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Three Gravel Options, What To Do...

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Three Gravel Options, What To Do...

Old 09-25-18, 07:35 AM
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Three Gravel Options, What To Do...

After finally getting up the nerve to take the Propel down a gravel rail trail (on Superteam wheels and 25mm GP4000sII tires) last Saturday, I'm looking at options for future riding.

Option A: Buy a wide, cheap aluminum wheelset to fit 700x28 tires (max on the Propel), buy brake pads for aluminum wheels, pray I don't forget to pad swap before every ride. Wheelset suggestions under $200 both 10/11spd compatible? I have a set of Reynolds Solitude but they are very narrow and 28mm tires balloon too much for comfort

Option B: Buy another set of Chinese carbon wheels. Sure, why not? $300 gets a set, no chance of accidentally forgetting to swap pads. Get to see what they can really handle, and possibly die in the process.

Option C: Buy a really, really cheap gravel bike. This is a terrible option. It definitely gets me killed by the wife. I also can't leave anything alone, therefore I will be quickly looking for upgrades and probably end up spending more than just buying a higher priced gravel bike.

Obviously option A is the best and smartest choice, but I am a cyclist, and logic has no place here. I'm putting this in road cycling because the first two options are related to just putting a wider, treaded tire on a Giant Propel. This is what most of the trail looks like but there are some rougher spots:

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Old 09-25-18, 07:40 AM
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Buy a second wheelset now, then later buy a frameset to go with that second wheelset, and then all the parts to make that frameset into a bike.

Maybe she won't notice another bike if it arrives gradually, over a period of months.
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Old 09-25-18, 07:49 AM
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Option 3 is the best option. But you also have correctly predicted what will happen if you do it.

I just bought a cheap used bike on Friday. It's been POURING rain ever since so I haven't even ridden yet. And I've already spent $100 improving it because I can't sit still and patiently wait out the rain.

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Old 09-25-18, 07:49 AM
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Option D: Sell the current bike. Buy a disc version similar to it. Get 2 wheelsets. Don't worry about switching out pads.
Option E: Fix up that old road bike you probably have hanging in the shed as a gravel bike.
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Old 09-25-18, 07:57 AM
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Just get another bike

I know its not pretty but neither will your nice frame when you lay it down on gravel.

Excuses to the wife:

1) Blame the "the naked ape" genes in you. Make up some plausible theory that Apes for always buying stuff.

2) Use the Homer Simpson approach. Buy it as a gift for your wife and then reposition it for you as she doesn't use it.

3) Just hide it somewhere in the Attic. Only seeing it when your wife's not at home. It will seem like an affair and add some extra excitement to your life

Originally Posted by str8jakett
After finally getting up the nerve to take the Propel down a gravel rail trail (on Superteam wheels and 25mm GP4000sII tires) last Saturday, I'm looking at options for future riding.

Option A: Buy a wide, cheap aluminum wheelset to fit 700x28 tires (max on the Propel), buy brake pads for aluminum wheels, pray I don't forget to pad swap before every ride. Wheelset suggestions under $200 both 10/11spd compatible? I have a set of Reynolds Solitude but they are very narrow and 28mm tires balloon too much for comfort

Option B: Buy another set of Chinese carbon wheels. Sure, why not? $300 gets a set, no chance of accidentally forgetting to swap pads. Get to see what they can really handle, and possibly die in the process.

Option C: Buy a really, really cheap gravel bike. This is a terrible option. It definitely gets me killed by the wife. I also can't leave anything alone, therefore I will be quickly looking for upgrades and probably end up spending more than just buying a higher priced gravel bike.

Obviously option A is the best and smartest choice, but I am a cyclist, and logic has no place here. I'm putting this in road cycling because the first two options are related to just putting a wider, treaded tire on a Giant Propel. This is what most of the trail looks like but there are some rougher spots:

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Old 09-25-18, 08:24 AM
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Why not just buy quality 28mm tires and ride them at all times? No new wheelset or bike needed.

put em on your bike and ride pavement and this rail trail.

that isnt gravel so much as hardpacked limestone. A 28mm tire will be fine on dry days.
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Old 09-25-18, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Why not just buy quality 28mm tires and ride them at all times? No new wheelset or bike needed.

put em on your bike and ride pavement and this rail trail.

that isnt gravel so much as hardpacked limestone. A 28mm tire will be fine on dry days.
Agreed.
We have a similar rail trail here - American Tobacco Trail - which has a section of about 8 miles that is unpaved hardpack. My 25's are just fine on it. 28's would be plenty IMO.
If you are planning to get more adventurous, then a more robust tire would make sense.

