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Why is Gravel Riding Such a Thing?

Old 01-27-22, 02:33 PM
  #226  
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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
The whole "gravel bikes are a marketing exercise" isn't really fair. Any bike can be a gravel bike but if you're doing five hour rides on surfaces that are rougher than pavement but not as rough as singletrack, you want a bike fit for the purpose. Depending on where you live, you might be surrounded by lots of gravel roads and have a genuine need for such a bike. That's true for me here outside of Chicago. Also, gravel bikes are just more practical road bikes: more robust, wider tires, more relaxed geometry, lots of mounts etc. They make a lot of sense even if you're not riding gravel.

As a sidenote, I've noticed that people who say gravel bikes are just a marketing ploy simply don't have access to gravel roads themselves. They don't need one, so they assume no one needs one. This is particularly true of UK cyclists online, in my experience.
The comment may be sharpish and not fair, but it's not untrue. Let's be honest, for a bicycle company to survive, if not thrive, they constantly have to come up with something new to get the customer back in their store. And, quite frankly, probably every 'improvement' made in bicycle technology since the double-barreled introduction in index shifting and brifters has been overkill for the average (non-racing) cyclist. OK, I'm one of the old curmudgeons. The newest road bike that I own is a 1992 Diamondback Expert, non-lugged steel with a horizontal top tube, Shimano RSX 3x7 drivetrain. Over the past fifteen years I've owned a bit fancier (the most exotic I've ever owned is an aluminum frame with carbon fork and carbon rear stays, 2x9 Shimano Ultegra, running sewups on 32 spoke alloy rims),but right now, all my other road bikes are downtube shifters, half of which are friction. My one mountain bike is steel, 3x8, hardtail with a suspension fork and V-brakes. Ok, I'll put disc brakes almost up there with indexing and brifters.

Every other 'advancement' out there is sheer marketing. Mountain bikes, 26, 27.5, 29 wheels, if you're just riding like the majority of MTB riders out there, the wheel size really doesn't matter all that much. But the manufacturers gotta get your completely dissatisfied with your current MTB at least once every 5-7 years. Bottom brackets. Once again unless you're racing and critically worried about weight, the old Stronglight invented square-end bottom bracket serves just as well as BB30 or whatever the newest flavor. Hell, for that matter, just how much more does 11 cogs on the rear give you over 7? I've noticed now that the style is going to single chainwheels, guess that's a good justification for 11 on the rear. Carbon fiber frames? I've ridden more than a few, and with my age (71) riding style and level of fitness (I can still do centuries) they're a complete waste to me. I prefer steel, and fully understand that aluminum came about with the primary intention of lowering production costs.

Electric shifting - now that's the one that does not make sense to me in the slightest. Yes, I fully understand the concept, operation, and reason for it. I also realize that the only people who need that kind of stuff are riders under a team contract who don't have to buy their bikes, they're team issue. But boy, are they marketed to the Sunday riding dentists and accountants. (Me? I built myself an aluminum framed Mavic neutral support bike replica.). And if there's anything that goes against the inherent simplicity of the bicycle, that's it.

Enough soapbox. I'm an old man who walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. And still looks with wry humor at most of the 'improvements' that show up every year.
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Old 01-27-22, 04:35 PM
  #227  
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Gravel bikes are a cynical marketing experiment where bicycles companies try to sell bikes that people like to ride.
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Old 01-28-22, 06:12 AM
  #228  
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Originally Posted by sykerocker View Post
The comment may be sharpish and not fair, but it's not untrue. Let's be honest, for a bicycle company to survive, if not thrive, they constantly have to come up with something new to get the customer back in their store. And, quite frankly, probably every 'improvement' made in bicycle technology since the double-barreled introduction in index shifting and brifters has been overkill for the average (non-racing) cyclist. OK, I'm one of the old curmudgeons. The newest road bike that I own is a 1992 Diamondback Expert, non-lugged steel with a horizontal top tube, Shimano RSX 3x7 drivetrain. Over the past fifteen years I've owned a bit fancier (the most exotic I've ever owned is an aluminum frame with carbon fork and carbon rear stays, 2x9 Shimano Ultegra, running sewups on 32 spoke alloy rims),but right now, all my other road bikes are downtube shifters, half of which are friction. My one mountain bike is steel, 3x8, hardtail with a suspension fork and V-brakes. Ok, I'll put disc brakes almost up there with indexing and brifters.

