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BQ article Rethinking the Gravel Bike

Old 04-15-21, 02:38 AM
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TiHabanero
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BQ article Rethinking the Gravel Bike

The latest edition of Bicycle Quarterly has an article titled Rethinking the Gravel Bike. This is my take-a-way from article. After reading it I sighed relief that there is someone else out there that sees what I see. In the mid-nineties my commute to work was 15 miles and it took me down railroad tracks on pavement, and across a field to save a few miles. Had a Raleigh mountain bike that I installed 700c wheels, 32c cyclocross tires and drop bars. I was able to change from 32 to 55mm tires simply by changing the wheelset from 700c back to the stock 26".
In this article the author comments on the ever growing width of tires in the "gravel" category as people are finding wider tires can be a bonus. In the end my conclusion is that the "gravel" bike will eventually morph into what I really is, a mountain bike with some frame mods to make road riding a bit nicer than the commuter I ran some 25 years ago.
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Old 04-15-21, 05:04 AM
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I never need a mountain bike for my non-road riding, let alone when I used to commute on bike - I always used what was called a hybrid bike but never liked the limited hand positions of flat bars. So, I added bar ends.

When gravel bikes started to come out, to me they were hybrid bikes with drop bars - exactly what I wanted. So, I donated the 25 year old Schwinn hybrid to a biking charity and bought a Jamis "hybrid with drop bars" or what is now called a gravel bike, which also included 2020 era components vs 1990 era!

They can call them whatever they want - I buy types of bikes for what I need for the riding I do. I've been driving a Subaru station wagon for many years - apparently no one wants to buy station wagons so they are called crossover utility vehicles now... When I bought my first one back in 2003 or so, no one wanted to buy a green car, so the green version paint color was called "Forest Blue."
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Old 04-15-21, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
In the end my conclusion is that the "gravel" bike will eventually morph into what I really is, a mountain bike with some frame mods to make road riding a bit nicer .
I haven’t read the article… But it sounds like you’re talking about a drop-bar mountain bike? There are already plenty of those on the market.
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Old 04-15-21, 06:57 AM
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TiHabanero how did you switch wheel sizes on a 25 year old MTB retrofitted with drop bars? How did you make the brakes work?
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Old 04-15-21, 07:36 AM
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chaadster, the bike was new at the time I converted to a drop bar ATB. Yes, they are common now, but in 95 not so. Used a set of long reach side pull brakes. I don't remember exactly the brand or model of the brakes, and they may have been BMX side pulls. To change back to ATB the wheels had to be changed and the handlebar plus controls. It was about a 40 minute process.
My vision is a mountain bike can do anything you want it to do, whereas a gravel bike is limited due to tire size. As the tires grow wider, so must the frame, hence they become ATB. Oh, one more thing. Head angle will go from 72 to 71 + 45 rake as they should have been all along. I hear complaints from gravel bike buyers that they want more stability on gravel. The way to get it is wider tires and more trail. Just like a mountain bike.
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Old 04-15-21, 07:40 AM
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Came to say "hybrid bike with drop bars" but I see that's already been taken.

Gravel bikes remind me of my old Bianchi Boardwalk but with drop bars. A very good general purpose bike. It's one reason I am getting a 2021 Domane and getting an extra set of wheels.
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Old 04-15-21, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
TiHabanero how did you switch wheel sizes on a 25 year old MTB retrofitted with drop bars? How did you make the brakes work?
Disc brakes just like we do now.
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Old 04-15-21, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Germany_chris View Post
Disc brakes just like we do now.
A mid-‘90s Raleigh MTB with discs? That doesn’t seem right according to my memory, which is why I asked.
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Old 04-15-21, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
chaadster, the bike was new at the time I converted to a drop bar ATB. Yes, they are common now, but in 95 not so. Used a set of long reach side pull brakes. I don't remember exactly the brand or model of the brakes, and they may have been BMX side pulls. To change back to ATB the wheels had to be changed and the handlebar plus controls. It was about a 40 minute process.
Sidepulls? So you had to change the brakes back and forth from Vs or cantis, too?! Phew! that was a crapload of parts and work, man, so no wonder I don’t remember anyone doing that. Most of us made do with a second wheelset fitted with Ritchey Tom Slicks and a corncob cassette!
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Old 04-15-21, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
chaadster, the bike was new at the time I converted to a drop bar ATB. Yes, they are common now, but in 95 not so. Used a set of long reach side pull brakes. I don't remember exactly the brand or model of the brakes, and they may have been BMX side pulls. To change back to ATB the wheels had to be changed and the handlebar plus controls. It was about a 40 minute process.
My vision is a mountain bike can do anything you want it to do, whereas a gravel bike is limited due to tire size. As the tires grow wider, so must the frame, hence they become ATB. Oh, one more thing. Head angle will go from 72 to 71 + 45 rake as they should have been all along. I hear complaints from gravel bike buyers that they want more stability on gravel. The way to get it is wider tires and more trail. Just like a mountain bike.
Your vision will remain just that- a vision. Reality says that a 2.5" tire is heavy and overkill for riding across a field when all the other riding is pavement. Its overkill for 50% paved road 50% unpaved road rides. Heck, its overkill for 100% unpaved road rides. Sure it can be used for a 100% unpaved road ride, so can a fat bike, but it isnt necessary and its questionably better. I get that BQ/RH perform 'tests' to measure how much better the tires they design and sell are, but there comes a point where a wider tire just isnt better.