Start with tires, then see if the gravel bug bites
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Old 09-25-18, 08:30 AM
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I'm going to agree with mstateglfr. It's the best, most practical solution. Mount those 28's and count it done. (And mstateglfr is correct . . . that's not gravel. Not the kind that calls for wider tires or a special bike.)
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Old 09-25-18, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
Why not just buy quality 28mm tires and ride them at all times? No new wheelset or bike needed.
This is the obvious short-term answer...

Originally Posted by seypat
Option D: Sell the current bike. Buy a disc version similar to it. Get 2 wheelsets. Don't worry about switching out pads.
....though this appeals to me more.
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Old 09-25-18, 08:49 AM
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One other thing I never see mentioned on here. I think the small storage units in the 6 x 6 range are pretty cheap. If they are around $10/ a month, rent one and hide everything from the wife. You may end up divorced at some point, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I am lucky that my office/warehouse is 5 miles from my house. Most everything that would go in a garage/shed is kept there, including all bike stuff. All of my rides start/finish from my office. My wife doesn't know and doesn't care. The wife and I have separate banking accounts. As long as our financial obligations are met, we don't care what the other does with their money. She has a Disney habit/addiction. It makes her happy. That's OK. It's her money, she can spend it as she pleases.
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Old 09-25-18, 08:58 AM
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I bought my wife her bike, and she bought me both of my bikes. It's a much healthier (and luckier) arrangement than hiding stuff.

If the OP's list is correct, he has three road bikes. Sell one and build up a more gravel/trail oriented bike. When I got my second bike (having previously been a committed N=1 guy) I specifically looked for a bike as different as possible from the bike I had.

And it was a great choice. Horses for courses, as they say.
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Old 09-25-18, 09:50 AM
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I use carbon pads and I swap between carbon and AL rim wheels. No big deal and it works fine. I actually like the modulation better. Try it. That makes the wheel choice a lot easier and you don't have to think about brake pads. My guidance is either way, don't buy cheap wheels.

Note: That essentially combines Option A and B leaving you with buy a new wheel set or buy a new bike. Either way you get some great new gear. What's not to like?

I'd ride 28mm tires all the time. It's a better ride and if you set them up tubeless, it's likely a lighter set up than what you have now with your 25mm tires. It's also better for gravel or uneven surfaces.

28mm is just fine. This summer, I did a ride down the Rallarvegen in Norway on my cross bike with the 30mm Schwalbe G-1 speeds on it. That's essentially (at least the segment we rode) a rustic gravel road with about 20 miles of rock gardens - a mountain bike would have been a better choice The 30mm tires were fine and at no time did I wish I had wider ones. FWIW, I've done 10+miles at a time on dirt roads with gravel with 25mm tires and it's also no big deal - you have to be a little more careful, but hey, gravel roads are roads too. You would be more than fine with 28mm tires on those roads in your picture. In point of fact, I'd do this with a 25mm tire without even thinking about it.

J.
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Old 09-25-18, 10:10 AM
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I've been riding dirt and gravel roads on 28 to 33 mm of rubber and it's great here in the Cascades.
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Old 09-25-18, 10:32 AM
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There are some really great responses here!

For those of you that suggested 28mm tires, I have put a set of Gatorskins on the Reynolds and took a 20 mile road ride on the Propel. They fit but the clearance at the seat tube is very tight and it makes me uncomfortable to think about something sticking to the tire and trying to wedge through that space. I know Gatorskins are a little oversized for a 28mm tire. Honestly, those 25mm GP4000s performed excellent on the trail and I'd be comfortable with those but would like the extra width of the 28mm.

I have access to endless gravel roads in my rural area that a dedicated gravel bike would open up new possibilities. I don't know how comfortable I would be taking a nice road bike on those roads regardless of wheel/tire combo. My current bikes consist of the 2008 TCR as a bare frame with questionable chainstay damage, the 2015 Propel with SRAM Rival and Superteams, which has been my main bike, and the 2017 Propel with SRAM Red and Zipp 404s. If the TCR was solid, I'd sell the 2017 frame and shuffle parts, but I don't know if I trust it.