Every other 'advancement' out there is sheer marketing. Mountain bikes, 26, 27.5, 29 wheels, if you're just riding like the majority of MTB riders out there, the wheel size really doesn't matter all that much. But the manufacturers gotta get your completely dissatisfied with your current MTB at least once every 5-7 years. Bottom brackets. Once again unless you're racing and critically worried about weight, the old Stronglight invented square-end bottom bracket serves just as well as BB30 or whatever the newest flavor. Hell, for that matter, just how much more does 11 cogs on the rear give you over 7? I've noticed now that the style is going to single chainwheels, guess that's a good justification for 11 on the rear. Carbon fiber frames? I've ridden more than a few, and with my age (71) riding style and level of fitness (I can still do centuries) they're a complete waste to me. I prefer steel, and fully understand that aluminum came about with the primary intention of lowering production costs.

Electric shifting - now that's the one that does not make sense to me in the slightest. Yes, I fully understand the concept, operation, and reason for it. I also realize that the only people who need that kind of stuff are riders under a team contract who don't have to buy their bikes, they're team issue. But boy, are they marketed to the Sunday riding dentists and accountants. (Me? I built myself an aluminum framed Mavic neutral support bike replica.). And if there's anything that goes against the inherent simplicity of the bicycle, that's it.

Enough soapbox. I'm an old man who walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. And still looks with wry humor at most of the 'improvements' that show up every year.
Just because you enjoy riding old bikes, doesn't make newer ones all marketing bs.

Just picking one example. Moving from my 2004 26" mtb to a 2014 29" (both full suspension trail bikes intended for the same use) the improvement was so dramatic (not just because of the wheel size - geometry, weight, gearing, shifting, braking all much improved) that I've never fallen off it ever since and I was regularly crashing on my old bike. I've since moved to a 2019 mtb and the difference there was far more subtle, but still better nonetheless. The newer bike is a good few pounds lighter and I beat all my previous PRs on it within a couple of weeks, clearing a few climbs that I would often fail on the older 29.

Road bikes I've owned quite a few right back to the early 80s. I now ride modern carbon endurance bikes and they are the best I've ever ridden over the years. Fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable. Really nothing to complain about. A couple of years ago I went on holiday to a friend's villa and he had an early 2000s Trek carbon bike there which I borrowed to explore the local hills. Top spec DuraAce drivetrain, no expense spared Project One build. This was the best of the best from that era. It rode like s*** compared to my 2019 Giant Defy. Quite shocking in fact. Yet I don't remember road bikes of that era being so relatively crap to ride. It's just that the newer ones didn't exist back in the day, so there was no direct comparison.

