Probably the first gravel bike ever made.

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I wonder what "balloon tires" mean.

I think these guys covered a lot of "gravel" in 1897, but they weren't racing, so maybe it doesn't fit today's idea of gravel bike.

View attachment 111356
The Tour De France in the early 1900s was up an gravel race. The bicycles were not really meant for gravel though. They were more meant for all purpose use. This bicycle was the 1st bicycle to be designed to act like a road bike but more plush. The early 1900s bicycles were very jittery over gravel. This is because they weren't really designed for gravel but instead road. They were strong enough to go on gravel any ways. Plus they didn't really have any other alternatives.
 
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The Tour De France in the early 1900s was up an gravel race. The bicycles were not really meant for gravel though. They were more meant for all purpose use. This bicycle was the 1st bicycle to be designed to act like a road bike but more plush. The early 1900s bicycles were very jittery over gravel. This is because they weren't really designed for gravel but instead road. They were strong enough to go on gravel any ways. Plus they didn't really have any other alternatives.
I think you're right bicycles back in the late 1800's/early 1900's were just bicycles and didn't have today's specialization.

However, those early bikes despite the flaws were expected to be and were used on all kinds of roads including what we would consider "gravel" if for no other reason then that was the state of roads at the time.

I sometimes wonder if today's specialization in bicycles, e.g. gravel bikes, downhill bikes, trail bikes, etc, is a result of marketing, customers' demand or available technology. I just hope it isn't about people wanting to be like the "pros" instead of just enjoying their bikes and the ride.

Btw, I maybe part of the "problem" (or I have a problem?) because I own a gravel/adventure bike and a fat bike among others.
 
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I think you're right bicycles back in the late 1800's/early 1900's were just bicycles and didn't have today's specialization.

However, those early bikes despite the flaws were expected to be and were used on all kinds of roads including what we would consider "gravel" if for no other reason then that was the state of roads at the time.

I sometimes wonder if today's specialization in bicycles, e.g. gravel bikes, downhill bikes, trail bikes, etc, is a result of marketing, customers' demand or available technology. I just hope it isn't about people wanting to be like the "pros" instead of just enjoying their bikes and the ride.

Btw, I maybe part of the "problem" (or I have a problem?) because I own a gravel/adventure bike and a fat bike among others.
We all have parts on our bikes that we don't need. I am included.
 
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The specialization and "niche fragmentation" of bikes has definitely resulted in more sales. It used to be that one mountain bike could be ridden everywhere. They used to be referred to as all terrain bikes (ATB). I suspect that it was all done by marketing. If you frequent MTB forums, people are definitely buying into it, that's for sure... Some of them have a fleet of multi thousand dollar rigs. And can't imagine how a 26 inch wheel could even possibly roll. The marketing is strong...
 
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The specialization and "niche fragmentation" of bikes has definitely resulted in more sales. It used to be that one mountain bike could be ridden everywhere. They used to be referred to as all terrain bikes (ATB). I suspect that it was all done by marketing. If you frequent MTB forums, people are definitely buying into it, that's for sure... Some of them have a fleet of multi thousand dollar rigs. And can't imagine how a 26 inch wheel could even possibly roll. The marketing is strong...
Here is the best all around bike.
Road
MTB
Gravel
Track
Cruiser
RWEhLgz.jpg
 
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It is a Peugeot with a Murray crank.
I thought it looked awful nice/light for a Murray frame! The forks had me scratching my head. Definitely not Murray.

Was there a reason you went with the Murray crank? Get rid of a biopace?

I have an old Peugeot with down tube shifters and a biopace. Love it.

The wheels are nice on that rig.
 
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I thought it looked awful nice/light for a Murray frame! The forks had me scratching my head. Definitely not Murray.

Was there a reason you went with the Murray crank? Get rid of a biopace?

I have an old Peugeot with down tube shifters and a biopace. Love it.

The wheels are nice on that rig.
It is not mine. But, it is absolutely one where it came with cottered cranks. My best guess is that the owner did not want to have a French crank and bottom bracket spindle, so they replaced the crank and the spindle. I do not know. Peugeots like that one came with Nervar cottered cranks.
https://offerup.com/item/detail/313985657/
 
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As soon as there were bikes, gravel races and off road steeple chase races started. The most natural thing to do with a bicycle is to ride it off the street, through the bush and on gravel trails. Steeple chase started as a way for races to stay in shape in the off season and it eventually evolved into CX. Here is a 1930s road race

Vicini_klimt_1937.jpg

Steeple chase/CX with wood wheels and fixed gear. Front brake only.
ae614ea06124ac4f3e3fadac7d7a1843.jpg

