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Ideas for Gravel Grinder Bikes

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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.

Ideas for Gravel Grinder Bikes

Old 10-07-14, 03:26 AM
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Ideas for Gravel Grinder Bikes

after doing my first gravel grinder, notice many of the gravel bikes were old beaters almost, racks and everything

so suggestions of a good gravel grinder, thinking of doing more gravel races, and do it properly
i have an old hard tail MTB with 26 rims on it, could i use that
or would a 700cc be better

Suggestions of agood gravel bike? would finding an old roadie be ok or is the BB to close to ground?
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Old 10-07-14, 08:37 AM
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a hardtail mountain bike with fast-rolling tires is a great place to start. suspension is probably unnecessary, so an old bike fitted with an appropriate rigid fork might be better. a 29" tire or large volume 700c tire-bike might be even better. any cyclocross bike would work great. A hybrid with semi-knobby tires would work too. an older road bike with fat tires might work, but you need to be sure that the frame and fork can accommodate tires with enough girth for your terrain. I have seen tires marketed as "gravel" tires that only have a width of 28mm, but I found that even 32mm tires were too narrow for my taste on gravel roads in central Texas. I rode 42mm Continentals for the second two races I did and it was better, but I think Conti under-sizes their tires, so 42mm Conti's are more like 38mm.

there are "gravel bikes" that are being made specificially for this kind of riding but they will cost a bit more than fixing up an old mtb- Surly Straggler, GT Grade/ Corsa, Salsa Warbird, Specialized AWOL/ Diverge, Trek Cross Rip, Pake C'mute, Soma Double Cross disc, etc. these bikes are often marketed as "all-road" bikes, because they are designed to handle all kinds of roads. they usually have a wide gear range, room for 35mm+ tires, relaxed geometry, etc.

29" and 700c are tire sizes that fit on the same rim, actually. a really narrow 700c tire might not fit on a wide rim intended for 29" tires, and a fat 29" tire might not fit on a narrow road rim, but the actual diameter of the rims is the same. 700c is a tire size. 700cc is cubic centimeters, which has nothing to do with bicycles.
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Old 10-07-14, 08:50 AM
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Rigid mtbs are cheap and plentiful. They won't be as "fast" as a purpose built gravel grinder but they can take a plenty fat tire and can be rigged with drops if need be. Makes a good commuter later if you decide to invest in a purpose built gravel bike later.

It's pretty tough finding one of the bridgestone xo series bikes (nearly impossible to find an XO-1) but some of the XO bikes make very good gravel bikes since they are road bikes that take a pretty fat 26 inch tire. I built my Bridgestone XO-2 to be a gravel grinder.

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Old 10-07-14, 09:02 AM
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fitting a drop bar on a bike that was not designed to be ridden with a drop bar is much easier said than done. a lot of careful planning would be involved.
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Old 10-07-14, 09:06 AM
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I have an early 90's GT Timberline with 700c wheels and drop bars. I put a steel SOMA cyclocross fork on it and a Cane Creek 40 headseat and it is awesome on the gravel. With that frame, I can go crazy wide on the tires but am currently running 32's and they are fine until the gravel gets deep.
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Old 10-07-14, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle
fitting a drop bar on a bike that was not designed to be ridden with a drop bar is much easier said than done. a lot of careful planning would be involved.
Agreed.
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Old 10-07-14, 09:24 AM
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I, personally, prefer low BBs. Even on my road bike, which sees plenty of dirt and gravel, have I rarely smacked a pedal/crank on something. If it's rocky enough to be concerned about pedal strikes, I'm probably going to bork my wheels/tires first.
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Old 10-07-14, 09:24 AM
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^ The drop bar conversion on an older, threaded MTB does not have to be a struggle. It did cost a few bucks though but does not have to break the budget...some people just clamp a drop bar into the existing stem.
Replace the headset with 1 1/8 threadless, I did this myself with home made tools. Buy whatever drop bars you want. I bought a set of used Salsa Cowbell 2 cross bars. Get a 700c fork and install (or you can decide to keep the 26's). Then, you can decide what stem length you need. I used an 80mm stem with a rise that suits me perfectly. I bought new 8 speed STI's on ebay for under $20 each. The only trick I needed for the 700c conversion on a GT was a front Nashbar long reach caliper that I mounted backwards and inside the rear triangle (after flipping the brake pads around).

Spend some time on the Mountain bike drop bar forum for inspiration. I have posted my GT there.
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Old 10-07-14, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CanadianBiker32
after doing my first gravel grinder, notice many of the gravel bikes were old beaters almost, racks and everything

so suggestions of a good gravel grinder, thinking of doing more gravel races, and do it properly
i have an old hard tail MTB with 26 rims on it, could i use that
or would a 700cc be better

Suggestions of agood gravel bike? would finding an old roadie be ok or is the BB to close to ground?
Gravel grinding is all about finding what works best, and challenging yourself to build skills riding on rough terrain. Despite what the bike companies would have you think, it's not about buying their very specific "gravel" bike, so you shouldn't be surprised to find a wide variety of stuff on these rides.

It would be a shame if we all got so anal-retentive about this sport that we turned it into yet another "approved bikes only" event.
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Old 10-07-14, 09:46 AM
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Besides, it's not as if gravel-grinding is anything new.

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There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
Originally Posted by noglider
People in this forum are not typical.
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Old 10-07-14, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
Besides, it's not as if gravel-grinding is anything new.

Ya. We used to call it a "Road biking". Which wasn't good enough some people.
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Old 10-07-14, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
Gravel grinding is all about finding what works best, and challenging yourself to build skills riding on rough terrain. Despite what the bike companies would have you think, it's not about buying their very specific "gravel" bike, so you shouldn't be surprised to find a wide variety of stuff on these rides.