Just sayin.... it's not a simple case of marketing over substance.
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Old 01-28-22, 07:24 AM
  #229  
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Originally Posted by sykerocker View Post
Every other 'advancement' out there is sheer marketing. Mountain bikes, 26, 27.5, 29 wheels, if you're just riding like the majority of MTB riders out there, the wheel size really doesn't matter all that much. But the manufacturers gotta get your completely dissatisfied with your current MTB at least once every 5-7 years. Bottom brackets. Once again unless you're racing and critically worried about weight, the old Stronglight invented square-end bottom bracket serves just as well as BB30 or whatever the newest flavor. Hell, for that matter, just how much more does 11 cogs on the rear give you over 7? I've noticed now that the style is going to single chainwheels, guess that's a good justification for 11 on the rear. Carbon fiber frames? I've ridden more than a few, and with my age (71) riding style and level of fitness (I can still do centuries) they're a complete waste to me. I prefer steel, and fully understand that aluminum came about with the primary intention of lowering production costs.
.
You picked the wrong example to make your point. Whether or not you SHOULD buy a new MTB every 5-7 years is up to you, but in the 24 years that I have been riding mountain bikes off road, the the advancements in any 5-7 year period are real and easily noticed on the trail by pretty much any rider. Taking a bike from 2000, 2010 and 2020, the leap between each is massive and game changing on the trail.
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Old 01-28-22, 09:13 AM
  #230  
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
You picked the wrong example to make your point. Whether or not you SHOULD buy a new MTB every 5-7 years is up to you, but in the 24 years that I have been riding mountain bikes off road, the the advancements in any 5-7 year period are real and easily noticed on the trail by pretty much any rider. Taking a bike from 2000, 2010 and 2020, the leap between each is massive and game changing on the trail.
Agreed. MTB has come a very long way in the last 2 decades. Road bike evolution is far more subtle, but there is still quite a big difference if you go back 20 years.
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Old 01-28-22, 10:56 AM
  #231  
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Originally Posted by GhostRider62 View Post
Because cagers are killing us with impunity
Call it gravel riding/off road / downhill whatever. I won't ride on the streets anymore. I dont care how many "Rights" I have or how much in the right I am If I ride in town I'll ride on the sidewalk, take my time and deal with pedestrians vs any mindless idiot driving a Hyundai or larger while dicking around on their phone and not seeing me.
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Old 01-28-22, 12:02 PM
  #232  
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Originally Posted by JehD View Post
Call it gravel riding/off road / downhill whatever. I won't ride on the streets anymore. I dont care how many "Rights" I have or how much in the right I am If I ride in town I'll ride on the sidewalk, take my time and deal with pedestrians vs any mindless idiot driving a Hyundai or larger while dicking around on their phone and not seeing me.
It can be scary with distracted drivers. I live in a rural area in NJ and often never see a car during the week. I do have short sections of gravel (1-2 miles) here and there but mostly old farm roads. Nonetheless, I still use a mirror. I went thru a couple year period where it seemed half a dozen riders I know from riding were hit from behind. Some survived. Nothing ever seems to happen when a driver crashes into us. There is no real investigation (cell phone, substance use, etc). Pisses me off to be frank.
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Old 01-31-22, 04:11 AM
  #233  
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There's just not much "ideal" gravel bike ground to be had around here; we have fire roads criss-crossing the hills, but they have a tendency to be a bit too gnarly and rocky to be comfortably doable on a gravel bike. There are some gravel routes behind the mountains but it requires a lot of riding on the road to get there. That said, I did run into some really nice gravel yesterday on my road bike, as I decided to go exploring since I really wasn't feeling up to doing anything more intensive on the bike (most likely Omicron doing the rounds), and I was instantly reminded why gravel bikes are cool; even on relatively nice gravel like this one, a gravel bike with 32mm + tires is just faster and you have better control in looser patches than with 25s which just sink in.


Well, this was interesting; a line of statues and benches roughly in the middle of nowhere.

But I still got some fresh air and enjoyed some winter sunshine
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Old 01-31-22, 04:33 AM
  #234  
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Originally Posted by Branko D View Post
even on relatively nice gravel like this one, a gravel bike with 32mm + tires is just faster and you have better control in looser patches than with 25s which just sink in.
Once you move to 28 mm or wider road tyres it becomes less and less of an issue to ride on these nice gravel roads. I can't say I miss 25 mm road tyres at all.
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Old 02-03-22, 10:07 AM
  #235  
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I like the adventure that Gravel brings. Plus the bikes look so cool!
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Old 02-03-22, 11:20 AM
  #236  
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Originally Posted by HTupolev View Post
A fairly large part of the shift in sentiment has come from people realizing that a more versatile road bike doesn't need to make as dramatic compromises in road performance as they thought. Historically, road drivetrains have typically been built excessively high and/or narrow for most people using them. And tire width does not, in and of itself, hurt performance as much as people usually guess.


It's hard to give a single universal answer. In any given area where gravel bikes are popular, if you look at what people are using them for, you'll probably find reasons that people like them.

Over here it's mostly because of the networks of gravel roads sprawled throughout the foothills. There are steep sustained gradients demanding low gears, and surfaces are often rough, but it usually doesn't get technical enough to really demand a mountain bike. And if you're doing mixed-surface rides that also incorporate paved riding in the shallower hills or flat valleys, it's very attractive to avoid the MTB. Put another way, there's lots of good road riding that I wouldn't want to take a skinny-tired road bike on.