As far as option A, any opinions on the Fulcrum Racing Quattro LG? A 24mm wide, 35mm deep aluminum option that seems like a good set of wheels according to internet reviews.

JohnJ80 - Don't you worry about getting some aluminum shards in your brake pad and shredding your carbon brake surface?
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Old 09-25-18, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by str8jakett
There are some really great responses here!

For those of you that suggested 28mm tires, I have put a set of Gatorskins on the Reynolds and took a 20 mile road ride on the Propel. They fit but the clearance at the seat tube is very tight and it makes me uncomfortable to think about something sticking to the tire and trying to wedge through that space. I know Gatorskins are a little oversized for a 28mm tire. Honestly, those 25mm GP4000s performed excellent on the trail and I'd be comfortable with those but would like the extra width of the 28mm.

I have access to endless gravel roads in my rural area that a dedicated gravel bike would open up new possibilities. I don't know how comfortable I would be taking a nice road bike on those roads regardless of wheel/tire combo. My current bikes consist of the 2008 TCR as a bare frame with questionable chainstay damage, the 2015 Propel with SRAM Rival and Superteams, which has been my main bike, and the 2017 Propel with SRAM Red and Zipp 404s. If the TCR was solid, I'd sell the 2017 frame and shuffle parts, but I don't know if I trust it.
You have 2 Giant Propel with SRAM bikes? I fully understand overlapping bikes as I have multiple road bikes that do the same thing(carry me down the road), but perhaps if you arent wanting to add a bike to the stable, instead sell one of the Propel bikes and get a gravel bike in its place.

There are a ton of gravel bikes with geometry which closely mimics road bikes. 73degree HTA and STA, 430mm chainstay or so, and a lower stack height. Not all gravel bikes are relaxed geometry with tall stack heights. If you find a gravel bike that has the right geometry you want, you could slap legitimate 40mm quality tires on it and ride all over the place. Quality tires(not gatorskins) wont give much up in terms of speed. Or get a couple sets of wheels for that bike and swap em out depending on surface.

Going back to quality tires...
- a 25mm Gatorskin has about 20watts of rolling resistance at 100psi
- a 37mm Continental Voyager Hyper has about 15watts of rolling resistance at 85psi
this info is based on bicyclerollingresistance.com tests. Each tire takes that much power(watts) to keep rolling at a preset speed.

I chose these PSI because its about what I would run each tire, given the widths.
Point is- you could get some wider tires on the new bike and never even get a second wheelset. Quality wider tires can be faster than what you use right now so you wouldnt give up anything.
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Old 09-25-18, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by str8jakett
There are some really great responses here!

For those of you that suggested 28mm tires, I have put a set of Gatorskins on the Reynolds and took a 20 mile road ride on the Propel. They fit but the clearance at the seat tube is very tight and it makes me uncomfortable to think about something sticking to the tire and trying to wedge through that space. I know Gatorskins are a little oversized for a 28mm tire. Honestly, those 25mm GP4000s performed excellent on the trail and I'd be comfortable with those but would like the extra width of the 28mm.
I wouldn't worry about it but there's your answer for buying a new bike. SAFETY! Great argument to help adjust the SAF upwards. (SAF = Spousal Approval Factor).

But seriously though, you can experiment around with 28mm and 25mm tires on your rims and you'll find a set up that works. Their dimensions will be all over the map when it's all said and done. You might even find a 25mm tire that gets pretty close to 28mm on it's own. Do note that once you go to larger tire, you will be reducing your tire pressure which will make those gravel rides much MUCH more comfortable.

I have access to endless gravel roads in my rural area that a dedicated gravel bike would open up new possibilities. I don't know how comfortable I would be taking a nice road bike on those roads regardless of wheel/tire combo. My current bikes consist of the 2008 TCR as a bare frame with questionable chainstay damage, the 2015 Propel with SRAM Rival and Superteams, which has been my main bike, and the 2017 Propel with SRAM Red and Zipp 404s. If the TCR was solid, I'd sell the 2017 frame and shuffle parts, but I don't know if I trust it.
And herein lies the real argument for a new bike which would obviously be the best, and most fun, solution. This opens up a lot of low traffic terrain that can be just some gorgeous riding. While I tend to favor rim brakes, a disc brake bike can solve the tire size issue in one shot. It's much easier to find a disc brake equipped bike with spacing to meet your needs than it is with a rim brake based frame. Most of the time the rim brake is the issue. The rest of the time it's clearance issues to the frame and chain stays.

