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Do I need a gravel bike?

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Do I need a gravel bike?

Old 12-26-16, 06:08 PM
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dalava
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Do I need a gravel bike?

It's winter, so I'm not getting as much riding outside as I would like to; so start thinking about building a gravel bike. But I am struggling to justify it. I'm a road rider almost exclusively up to now. Sure, there are a few places around here I can see that having a gravel bike would be cool and fun to ride, but it's not something I'm dying to do. So do I really need one? Would having one let me discover something new that I would really enjoy?

The one I am thinking about would be something like the GT Grade kind, with maybe 1x 40t front, 11-36 back, SRAM hydraulic brakes.
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Old 12-26-16, 06:21 PM
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Been there, done that.

I wanted a more "rugged" bike that can handle winter obstacles both on and off road. I wanted hydro disc, wheels with a higher spoke count, bottom bracket clearance and Sram groupset.

I picked a Cannondale SuperX Rival 1 CX. The Sram 1x is easy to maintain and much cheaper to replace than the eTap on my road bike. I wanted both on and off road so I added a set of Zipp 30 Course wheels with 32mm tubeless all weather street tires. The bike came with 35mm knobby on stock wheels.

The bike is a beast on cold days, It give a lot of confidence with potholes and debris on the roads. The knobbies can handle single track, gravel, open fields and the mild terrain of Long Island.

While the complete bike with extras was not cheap, it also wasn't expensive for a carbon bike with 2 sets of wheels.

I have a 40T and replaced the stock 11-28 to a 11-32.


Last edited by GlennR; 12-27-16 at 06:15 AM.
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Old 12-26-16, 06:55 PM
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It is all I will ride if there is leftover slush in areas or wet roads/MUPs I got an alloy Specialized Crux with Rival hydro discs. It was 1x11 which was not that great for climbs so I switched to 2x11. I then found that when I rode in areas with gravel roads or trails/singletrack that was relatively mild, I took out the Crux. It is a lot of fun. The road bikes are certainly more efficient for general road riding but this really opens up a new dimension of cycling...similar to what a fat bike does for mtn biking.

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Old 12-26-16, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by dalava View Post
So do I really need one?
obviously, no one here can answer this question for you. can you borrow/demo a bike to try those nearby gravel roads? maybe a taste test will tell you whether or not it's worth the effort and expense to build a bike.
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Old 12-26-16, 07:27 PM
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Originally Posted by dalava View Post
It's winter, so I'm not getting as much riding outside as I would like to...I'm a road rider almost exclusively...
This sounds like perfect reasons to build a gravel bike, namely, to do more winter road riding, especially if the gravel roads which would make up a favorite route are less trafficked than paved roads, because it's safer.

I'd also encourage you to look at a gravel bike as I do, which is as a rain and spring time bike, so something that can take fenders to keep you clean and dry when it's sloppy out.

And since you're a road rider, get a gravel bike which is suited to spirited road riding rather than an "adventure" or "gravel grinder" type bike. The UK market is full of these kinds of bikes, light, with steep, sporty angles but decent clearance for rubber and fenders.

I went through this process last winter, and am absolutely delighted with what I got out of it; it's fun to ride, lightweight handles well, covers the roads (paved and gravel) fast, and can fit 30c rubber. I built up a Kinesis Racelight 4S with Campagnolo 11spd and a 52/36t crank, so it's definitely suited more to fast riding on hardpack than slogging through 3" deep gravel, but it suits what and how I ride great.

Here's a pic of mine without fenders; I've got the new Crud RoadRacer MkIII fenders going on this week (had been using the narrower MkII, but with a wheel change) and will get pics of those up asap.

So the short of it is, YES, build a gravel bike, but do it so it fits your needs, rather than you trying to fit "the gravel bike lifestyle" into your life.