And if that's not a top secret ride, would you mind mentioning the road or area? (asking from urban Seattle)
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Old 02-03-22, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Branko D View Post
There's just not much "ideal" gravel bike ground to be had around here
beautiful tho. where is that? CA?
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Old 02-03-22, 08:57 PM
  #238  
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Originally Posted by ClydeClydeson View Post
This is why:


A bike should create riding opportunities, not specifically limit them. With few exceptions, road bikes up to the early/mid 2000s were completely impractical toys - a max tire width of 25mm, as was common, is completely useless for gravel, and as you pointed out, not great on imperfect pavement. A gravel bike is just a road bike with better brakes and room for reasonably wide tires, which means you can ride pretty much anywhere. A full suspension MTB is capable more because of the 2.2" wide tires than because of suspension - 99% of the routes I rode on my rigid MTB in the 80s and 90s I can ride on my gravel bike (although a bit faster), and 100% of the trails I can ride on my FS mountain bike I can ride on my old rigid mountain bike (although a bit slower)

The other thing about gravel bikes is that they are just a tire change away from being as fast as a dedicated road bike. A spare set of wheels means you essentially have two bikes if you are willing to flip some QR levers open.
I don't really know how much of a gravel bike the Specialized "GRAVEL" Creo EVO is but it is the same frame geometry as their other Creo's other than varying the materials and components. So Road=Gravel with the right wheels, etc.

Years ago I guess I did a few gravel rides on my 10 speed Peugeot road bike. It certainly took a beating but we did about 40 or so miles of which probably half was a forest service road over Jack's Pass north of Hwy 2 looping around using Hwy 2. I can remember another one like that although I don't recall its name but it was out of Duvall. The tire was probably a 23 back then. And I am talking 30 or so years back (when I did stupid things like that)

So now they design bikes for that abuse and give them a name/type.


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Old 02-03-22, 09:30 PM
  #239  
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Originally Posted by kahn View Post
And if that's not a top secret ride, would you mind mentioning the road or area? (asking from urban Seattle)
That's the Oso/Cavanaugh area. It's on a gravel road network accessible by riding North from Oso on N Brooks Creek Road. That day, I actually parked right off of highway 530: there's a bit of a parking lot on the Whitehorse Trail where it crosses N Brooks Creek Road. The photo was taken at coordinates 48.354260, -121.885069, on an unnamed(?) foothill. The zigzagged triangular foothill that dominates the photo is Big Deer Peak.
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Old 02-04-22, 03:22 AM
  #240  
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
beautiful tho. where is that? CA?
Thanks; it's the coast of Croatia. Definitely worth renting a bike or bringing one with you if you ever visit this corner of Europe.
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Old 02-04-22, 08:36 AM
  #241  
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
Road bike evolution is far more subtle, but there is still quite a big difference if you go back 20 years.
Treks new carbon Domane with the front and rear iso speed...Dramatic difference in ride quality over my 2015 Giant carbon road bike.

That and I can fit 40c tires on it. Disc brakes another major upgrade over previous road bikes.
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Old 02-04-22, 09:21 AM
  #242  
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Why Gravel Riding is Such a Thing


This is why.

A few years ago, I moved from a small town that was penned in on three sides by government facilities and the fourth side by a river. There was literally ONE paved route that was reasonable for road cycling. I moved to another town with a few more cyclable road routes. Even then, the variety of cycling options was limited if you stayed on the tarmac.

The sign in the picture is a few kms down an unmaintained road, and I think you'd have to walk a good portion of the approach to the sign if you were on a 'road' bike. From the sign to about 5km later (where the 'rough road' intersects with a regional highway) the road is not rideable on a road bike, not including the first few meters visible past the sign.

A gravel bike fits and rides like a slightly heavy road bike, and cruises almost as fast on pavement, but also allows access to infinitely more routes that most wouldn't even consider riding on a skinny tired bike.