If you are worried about dinging a bike up, get one of the Titanium based frames from a number of the manufacturers in a straight-line bare metal finish. I have my eye on a Habenero Cycles frame (https://www.habcycles.com) and having him make a custom geometry frame to match my favorite bike. If you get a ding in the finish, you fix it with a Scotch Brite pad and you're done. My favorite bike is an Anderson Custom Bicycles stainless road frame that comes in at 16lbs for an approx 56cm frame and that's how you fix that. It's perfect for that sort of riding. Habanero Cycles frames are really cost effective too. I think a custom frame goes for $1500 or so and a standard off the shelf frame is $995. You could move all your parts over to this and to it pretty cost effectively. You don't have to give up light weight with a Ti or steel frame.
That all said, my gravel bike is a Gunnar Crosshairs which is a painted steel frame. I put some of that frame protector tape on the wheel side of the downtube and in miles and miles and miles of gravel riding, I don't have a single ding in the paint from a rock chip. So I think there are ways around this.

As far as option A, any opinions on the Fulcrum Racing Quattro LG? A 24mm wide, 35mm deep aluminum option that seems like a good set of wheels according to internet reviews.
FWIW, my go-to set of Aluminum wheels are a couple sets I had built by Wheelbuilder (and other pair from Excel Sports) that are HED Belgium C2+ rims, laced onto DT Swiss 240 hubs with Saphim X-ray bladed spokes. That wheel set came in at around 1400g and is beast tough, super round and strong. Mounted tubeless these are not very different than most carbon clincher rims in weight. These are the rims that we rode with lightly loaded touring bikes (~10-15 lbs of gear in panniers plus rack) on our cross bikes through that rock garden strewn trail in Norway I mentioned above. We also just rode the same rims in the mountains in Colorado and on gravel. So I can attest to their strength and they do well climbing too.

JohnJ80 - Don't you worry about getting some aluminum shards in your brake pad and shredding your carbon brake surface?
Nope.

My LBS suggested I do that. I just look at the pads when I change wheels to see if there is anything in there to worry about. I switch all the time between some HED Belgium rims set up tubeless and my Enve carbon tubular wheels. In probably 15,000 miles of doing that I have yet to see an aluminum shard. In point of fact, I've never seen an aluminum shard in any of my pads from any of my rims. Besides that, if you did get something in there you'd feel it the very first inch the brake hit the rim. Just let go fo that brake, stop and clean it out. But, like I've said, it's never been a problem. The owner of my LBS has been doing that for years so he's probably close to 50,000 miles that way without a problem. That said, it's not something I'd recommend to someone that doesn't do any of their own bike work. You have to have some mechanical aptitude. I mean if you're one of those that ride around with a squeaky chain, then don't do it.

J.

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Old 09-25-18, 03:31 PM
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Tires

I'd probably be more than comfortable on 28's on the trail pictured. It looks very smooth. You say you're running conti gp4000's in a 25? What do they measure out at? I bought a set of their 28's, not realizing that they would expand exponentially. They are mounted to a set of HED Aredennes wheels (disc) and have ballooned out to 33 I think the last time I measured them. The Roubaix they are mounted to is supposed to top out at 32, but looks like I've still got plenty of room to spare with them. If you can find a decent set of tires that actually measure out at 28, I'd go for that. I tried a set of the Compass tires in a 28. They ran true to size (on internal rim width of 20), and I'd have no hesitation using them on trails like you have pictured, but I flatted quite a bit on roads with tire debris on the shoulders, so switched to the fore mentioned conti's

