-24, 11:41 PM
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Help me build/buy a sub $1K Bikepacking bike

Confession, I'm a roadie and have no idea of gearing, frames and groups sets for gravel/mountain. Anyway, a couple years ago I convinced one of my close friends to start cycling, which he did, but he went the gravel route. This fall I am planning to join him on a 3 day bikepacking trip on the Katy trail starting from Clinton MO. But I don't have a gravel or a mountain bike. My road bike is a Lynskey R270 and is not suited for gravel. I could use a second bike (who doesn't), as I have a slow group of riders I ride with so a gravel/mountain will be perfect for those rides.

Is it too optimistic to expect a decent gravel bike under $1k? No intention of going hard core mountain biking, will probably stick with gentle off road action.
I live in Plano TX (a suburb of Dallas, TX) if it makes a difference.
A few options I saw that seem reasonable are listed below. To be honest I usually do not buy new bikes I always go for a barely used ones, always get a better deal that way. So open to buying used if I know what to look for.

REI Co-op Adv 3.1
Saw a Poseidon Redwood Gravel
Salsa Jourjeyer has been mentioned in some posts here.
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Old 05-24-24, 11:55 PM
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It's on a trail, so you don't need serious mountain bike chops. No suspension at either end is necessary. You could modify hard-tail, hard-fork mountain bike easy. Keys are:
+ The frame fits you well, in terms of frame size, and handlebar position; The latter depends on whether you want road drop bars (which seem to "define" a gravel bike versus hard MTBs), and thus according stem to position whichever bar in the right place for you. I'm a roadie, but in recent years outfit my townie with flat bars and bar ends, because my old bullhorn bars were much more narrow, and I didn't realize the lower comfort of that until I tried wider.
+ Clearance for the tires you want to ride.
+ Good condition, both in all parts, and overhauled before ride, meaning all bearings, check condition of chain, cogs, chainrings, brakes, and a good wheel true.

Does NOT matter:
- Wheel size: Though true gravel these days is 700c with wide tires (including 29'ers which is just bike 700c), a 26" wheel bike will work fine, if it has high enough gearing for the max speed you want. EDIT!!: Tire availability matters, see below.
- Shifter style, unless you have a strong preference.
- Brake style, unless serous long downhills, in which case you may want discs.

Buying new is not a bad deal, considering the cost of a used overhaul if you don't do it yourself. The link you posted, REI, generally a good place, and in my town has a really competent repair department. The specs seem to look good to me, but I'm not a gravel biker. Double butted chrome moly sounds tough and good ride. Gearing leaps out at me, don't know if high gear is tall enough, large chainring is not that big, though it's with 11T high cog and big tires. Run the numbers in gear calc versus your current bike. Seems like a good price.

EDIT: That has 650b wheels and tires, also known as "twenty-seven-five". That might be why it is selling at big discount at the beginning of bike season, I don't know. I don't know about selection and pluses and minuses. It's an old french size that has seen a resurgence, and wide selection of tires, but for my money, the difference in bead diameter between that (584mm) and traditional MTB 26 inch (559mm), I think I might go 26, I know there's a huge selection of tires and wheels available. But that's just me. 650b article here:

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/650b.html

Also consider long-term: A traditional touring bike these days may have the tire clearance you need and could more easily be fit with racks later. Trouble is, some great turn-key tourers are no longer made, like Trek 520 and Masi Giramondo.

Last edited by Duragrouch; 05-25-24 at 12:21 AM.
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Old 05-25-24, 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Duragrouch
That has 650b wheels and tires, also known as "twenty-seven-five". That might be why it is selling at big discount at the beginning of bike season, I don't know. I don't know about selection and pluses and minuses. It's an old french size that has seen a resurgence, and wide selection of tires, but for my money, the difference in bead diameter between that (584mm) and traditional MTB 26 inch (559mm), I think I might go 26, I know there's a huge selection of tires and wheels available. But that's just me. 650b article here:

