A quick education on Gravel bikes and where to ride them

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GuitarlCarl

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Specifically, Gravel bikes. Tire sizes gearing stance, just a down and dirty "this would be a good gravel bike" type of thing. I understand what a BMX and a MTB are but what's different from a hybrid other than the drop bars?
 
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Captain Awesome

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Gravel bike in it's rawest form..........

80's/90's MTB geometry with drop or alt bars. 26" wheels are fine but most will be 650B or 700

Low rolling resistance "knobbies"

YMMV. Everyone has a different opinion





Vs my current gravel steez. Which is basically a monster truck

 

GuitarlCarl

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I ditched the drops on my '95 Cannondale Cad2 a long time ago but I think it will take a 29er rear tire/wheel. swap out the fork for a better choice and I've got a few nice sets of aluminum drops as well as a nice narrow steel set. My street bike might just make the off road build off, it has the correct geometry, if the stays will let me run a bigger tire set. It's wearing 38c now up from the 28c that were on it when I picked it up over a decade ago for 40 bucks.
 

GuitarlCarl

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IMG_20220929_224901.jpg

Then I look at the chain stays and think to myself... "Where am I ever going to ride a Gravel bike?"
 

Couch tater

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Then I look at the chain stays and think to myself... "Where am I ever going to ride a Gravel bike?"
There are a few rail to trails and the I&M pathway a short drive from here. Miles and miles of sweet bicycling solitude. The Wauponsee Trail that terminates in Custer Park is a nice ride. The Kankakee river path between the State park and Davis Creek is another nice gravel bike ride. You need a gravel bike. I need to get my Salsa Warbird out now..........
 
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I understand what a BMX and a MTB are but what's different from a hybrid other than the drop bars
The cynical answer is marketing. They needed to sell more bikes. Mountain bikes have become so focused on the "extreme" side with everything getting tweaked for downhill performance. They created a "new" category that is basically somewhere between what old mountain bikes could do and road bikes. The 90s hybrid bikes were also made to fit between mountain bikes and road bikes. I would think that a 700c steel hybrid from the late 90s would make a fantastic gravel bike with just a few tweaks
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GuitarlCarl

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There are a few rail to trails and the I&M pathway a short drive from here. Miles and miles of sweet bicycling solitude. The Wauponsee Trail that terminates in Custer Park is a nice ride. The Kankakee river path between the State park and Davis Creek is another nice gravel bike ride. You need a gravel bike. I need to get my Salsa Warbird out now..........
I've ridden thru Perry Farm to the second state park (Kankakee River Trail) on my Cannondale and the Wauponsee on a couple of different bikes including Little Neutrino. I'll have to look up the I&M, 90% of my riding has been in Chicago with the Taildraggers. I'll also need to find a suitable frame, the Cad2 won't take a bigger tire and I've cut up every old hardtail mtb frame I've come across in the last few years
 

OddJob

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Like our older ( 30's - 60's) bike conversions, the gravel bike can be developed in a number of ways. The '70s Schwinn road frames that came with 27" wheels, can easily handle a 650b or 700c wheel with knobby rubber. Or like Capt said, many use the '80s - early '90s (steel framed, aluminum frames don't allow as much room in the chain stay / BB area) as a base and add a 650b or 700c wheelset, with narrower knobby rubber than a traditional 1.95 - 2.2 26er tire.

The modern / currently made gravel bikes have more road bike geometry, with usually taller head tubes for more 'stack height' and a higher hand position, which helps when the gravel gets heavy and loose or soupy and muddy. Keeps the weight off the front better to 'float' through those situations. But the reach, essential top tube length, tighter rear triangle i.e. chain stay length are more road bike than hybrid.

Another feature is the drop bar itself. Much wider than the old vintage road bike, and often 'splayed out' in the drops to make for a shallower drop, better handling and maneuverability once the going gets rough. The young and / or skilled guys will ride these on tamer, 'flowy' off-road trails as well.