I can suggest riding one bike...however I ride several road bikes that maybe are all a "little" different from one another, but with some overlap? Anyway, I did your 4th option this spring. Got a good deal on a last year's alum diverge that I thought would be a nice cheap bike to haul on the road trips, that could take a little fatter tire, maybe do some of my local gravel when the maintenance crew hadn't worked them up too much. I did exactly as you feared....I bought it as perfectly usable sora, and proceeded to upgrade it to 105, new wheelset, and trp hy/rd brakes. It was fun before, but a little funner now. Running it with compass 32's, it can keep up with a group ride if I needed it to, but does the path like you pictured (I took it on the Katy, Rock Island, and a few other crushed limestone paths) very comfortably, and as a bonus, I really don't worry about keeping this bike "nice."
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Old 09-25-18, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by str8jakett
For those of you that suggested 28mm tires, I have put a set of Gatorskins on the Reynolds and took a 20 mile road ride on the Propel. They fit but the clearance at the seat tube is very tight and it makes me uncomfortable to think about something sticking to the tire and trying to wedge through that space. I know Gatorskins are a little oversized for a 28mm tire. Honestly, those 25mm GP4000s performed excellent on the trail and I'd be comfortable with those but would like the extra width of the 28mm.
Have you measured those 25mm GP4000s? That's what I have on my road racing bike -- on ENVE wheels -- and the 25mm GP4000s measure out at 29mm (yes, twenty-nine millimeters) wide. You may already have the 28mm tires you're looking for!
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Old 09-25-18, 04:10 PM
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Get a second hand CX bike.
Cost won't be much different to another set of wheels and it will work on the gravel much better than the Propel ever could.
Also if 28s only just clear on the Propel that is insufficient for gravel. You will get debris picking up and grinding away at your lovely frame.
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Old 09-26-18, 08:33 AM
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I think I'm pretty much to the point now of stripping the 2017 Propel and selling the frameset to finance a gravel bike. Long story on how I ended up with two of the same bike, but I tried to set them up as differently as I could, one climber and one fast bike. I'll just SRAM Red the 2015 and put the TCR back together with the Rival. I'm much more fond of the 2015 and I don't want to destroy that frame but there seems to be too much missed opportunity to not just get another bike and take full advantage of all the available roads around here.

I've always heard the GP4000s measured much wider than they advertised but I have not measured mine.
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Old 09-26-18, 11:10 AM
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I own a Propel also.

FWIW, even with the correct model year brakes OR upgrading them to the Fourriers.......max is 25mm. Especially on a GP4000 due to the bulge when at pressure.

Also, even if a 28mm technically fits when stationary, you have ZERO clearance for even a piece of sand to go between the seat tube where the wheel passes.

I've played this song and dance dude. Buy a Craigslist gravel or cyclocross bike in aluminum and call it a day.

The Propel is fun, but is NOT a multi surface bike. Yes, the pros did go up that Giro climb where Froome dusted everyone that had a little gravel. Lots of flats, and they don't own their own bikes.

You'd also be sorely disappointed in a 28mm tire on anything beyond almost perfect rail trail super-compact pea gravel. Something like a 32 to 35mm gravel/CX specific tire is much more fun and forgiving.
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Old 09-26-18, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by str8jakett
I think I'm pretty much to the point now of stripping the 2017 Propel and selling the frameset to finance a gravel bike. Long story on how I ended up with two of the same bike, but I tried to set them up as differently as I could, one climber and one fast bike. I'll just SRAM Red the 2015 and put the TCR back together with the Rival. I'm much more fond of the 2015 and I don't want to destroy that frame but there seems to be too much missed opportunity to not just get another bike and take full advantage of all the available roads around here.

I've always heard the GP4000s measured much wider than they advertised but I have not measured mine.
LIfe's short and if you can afford it, do it. You can get along with a single bike, but it's not fun if you're an avid rider. It's so much better to have the right bike for the right conditions. I've long since given up on buying stock bikes anyhow - I have enough parts (and especially wheels) to make up pretty much what I want. Getting a frame that fits you perfectly for the application makes a huge difference if you put in any significant miles.

There are a lot of frame makers out there who can help you. Some of the inexpensive ones that make great frames are Gunnar, Rodriguez and Habanero. For a gravel bike, the Habanero is probably where I'm going to go. That brushed Ti frame is hard to beat for gravel. In the Gunnar look at the Crosshairs, Hyper-X and the Sport. The Sport geometry is really interesting to me for a gravel geometry but I'd investigate adding disc brakes on it if the wheel sizes aren't big enough. The Roadie Disc is another alternative with a slightly bit more aggressive geometry but already set up for disc brakes. All of those sort of approach the gravel geometry from different perspectives. Since I'm going to use this for travel too, I'd have them set it up with either rim brakes or cable actuated disc brakes. FWIW, Gunnar has an interesting web based fit tool that allows you to play around with frame parameters too. Worth the look.

Very interested to see how this comes out eventually.

J.

J.
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