OP posted a response to his own thread, possibly for snark, saying he never realized his '70s Schwinn 10 speed was actually a gravel bike. Well, it is. The only drawbacks many old 10 speeds had were weak steel rims and terrible brakes, but many had clearance for 1-3/8" wide tires, which are sufficient for a lot of rough surface riding. If you upgrade to 700c wheels on a lot of those bikes, you could easily fit 38 or even 40mm wide tires, which absolutely made them appropriate for gravel riding.
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Old 02-04-22, 10:29 AM
  #243  
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Originally Posted by sykerocker View Post
The comment may be sharpish and not fair, but it's not untrue. Let's be honest, for a bicycle company to survive, if not thrive, they constantly have to come up with something new to get the customer back in their store. And, quite frankly, probably every 'improvement' made in bicycle technology since the double-barreled introduction in index shifting and brifters has been overkill for the average (non-racing) cyclist. OK, I'm one of the old curmudgeons. ...
...Electric shifting - now that's the one that does not make sense to me in the slightest. Yes, I fully understand the concept, operation, and reason for it. I also realize that the only people who need that kind of stuff are riders under a team contract who don't have to buy their bikes, they're team issue. But boy, are they marketed to the Sunday riding dentists and accountants. (Me? I built myself an aluminum framed Mavic neutral support bike replica.). And if there's anything that goes against the inherent simplicity of the bicycle, that's it.
Enough soapbox. I'm an old man who walked to school uphill both ways in the snow. And still looks with wry humor at most of the 'improvements' that show up every year.

Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
Just because you enjoy riding old bikes, doesn't make newer ones all marketing bs.
Just picking one example. Moving from my 2004 26" mtb to a 2014 29" (both full suspension trail bikes intended for the same use) the improvement was so dramatic (not just because of the wheel size - geometry, weight, gearing, shifting, braking all much improved) that I've never fallen off it ever since and I was regularly crashing on my old bike. I've since moved to a 2019 mtb and the difference there was far more subtle, but still better nonetheless. The newer bike is a good few pounds lighter and I beat all my previous PRs on it within a couple of weeks, clearing a few climbs that I would often fail on the older 29.
Road bikes I've owned quite a few right back to the early 80s. I now ride modern carbon endurance bikes and they are the best I've ever ridden over the years. Fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable. Really nothing to complain about. A couple of years ago I went on holiday to a friend's villa and he had an early 2000s Trek carbon bike there which I borrowed to explore the local hills. Top spec DuraAce drivetrain, no expense spared Project One build. This was the best of the best from that era. It rode like s*** compared to my 2019 Giant Defy. Quite shocking in fact. Yet I don't remember road bikes of that era being so relatively crap to ride. It's just that the newer ones didn't exist back in the day, so there was no direct comparison.
Just sayin.... it's not a simple case of marketing over substance.
The 'Universe' is expanding, not just our overall space, but in line, all of our spaces, including cycling.
As another 'old guy', I'm good with the expansion. Since my intro into the cycling universe, it has become far broader, more interesting, and certainly far more attainable for everyone.
True for everything which I have interest in.
The modern cycling universe has been, literally, a fountain of youth for me. I can ride places and ways I did over 10 years ago. True for all the activities I do.
Yes, marketing plays heavily into the 'product' game - but that's an area for each of us to decide what is applicable to ourselves.
You make your decisions, I can make mine.
"Gravel' is the inevitable 'bridge' between other areas - a rainbow of possibilities, available to each/all of us. From 'Danny Mac' to Filippo Ganna, from BMX to my grandson on his 'pushbike' when he was 2.
One isn't required to 'buy' into any color of cycling, often we can blend into a color, by adapting something we already have.
I suggest taking one of your 'old' bikes and adapting it to some other purpose - lets pick 'Gravel' - the modern universe (of parts) is broad enough to make that easily accessible.
'Gravel'/trail availability is varied and more or less accessible, depending on your area and comfort. But very importantly, it is still a major separation for us cyclists from the increasingly more dangerous world of motorized cages piloted by unaware and unconcerned 'motorists'. A major consideration for many of us.
I've always liked/enjoyed lots of light, big windows - I say choose the biggest window on the world which you're comfortable with...
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 02-04-22, 12:05 PM
  #244  
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Originally Posted by Wilfred Laurier View Post

OP posted a response to his own thread, possibly for snark, saying he never realized his '70s Schwinn 10 speed was actually a gravel bike. .
Hey, I resemble that remark! But rest assured, that was more of a light bulb moment, albeit dim, than anything.

