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Thoughts On Gravel Bike VS Older MTB W/Drop Bar

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Thoughts On Gravel Bike VS Older MTB W/Drop Bar

Old 06-11-22, 07:30 AM
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Thoughts On Gravel Bike VS Older MTB W/Drop Bar

I look at some of the new gravel bikes and really like the look. The features sound great and like they suit my needs pretty well for a variety of uses including some road touring, gravel touring, trail riding, and so on. With different tires for different uses they look really versatile. I always kind of liked drop bars even for some fairly technical off road riding. I now and then am them am tempted to consider one or the other model.

Here is the rub... I look at my 1990 rigid Cannondal MTB and wonder if the gravel bike really offers that much more. I have a secont set of wheels that I built up to have different tires for different trail conditions or to have quick wheel changes at races. It is currently set up with drop bars and 7 speed brifters. It is pretty light and I like the handling. It probably handles better on the trail and not bad on the road compared to a gravel bike. There are a variety of choices of ways to fit baggage on it and it will easily carry pretty much any load I want to carry. It will take a regular racks, little canti mounted racks, bikepacking style bags, or handlebag and seat bag.

I am really picky about evey ounce when it comes to my gear, but am less fussy about bike weight. So the weight is acceptable.

I rode it for on/off road mixed surface touring and was surprised how little I minded the knobbie tires on the asphalt portions (lots of low small knobs, 26" x 2.1" kenda slant six) and something slicker would be even more suitable on the road and probably still okay for a lot of gravel.

The gravel bike would have a few pluses. I like disc brakes. I'd like tubeless. It would be 11 speed. It would probably be lighter. It would be able to run a variety of wheel sizes .

The old Cannondale is a fun ride. I enjoy talking to all the old timers who want to chat me up about it. And, it is nice to keep my wallet closed. On the other hand shiny new toys are nice. I think maybe I'll have to put some miles on the old Cannondale around home to see how I feel about it.

Note I don't think of this as trying to turn an old mountain bike into a "touring bike". I don't like traditional touring bikes much. I don't even have one anymore.
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Old 06-11-22, 08:08 AM
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You've answered your own question, stick with the Cannondale. It sounds like you enjoy riding it and it does what a dedicated gravel bike will do. Why change ?

I came very close to converting a 1990 Fuji steel mt. bike to a gravel. I needed a rigid fork (not cheap) plus knew I was going to have to finagle all the parts to work with STI type shifters and to make those work with V brakes. Road shifters are not matched to mt. bike derailers and brakes, so work was needed. Ultimately I decided too much work, get a gravel, which I did. You're C-Dale is ready to go.
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Old 06-11-22, 08:21 AM
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Old 06-11-22, 08:30 AM
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I suspect you'd really like trying out some gravel bikes. You are experienced enough to be aware of gearing realities that will work for you, and to appreciate the differences in how different models ride.
I'd be inclined to look at double crank models, the 1x stuff is great for mountain biking etc but for a bike with potential for a lot of road use too, a smaller double send ideal to me (46\30 sorry of thing) but you'll have to see what's offered with this.

As you say, discs, tubeless, wide dropbars with flare out, you'll love it.

Test riding time I think it's in order, and a bunch of researching to get an idea of what's out there, and at what cost.

My now 11 year old cross bike was essentially this when I got it, pretty versatile bike for being able to take wide tires but competent and fastish with slicks. I'm sure there are lots of gravel bikes in the low to mid 20 lb range, and with modern brakes and shifters, will be a hoot to ride, whether with light nice feeling slicks or 45 gravel tires.
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Old 06-11-22, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
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I have been going the other direction in the last 7 years or so. I lost track of what went where when, but I think I am down by 6 and have considered getting rid of the folder since I have not had it out of the case in years. The other four I actually ride.
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Old 06-11-22, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I suspect you'd really like trying out some gravel bikes. You are experienced enough to be aware of gearing realities that will work for you, and to appreciate the differences in how different models ride.
I'd be inclined to look at double crank models, the 1x stuff is great for mountain biking etc but for a bike with potential for a lot of road use too, a smaller double send ideal to me (46\30 sorry of thing) but you'll have to see what's offered with this.

As you say, discs, tubeless, wide dropbars with flare out, you'll love it.

Test riding time I think it's in order, and a bunch of researching to get an idea of what's out there, and at what cost.