It would be a shame if we all got so anal-retentive about this sport that we turned it into yet another "approved bikes only" event.
Some food for thought.
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Old 10-07-14, 12:38 PM
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From what I've seen gravel bikes seems to be a matter of personal preference and intended use. Multi-day racing will require a different bike setup that an afternoon at touring speeds. If you are going bike shopping a cyclocross or light touring frame would be better choice than a road bike since the cantilever brakes will allow you to run tires in the 30-38C range.
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Old 10-07-14, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
Gravel grinding is all about finding what works best, and challenging yourself to build skills riding on rough terrain. Despite what the bike companies would have you think, it's not about buying their very specific "gravel" bike, so you shouldn't be surprised to find a wide variety of stuff on these rides.

It would be a shame if we all got so anal-retentive about this sport that we turned it into yet another "approved bikes only" event.
+10. Please don't let the bike companies turn this into a lycra and spandex only activity that excludes "uncool" bikes.
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Old 10-07-14, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
Besides, it's not as if gravel-grinding is anything new.

Yep, in the BMB era (before mountain bike), we just rode our tubulars on gravel. You let a bit of air out of your tires and ride the dang bike.
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Old 10-07-14, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by MileHighMark
Some food for thought.
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Originally Posted by chandltp
There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
Originally Posted by noglider
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Old 10-07-14, 07:34 PM
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I've got a 1993 Trek 700 that is my all around bike and it has served me well on a lot of mixed surfaces. This summer I did a gravel grinder that took me through some sandy areas and minimum maintenance roads rutted with washouts that left me wanting more than the 40mm x 700c tires. Enter my old 820 frameset now equipped with 2.1 Schwalbe Smart Sams. Now with a little research, I should be able to decide which bike for a given event.
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Old 10-08-14, 02:58 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
Rigid mtbs are cheap and plentiful. They won't be as "fast" as a purpose built gravel grinder but they can take a plenty fat tire and can be rigged with drops if need be. Makes a good commuter later if you decide to invest in a purpose built gravel bike later.

It's pretty tough finding one of the bridgestone xo series bikes (nearly impossible to find an XO-1) but some of the XO bikes make very good gravel bikes since they are road bikes that take a pretty fat 26 inch tire. I built my Bridgestone XO-2 to be a gravel grinder.
Photos please, I love those old Bridgestones.
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Old 10-08-14, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by cs1
Photos please, I love those old Bridgestones.
This is my 1993 Bridgestone XO-2. The combination of road geometry and 26 inch wheels (I'm running 26 x 1.5 tires on it but it can take up to a 1.9 tire) is, I think, a pretty smart design. It's a great all around bike and I find myself riding it more and more as we move into fall in IA. It's comfortable and deals well with all the leaves that are starting to accumulate on the MUPs I regularly ride on:

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Old 10-08-14, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
This is my 1993 Bridgestone XO-2. The combination of road geometry and 26 inch wheels (I'm running 26 x 1.5 tires on it but it can take up to a 1.9 tire) is, I think, a pretty smart design. It's a great all around bike and I find myself riding it more and more as we move into fall in IA. It's comfortable and deals well with all the leaves that are starting to accumulate on the MUPs I regularly ride on:

I'm liking it a lot. Technology is highly overrated.
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Old 10-08-14, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by cs1
I'm liking it a lot. Technology is highly overrated.
Thank you; yeah it's a fun bike. This is my 2d build on the frame as I wanted to make the bike a bit better for dealing with all sorts of terrain.
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Old 10-08-14, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
Thank you; yeah it's a fun bike. This is my 2d build on the frame as I wanted to make the bike a bit better for dealing with all sorts of terrain.
All my MTBs are vintage with super laid back geometry. That's what's nice on the XO series. They have 26" wheels and road bike geometry.
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Old 10-10-14, 10:00 AM
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My 1994 Trek 750 multitrack has been a lot of fun on gravel these past few weeks. It was a hybrid basically with mtb geometry and 700c wheels. I put 38s on, moustache bars and bar ends and that has been the extent of my "building up." I posted some pics on the MTB drop bar conversion thread over on C&V but they're not very good closeups of the bike, mainly just scenery.

I'm not sure how far I would be comfortable riding it -- I've done a couple 40-ish mile rides and it was fine but it's a little slow so I think a century or more would become unpleasant. It's got a 42 tooth big ring and I may increase that at some point but it's pretty low on my priority list.

Point is I think pretty much any non-department store rigid steel MTB is a great choice for gravel. I didn't think the handlebar conversion was that tough and I'm not a very good mechanic.

I bought the nashbar steel cross bike because I wanted something a little faster for a looong gravel ride & a weeklong tour I'm planning next year, but I haven't had much chance to test it out yet because of lightning this week and work.
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Old 10-30-14, 01:00 PM
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I used to ride my 1995 Trek 730 quite a bit on gravel roads back in the 90's. This was with the stock "38mm" tires that were for all practical purposes, slicks and nowhere near 38mm in width. They have reasonable top-tube lengths (my 53.5cm bike has a 57cm ETT) and would be great for a drop bar conversion for gravel grinding.

If you are patient and not in a one of those communities where used bike prices are thru the roof, you can pick up an old Multitrack for not much more than $100 or so.
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Old 11-28-14, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott
Besides, it's not as if gravel-grinding is anything new.

Absolutely awesome!

Anyone ever come across what bikes these gents used? Books,... web sites,...??
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