https://blackmtncycles.com/frames/la-cabra-frames/
I think the Black Mountain Cycles La Cabra is a really neat frame, but have never thought about actually buying one since my Black Mountain Monstercross can fit a 50mm tire if I ever felt I needed a 1.95" tire(I havent yet).
The La Cabra has its uses for sure. I could totally see someone choosing that instead of a more traditional gravel bike since 'gravel' is so varied in meaning and application.
Since the term is so wide ranging, just like there is a market for a massive tire bike with relatively slack geo, there is a market for a road bike that can fit wide tires. My gravel bike has a 72.5 degree head tube, 73.5 degree seat tube, and 50mm fork rake. With 43mm tires, I have 58-60mm of trail. That is on the faster steering side of gravel bikes and I like it. I dont want some slow steering high input bike that I need to fight with to turn. I basically like what amounts to a road bike with wide tires since I ride...roads. A lot of times I ride 60% gravel 40% paved and its all roads. I dont need 2.5" tires for that.

If someone uses their gravel bike for singletrack, then sure I could see the appeal of an MTB width tire.

Do you direct your customers to buy an Evil Shammy Hagar when they want more stability? It exists, but its hardly mainstream.
Your ideal trail of about 75mm exists on many gravel bikes right now, fyi.
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Old 04-15-21, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
A mid-‘90s Raleigh MTB with discs? That doesn’t seem right according to my memory, which is why I asked.
High end mountain bikes in that era had disc's..I'll grant that I don't remember much about Raleighs back then.
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Old 04-15-21, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Germany_chris View Post
High end mountain bikes in that era had disc's..I'll grant that I don't remember much about Raleighs back then.
I dunno...the top pro DH guys had them to some extent, but I think Trek was the first production MTB to wear them, and that was very late ‘90s, probably ‘98 or ‘99.

In any case, we’re clear that the bike at issue here did not have discs.
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Old 04-15-21, 11:11 AM
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The only problem with that thesis is that modern mountain bikes have gone to even wider tires and a geometry that it a bit pointless for a gravel bike. There is considerable overlap between '80s mountain bikes and gravel bikes. But 80s mountain bikes were designed for essentially the same routes as modern gravel bikes, so that's not surprising. It's almost like some people don't really feel like bouldering with their bike and want to ride something a bit sportier.
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Old 04-15-21, 01:02 PM
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Is there a link to this article?
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Old 04-15-21, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
Is there a link to this article?
No. BQ is a print-only magazine.
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Old 04-15-21, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
No. BQ is a print-only magazine.
That makes it kind of hard to discuss.
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Old 04-15-21, 01:44 PM
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One could argue that the burlier Gravel Bikes are filling in the gap left open as Mountain Bikes became better at mountain biking, and worse at road/gravel riding.

Of course, my take is that gravel bikes are just road bikes that don’t suck when you leave smooth pavement.
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Old 04-15-21, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Germany_chris View Post
High end mountain bikes in that era had disc's..I'll grant that I don't remember much about Raleighs back then.

Other than people testing prototypes, nobody was mountain biking with disc bakes in the mid 90s.

Hayes Mag brakes (the first mass marketed disc brake) did not even come out until 1997.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:03 PM
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The article in question is in BQ #75 and is called 'Rethinking the Gravel Bike' by Nicolas Joly (not the famous French winemaker)
To summarize Mr. Joly's observations (1) His gravel bike always is lagging the terrain he rides, he was 'underbiked' - or didn't have a tool up for the task at hand. (2) His solution, use as wide a tire as possible. '...a bike's total capacity for off-road speed depends much more on the volume of its tires than on the shape of the handlebars, its frame material or its weight.'
My take away from the article is 'horses for courses', the more challenging the terrain the better off you are with big wide tires, like 55mm if your bike can fit them.

This article appears to be complementary to the 'How Fast are Knobby Tires, Performance on pavement' by Jan Heine.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I dunno...the top pro DH guys had them to some extent, but I think Trek was the first production MTB to wear them, and that was very late ‘90s, probably ‘98 or ‘99.

In any case, we’re clear that the bike at issue here did not have discs.
we’re not clear..and downhill bikes had disc brakes in the early 90’s
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Old 04-15-21, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
Other than people testing prototypes, nobody was mountain biking with disc bakes in the mid 90s.

Hayes Mag brakes (the first mass marketed disc brake) did not even come out until 1997.
mag brakes came out in ‘87
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Old 04-15-21, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
That makes it kind of hard to discuss.
We can still argue about it.
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Old 04-15-21, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Germany_chris View Post
mag brakes came out in ‘87
This does not sound right. Can you link to a catalogue or magazine article?

I remember Mountain Cycle had inverted forks and discs in the early 90s, and Magura made hydraulic rim brakes back round then, but discs? What hubs would people use if they had disc calipers in 1987?
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Old 04-15-21, 02:43 PM
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Germany_chris here is a Bike magazine article that says Hayes first Mag disc brakes was from '97:

https://www.bikemag.com/gear-feature...ed-everything/
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Old 04-15-21, 02:43 PM
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Hope was "exhibiting" disc brakes in '92.

https://www.hopetech.com/history/the-nineties/

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