My now 11 year old cross bike was essentially this when I got it, pretty versatile bike for being able to take wide tires but competent and fastish with slicks. I'm sure there are lots of gravel bikes in the low to mid 20 lb range, and with modern brakes and shifters, will be a hoot to ride, whether with light nice feeling slicks or 45 gravel tires.
If I were to have only one bike they would serve all of my purposes pretty well these days.
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Old 06-11-22, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I have been going the other direction in the last 7 years or so. I lost track of what went where when, but I think I am down by 6 and have considered getting rid of the folder since I have not had it out of the case in years. The other four I actually ride.
When I read your post, it sounded like you were looking for a way to justify buying a bike that will serve purposes already met by an old one that you already own.

When I bought my Lynskey frame, I was not thinking of buying another bike, but it appeared on Ebay, my size, and was a model that I thought I would like. And, I had always wanted a titanium bike, auction ended in three days so I had time to research it.

And when I bought my road bike (Ritchey Break Away frame), I saw a new one that was my size for less than half of manufacturer price and I had been thinking that it would be nice to have another coupled bike that was lighter duty. At that price you wonder if it is legit, but it was from Amazon so I trusted that it was not a stolen bike. I bought it within 10 minutes of becoming aware of it. Bought it when airlines were still charging exorbitant oversize fees, so at that time there was more of a reason to buy it. But I rode 30 miles on it two days ago, so although a coupled bike no longer is justified as a cost saving measure, I am happy to have it and use it.

My point is that if your spouse approves and you really want that shiny new bike, and you have a place to store it, why not?
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Old 06-11-22, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
When I read your post, it sounded like you were looking for a way to justify buying a bike that will serve purposes already met by an old one that you already own.
In a sense that is the case. But it is more complicated. I probably should test ride a few bikes.

​​​​​​​My point is that if your spouse approves and you really want that shiny new bike, and you have a place to store it, why not?
My wife is supportive of my hobbies and sports, so that helps. I financially comfortable enough that buying a bike, even a nice one wouldn't be painful. I do tend towards being pretty frugal most of the time though.

The other thing is that I ought to ride enough to justify spending that kind of money on another bike. It has been a while since I have done a tour and I wasn't even riding much for a while there. I have gotten back to riding regularly, but still haven't toured in a while.
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Old 06-13-22, 07:01 AM
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I may buy a gravel bike, but in the mean time plan to ride the Cannondale more than I have been to gauge how much I enjoy the bike. There is a lot of nostalgia there, but also it is still a nice bike in many ways.

To me two of the bigger advantages of a gravel bike in the choice I proposed are tubeless and disc brakes. No reasonable way that the Cannondale can run discs, but I have considered going tubeless on one of the wheelsets. I happen to have a set or Stans Ravens in 26 x2.something. They are tubeless rated and I'd be willing to try them tubeless on the non tubeless rims. The thing is that back in the day we believed in narrow rims, so I built the wheels with Araya RM 17 rims. Any thoughts on running fat-ish tubeless tires on a skinny non tubeless rim without tubes? I know that these days wider rims are in fashion, but the RM17s have worked fine for the last 32 years with tubes. Will going tubeless somehow make them a terrible choice? Burping, poor seating, something else?
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Old 06-13-22, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I may buy a gravel bike, but in the mean time plan to ride the Cannondale more than I have been to gauge how much I enjoy the bike. There is a lot of nostalgia there, but also it is still a nice bike in many ways.

To me two of the bigger advantages of a gravel bike in the choice I proposed are tubeless and disc brakes. No reasonable way that the Cannondale can run discs, but I have considered going tubeless on one of the wheelsets. I happen to have a set or Stans Ravens in 26 x2.something. They are tubeless rated and I'd be willing to try them tubeless on the non tubeless rims. The thing is that back in the day we believed in narrow rims, so I built the wheels with Araya RM 17 rims. Any thoughts on running fat-ish tubeless tires on a skinny non tubeless rim without tubes? I know that these days wider rims are in fashion, but the RM17s have worked fine for the last 32 years with tubes. Will going tubeless somehow make them a terrible choice? Burping, poor seating, something else?
A friend of mine used an older Cannondale mountain bike for his first two tours, he then started to invest in other bike frames. He liked that Cannondale a lot but eventually sold it when he was not using it much.

I use an older Bridgestone mountain bike as an errand bike, grocery store trips, etc. It probably handles a lot like your Cannondale. I am keeping that bike. It is pretty rusty, but it works just fine.
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Old 06-13-22, 03:50 PM
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One thing with aluminium bikes from that era is that they can be pretty stiff. Great with a load, but my 90s MTB is harsh so I'm very aware of tire pressures to help with this.
maybe not a big deal for you.
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Old 06-14-22, 04:47 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
One thing with aluminium bikes from that era is that they can be pretty stiff. Great with a load, but my 90s MTB is harsh so I'm very aware of tire pressures to help with this.
maybe not a big deal for you.
True on all counts.

Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
A friend of mine used an older Cannondale mountain bike for his first two tours, he then started to invest in other bike frames. He liked that Cannondale a lot but eventually sold it when he was not using it much.

I use an older Bridgestone mountain bike as an errand bike, grocery store trips, etc. It probably handles a lot like your Cannondale. I am keeping that bike. It is pretty rusty, but it works just fine.
I like the bike a lot for what it is, but... I suspect that as much as that I like it for what it has been to me. It was one of the two bikes that were my primary bikes during some of the best riding days of my life. It brings back many memories of rides, races, MTB festivals, friends, and trips to off road meccas. It is a link to a time when I was the fittest I have been in my life. It is a link to people, times, and places.

The two 1990 Cannondales, this MTB and the Crit bike are the only bikes I will always keep as long as I have my wits about me even it it gets to the point that they are just wall art. It is pretty cool that they are both still a great ride.
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Old 06-14-22, 05:52 AM
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Good way of putting it stae.
while these things are metal objects that can be replaced, they do have lots of memories attached....
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Old 06-14-22, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
...
The two 1990 Cannondales, this MTB and the Crit bike are the only bikes I will always keep as long as I have my wits about me even it it gets to the point that they are just wall art. It is pretty cool that they are both still a great ride.
I have given some bikes and an expensive frame to charity. My defective LHT frame went to recycling.

But, I can't imagine parting with some of my bikes, plan to keep them for life. That said, 20 years from now, I might feel different.

I mentioned my Bridgestone. It was stored outside for over a decade. I then bought it for $5 USD. I had to put about $50 into it to make it rideable. I did a thorough job of applying frame saver to the frame before re-assembly. It does not offer any memories, but it is nice to have a bike that I do not have to worry about locking up somewhere. And if it was stolen, while I would be upset, it is not that great of a loss.

I am planning logistics for my backpacking trip this summer, I plan to drive my vehicle to an end point, then ride my Bridgestone 30 miles to the starting point and lock it up at a campground, come back six or seven days later to retrieve it. I would not trust my other bikes for a week in a bike rack. Photo is 10 years old right after I fixed it up after buying it, I stored it outside for nine more years after this photo, so it is even rustier now then it was then.

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Old 06-14-22, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I have given some bikes and an expensive frame to charity. My defective LHT frame went to recycling.

But, I can't imagine parting with some of my bikes, plan to keep them for life. That said, 20 years from now, I might feel different.

I mentioned my Bridgestone. It was stored outside for over a decade. I then bought it for $5 USD. I had to put about $50 into it to make it rideable. I did a thorough job of applying frame saver to the frame before re-assembly. It does not offer any memories, but it is nice to have a bike that I do not have to worry about locking up somewhere. And if it was stolen, while I would be upset, it is not that great of a loss.

I am planning logistics for my backpacking trip this summer, I plan to drive my vehicle to an end point, then ride my Bridgestone 30 miles to the starting point and lock it up at a campground, come back six or seven days later to retrieve it. I would not trust my other bikes for a week in a bike rack. Photo is 10 years old right after I fixed it up after buying it, I stored it outside for nine more years after this photo, so it is even rustier now then it was then.
It is handy to have a bike that can be used for shuttles on backpacking and canoe trips. I have used mine for that, but it is a poor choice because I'd be heart broken if it were stolen. I really would be happier if one of my newest bikes were gone than that one. Once absentmindedly I left it on the roof of my car instead of locking it inside for a week in the Yosemite Valley. I worried about it the whole hike. I was sure it would be gone when I got back, but it was still there despite not being locked or anything.

Here is mine (not the current drop bar setup though):
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Old 06-15-22, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
The two 1990 Cannondales, this MTB and the Crit bike are the only bikes I will always keep as long as I have my wits about me even it it gets to the point that they are just wall art. It is pretty cool that they are both still a great ride.
By the way I am thinking ahead to 2026 and considering riding one or the other of these two bikes on the TA on the anniversery of Bikecentennial and the anniversery of signing of the declaration of independence. I'll be 75, the bikes will be 36, and the country will be 250 if we all make it. I guess there is no guarantee for any of us but I am hopeful.
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Old 06-15-22, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
By the way I am thinking ahead to 2026 and considering riding one or the other of these two bikes on the TA on the anniversery of Bikecentennial and the anniversery of signing of the declaration of independence. I'll be 75, the bikes will be 36, and the country will be 250 if we all make it. I guess there is no guarantee for any of us but I am hopeful.
That's a neat goal. You may find you'll want every smidgen of advantage for yourself, comfort, efficiency, so I guess the idea of using one of the older bikes is very romantic, but see and assess then.