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/650b.html
The Sheldon Brown article predates the gravel trend. The resurgence of 650b (ISO 584 mm) is due to the trend for even wider tires for gravel biking. A 650b wheel with a > 2" gravel or MTB tire is almost the same size as a 700c (ISO 622 mm) wheel with a narrower road tire, which allows the 650b wheel and tire combo to fit within a gravel frame sized for 700c tires and work with the same gravel drivetrain gearing. By now, 650b tire choices exceeds 26" tire choices, especially for tubeless gravel tires.
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Old 05-25-24, 05:35 AM
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The REI bike on sale is a great value with modern specs. Plus it's a nice color. I'd get that and be done.
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Old 05-25-24, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv
The REI bike on sale is a great value with modern specs. Plus it's a nice color. I'd get that and be done.
There is an REI close to where I live, I just don't know how good the shifters are plus they are not your usual Shimano style shifters they are at the end of the handle bars, not sure how convenient that setup it. Will certainly need getting used to.
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Old 05-25-24, 11:11 AM
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The REI is as good as you will likely get for that money. The only reasons to buy something different would be personal preferences.
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Old 05-25-24, 12:23 PM
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If you can get 28-32mm tires onto your road bike, you might not need a dedicated gravel bike for the Katy trail
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Old 05-25-24, 12:41 PM
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You can't go wrong with any of the choices you listed and have been mentioned.

The REI bike you linked is a lot of bike for the money, for sure. But it's definitely on the "mountain bike" end of the spectrum of gravel bikes in terms of geometry and gearing. High bottom bracket, very low gearing range. 36X11 is a very low high gear. As opposed to others (like the Salsas I mention below) that are shaded more towards the road bike end of that spectrum. Since I use my gravel bikes as a gravel and rough road and path bike rather than a drop bar mountain bike, I personally wouldn't go that route especially because of the gearing. Poseidon has differnt offerings at those two general ends as well. Be sure to consider that.

My wife and I have the cheaper Salsa Journeyer from REI for $800- $1k. They have a lot of mounting points for touring, although we only use the bottle bosses.

My wife has the Claris 2X 650B version and I have the 9 speed Advent 1X 700C. They, and the Tektro mechanical disc brakes, are the lower end of the hierarchies, but both work perfectly. I have a very nice Lynskey titanium gravel bike with Sram AXS Force 2X 12 speed (Electronic, hydraulic). Yes, it's a nicer bike than the Salsa, but 5X the cost. And I enjoy riding the Salsa as much when I'm where I keep it in another state. It's just a nice bike. I especially like the Microshift shifting. My wife likes the Claris well enough - she also has an Ultegra road bike and she says they shift comparably.

I like the full-mechanical for using it far from home because I can easily fix anything with commonly available parts if needed.

FWIW, I changed the cassettes on both for lower gearing and both shift perfectly and with long enough chains, the OEM derailleurs have enough wrap and large sprocket capacity even though the cassette is now larger than spec'd. The Claris is now 43/30 X 11-36 (originally 34) and the Microshift is now 40X11-46 (originally 42). Chances are you won't need to do this, but we're old (70) and experience hills a lot. The OEM gearing is pretty darn low.

When I was looking for inexpensive bikes to keep out of state for when we travel there, I looked at the Poseidon offerings and was going to go that route. On paper, I think you might get more for your money. But, I didn't really have a place to ship the new ones at the destination, and was done with the hassle of transporting two bikes by air and Uber (done it a lot!). Assembling away from home would also have been a minor issue (I've built several bikes), but what if something was wrong with the bikes when they arrived? None of this would be an issue if I were going to receive and use the bikes at home and I might well have gone with Poseidon. With the Journeyers I was able to order the Journeyers online and pick them up at the local REI, assembled and ready to go.

Last edited by Camilo; 05-25-24 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 05-25-24, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by tFUnK
If you can get 28-32mm tires onto your road bike, you might not need a dedicated gravel bike for the Katy trail
Agree with this. Larger tires would do the trick as long as there have not been prolonged periods of rain. Then it can be a muddy mess and a gravel bike with 43mm tires will be useful.
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Old 05-25-24, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
Agree with this. Larger tires would do the trick as long as there have not been prolonged periods of rain. Then it can be a muddy mess and a gravel bike with 43mm tires will be useful.
I'm hoping to get more into bikepacking after the Katy trail. The Lynskey will max out at 28, officially it only goes up to 26 but I measured and I can probably squeeze a 28 into it. I just feel a d dictated bike might be a better option. I hadnít looked at the Salsa bike but I will now.
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Old 05-25-24, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by SoSmellyAir
The Sheldon Brown article predates the gravel trend. The resurgence of 650b (ISO 584 mm) is due to the trend for even wider tires for gravel biking. A 650b wheel with a > 2" gravel or MTB tire is almost the same size as a 700c (ISO 622 mm) wheel with a narrower road tire, which allows the 650b wheel and tire combo to fit within a gravel frame sized for 700c tires and work with the same gravel drivetrain gearing. By now, 650b tire choices exceeds 26" tire choices, especially for tubeless gravel tires.
Yes I grasped that, from the Sheldon Brown article. Even though they said a 650B conversion requires longer reach brakes, I grasped that with discs, you could easily have a bike that fits both 700C narrow and 650B fat.