I have several pals whom ride gravel, because we are lucky to have tons of trails. They also mountain and road bike, so they are all-around cyclists which is pretty cool exploring some of the more popular facets of cycling. We have the luxury of deciding which discipline to do depending on weather, season or whim. But find it rather amusing how some ‘pure’ cyclists of one discipline tend to denigrate the others without experiencing them. Such are humans.

Another thought is that I find drop bars rather curious on gravel bikes. How often when gravel riding does one go for an aero position to maximize speed? Maybe in a prevailing headwind, but how common is that? I know on my road bikes I will use the drops for a change for in position or in a stiff head wind but more recent studies have shown having forearms parallel to the top bar on the drops is more aero. So are drops just a cool factor or will it evolve to a flat/straight bar? Inquiring “snarks” want to know.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:29 PM
  #245  
HTupolev
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
How often when gravel riding does one go for an aero position to maximize speed?
Not very often on rough surfaces, but all the time when riding a gravel bike on smooth roads.

but more recent studies have shown having forearms parallel to the top bar on the drops is more aero.
Also usually more effort though, unless you're using very long aerobar-shaped hoods. (Obviously gravel bikes sometimes also employ aerobars.)

So are drops just a cool factor
I use them pretty much all the time when descending, and in some other rough or technical spots. It's a hand position that allows a highly secure grip on the bar while simultaneously having good leverage and positioning for the index finger in one-finger braking.
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Old 02-04-22, 02:38 PM
  #246  
tomato coupe
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Another thought is that I find drop bars rather curious on gravel bikes. How often when gravel riding does one go for an aero position to maximize speed? ... So are drops just a cool factor or will it evolve to a flat/straight bar?
I frequently ride in the drops for better control when descending on gravel. And, being aero never hurts -- in my last gravel race I spent more than an hour above 25 mph, and topped out at 46 mph.
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Old 02-04-22, 04:25 PM
  #247  
Camilo
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Hey, I resemble that remark! But rest assured, that was more of a light bulb moment, albeit dim, than anything.

I have several pals whom ride gravel, because we are lucky to have tons of trails. They also mountain and road bike, so they are all-around cyclists which is pretty cool exploring some of the more popular facets of cycling. We have the luxury of deciding which discipline to do depending on weather, season or whim. But find it rather amusing how some ‘pure’ cyclists of one discipline tend to denigrate the others without experiencing them. Such are humans.

Another thought is that I find drop bars rather curious on gravel bikes. How often when gravel riding does one go for an aero position to maximize speed? Maybe in a prevailing headwind, but how common is that? I know on my road bikes I will use the drops for a change for in position or in a stiff head wind but more recent studies have shown having forearms parallel to the top bar on the drops is more aero. So are drops just a cool factor or will it evolve to a flat/straight bar? Inquiring “snarks” want to know.
I think if one considers a "gravel" bike to really be an "all road" bike, the drop bars make sense. The serve the same function as drop bars do on any road bike, including touring bikes: they give a variety of hand positions and the option of getting low to reduce wind resistance. This works on any "steady state" riding whether it be on rough or smooth surfaces.

One difference I've seen (but didn't do when I built up my and my wife's bikes last spring) is to go with wider drop bars. The idea is that on rough roads, just like with mountain bikes, a wider bar helps with control vs. the narrow road bike bar where there aren't surface irregularities. I went with our normal width bars - mainly because I had them on hand. But since I'm obligated to spend money on SOMETHING every year, I think I might buy some 2-4cm wider bars.

Last edited by Camilo; 02-04-22 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 02-09-22, 05:00 PM
  #248  
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We ride a lot on long unpaved roads that is simply boring with a MTB but suits perfectly a Gravel bike as you can go much faster.
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Old 02-09-22, 06:01 PM
  #249  
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Originally Posted by guijs View Post
We ride a lot on long unpaved roads that is simply boring with a MTB but suits perfectly a Gravel bike as you can go much faster.

You have the wrong MTB! Seriously though, "gravel" bikes are pretty darn fast and on average outperform on smoother roads/trails.
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