Convert xc to gravel bike?

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Convert xc to gravel bike?
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Posted: Apr 6, 2020 at 17:48 Quote
I'm adding a new FS rig to the upper end of my bike fleet, and a 2014 steel kona unit is falling off the bottom or being relegated to town riding... unless I put drop bars on it and turn it into a gravel bike? They just opened a zillion miles of gravel trails around here and I'm interested. Plus it gives me an extra month of riding in the shoulder season. Anyone done this? The geometry seems similar, do the drop bars really make much of a difference?

Posted: Apr 6, 2020 at 19:16 Quote
The geometry actually isn't that similar. Most gravel bikes use a moderate to long stem, plus the length from the tops to the hoods. This puts your hands a lot farther in front of the steerer, which is why the reach on the largest gravel frames may not overlap with the smallest flat-bar bikes. But this can still work ...

First: No, you do not need drops. Drops are for getting low and aero and there's not a lot of that to be done on gravel. "But getting low helps you corner," I hear someone in the back saying. Not unless you can also drop your saddle. Even John Tomac stopped doing it. The only reasons I use my drops when descending on my road bike are:

• Better access to the brakes
• To move my body a little rearward
• Less extension from the steering axis quickens the steering response

Modern gravel bars are trending toward less drop and more flare. If this trend doesn't level off, we'll soon be on moustache bars. There's a reason for it, though, and shallow bars with some flare are rather nice for gravel and pavement riding. Super narrow for pavement and as wide as necessary for the rowdiness of your roads and trails.

Your flat bar is fine while you test whether this gravel business is for you. Maybe try some cheap bar ends mounted inboard of the brakes for a fast cruising position. If you like it, I recommend a super short stem and a flared drop bar like the ones linked above.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 at 13:12 Quote
OK, super helpful, thanks. I have a pair of salsa cowbells sitting around the garage, was thinking about doing it just for fun. But switching the brakes and all that might harsh the whole thing. I guess I just don't get the gravel bike thing, what makes it better than a light XC bike? ...is it just a tiny little niche between xc and cyclocross? Our mayor even ran around beating the drums about gravel being the next big tourist attraction here.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 at 13:29 Quote
most drop bar frames gravel/cx/road have a reach of around 370-400 which is tiny in mtb frame terms . drop bars are longer than mtb bars & plus you will want to be holding the top of the brake hoods or in the drops for better braking control. also better to run bars slightly higher on gravel bike compared to a racey cx riding position so you can be comfortable on rough descents which are not typical of cx.. you can run 40mm or 50mm stem on gravel bike no problem its way more fun gives snappy & stable handling off-road in my experience (ive run 40-45-60-70 stems all on my surly straggler). also i suggest you consider the venturemax bars as they are by far one of the shortest bar & will work best if running a longer frame like you may have with mtb conversion.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 at 13:35 Quote
elcam wrote:
OK, super helpful, thanks. I have a pair of salsa cowbells sitting around the garage, was thinking about doing it just for fun. But switching the brakes and all that might harsh the whole thing. I guess I just don't get the gravel bike thing, what makes it better than a light XC bike? ...is it just a tiny little niche between xc and cyclocross? Our mayor even ran around beating the drums about gravel being the next big tourist attraction here.
more than one hand position the the entire reason for gravel bike vs flat bar mtb/hybrid 'gravelgrinder. you can ride any bike on 'gravel' but in my experience miles & miles of gravel is sooooooo frickn boring to ride but great if you cover a few miles here & there to get to some easy going singletrack or quiet back-roads. all comes down to the terrain. a cross-country mtb may be more comfy & versatile than a gravel bike. i have full suss, hardtail plus tyres, gravel bike with 47c wtb sendero. different bikes which excel upon different terrain.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 at 13:46 Quote
You can approach it from either direction, XC or road (paved).

