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upright gravelish steel bike rec?

Old 05-21-22, 03:08 PM
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wbusby1
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upright gravelish steel bike rec?

Looking for advice on purchasing a bike (not sure if there is a preferred format for this or if this is wrong location?)

Looking for:
-Upright gravel/all-road/adventure bike.
- I'm 5'11, 165 lbs, aiming for Stack 632, Reach 383, happy to buy a different stem to make this work.
-max stand-over ~850mm
-Steel frame
-Mostly riding paved but would like option to hit gravel.
-mostly commuting & running errands & adventuring want to go back to not having a car! 2-25miles daily. no racing. possibility for light-touring would be nice.
-Prefer not to have any electronic shifters or other overly techie parts.
-Prefer to keep under $3K but really I don't have an upper end budget but I don't want a bike that I overly worry about getting stolen or scratched up.
-Would like something I can find/purchase now or in next few months as my current bike is terrible for me and the weather is getting nice!

Background: I've been cycling exclusively on a fixed road bike (wabi special) for last 8 years. Last year I moved to PNW and now my knees are hurting cuz I have patellar tendonitis and there are hills here. I was all set on a Salsa Vaya 59.5cm but haven't found one in 2 months & LBSs say "possibly in June?" to "unlikely this year", now I'm despairing / open to other options/ideas. A trusted friend in the industry says Salsa Vaya is awesome, wait for it, Random people on the internet say Vaya is outdated and overrated now and there are better options these days...
Test road a salsa Fargo, felt too slow and overkill for mostly pavement. Test road a kona rove and it felt clunky/meh. Test road an all-city straight bar bike and hated the handlebars and it felt meh. I'm thinking of riding mostly 35mm ish tires but am not opposed to owning two wheelsets for different terrain types.
There's a 2016 Salsa Vaya x9 in 57cm 125miles away from me on craigslist for 1200. I could maybe make this work with a long, angled stem? Seems pricey for a compromise esp considering the 125miles to check it out.

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Old 05-21-22, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by wbusby1 View Post
I'm 5'11, aiming for Stack 632, Reach 383, happy to buy a different stem to make this work.
That seems like a tall stack for the reach. Anyway, take a look at a Jamis Renegade S3 or S4. The 58cm size has a 630 stack and a 828 standover, although the reach is 396. They're both reasonably priced steel gravel bikes.
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Old 05-22-22, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
That seems like a tall stack for the reach.
As in that seems more upright than usual? Or it seems like a problem? I'm sorry I don't full understand stack/reach ratio.

The Renegade looks good, unfortunately the LBS who carry are all out of stock but it does give me another thing to keep my eyes out for.
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Old 05-22-22, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by wbusby1 View Post
As in that seems more upright than usual? Or it seems like a problem? I'm sorry I don't full understand stack/reach ratio.

The Renegade looks good, unfortunately the LBS who carry are all out of stock but it does give me another thing to keep my eyes out for.
How did you arrive at your desired stack and reach numbers?
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Old 05-22-22, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by wbusby1 View Post
As in that seems more upright than usual? Or it seems like a problem? I'm sorry I don't full understand stack/reach ratio.
.
632 x 383 is a combination that will be difficult to find. Frames with that kind of stack are typically in the 60cm+ sizes, but the reach is more in line with those in the mid-upper-50s. Look at some geo charts and read up on the relationship between stack & reach.
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Old 05-22-22, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
How did you arrive at your desired stack and reach numbers?
I went to a local bike fitter who's been in the business for 35yrs and I trust, without knowing much myself. bicyclefittingservices DOTcom/ (can't post links yet)
I think he is recommending the upright position because of my vargus knees and patellar tendonitis.
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Old 05-22-22, 11:24 AM
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Recently I procured a steel Salsa La Cruz (10 or so years old); this might be something to look for. This bike accepts caliper or disc brakes and tires to 1.75".
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Old 05-22-22, 11:57 AM
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Are you open to building yourself or buying a fork with an uncut steerer? You can add some spacers -- for example, 56cm Kona Rove (https://konaworld.com/rove_dl.cfm) has stack 607 and reach 392. The head tube angle is 71.5 degrees, tan(71.5)=3. If you add spacers to increase stack to 632, the reach will decrease by (632-607)/3=8. The reach will be 392-8=384mm -- more or less what you want.