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Old 12-26-16, 07:52 PM
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Depends on how close you live to gravel IMO.
I have a MTB park a couple of km away with lots of gravel roads in it.
There is another nature reserve a few km on the other side of it too.
I quite like to ride from my place on my CX bike on a combination of roads, bike paths and gravel roads for a nice little 40km loop from my place.

I can do the same loop on my road bike if I wanted, but it is nice to have the knobby tyres for the gravel sections.

Last edited by sumgy; 12-26-16 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 12-26-16, 08:02 PM
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I caught the enthusiasm a couple of years ago and built up a nice bike. There was a group that did some dirt roads not too far from me and it was fun the first few times. Then the roads got too familiar, there were too many water crossings, the group kind of splintered. etc. I thought some of the bigger events might make fun trips but that didn't pan out because of family. Ended up selling the bike.
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Old 12-27-16, 12:27 AM
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Picked up a Specialized TriCross Apex Elite from a friend last winter. Made some modifications to it, added fenders for winter/wet commutes (they come off in the summer), swapped out the bar, saddle, stem, picked up a set of Continental City Ride tires.... this bike is a damn blast to ride now. Pic is when I first got it so pardon the crap picture. I think that I have just finished dialing it in and honestly, I swear that it is as fast as my 2x11 full carbon road bike. Here is what I have ridden on it so far:

Home - Barry-Roubaix - 36 mile route - knobbies
Hard packed single track - knobbies
Gravel road/dirt road/washboard road - knobbies
Grassy field - knobbies
Commuting - slicks
Exploring group ride with mix of road/crushed gravel/dirt - slicks
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Old 12-27-16, 08:09 AM
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Let the build begin:

Just bought a Santa Cruz Stigmata CC carbon frameset. First off, what groupset? I am thinking about either the SRAM Force 1 in 1x setup or Shimano Ultegra 2x11 with hydraulic brakes. The benefit of latter is that I can use the derailleurs and crankset I already have, but I am tempted by the simplicity of the 1x. Would love to hear what your experiences are. The gravel road here are more rollers than big climbs, so I don't think, say 40x36, would have any problems for the steepest climbs.

The Santa Cruz frameset takes 15x100 front and 12x142 rear thru axel, so I guess I am looking at 29" wheelsets. I don't think I am going to put anything bigger than 35 on the bike, so looking for good suggestions on wheelset. Let's say the budget is about $800.
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Old 12-27-16, 08:37 AM
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Hope you got a real Santa Cruz and not one of the fake ones that nutcase was promoting on here awhile back. Always fun to build a new bike. Though I didn't use mine as anticipated, I enjoyed the project and the buyer got a cool bike at a great price. Have fun!
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Old 12-27-16, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by dalava View Post
Let the build begin:

Just bought a Santa Cruz Stigmata CC carbon frameset. First off, what groupset? I am thinking about either the SRAM Force 1 in 1x setup or Shimano Ultegra 2x11 with hydraulic brakes. The benefit of latter is that I can use the derailleurs and crankset I already have, but I am tempted by the simplicity of the 1x. Would love to hear what your experiences are. The gravel road here are more rollers than big climbs, so I don't think, say 40x36, would have any problems for the steepest climbs.

The Santa Cruz frameset takes 15x100 front and 12x142 rear thru axel, so I guess I am looking at 29" wheelsets. I don't think I am going to put anything bigger than 35 on the bike, so looking for good suggestions on wheelset. Let's say the budget is about $800.

Lots of wheelbuilds you can do $800 for through axle.

i9 Torch or White Industries disc hubs. Say Archetype rims. Your choice of butted spoke. and brass nips. Or to be more thrifty you could probably find Novatec or BHS MTB hubs.

29er=700C in wheel rims....it is just a question of how big the tire is.



NOTE: As you add fenders, you will greatly encroach on max tire clearance, remember that when shopping. Also most CX marketed framesets don't come with eyelets.
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Old 12-27-16, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
This sounds like perfect reasons to build a gravel bike, namely, to do more winter road riding, especially if the gravel roads which would make up a favorite route are less trafficked than paved roads, because it's safer.