Originally Posted by ark40
There is an REI close to where I live, I just don't know how good the shifters are plus they are not your usual Shimano style shifters they are at the end of the handle bars, not sure how convenient that setup it. Will certainly need getting used to.
Bar-end shifters are less convenient, and I pined for a while for brifters. And then I learned they are not as durable, and swiss-watch complex, and I think small replacement parts not available, so disposable. Bar-ends are easier to reach than downtube shifters, but just as bombproof, last forever, which may not matter as much to you as the convenience of brifters, but on a remote or overseas tour, I'd choose bar-ends.
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Old 05-25-24, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo
You can't go wrong with any of the choices you listed and have been mentioned.

The REI bike you linked is a lot of bike for the money, for sure. But it's definitely on the "mountain bike" end of the spectrum of gravel bikes in terms of geometry and gearing. High bottom bracket, very low gearing range. 36X11 is a very low high gear. As opposed to others (like the Salsas I mention below) that are shaded more towards the road bike end of that spectrum. Since I use my gravel bikes as a gravel and rough road and path bike rather than a drop bar mountain bike, I personally wouldn't go that route especially because of the gearing. Poseidon has different offerings at those two general ends as well. Be sure to consider that.

My wife and I have the cheaper Salsa Journeyer from REI for $800- $1k. They have a lot of mounting points for touring, although we only use the bottle bosses.

My wife has the Claris 2X 650B version and I have the 9 speed Advent 1X 700C.

I like the full-mechanical for using it far from home because I can easily fix anything with commonly available parts if needed.

When I was looking for inexpensive bikes to keep out of state for when we travel there, I looked at the Poseidon offerings and was going to go that route. On paper, I think you might get more for your money.
Couple follow up questions (due to lack of knowledge of gravel and mountain bikes). If the trend holds I will in a few years upgrade my gravel as I get more familiar. So an economic first bike is always a good option.
You said the Poseidon bikes are a different offerings, what different about them. The price on them is very attractive right now. I have a lot of local bike mechanics so putting it together is not an issue. I can have it shipped to my home and should be able to assemble it myself. Between me and another cyclist friend we have a lot of tools.
I can find a Salsa Advent for under $1k. Between that and the Poseidon RedWood which one would be a better choice for just basic gravel and some rough roads.
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Old 05-26-24, 01:23 AM
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Originally Posted by ark40
Couple follow up questions (due to lack of knowledge of gravel and mountain bikes). If the trend holds I will in a few years upgrade my gravel as I get more familiar. So an economic first bike is always a good option.
You said the Poseidon bikes are a different offerings, what different about them. The price on them is very attractive right now. I have a lot of local bike mechanics so putting it together is not an issue. I can have it shipped to my home and should be able to assemble it myself. Between me and another cyclist friend we have a lot of tools.
I can find a Salsa Advent for under $1k. Between that and the Poseidon RedWood which one would be a better choice for just basic gravel and some rough roads.
For what you're looking for, IMO, the Salsa Journeyer 700c, even the Journeyer 650B's frame, is similar to the Poseidon X Ambition and both better for that stuff than the Redwood. Most of what I say below about the X Ambition can be said for the Journeyer compared to the Redwood, give or take.

X Ambition vs Redwood Ė Poseidon Bike

Both X Ambition (and Journeyer) and Redwood are "gravel bikes" in that they're not made up for strictly smooth pavement riding like a full-on road bike, nor technical gnarly trails like a suspension MTB.

But they're distinctly different. Compared to the X Ambition and Journeyer 700C, the Redwood has geometry and tires more like what you'd use a rigid mountain bike for. A couple examples are the high bottom bracket and fat 2.3"X27.5 (58mmX650B) tires with aggressive tread.

The X Ambition geometry (and Journeyer) and tires are more like an all surface road bike - for gravel, rough roads, moderate single track. Lower bottom bracket, smaller 700cX40mm (1.6") tires with smoother running tread. Being a roadie, you know that a 40mm tire is not skinny at all, and the tread is not smooth like a road tire, but nothing like a 2.3" knobby tire.

There's a bunch of other differences in geometry and parts between the Redwood and the X Ambition that you can see from the specs. You can find the same geometry and spec info for the Journeyer online. Without doing a deep dive back into the Journeyer, I'd say the major difference with the Ambition is slightly different gearing with a higher high gear which would be even more similar to a road bike in that respect.