Kids on farms always rode on gravel, Check out the 28 inch wheels and 40 mm tires.
tumblr_mrjck2f70e1qcwe9uo1_540.jpg

Before BMX English kids invented bomb crater racing in the 1940s. They grew up and it became more organized in the 50s. It's called cycle track racing now.
cyclespeedway1.jpg

English 1950s bomb crater racer by Phillips.
SpeedtrackLarge2.jpg

Here is my version of an English Bomb Crater racer. I ride it on gravel roads.
91804_a3ee4ee78e14dada38cb95282f7468f2.JPG
 
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Ok, I'm convinced; I need to build my own version of a coaster brake, single speed "gravel" bike.
Your going back to the 60s, before mountain bikes when we rode "English Racers" converted to single speed coaster brakes on gravel, two track and some hiking trails. They work well for this but the frames are small. The rear wheel always twisted and rubbed on the frame so you needed to bring a wrench with you.
 
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Your going back to the 60s, before mountain bikes when we rode "English Racers" converted to single speed coaster brakes on gravel, two track and some hiking trails. They work well for this but the frames are small. The rear wheel always twisted and rubbed on the frame so you needed to bring a wrench with you.
I'm actually doing that to a AMF Henley. I have all the parts. I just have to put it together.

However, I was thinking of a same era 27 inch converted to a 700c with coaster and ss running maybe 42-45 mm tires.
 
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I'm actually doing that to a AMF Henley. I have all the parts. I just have to put it together.

However, I was thinking of a same era 27 inch converted to a 700c with coaster and ss running maybe 42-45 mm tires.
I'm sure that a 27 inch wheeled bike will have a steel frame and not aluminum. This way you can spread not only the drops but the stays to accommodate the big tires you want to use. Some of these old road bikes can take 40 mm wide tires. Most of the gravel conversions I have seen using 80s-90s road bikes will only take 28 mm tires. I ride gravel with two people that have converted old 80s or 90s aluminum road bikes for gravel and 28 is all that will fit. This works just fine, except when it gets sandy. I converted my 1970s Peugeot with 27 inch wheels to take 700c wheels and I was able to use the same brakes as there was enough reach in the center pull brakes to accommodate the smaller 700c rims. This is a road bike with narrow high pressure tires. For my single speed gravel bike I had to upgrade to a sealed bearing square taper bottom bracket and a sealed headset. The BB kept giving me problems until I put a new quality one in. Headsets tend to come loose with all the bouncing so a quality one is a must. I also broke two cruiser 1/8 inch chains before I used a quality double step riveted 7 speed chain. Too much force for these cruiser chains with a single speed while standing and really cranking on a steep climb. I also got a lot of pinch flats on single track with 700c 40 mm wide tires unless I kept the pressure around 35 pounds, even with Stan's sealant in the tubes. No pinch flat problems on gravel though. It would be nice to be able to use tubeless tires to save a few pounds, but I'm not going to spend the bucks for those rims on a conversion. I like 32 x 16 gearing for a single speed gravel bike. At first you will think it is too low for most gravel road grades but after 30 miles I'm glad I have it. I'm old and wimpy and most people use taller gearing for gravel. You spin out on downhills right away with this gearing but the technique is to use the drop bars and coast and save energy. If you get low enough in the drops you can gain or even catch people ahead of you who are peddling upright down the hill. With a coaster brake and no track style drops you will have a problem keeping your rear tire straight in the frame. It would be nice if you could fab up track drops and use chain tugs, like I did when I built this bike last summer.
IMG_1461.JPG
IMG_1465.JPG
IMG_1494.JPG

Coaster brake on converted drops with chain tugs to keep the wheel from twisting in the frame from braking torque. 38 mm tires, and they just fit this 1938 bike frame. A 40 won't fit this frame and 38 mm knobbies won't fit either, but you don't need knobbies for almost all gravel.
IMG_1553.JPG
 
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The specialization and "niche fragmentation" of bikes has definitely resulted in more sales. It used to be that one mountain bike could be ridden everywhere. They used to be referred to as all terrain bikes (ATB). I suspect that it was all done by marketing. If you frequent MTB forums, people are definitely buying into it, that's for sure... Some of them have a fleet of multi thousand dollar rigs. And can't imagine how a 26 inch wheel could even possibly roll. The marketing is strong...
It has but at the same time, I don't see how specialization and more choice hurts anything.

It isn't like there aren't a fair few do everything bikes around. I mean Surly makes a whole fleet of them.
 
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