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My wandering eyes

Old 01-05-22, 07:11 PM
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gthomson
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My wandering eyes

Bless me father for I have sinned! I am a dedicated road bike man but lately I have been having thoughts of gravel bikes and even worse than that, a 1990's mtn. bike conversion. How dirty is that?

I have many faults and one of those is judging things by appearance. If something nice crosses my path I have to have a look at it including nice bikes. A few years back when disc brakes started to take over road bikes I couldn't help seeing some kind of mtn. bike hybrid. Eventually I got used to it, though I still prefer RIM brakes over disc brakes on a road bike.

I have never been a mtn. bike fan so when the gravel bike rage started to rise in popularity I didn't understand what the interest was but have started to change my opinion. Then I saw some 1990s gravel bike conversions and started to really get excited.

Now I can't decide whether I like a drop bar conversion or a straight bar. The advantage of the straight bar would be that I don't have to switch over the group set and could use the existing handlebar shifters, brakes and group set.

I have been scouring Pinterest looking at beautiful images of both conversion gravel bikes and real gravel bikes can't stop day dreaming of having one for myself.

What differences are the geometry changes between riding on the drop bars and the straight bar? I'm guessing because the mtn, bike frame was not made for drop bars, the positioning is lower than standard mtn. bike bars putting more stress on the back?

Here's some examples courtesy of Pinterest and not my bikes.

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Old 01-05-22, 07:17 PM
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Odd... The current Gravel Bikes look allot like old Mountain Bikes...
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Old 01-05-22, 07:30 PM
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Old 01-05-22, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval View Post
Odd... The current Gravel Bikes look allot like old Mountain Bikes...
You noticed that too, huh?
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Old 01-05-22, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval View Post
Odd... The current Gravel Bikes look allot like old Mountain Bikes...
Well that's what people are saying, that modern gravel bikes are just 1990's mtn bikes but with 700c wheels. I'm sure there's more to it than that, disc brakes, etc... but the fames look very similar. Great new life for any older mountain bike out there.
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Old 01-05-22, 08:20 PM
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My 2011 Cannondale Super X cyclocross bike is going to have to do for my gravel riding. The original wheels are limited in the size tires you can mount, but the frame is far better than most gravel bikes on the market today. If I start putting in enough miles, I may get some CF rims that can fit wider tires.

https://www.bikeradar.com/reviews/bi...-rival-review/
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Old 01-06-22, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Now I can't decide whether I like a drop bar conversion or a straight bar. The advantage of the straight bar would be that I don't have to switch over the group set and could use the existing handlebar shifters, brakes and group set.

I have been scouring Pinterest looking at beautiful images of both conversion gravel bikes and real gravel bikes can't stop day dreaming of having one for myself.

What differences are the geometry changes between riding on the drop bars and the straight bar? I'm guessing because the mtn, bike frame was not made for drop bars, the positioning is lower than standard mtn. bike bars putting more stress on the back
In the C&V forum you will find threads on vintage MTBs and threads on conversion to drop bars or conversion to upright bars. Might be helpful to take a look.

The bars donít really change the geometry of the bike so much as change your, position, posture and weight distribution on the bike.

Personally I find straight bars to be uncomfortable.

Drop bars have the advantage of aerodynamics because you can be more extended and lower.

Standard drop bars may feel a bit sluggish on an MTB, as they are a lot narrower than the bars the bike was made to use. Gravel drop bars are often much wider and help address that.

Also, drop bars keep you generally more forward and lower. You may find that there are many situations where you want to keep more upright with your weight back.

Also, you may find you prefer the way that flat bar levers work with cantilever and U-brakes typical on older MTBs.

I ran my old MTB for a few years with drop bars but for the last year and a half Iíve been running it with upright bars and a very long stem. Hereís what that looks like.




Regardless of which way you go, these old MTBs can do a great job on gravel as well as roads and MUPs. Have fun!

Otto

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Old 01-06-22, 10:51 AM
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Thank you Otto, your post was very helpful and what I hoped I would see. I'm a totally newbie on learning about gravel bikes and I guess my reference to the 90's mtn. bikes was very obvious. I have looked at a few of the posts related to this on the C&V board but feel a bit overwhelmed by their responses when I do post newbie questions. I guess everyone else has been part of the gravel bike scene for years and I'm way behind.

I like your bike - great frame to build up from and I really like your handle bar choice. I notice a lot of people choose bar end shifters with that handle bar choice but I've never used those. You also converted to a single speed but I see a lot of conversions with a single crank but then a much larger number of gears on the cassette?

I guess some of these are just personal choices but I feel like I want to know why people make these choices. It would be easier than acquiring the parts for the multiple types of options there are to experiment for myself.
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Old 01-06-22, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
I like your bike - great frame to build up from and I really like your handle bar choice. I notice a lot of people choose bar end shifters with that handle bar choice but I've never used those. You also converted to a single speed but I see a lot of conversions with a single crank but then a much larger number of gears on the cassette?