If you start from XC, you could optimize for gravel with:

• Smaller tire lugs
• Smaller tire casing
• More puncture protection under the tires' crown
• Narrower bar
• Alternative hand positions
• Less suspension travel
• Maybe shorter front-centre

If you start from road:

• Larger lugs
• Larger casing
• Wider bar, at least when braking
• More / any suspension
• Maybe longer front-centre

The two approaches converge somewhere in the middle to create the "ideal" gravel bike. The more your routes resemble pavement, the closer this ideal gravel bike resembles a road bike; vice versa if your routes are closer to XC trails.

You're correct this is nothing new. At the extreme end of the spectrum, "monstercross" is just long-distance mountain biking on mild trails: a reinvention of mountain biking via the original evolutionary path of pavement → gravel roads → forest service / logging roads → trails. Unsurprisingly, monstercross fans have come to the same result as mountain bike pioneers with bikes that closely resemble early mountain bikes.

Maybe the option to explore gravel roads is the best of both worlds for you and a chance to get away from it all. Maybe it's the worst of both: slower and dirtier than road riding, but not as fun as mountain biking. For whatever my opinion is worth, I prefer a slightly mellowed out road bike and I can enjoy short sections of fully packed dirt roads (not much different from pavement). My ideal bike:

• Proper road slick tires, but wider. 30 - 32 mm are the widest high-end slicks currently available.
• Rims wide enough to support the tires.
• Higher front end, but that's mostly because my neck isn't as good as it used to be.
• Bar with narrow tops and a little flare at the drops for aero cruising and improved descending control.
• Stem length slightly less than typical road length.
• Front-centre and rear-centre slightly above typical road lengths.

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 at 14:26 Quote
R-M-R wrote:
You can approach it from either direction, XC or road (paved).

If you start from XC, you could optimize for gravel with:

• Smaller tire lugs
• Smaller tire casing
• More puncture protection under the tires' crown
• Narrower bar
• Alternative hand positions
• Less suspension travel
• Maybe shorter front-centre

If you start from road:

• Larger lugs
• Larger casing
• Wider bar, at least when braking
• More / any suspension
• Maybe longer front-centre

The two approaches converge somewhere in the middle to create the "ideal" gravel bike. The more your routes resemble pavement, the closer this ideal gravel bike resembles a road bike; vice versa if your routes are closer to XC trails.

You're correct this is nothing new. At the extreme end of the spectrum, "monstercross" is just long-distance mountain biking on mild trails: a reinvention of mountain biking via the original evolutionary path of pavement → gravel roads → forest service / logging roads → trails. Unsurprisingly, monstercross fans have come to the same result as mountain bike pioneers with bikes that closely resemble early mountain bikes.

Maybe the option to explore gravel roads is the best of both worlds for you and a chance to get away from it all. Maybe it's the worst of both: slower and dirtier than road riding, but not as fun as mountain biking. For whatever my opinion is worth, I prefer a slightly mellowed out road bike and I can enjoy short sections of fully packed dirt roads (not much different from pavement). My ideal bike:

• Proper road slick tires, but wider. 30 - 32 mm are the widest high-end slicks currently available.
• Rims wide enough to support the tires.
• Higher front end, but that's mostly because my neck isn't as good as it used to be.
• Bar with narrow tops and a little flare at the drops for aero cruising and improved descending control.
• Stem length slightly less than typical road length.
• Front-centre and rear-centre slightly above typical road lengths.
good info. but there is no IDEAL gravel bike. same advice I give when asked advice for new mtb from novice rider - & I will advise not spend too much & learn the terrain & the type of terrain you ride the most or would like to ride the most & use this as a basis & until you get some experience in the saddle you have no frame of reference. for me with the gravel bike I have 2 wheelsets 2 sets of pedals 4 sets of tyres 3 stems, fenders or no fenders, 3 different chainrings for different ratios. & I have a hell of a lot of fun mixing & matching components a riding everything from multi day bikepacking, road/ rough back lanes centuries, off-road epics...

Posted: Apr 7, 2020 at 16:13 Quote
a-d-e wrote:
good info. but there is no IDEAL gravel bike.