I think this is what Rolla means.
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Old 05-22-22, 12:11 PM
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Are you certain your issues with your knee aren't because you rode something that wasn't set up properly for you and now you are going to even more whacky geometry based on your misconceptions of what is correct for you?

If you went to a decent fitter, they should know what models to recommend. You shouldn't limit yourself to just steel. Though it is seeing a small resurgence in new bikes.

Welcome to BF.
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Old 05-22-22, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by csport View Post
Are you open to building yourself or buying a fork with an uncut steerer? You can add some spacers

I think this is what Rolla means.
I was going by what the OP said were the desired stack and reach. Stack and reach are frame dimensions that are measured independently of the stem length and height.




Last edited by Rolla; 05-22-22 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 05-22-22, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Are you certain your issues with your knee aren't because you rode something that wasn't set up properly for you and now you are going to even more whacky geometry based on your misconceptions of what is correct for you?

If you went to a decent fitter, they should know what models to recommend. You shouldn't limit yourself to just steel. Though it is seeing a small resurgence in new bikes.

Welcome to BF.
My knee issues is exacerbated by having to push a lot on a fixed gear on hills and also supposedly the braking/ backwards force can be bad too. I don't know much about how riding position (upright-ness) affects the knee issue. This bike fitter seemed to think being more upright would help, and when he showed me on the fitting bike machine thing it certainly felt a lot easier & more comfortable than the road bike with somewhat race-y geo I've been riding. The bike fitter recommended the fargo which was too far away from road bikes for me. He also recommended the surly Disc Trucker after I explained being more interested in something like the Vaya than the Fargo. The disc trucker seems too tour-y for me. e.g. heavy/stiff for mostly just casual riding? I'm not set on steel but I both like it in theory and really could feel the difference in absorption/smoothness that a decent quality steel frame gave riding on crappy streets in New Orleans for past 8 years while wearing a loaded backpack. I'm not set on steel but with all the options out there it seems helpful to narrow them a bit and steel seems preferable to me. I sense this is an age old debate that many are ready to take up, not looking to start that. Recommend me some non-steel bikes if ya like, that's ok!

Originally Posted by csport View Post
Are you open to building yourself or buying a fork with an uncut steerer? You can add some spacers -- for example, 56cm Kona Rove ) has stack 607 and reach 392. The head tube angle is 71.5 degrees, tan(71.5)=3. If you add spacers to increase stack to 632, the reach will decrease by (632-607)/3=8. The reach will be 392-8=384mm -- more or less what you want.
I don't have tools for bike building but am rather handy and I suppose I could learn enough to build a bike.

Originally Posted by 2old View Post
Recently I procured a steel Salsa La Cruz (10 or so years old); this might be something to look for. This bike accepts caliper or disc brakes and tires to 1.75".
Looks good, thanks. Will keep an eye out for one.

Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I was going by what the OP said were the desired stack and reach. Stack and reach are frame dimensions that are measured independently of the stem length and height.
This is interesting. I think the idea is that the ideal stack/reach is the numbers I gave in OP and that if I get a frame with smaller stack or shorter reach etc that this could be accommodated for with an angled or longer/shorter stem? As to give a similar fit. I can check with the bike fitter to see if when he says stack/reach he is [improperly] measuring to the the bars? I guess I'm not really too hung up on exact numbers, I've generally just sent him the geo charts and he's confirmed whether the general numbers/ratio we are looking for is possible/practical on that frame/size. I trust he understands the fit he is looking for. Maybe I shouldn't have give stack/reach #s to yall hehe.