I guess some of these are just personal choices but I feel like I want to know why people make these choices. It would be easier than acquiring the parts for the multiple types of options there are to experiment for myself.
I really like using bar end shifters. They are even easy to use in winter with mittens. However, they are also pretty vulnerable to damage since they are out on the end of the handlebars. I tend to put my bike in the back of my van if I go somewhere to ride and the bar end shifters are more likely to get banged around than most other options.

I switched to single speed and have enjoyed not having to think about gear shifts. Also have come to enjoy the challenge of facing climbs and headwinds on the SS. But it gets fairly brutal at times and itís not for everyone or every riding situation.

Otto
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Old 01-06-22, 01:27 PM
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It really depends on what you want to do with it. If you just want to ride fire roads and mellow trails then anything will work. If you want to increase speed and ride more technical stuff then you have to have to be a bit more selective.

Gravel bikes, as they are marketed now, are road bikes with off road capabilities. Their appeal comes from the ability to ride mixed surfaces, reasonably fast on the road and reasonably good in the dirt.

Some people are quite fast on the dirt with gravel bikes but when things get sandy or rocky a mountain bike is generally better. I've done some rides with faster people who were on high end gravel bikes while I was on my full suspension mtb. They are so much faster climbing dirt roads than a heavy mtb. The high end ones tend to have 38mm tires but some have 650 wheels and 44s.

I've owned a few old hardtail mountain bikes and some are so crappy I wouldn't want them for anything. I have thought about getting one for gravel-type rides but new gravel bikes can be had cheap. Cannondale starts around $1300. Topstone 4 | Gravel Bikes | Cannondale

You can get drop bars with a huge flare on the drops. Here is a friend about to drop me with his 20ish pound gravel bike while I'm on a 32 pound enduro bike. You can see the flare in the bars.

Same bike.

My friend's bike with 650 wheels.
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Old 01-06-22, 01:36 PM
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Here is another nice bike, a Focus.

We have a lot of dirt roads in the area and a drop bar bike with decent off road tires allows road riding to and from the dirt or the ability to turn a remote road ride into an exploration of fire roads.
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Old 01-06-22, 06:43 PM
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I am having a difficult time understanding the whole "gravel bike" thing. I have a cross bike. That's all I need.
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Old 01-06-22, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
It really depends on what you want to do with it. If you just want to ride fire roads and mellow trails then anything will work. If you want to increase speed and ride more technical stuff then you have to have to be a bit more selective.
Thanks Big John, good questions and really what I should focus on instead of seeing something and thinking I want it. I can't see myself signing up for a gravel race or event based on the amount of time I could put in the saddle riding trails but hey, who knows? I'm definitely not interested in anything technical as I imagine myself racing down a trail over rocks and fallen trees and breaking an arm or collar bone. No thanks.
I live in a mostly built up urban area but there are some gravel MUP paths through forests behind the houses but I would have to drive a few hours away from the suburbs to find real gravel paths so probably wouldn't happen too often. When I do ride along maintained gravel paths I do enjoy it and can see how it's a nice break from riding a road bike on busy asphalt.

Great shots and those gravel bikes do look real sweet. Does it make a big difference between riding the gravel bikes with larger wheels compared to a mtn. bike with 26' wheels? I'm guessing more speed with the larger 700c or 29" wheels on current gravel bikes but maybe you give up more stability on the trails when riding on a 26" wheel?
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Old 01-06-22, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
I am having a difficult time understanding the whole "gravel bike" thing. I have a cross bike. That's all I need.
The difference between a 'cross bike and what is now called a gravel bike can be subtle. I think 'cross bikes tend to have more aggressive geometry, maybe higher gearing, too. You could certainly use a 'cross bike for trail riding and I think the modern ones have disk brakes since the UCI made it legal for racing.
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Old 01-06-22, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Thanks Big John, good questions and really what I should focus on instead of seeing something and thinking I want it. I can't see myself signing up for a gravel race or event based on the amount of time I could put in the saddle riding trails but hey, who knows? I'm definitely not interested in anything technical as I imagine myself racing down a trail over rocks and fallen trees and breaking an arm or collar bone. No thanks.
I live in a mostly built up urban area but there are some gravel MUP paths through forests behind the houses but I would have to drive a few hours away from the suburbs to find real gravel paths so probably wouldn't happen too often. When I do ride along maintained gravel paths I do enjoy it and can see how it's a nice break from riding a road bike on busy asphalt.

Great shots and those gravel bikes do look real sweet. Does it make a big difference between riding the gravel bikes with larger wheels compared to a mtn. bike with 26' wheels? I'm guessing more speed with the larger 700c or 29" wheels on current gravel bikes but maybe you give up more stability on the trails when riding on a 26" wheel?
Well... the 700c wheels are supposed to roll over obstacles better than 26" which is partly why 29ers have taken over the mountain bike world. A 26" wheel would be more flickable, easier to change direction, and could be lighter but I think they are becoming less common so certain tires might be hard to find.