I turned a mid-'90s Trek 730 Multi-track hybrid into a gravel style road bike a couple of years ago in Arizona. I ride the roads, canal bike paths, and the many connecting desert dirt trails that run in the brush on the way to heavier duty off-road trails. It's an all-roads bike, without suspension, doesn't look like a 'mountain bike', and has that great ride of a steel frame. "Steel is real". It isn't as quick accelerating or as widely geared or nearly as comfortable and light weight as my Trek Checkpoint ALR 4 gravel bike here at home; but it works, and it's 'built not bought'.

Here's a couple photos of the '90s Trek 730 conversion.
Drop bar, knobby tired, Trek 730 rat bike build. Combined two '90s bikes; the Trek 730 MultiTrack and a Nishiki road bike with 105 8 spd components. Added a Nitto 45mm 105 drop handlebar, WTB Riddler 700x45C tires, Selle San Marco vintage style saddle, 11-32t cassette , converted 42 - 39t crankset, Kool Stop salmon brake pads on original cantis. Shimano XT SPD pedals. That True Temper OX Made in the USA frame rides like a dream.

Trek 730 gravel bike.jpg



Trek gravel 1.jpg

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Trek gravel 2.jpg


And one of the Trek Checkpoint ALR 4 for comparison...

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I'll be interested in seeing how you develop your 'gravel grinder' @GuitarlCarl , should you decide to go this route. I grew up riding my Schwinn Varsity, my first geared bike, on gravel roads in Southern Minnesota. I feel like I've come complete circle now. A very versatile bicycle!
 

OddJob

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If you can ride a 58cm frame I'll loan you my Warbird for a weekend so you can try a factory job and draw your own conclusions.
We sell the Salsa bikes ( or used to when they were available pre - Covid ) and the Warbird is very cool! I went with the Trek because it fit my budget better, but my drool was all over the Warbirds we had in stock!
 

Couch tater

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We sell the Salsa bikes ( or used to when they were available pre - Covid ) and the Warbird is very cool! I went with the Trek because it fit my budget better, but my drool was all over the Warbirds we had in stock!
I got my mine as a deeply discounted 2 year carry over at the LBS. If I could keep only one of my bikes, there would be no question about keeping this one.
 

Captain Awesome

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There are a few rail to trails and the I&M pathway a short drive from here. Miles and miles of sweet bicycling solitude. The Wauponsee Trail that terminates in Custer Park is a nice ride. The Kankakee river path between the State park and Davis Creek is another nice gravel bike ride. You need a gravel bike. I need to get my Salsa Warbird out now..........
Road trip

 
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Cyclocross bikes can make acceptable gravel bikes depending on max tire size that will fit. Some won't take more than 33c maybe 35c. Riders with gravel in their shorts these days prefer 40c and larger. I have a 2014 Specialized CruX (cyclocross bike) with 37c tires and it's perfect for cinder rail trails and broken pavement abandoned roads, but suffers a little on gnarly single track.
 

Captain Awesome

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The Sparta Trail is one of my bucket trip rides. I'm retiring this afternoon so it will become a reality soon enough. :dance2:
It's a great trail. I've done it dozens of times. One of my favorites along with the Galax trail in VA

My list to visit

Katy Trail
Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
Great Allegheny Passage
C&O



I would say the streets of "wherever". Gravel bikes should be able to handle every road, and some off road

Truth. Riding mine on a 60 mile road ride in a few weeks and it regularly does singletrack
 

Couch tater

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It's a great trail. I've done it dozens of times. One of my favorites along with the Galax trail in VA

My list to visit

Katy Trail
Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
Great Allegheny Passage
C&O





Truth. Riding mine on a 60 mile road ride in a few weeks and it regularly does singletrack
Tunnel Hill Trail in southern Illinois is another of my bucket listers. From here there are many options for scenic gravel bike rides within a couple hours drive; SW Michigan, NW Illinois, southern Illinois, SE Missouri, NE Iowa. Looks like it is time to dust off my camping gear.
 

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