What you're looking for is exactly what I want in my gravel bikes. I set them up almost exactly like my road bikes, but use them on gravel, dirt, moderate trails, etc. I wasn't looking for a drop bar MTB, which the Redwood kind of is. Not that there's anything wrong with that, they're very popular.

If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't get the Poseidon redwood. It's not night and day, but between the two, i'd probably get the X Ambition over the Salsa, just because there's quite a bit more bang for the buck and the purpose of the frames are similar. You lose the initial and 1 year service off the REI bike shop which sounds like wouldn't be a big deal for you. As I explained, I wasn't able to at the time, although I have no regrets for the Journeyer and the convenience in how I purchased it at the time.

Don't over think it. You're looking at good starter, even long term bikes.

Last edited by Camilo; 05-26-24 at 01:55 AM.
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Old 05-26-24, 03:14 PM
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The REI bike is probably the best on that list. Trying to find 1k drop bar bikes that are decent and new are going to be hard. However if you have a good frame and a bunch of parts you can build something pretty nice.
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Old 05-26-24, 04:35 PM
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$1000 is a tough number for a decent bike with decent components. If new, you are going to see low end components, especially likely some really cheap wheels. If you are sure as to what size you need, look used.
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Old 05-26-24, 08:44 PM
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Over in the "Show your Trek Multitrack" thread, someone recently shared photos of a 1992 Multitrack rebuilt for bikepacking. I recently rebuilt a similar bike with drop bays for gravel for under $300 including the frame (bike was $50 on Craigslist, I couldn't resist even though it needed a complete rebuild). If you're willing to be patient in your search for parts and do the work yourself, you could have a nice bikepacking rig built on a mid-90s steel frame for under $1k that you could upgrade over time.
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Old 05-27-24, 01:46 PM
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The rei bike is solid for the price. It isn't what I would want for a gravel bike long term, but if you don't want to buy used and don't want to spend more, that's a pretty good deal.
A salsa journeyer is a good option at that price point.


Some like poseidon. I've never ridden or seen one. They scream cheap to me, in terms of frame appearance and wheels. But if one works for you- cool.


Personally, I would go used. Heck, I would find something for cheap that fits and is solid, then sell it if I liked riding geavel and bike packing, then buy something nicer.
...or I would just buy an early 90s rigid hybrid or an older touring bike that fit and spend a few hundred to make it work perfectly for the Katy riding.
There is 0 reason to use bike packing gear on that trail. Just buy a simple rack and panniers- they will cost less and be easier to pack as well as transport. Any touring bike or early 90s hybrid will fit 700x35 tires and many will fit 38mm tires. That is plenty wide for the Katy trail.
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Old 05-27-24, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
The rei bike is solid for the price. It isn't what I would want for a gravel bike long term, but if you don't want to buy used and don't want to spend more, that's a pretty good deal.
A salsa journeyer is a good option at that price point.


Some like poseidon. I've never ridden or seen one. They scream cheap to me, in terms of frame appearance and wheels. But if one works for you- cool.


Personally, I would go used. Heck, I would find something for cheap that fits and is solid, then sell it if I liked riding geavel and bike packing, then buy something nicer.
...or I would just buy an early 90s rigid hybrid or an older touring bike that fit and spend a few hundred to make it work perfectly for the Katy riding.
There is 0 reason to use bike packing gear on that trail. Just buy a simple rack and panniers- they will cost less and be easier to pack as well as transport. Any touring bike or early 90s hybrid will fit 700x35 tires and many will fit 38mm tires. That is plenty wide for the Katy trail.
And from what I hear, "non-1X" goes cheap these days.

Given the all-new everything on the REI, I'd say, a well-used but quality bike, and replacement of all needed items such as tires and tubes, brake pads, etc, the OP should spend total no more than 1/3 the REI cost, perhaps half if it's a modern bike, great condition, and has disc brakes. Otherwise, I'd go for the REI. And I am someone notorious for buying cheap used, but only if they are a raging deal.

I also like the mention above of racks and panniers if much cheaper (my LBS has great deals on used racks of quality, low demand vs bikepacking stuff) and if the trail is wide and can accommodate that, but not if wasted money even if cheap; The OP should spend the money on racks and panniers or bikepacking gear, based on what they will use long-term. My bike is racked and panniered because it is also my townie, bikepacking gear is totally useless for groceries. It's also a folder, but that's beside the point.
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Old 05-27-24, 10:01 PM
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https://www.statebicycle.com/collect...rown-650b-700c
$900

1x11 drivetrain and wheels that can be set up tubeless.