I have that big mtb and it has saved me many times when I have found myself in over my head but if I was going to ride dirt roads and mellow trails I would consider a lightweight 29er hardtail. I think I would feel more confident sliding around on a mountain bike but then I have not tried a modern gravel bike. If I was going on the road with it, though, I would want drop bars. I have thought about a Cannondale Topstone with 105. I've checked the geometry and I think it would work for me.
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Old 01-06-22, 07:44 PM
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A friend has a 29er hardtail and he is fast everywhere on it.
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Old 01-06-22, 09:34 PM
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Went into a bike shop in a small town up north and started talking to a technician about gravel riding and he told me about his new bike which he rode on the local trails and frozen lakes which was a Bear Claw gravel bike from Michigan. Looked real hot to me.

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Old 01-06-22, 11:29 PM
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Say two Hail Marys and five Our Fathers and go convert a bike to gravel. Go in peace.
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Old 01-07-22, 07:33 AM
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I've never ridden a "gravel" bike. But for decades have ridden my old '98 mtn bike with 26" wheels on rail trails, mtn.bike trails, mups, road, wherever. Still do. I don't ride on muddy trails, so years ago I switched the knobbies to Hutchinson Pythons, which are ok on hard pack and allow me to ride pavement, if wanted, without tearing them up. Much prefer off road trails or fire roads or gravel roads over pavement. An old flat bar mtn.bike works fine as a "gravel bike", for this rider at least.

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Old 01-07-22, 08:08 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Say two Hail Marys and five Our Fathers and go convert a bike to gravel. Go in peace.
LOL thank you father!
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Old 01-07-22, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post
Went into a bike shop in a small town up north and started talking to a technician about gravel riding and he told me about his new bike which he rode on the local trails and frozen lakes which was a Bear Claw gravel bike from Michigan. Looked real hot to me.
Looks great, but a little rich for my blood. If I was going to do it I would probably get a Topstone, mostly because of the geometry.
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Old 01-07-22, 09:59 AM
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The problem I have with "Gravel bike" is defining 'gravel'.
Specifically:
Is your gravel the hard packed (but not paved), flatish, Rails to Trails, carless pathways?
Is your gravel the lone country road with occasional cars - that require you to ride on the non-optimal right-side-of-th-'road'?
Elevation changes? Wet a lot? Sandy (or muddy) sections? Any technical sections - up or down? How much support equipment to carry?

Yes, a gravel bike frameset presents a longer front\center measurement, wider tire clearances - but beyond that, the frame design requires answers to everything above so as to suit a rider's terrain and other needs. In short, riding gravel is different in Florida, Colorado Rocky Mts, or coastal British Columbia Canada. Even more so than in the Road category, a Gravel bike purchased offtheshelf is a compromised amalgam of capabilities. Pick the best one for your needs - not always simple.

Perhaps the bigger issues for me, Mr. Joe Average Cyclist, would be more like brakes, braze-ons, chip resistance, thru axles, groupset, 1X?, etc

My graveler is from 1991, designed to be an off-road x-country racer.
Disclaimer: I'm really just a skinny tire roadie who rides some mild trails and light gravel roads. Usually, but not always.
Gary Fisher SuperCaliber -pictured in rain mode.

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Old 01-07-22, 10:08 AM
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Hardtail mountain bikes can be found new for $700
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Old 01-07-22, 01:00 PM
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Originally Posted by big john View Post
Looks great, but a little rich for my blood. If I was going to do it I would probably get a Topstone, mostly because of the geometry.
No, I don't think I could justify that cost either with the amount of gravel riding I would do at this stage in my life. That's why the 90's mtn bike conversion has my interest. Refurbishing an older bike to fit into a new category and try out some gravel rides. Most of what I've done so far would fall under the category of MUP crushed gravel trails, rail trails, riding along gravel roads through parks and my old Peugeot mtn. bike is just fine for that. As Mr. Wildwood stated in his post.

Wow that Topstone has some funky geometry!

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Old 01-07-22, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by gthomson View Post

Wow that Topstone has some funky geometry!
It looks a little strange in the back but Cannondale says it makes the rear a little more compliant on bumps. I read a review and they said not really. The fit geometry is what interests me. I know what I like in the reach and stack and that bike would fit similar to my road bike. Also, the Trek "gravel" offering would fit.

The best riding hardtail I had was a steel Nishiki. Actually it was fully rigid but it was nice on dirt. I was sad when the frame broke. I also had a Trek 7000 mtb and that thing was brutal. Any rough ground would be painful. I put a suspension fork on which helped but the thing was just too stiff.

One thing I've learned from dirt riding is tires make a huge difference and pressure makes a difference with any tire. On my last 26er I ran 30 psi on both ends. Might have been able to go lower. Now I run 15 psi in front and 20 in back. If I add 5 psi it makes a big difference. I'm using 27.5 x 2.8 tires.
When I rode dirt motorcycles I ran 9 psi in front. Experiment with the pressures!
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