I especially liked that last line.
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Old 06-15-22, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
That's a neat goal. You may find you'll want every smidgen of advantage for yourself, comfort, efficiency, so I guess the idea of using one of the older bikes is very romantic, but see and assess then.
Yep, I will. I rode the crit bike on the ST and didn't find it to be a handicap in knocking out miles. It rolled out the miles well. Fatter tires would have given a more plush ride though. Tubeless would have avoided a lot of patching thorn flats. Still all in all I enjoyed the bike. Of course i will be 14 years older in 2026 than I was on the ST on the crit bike.

I am planning to do something I have never done for any tour, actually train specifically to be fit for the tour. We'll see if that actually happens, but that is the plan. Don't get me wrong, I won't be training with a loaded bike. I just don't do that. I may also start out with a better idea of how hard I will push the daily mileage than I usually do.

I hope to do a little shake down tour across Florida on one or the other of the two bikes in the fall/winter when it gets cool again, unless I decide to hike instead. It will be kind of a delayed wrap up of my ST ride since I stopped in Pensacola in 2012.
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Old 06-15-22, 07:07 AM
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Given the era of the Crit bike, I would hazard a guess that 28mm would be the max you could put in, maybe only 25mm?

It will be interesting for you to try modern bikes with faster tires that roll really well, and compare directly with the old bike. Nostalgia may take a back seat when you directly ride one after another.

I know it's small details, but when I put 32 supremes on my cross bike that what's had 28 gatorskins, the ride quality difference was noticeable-- and there are all kinds of great tubeless tires out there that I'm sure you would find amazing to ride.
Just don't forget, initial impressions may feel slower due to not having the "fast buzz" but real speed numbers in the real life real person (ie not pros) range will be pretty much the same with a fair comfort increase, which means more endurance because less physically tired and best up.

And as you say, add in the additional dog years!
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Old 06-15-22, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
but I have considered going tubeless on one of the wheelsets.
I would not be getting new wheels just to go tubeless and QR. I would only do new wheels in tubeless if they had disc rotors. QR is a dead end.

Kind of argues for a new bike, but I think of the 2 things you would like, tubeless and discs, the tubeless is the more useful choice. They allow you to run lower air pressure without pinch flatting and that makes for a very comfortable ride. Disc vs. V brakes is less of a benefit as V brakes still work very well, except in the rain. Thus less of an advantage there.
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Old 06-15-22, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
By the way I am thinking ahead to 2026 and considering riding one or the other of these two bikes on the TA on the anniversery of Bikecentennial and the anniversery of signing of the declaration of independence. I'll be 75, the bikes will be 36, and the country will be 250 if we all make it. I guess there is no guarantee for any of us but I am hopeful.
No, I will not loan you my Cannondale Overland panniers for that ride. Your Svea will fit right in. Now if you had a bike that took 27 X 1 1/4 tires, ...
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Old 06-15-22, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
I would not be getting new wheels just to go tubeless and QR. I would only do new wheels in tubeless if they had disc rotors. QR is a dead end.

Kind of argues for a new bike, but I think of the 2 things you would like, tubeless and discs, the tubeless is the more useful choice. They allow you to run lower air pressure without pinch flatting and that makes for a very comfortable ride. Disc vs. V brakes is less of a benefit as V brakes still work very well, except in the rain. Thus less of an advantage there.
Not thinking new wheels. I have two wheel sets and planned to try setting up an existing one as tubeless. I also have some tubeless rated tires. I plan to try running tubeless on the non tubeless rated rims. The cost to try is next to nothing since I have the stuff. If it doesn't work out I'll put tubes in,

As far as QR being a dead end... They may not be the future, but I have them on another disc equipped bike and have not had one seconds problem. They work just fine.

Yes rim brakes work okay. I am not a huge fan of the fact that they wear out rims eventually. I'd rather replace a rotor now and then than rebuild wheels when the rims wear out. I have needed to do that on a number of wheels and I'd just as soon not need to again. Rotors are a normal wear item, rims shouldn't need to be. This is especially true for bikes that see use off pavement.
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Old 06-15-22, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
No, I will not loan you my Cannondale Overland panniers for that ride. Your Svea will fit right in. Now if you had a bike that took 27 X 1 1/4 tires, ...
I may take the SVEA, but don't think I'll go too far toward the classic theme. I'll see what my mindset is by then. Who knows? I might even take a tent (a Timberline would be the classic choice, but probably too heavy to make the cut). More likely I'll take a big roomy tarp and bug bivy. Also I'll likely get rooms more frequently when I feel like it, so bad weather is less of an issue.