Is it a consensus here that this more upright position I'm looking for is too "whacky"? I thought it was basically the ratio of the stock fargo build and not far off from the vaya

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Old 05-22-22, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I was going by what the OP said were the desired stack and reach. Stack and reach are frame dimensions that are measured independently of the stem length and height.



thank you for this. do you know how this basic concept relates to frames that have/require integrated stem/steerer components that place the minimum possible bottom of the stem well above the apparent “top” of the head tube / top tube intersection, e.g. a head tube shock. is it correct to say that the stack is measured to the lowest possible point the bottom of the stem could be placed?
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Old 05-22-22, 03:06 PM
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As someone who also has a high stack to reach ratio (though not as extreme as you), I learned to embrace headset spacers.

As you increase the effective stack with spacers, you also shorten the reach.

I did find it a little frustrating that most of the more upright bikes were touring bikes and that is not what I wanted.

I ended up on a Salsa Casseroll and then later a Soma Fog Cutter. Still needed a healthy dose of spacers.
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Old 05-22-22, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by wbusby1 View Post
My knee issues is exacerbated by having to push a lot on a fixed gear on hills and also supposedly the braking/ backwards force can be bad too.
While I'm well aware that others do, I wouldn't and have not ever ridden a fixed gear bike on a hill. Unless you count the times I had to ride them when my shifter cable had broken.

If you have to strain and use muscle to pedal your bike, then at some point in your life you will have knee pains that are more than just brief pains. Which apparently yours is more than just brief pain.

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Old 05-22-22, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by mschwett View Post
is it correct to say that the stack is measured to the lowest possible point the bottom of the stem could be placed?
Stack is the vertical distance, in centimeters, from the center of the frame’s bottom bracket/crank to the top middle point of the head tube.


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Old 05-22-22, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by mschwett View Post
thank you for this. do you know how this basic concept relates to frames that have/require integrated stem/steerer components that place the minimum possible bottom of the stem well above the apparent “top” of the head tube / top tube intersection, e.g. a head tube shock. is it correct to say that the stack is measured to the lowest possible point the bottom of the stem could be placed?
Is there a hidden question or gotcha that you are aiming for here?
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Old 05-22-22, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by wbusby1 View Post
if I get a frame with smaller stack or shorter reach etc that this could be accommodated for with an angled or longer/shorter stem? As to give a similar fit.
Yes, you can fine-tune the fit of a frame by using a stem of a different height and/or angle and/or length. Likewise saddle height and fore/aft position.

BTW, there's an entire sub-forum here dedicated to this topic: https://www.bikeforums.net/fitting-your-bike/
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Old 05-22-22, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Is there a hidden question or gotcha that you are aiming for here?
No, I’m actually curious. i was trying to accurately model the geometry of a few bikes in comparison to one of mine which has a head shock, and could not figure out an accurate correspondence between the published dimension and the measurements of the bike. visual bike geometry comparison tools don’t seem to correspond with the visual characteristics either, i.e. the intersection of the top tube and head tube seems off in one direction or another.
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Old 05-22-22, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by mschwett View Post
No, I’m actually curious. i was trying to accurately model the geometry of a few bikes in comparison to one of mine which has a head shock, and could not figure out an accurate correspondence between the published dimension and the measurements of the bike. visual bike geometry comparison tools don’t seem to correspond with the visual characteristics either, i.e. the intersection of the top tube and head tube seems off in one direction or another.
Oh, been there and done that myself. Modeling fit from just the bike geometry is tricky because most geometry specs don't give you all the information you need to show your contact points (butt, hands, and feet) with the bike.

Some bike manufacturers are getting a little better at that.
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Old 05-22-22, 09:51 PM
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Have a look at Black Mountain Cycles. Several all-road/gravel options. They’re sold as framesets, but the owner will build one up for you. Reasonable prices too. I’m very happy with mine.
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Old 05-22-22, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Oldguyonoldbike View Post
Have a look at Black Mountain Cycles. Several all-road/gravel options. They’re sold as framesets, but the owner will build one up for you. Reasonable prices too. I’m very happy with mine.