Forgot about this as an option.
It, or the slightly more expensive aluminum option, could be a good platform to then upgrade later, if you like the bike and riding.
There is a carbon fork option you an buy now or later.
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Old 05-27-24, 10:25 PM
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(above) I'm seeing pretty darned good options for new at that price point. Way less than only a couple years back. And switchable between 700C and 650B (with discs), I have to admit, that's the killer app of 650B, a mighty versatile bike. I'm glad the OP asked the question, I learned something.
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Old 05-28-24, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Personally, I would go used. Heck, I would find something for cheap that fits and is solid, then sell it if I liked riding geavel and bike packing, then buy something nicer.
...or I would just buy an early 90s rigid hybrid or an older touring bike that fit and spend a few hundred to make it work perfectly for the Katy riding.
There is 0 reason to use bike packing gear on that trail. Just buy a simple rack and panniers- they will cost less and be easier to pack as well as transport. Any touring bike or early 90s hybrid will fit 700x35 tires and many will fit 38mm tires. That is plenty wide for the Katy trail.
On my road bikes I have never bought new, always used and always sold them for more than what I paid. Gravel is trendy these days and used are still pricey. I read somewhere that a lot of cycling manufacturers are struggling, even big names like Trek, because the over estimated the demand based on how well they did in the COVID years and now have excessive inventory which they can't move. Since censual rides already bought a bunch in the last 2-3 yrs and the seasoned bikers take good care of their bikes and most already have a long term user. Which explains the good pricing of new bikes. I haven't done a tour of the local bike shops yet, they may have some bargains on offer. I keep looking for good used but if I can't find anything used the Poseidon X Ambition is top of the list for new.
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Old 05-28-24, 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ark40
On my road bikes I have never bought new, always used and always sold them for more than what I paid. Gravel is trendy these days and used are still pricey. I read somewhere that a lot of cycling manufacturers are struggling, even big names like Trek, because the over estimated the demand based on how well they did in the COVID years and now have excessive inventory which they can't move. Since censual rides already bought a bunch in the last 2-3 yrs and the seasoned bikers take good care of their bikes and most already have a long term user. Which explains the good pricing of new bikes. I haven't done a tour of the local bike shops yet, they may have some bargains on offer. I keep looking for good used but if I can't find anything used the Poseidon X Ambition is top of the list for new.
Thanks for that. That would explain a good price like the REI bike at this time of year, I wondered. Last November and December, they had good bike sale prices, understandable being winter and wanting to clear out old stock. I'm glad a friend didn't buy their 20" electric, seemed like a great markdown, but it's now evident that competition and design progress in ebikes is accelerating at a feverish pace, and there are now astonishing bikes in the $2k range, that's about twice the 20" sale price, but a lot more bike, and those will get marked down too.
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Old 05-29-24, 01:38 PM
  #23  
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This is my take from a slightly different view. I buy used bikes, mostly because I like to work on them and make modifications. I bought a Trek Verve Disk 1 which is a nice bike with disk breaks, 700c wheels, Shimano shifters and came with flat bar. I changed the bar to drop and added multiple racks (front and back) and bags (panniers and cockpit). I love the ride and have taken it out for a tour or two so far without any complaints. I had previously been fitted for a bike and kept the stats so I can get just the right fit, which has worked out well. Total cost for the bike and conversion (bar) was about $320. Racks and bags about $180. So $500 for the whole gnomish. I did not buy the most expensive bags but did get quality, light racks. Can't complain.
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Old 05-29-24, 02:51 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by nathand
Over in the "Show your Trek Multitrack" thread, someone recently shared photos of a 1992 Multitrack rebuilt for bikepacking. I recently rebuilt a similar bike with drop bays for gravel for under $300 including the frame (bike was $50 on Craigslist, I couldn't resist even though it needed a complete rebuild). If you're willing to be patient in your search for parts and do the work yourself, you could have a nice bikepacking rig built on a mid-90s steel frame for under $1k that you could upgrade over time.
Wise advice if the OP has mechanical skills. If you go that direction, the 730/750 have full CroMo frames and are pretty common. I built up a curb find 730 that's in the Multitrack thread and it's a great bike for the money. Plus, the interwebz is filled with Multitrack builds that can be used as reference.

If going new, the REI option seems to be the best option.
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Old 05-29-24, 03:18 PM
  #25  
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I'm coming up from the bottom. I'm _this_ close to pulling the trigger on one of those $248 Walmart Gravel G.1 bikes. When I'm done with it, I bet it will be close to $1k.
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