I recently donated a really nice Nishiki Cresta that was equipped with 27 x 1-1/4 tires.ti the local coop along with a couple other nice bikes that were not being ridden. The Cresta would have fit the classic theme okay. Not really my flavor of nostalgia though.
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Old 06-21-22, 07:35 AM
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Okay so I rode the old MTB with drop bars on my mixed road trail ride today because I realized my newer mountain bike was in bad need of a chain and I didn't want to ruin the rings and cogs. Il learned a few things.
  1. I hate those campus style pedals witha a cage on one side and SPD on the other even more than I though I did for any serious riding. Getting clipped it with them is harder and I really hate not being clipped in especially if the trail gets at all technical. They are fine for beater use to run short errands where I might not wear bike shoes half or more of the time. Any time I am actually going out for the purpose of going for a ride I will have bike shoes on though. I use the bike without bike shoes so seldom that maybe those clip on platforms might make more sense than campus pedals in my case.
  2. Plastic really fails fast in the Florida sun. The cable housings outer parts deteriorated and that allowed the metal part under them to kind of collapse making shifting start out working fine at the beginning of the ride and going to hell both front and back by the end. It is weird that it failed so suddenly because it hasn't been all that long since I have ridden it. At home when the adjustments seemed impossible I finally realized the cable housings were shot. The cores are okay. I checked the usual fail points. It was suppedly high quality housing that was bought in a bulk quantity. I probably have plenty of it left from maybe 15 years ago. It was stored in a semi climate controlled garage shop (There is AC, but I don't keep it really cool). I am debating whether to use it or buy new when I do the nedded recabling job.
  3. I am finding that I still like the drop bars on moderate trails, but am less confident on more technical single track than I used to be and actually hop off here and there in places where I'd normally ride. Not sure if that is just a matter of getting acclimated to riding technical trails with them again or another geezer thing. I think I recall that it took a bit to acclimate when I was younger too, so maybe I'll press on with it cautiously.
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Old 06-21-22, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Okay so I rode the old MTB with drop bars on my mixed road trail ride today because I realized my newer mountain bike was in bad need of a chain and I didn't want to ruin the rings and cogs. Il learned a few things.
  1. I hate those campus style pedals witha a cage on one side and SPD on the other even more than I though I did for any serious riding. Getting clipped it with them is harder and I really hate not being clipped in especially if the trail gets at all technical. They are fine for beater use to run short errands where I might not wear bike shoes half or more of the time. Any time I am actually going out for the purpose of going for a ride I will have bike shoes on though. I use the bike without bike shoes so seldom that maybe those clip on platforms might make more sense than campus pedals in my case.
This is the first that I have heard of "campus style pedals". Was not sure what that is when you say cage on one side. You are an old toe clip user, so I doubt you are referring to toe clips.

If you do not bring separate hiking shoes for campsite use and most of your touring is on good pavement or good gravel, I can see only having clipless as an option.

I use either Shimano A530 or M324 pedals for touring, one side SPD cleat and one side platform. I want SPD for riding during the day with my bike shoes on. I bring some hiking shoes that I wear in the campsite. I prefer a platform side for a ride to the campground showers, or camp store, the local pub, etc. The first tour I did, I had SPD on both sides of the pedals, on that tour I decided that in the future I wanted platform on one side.

I have also been on some really rocky steep uphills, the type of hills where if my rear tire loses traction and I come to a halt in a small fraction of a second, I do not want to be clipped in. On those days I wear my hiking shoes instead of SPD cleated shoes to make sure I do not accidently get cleated in.

Even though the road is smooth and well graded in the photo below, with a 12 percent grade I have so much torque on the rear tire that I can lose traction and come to a rapid halt, need to get a foot or two on the ground really fast. And I can't uncleat fast enough every time.



On the switch backed road below, I have no idea how many times I lost traction and came to a halt coming up that hill. And it was too steep to start pedaling where I was when i did come to an unplanned halt, had to push the bike to the next turn-around where it was flat enough to start out again. If I wore cleated shoes on this hill, I would have fallen over at least a half dozen times.



That said, if you only ride pavement, I can see where always using clipless pedals works for you.
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