I'm happy with mine as well, but unfortunately, Mike has had to cut back on the models he offers. Gone is the MCD, which had a really tall stack height, as well as the Road Plus. He combined those two frames into the Mod Zero, but production doesn't start until next year. So at the moment, all you can get is a Monster Cross Canti, whose stack is a pretty "normal" 609mm with a 388mm reach reach for a 58cm frame.
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Old 05-23-22, 07:54 AM
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Which All-City did you try? I have a Space Horse and love it, specifically made to be kind of an "all around" bike. I commute on it, done longer touring, do a lot of rail trail/gravel rides and even quite a bit of single track and it's been great.

Also maybe check out the State Bicycles. They tend to be decent "starter" bikes but haven't heard much bad about them. Definitely priced on the lower end.
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Old 05-23-22, 08:28 AM
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Salsa Vaya steel
https://www.salsacycles.com/bikes/2021_vaya_grx_600
628mm stack and 372mm reach in the 57cm size
647mm stack and 384.8mm reach in the 59.5cm size


Kona Libre aluminum
https://www.salsacycles.com/bikes/2021_vaya_grx_600
630mm stack and 389mm reach in the 56cm size.


Maybe look into these? All my bikes are steel so if anyone gets the appeal its me, but when you have such unique geometry needs, arbitrarily limiting yourself to just steel for a material is shortsighted.
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Old 05-23-22, 08:49 AM
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Perhaps the fitter thought your hip angle was too closed with the previous bike, and the more upright fit is an attempt to open it up. Hope your knees are feeling better ASAP!
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Old 05-23-22, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I was going by what the OP said were the desired stack and reach. Stack and reach are frame dimensions that are measured independently of the stem length and height.
Sure, let's assume that we have the same stem and handlebars, the position of the handlebars will change if we add/remove spacers. The position of the handlebars is determined by the point where the stem clamps the steerer. The horizontal/vertical distance from the bottom bracket to this point is the (effective) reach/stack. If there are no spacers, it coincides with the stack/reach from the frame geometry chart.



Then I do not understand what you mean by relationship between stack and reach:
Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
...and read up on the relationship between stack & reach.
Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
I ended up on a Salsa Casseroll and then later a Soma Fog Cutter. Still needed a healthy dose of spacers.
I have an overdose of spacers on a Double Cross, 12 cm. The computation I did for the OP in post #8 using Kona Rove only needs 25mm of spacers.

Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Modeling fit from just the bike geometry is tricky because most geometry specs don't give you all the information you need to show your contact points (butt, hands, and feet) with the bike.
Is it true that if you want the posture prescribed by the fitter, the position of the seat and the handlebars w.r.t. the bottom bracket are determined by that? Saddle position can be regulated by changing its height and setback. Assuming that we have the same handlebars and the stem, the position of the handlebars cat be adjusted by adding/removing spacers. Then stack and reach are all you need to model the fit.
Of course there are more subtle things like weight distribution, chainstay length, head tube angle, fork rake etc.

Originally Posted by wbusby1 View Post
I don't have tools for bike building but am rather handy and I suppose I could learn enough to build a bike.
What you need is a fork with a steerer which is not cut too short so that you can add some spacers. That is why I suggested building. You can also ask the shop to do it for you. If the steerer is cut too short you may need to get a new uncut fork. Here is a link on threadless headsets:
https://www.sheldonbrown.com/headsets.html
I did a computation for you in post #8 showing how you can achieve what you need using Kona Rove as an example. It has a chromoly fork with a chromoly steerer, adding spacers to it will not be a problem (may be problematic for carbon steerers).

Of course what matters is the distance from the bottom bracket to the contact points, and the frame with the prescribed stack and reach should be combined with the prescribed stem/handlebars/levers (or similar), otherwise the fit will be thrown off.
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