I'd also encourage you to look at a gravel bike as I do, which is as a rain and spring time bike, so something that can take fenders to keep you clean and dry when it's sloppy out.

And since you're a road rider, get a gravel bike which is suited to spirited road riding rather than an "adventure" or "gravel grinder" type bike.

snip . .
+ 1. It is the perfect shoulder season bike as well as a bike to explore new and different roads.
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Old 12-27-16, 11:10 AM
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I was in the same boat as you. Too much money/tech in my Tarmac to have any desire to take out in the wet/sloppy weather. Since I am also a Road rider, I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on something to ride only in bad weather and the few times a year I go on gravel rides. I went the other direction and picked the cheapest thing I could find. A Fuji Sportif 1.3 disk from Performance... around $500.00. It's heavy and I feel so bad for people who can't afford anything better. However, I don't have to worry about getting it dirty, laying it down, scratching it... Plus I get a better work out pushing 20+ pound bike up and down gravel hills keeping up with my normal group riding much nicer bikes.

You can't imagine how great it feels to head out on a nice day on the Tarmac after that! Feels like you're flying :-)
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Old 12-27-16, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by dalava View Post
I'm a road rider almost exclusively up to now.
Awesome! Great! That's a really good reason to have a "gravel" bike. Not only are dirt and gravel roads roads, but they're often better roads (in terms of traffic and scenery).

Originally Posted by dalava View Post
The one I am thinking about would be something like the GT Grade kind, with maybe 1x 40t front, 11-36 back, SRAM hydraulic brakes.
GT Grade rides real nice.
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Old 12-28-16, 03:41 PM
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Nope, you don't need a gravel bike, I don't need one either :

















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Old 12-28-16, 03:42 PM
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Old 12-28-16, 03:54 PM
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Fantastic, @UnfilteredDregs!
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Old 12-28-16, 03:55 PM
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Lovey area. Where exactly were all these picture taken?
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Old 12-28-16, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Fantastic, @UnfilteredDregs!
Originally Posted by Chandne View Post
Lovey area. Where exactly were all these picture taken?
Thanks folks... A lot of Connecticut, & New York...riding distance from my house in the Bronx, NYC...and some Fall Vermont sprinkled in for good measure.
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Old 12-28-16, 04:25 PM
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Those pics are a great explanation of why gravel bikes are so awesome. There's great scenery along the paved roads, but there's a hell of a lot more of it off in the middle of nowhere. And being able to take a few miles of dirt and mud and gravel turn a lot of out-and-backs into nice loops. Pretty much everything that's great about road bikes, a hair slower, and way less limiting.
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Old 12-28-16, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
There's great scenery along the paved roads, but there's a hell of a lot more of it off in the middle of nowhere.
Uh huh, and fewer cars and more tranquility.

BTW, what tires are you using there, @UnfilteredDregs? Edit: G One Allaround, maybe?

Last edited by WhyFi; 12-28-16 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 12-28-16, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by UnfilteredDregs View Post
Thanks folks... A lot of Connecticut, & New York...riding distance from my house in the Bronx, NYC...and some Fall Vermont sprinkled in for good measure.
Ever do the OCA trail from Riverdale to Croton Reservoir?

I did it 2 months ago with my son.
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Old 12-28-16, 04:47 PM
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I love having no/few cars around and in such scenic surroundings. That's why I love those pics. I have always loved being close to nature, and moved to Colorado because of that. I have yet to truly venture into the beautiful parts of places like New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. I think Pac NW will be my next destination but the NE looks very nice.
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Old 12-28-16, 05:02 PM
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Hey @chadne, if you decide to visit the PNW, drop me a PM and I'll recommend lots of great places to ride here.
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Old 12-28-16, 05:08 PM
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Thanks, I absolutely will! I appreciate that. I had high hoped of buying small home there till the better half messed up my plans. Maybe it will still happen someday.
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