Help me choose my first gravel / rain bike

Especially for light weight issues concerning cyclocross / touring bikes & parts.

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nemeseri
Posts: 787
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 5:40 pm

by nemeseri

Hi all,

I'm super new to the gravel world, but I'm thinking about building up a bike for our wet winter and I thought why not put together something with huge tire clearance to try new things. I'd appreciate any tips regarding sizing, reach / stack compared to road bikes or any general tips picking a fast bike that's capable to handle gravel roads.

A few things to consider:
x) If I'm between sizes, should I size down or up in gravel / cx bikes? In road bikes, I always size down and add a longer stem.
x) I have absolutely no gravel/dirt experience except a few short rides on my road bike.
x) I have very short legs and prefer to ride a size smaller road bikes with low stack and long stems. (I'm 5'6" / 29" inseam and I ride a cannondale supersix in 48 with a slammed 110mm stem).
x) I was thinking that CX bikes with fender mounts might be the perfect solution for me with the racey gemoetry.
x) I feel terrible on bikes with high stack values and I'd use the bike for road too in heavy rain.
x) I'm looking for bikes with a 369-378mm reach and stack that's lower than 530mm.

================

So far the following bikes seems to be on my short-list:
x) Trek Checkpoint SL5 - surprisingly racey geometry for a gravel bike with great features. Any experience with this model?
x) Cannondale CAADX - I feel like I'm between sizes. The 46 seems to be very short (4 mm shorter reach than my current bike). The 51 has a HUGE standover height that might be an issue for my short legs... :shock:
x) SuperX - same as above, but I'm not sure I need carbon

Any other suggestions? Any tips? Thanks. :)

by Weenie


spdntrxi
Posts: 3114
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2013 6:11 pm

by spdntrxi

x) if you downsize.. a longer stem is not necessary the correct way to go. You will find a shorter stem will handle a hell of lot better especially if you are doing some dirt downhills.
x) take it easy when starting. try some fire roads and stay off mtb singletrack until you are more comfortable
x) me too.. I'm actually 2 inches taller but same inseam. Like a said long stem is not ideal on gravel bike in my opinion. In roadbike mode I use 120mm but in gravel mode I actually switch to 100mm redshift suspenstion stem.
x) lots of CX bikes dont have fender mounts.. I know this is just beginning to change so it depends on the mfg.
x) gravel does not mean high stack automatically...my allroad bike has 11.6cm headtube which is not that big. Stack is 53.8/Reach 38.8

I cant comment on your short-list... I chose a Parlee XD in medium geo. It was missing fender mounts for the rear stays but those little rubber C-clips are cheap and work well enough. I use PDW fenders which are awesome. The first time I did some knarly (for me) singletrack with my 120mm stem and it was kinda hairy scary.. Did the same route the next week with a 100mm stem and felt alot safer in the rough stuff.

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ALAN Carbon+
Posts: 279
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2005 9:21 am
Location: Canberra, Australia

by ALAN Carbon+

I'm a similar height/inseam length and ride a Giant TCX in a small.

I looked at the CAAD X but ruled it out due to the lack of rear thru axle.

The Cannondale Topstone and Norco Search might also be worth a look depending on your preferences for frame material and groupset.

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Bigger Gear
Posts: 476
Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:58 pm
Location: Wet coast, Canada

by Bigger Gear

I also live in a very wet environment in the winter, and full fenders is an absolute requirement. For the past 6 years I've had a steel Hampsten with long-reach rim brakes and full fenders where I could run a tire that was max 27mm wide/tall with fenders. Last year I decided I was done with killing rims, so I started shoping for a disc brake bike that I could use in the summer for mixed-surface rides, and fender up for winter. Honestly so many of the choices have limitations, either no fender mounts or else less than awesome clearance for a decent-sized tire with fenders mounted.

In the end, I went with the custom steel route again, this time a B-Road from Breadwinner Cycles in Portland. It can take a 700x40C tire unfendered, or a 700x32C with full fenders. The fork is a TRP CX that has nifty removable fender eyelets. I'm using PDW Full Metal Fenders in the wider size, they mount up so easily (I just put them on for the winter last weekend). The bike is not a lightweight, in fact I've never weighed it fully built but I don't care. I rode it way more than I thought in the spring/summer, often taking it on rides where I might have ridden a regular road bike. Chipseal roads and 700x32C Compass tires on this bike are amazing for road riding, and I ride a lot of chipseal just across the border in the far NW of Washington State. I also got some 38C Compass tires that measure out to nearly 40mm on HED Belgium+ rims and these are awesome for packed gravel and everything else. I've been way more impressed with this bike than any other bike I've acquired in a long time, it is so versatile and just a lot of fun to ride.

Having said all this, the Norco Search is a pretty nice looking option and I see quite a few of them around, given that Norco is located in the same greater Vancouver area. If custom is too spendy, I'd certainly look at the Norco.