In practice, there's no ideal anything. Even a theoretical ideal is only ideal for an infinitesimal range of conditions, which is why I didn't want to be overly prescriptive or pedantic. I was illustrating how the optimal set-up will vary according to the application.

Posted: Apr 8, 2020 at 19:34 Quote
I'd do it. Some gravel bikes nowadays have been described by even their creators as basically mountain bikes with drop bars, so geo should be fine. I think a sick addition would be a fox 32 SC AX. That would steepen things up a bit (I'm assuming from a 100mm fork) and still provide some cush on the front end. If you wanted to get a rigid fork though, I'd focus on trying to match axle to crown length to your current fork, as you don't want to alter the bike's intended geometry too much by adding a much shorter fork. As far as drop bars, do what you want. If you think you'll like them for long relatively straight dirt road rides than go for it. If that means installing a new more road specific drivetrain due to new shifters than that would be an advantage too. Good luck with this whole thing, I hope it goes well. If you do convert it, be sure to post a pic on this feed.

Posted: Apr 8, 2020 at 20:00 Quote
I guess I'm not really understanding the point of gravel biking. It's like a sporty version of bike packing?

Why would I like it more than just cruising a pretty efficient rigid steel 29'er, which I already take on long day-trips for a mix of dirt roads and light singletrack?

Posted: Apr 8, 2020 at 23:54 Quote
At one end of the spectrum, it's road riding with the option to include some dirt roads. At the other end of the spectrum, yeah, it's like racy bikepacking. If you have a rigid 29er, you're pretty much there already - at least at the racy bikepacking end of the spectrum.

Posted: Apr 9, 2020 at 6:47 Quote
I've recently gotten myself a gravel bike.
And honestly my 99 Bonty rides better on fireroads. It's more comfy. And just as fast.
But the gravelbike wins out as a very good commuter.

Posted: Apr 11, 2020 at 1:16 Quote
elcam wrote:
I guess I'm not really understanding the point of gravel biking. It's like a sporty version of bike packing?

Why would I like it more than just cruising a pretty efficient rigid steel 29'er, which I already take on long day-trips for a mix of dirt roads and light singletrack?
rigid steel 29er is exactly what a gravel bike is surprised you need it explaining to you. yes they come with drop bars too & probably geo to suit drop bars. like when people call riding on the wood 'mountain biking' anit no frickn mountains involved is there? same with 'gravel biking' aint no gravel there either. but you MAY encounter both mountains and gravel terrain regardless which type of bicycle 'format' you happen to be riding. people who own gravel bikes i presume use them to ride shitty beaten up roads, unsealed roads & fire tracks, forest tracks, singletrack. and probably a good portion of just roads & highways as its more feasible to ride from home on these bikes unlike mtb where its just totally unholy to ride miles & miles of tarmac. stuff that you dont want to destroy your $2000 road wheelset. stuff that actually would be hard to ride for extended periods on a road bike. stuff that would just be a real flipping slog on a mtb unless they enjoy the BBBBRRRRRRHHH of nobbies on tarmac.

Posted: Apr 11, 2020 at 1:23 Quote
Tjomball wrote:
I've recently gotten myself a gravel bike.
And honestly my 99 Bonty rides better on fireroads. It's more comfy. And just as fast.
But the gravelbike wins out as a very good commuter.
yeah i actually frickn HATE riding gravel on my gravel bike. people dream of enless gravel roads. probably the same boring folks who dream of endless tarmac. prefer flowy singletrack and farm tracks & secluded lanes etc.

Posted: Apr 11, 2020 at 1:27 Quote
R-M-R wrote:
At one end of the spectrum, it's road riding with the option to include some dirt roads. At the other end of the spectrum, yeah, it's like racy bikepacking. If you have a rigid 29er, you're pretty much there already - at least at the racy bikepacking end of the spectrum.
in the facebook gravel groups almost nobody is into bikepacking. yeah the dropbar monstercross style bikes are definitely well suited for the multi day self supported races, tho the types of bikes are always surprisingly diverse on races like the tour divide just goes to show how folks are different & how diverse the terrain must be on those routes.

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