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Calnago
Posts: 8526
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:14 pm

by Calnago

@Bigger Gear: I think some photos of that bike you have would be appropriate at this time.
Colnago C64 - The Naked Build; Colnago C60 - PR99; Trek Koppenberg - Where Emonda and Domane Meet;
Unlinked Builds (searchable): Colnago C59 - 5 Years Later; Trek Emonda SL Campagnolo SR; Special Colnago EPQ

Bigger Gear
Posts: 476
Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:58 pm
Location: Wet coast, Canada

by Bigger Gear

Calnago wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:52 pm
@Bigger Gear: I think some photos of that bike you have would be appropriate at this time.
I know, I'm at work right now but I'll get a couple pics up later tonight.

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Calnago
Posts: 8526
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:14 pm

by Calnago

Yay! It sounds awesome.
Colnago C64 - The Naked Build; Colnago C60 - PR99; Trek Koppenberg - Where Emonda and Domane Meet;
Unlinked Builds (searchable): Colnago C59 - 5 Years Later; Trek Emonda SL Campagnolo SR; Special Colnago EPQ

AJS914
Posts: 3470
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

I picked up an S-Works Crux and then repurposed it as a gravel bike. With Clement MSO Xplor 40mm tires, it is a fun all-around bike. I rode it all last winter in Spokane. One benefit I noticed is that on the Crux, the tubes are so fat that they act like fenders.

Stack/reach is almost the same as on my Colnago road bike. I actually prefer the position to my mountain bike where I sit a lot more upright.

Image

nemeseri
Posts: 787
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 5:40 pm

by nemeseri

Thanks for the recommendations and tips. Keep them comming, very useful!

@ALAN Carbon+ / @Bigger Gear - The Norco Search seems to be a great option! To be honest I've never heard about them... but I will check them out for sure.

@AJS914: The Crux would be amazing if it had fender mounts. I'm not buying a bike without proper mounts for rainy weather.

NickJHP
Posts: 268
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:22 am
Location: Canberra, Australia

by NickJHP

I put together a gravel/rain bike using a Kinesis Tripster ATR frame/fork. Here it is fully equipped with mudguards and lightweight rear rack to support the saddlebag. The wheels are DT Swiss MTB 27.5 XM1501 wheels with Compass Switchback Hill 650Bx48 tyres setup as tubeless. You can also run 700c wheels in the frame, though then you're limited to ~40mm tyres if you want to fit mudguards.

Image

Bigger Gear
Posts: 476
Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:58 pm
Location: Wet coast, Canada

by Bigger Gear

Calnago wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:11 pm
Yay! It sounds awesome.
OK, I could not upload any attachments in this forum so I uploaded a couple of pics in the Introduce Yourself forum.

trainergav
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:36 pm
Location: Vancouver, BC

by trainergav

Hey bud,

We are about the same size, although I am marginally taller and that my inseam is a little bit longer. I recently got a Trek Checkpoint ALR in a size 51 to ride gravel/commute on. The geometry between the two Checkpoints should be the same. The shop changed out the top cone spacer and I currently have a stack of 534mm with about 10mm of downward adjustment if I want to decrease the stack some more. The reach will be a bit longer but that may be better for you based upon what the other posters are saying.

I currently run the bike with Portland Design Fenders and 35mm Schwalbe G-One's and it's quick enough on the road and a blast on the gravel here in North Vancouver.

PS. The Trek Stranglehold dropouts do not play nice with my clutch Rx derailleur when it comes to rear wheel changes.

nemeseri
Posts: 787
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2015 5:40 pm

by nemeseri

trainergav wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:52 pm
PS. The Trek Stranglehold dropouts do not play nice with my clutch Rx derailleur when it comes to rear wheel changes.
Thanks for the personal review, this really helps! What do you mean on the Rx / strangehold dropout comment? Is there an issue even if you fix a flat?

jemima
Posts: 138
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2011 12:36 am
Location: Perth

by jemima

Steel, so not really fast I suppose, but the Rodeo Labs Flaanimal 4.0 might? work if you were looking at a frameset only.

Geo's not quite there though, at 506/384 or 519/384. Those two sizes are on discount at $975 frame/fork.
You'd have to ask them about standover.

A carbon option with fender mounts is the Salsa Warbird at 527/368. Frameset or builds. Pricey though.
Curve Grovel ti.

jencvo
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2018 12:01 pm

by jencvo

Hi there. I am also looking into getting a cheap gravel bike myself. I would mostly use it on occassional local gravel rides, but since I live in Virginia, there are tons of gravel fondos around here or mix surface gran fondos. I've been eyeing some used bikes on eBay and lots of them seem to come with Shimano Sora 9 speed groupsets. My question is, will 9 speed be ok for off road riding or will the jumps between gears be too big? I don't have any off road experience so I want to make sure I get the right thing. I'm working on a bit of a budget for this so that's why I'm looking at lower price points. Thanks!

by Weenie


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