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Canít decide on the right gravel bike

Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Canít decide on the right gravel bike

Old 09-25-18, 04:53 PM
  #1  
JohnUSA
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Canít decide on the right gravel bike

I want to add a gravel bike to my stable, but Iím having trouble finding one that fits my needs.

Basically, I want a bike thatís fast enough that I can do road rides in the winter in messy conditions, as well as mixing in a lot of gravel roads. However, I really want the bike to have big tire clearance, because Iíd like to be able to do some trails with it as well. Preferably, I want something that can comfortably use 700x35 tires and then when need be, can handle 700x45ís or even slightly bigger MTB tires for singletrack.

My uses for the bike will be gravel road riding, light singletrack duty, and finally, I really want to try bikepacking. Also, Iíd like to do some gravel races if possible. I know this sounds like a very wide range of disciplines, but Iím confident I can find a bike that will suit my needs. Right now Iím looking at the Jamis Renegade Expat, which looks nice, but the tire clearance (700x42) isnít the greatest. Any options for me under $1200 or so? Iím 17 years old so I donít have a huge cash flow. If necessary, I could stretch my budge to $1500. I really donít care about having high end components, Sora or even Claris would be acceptable, I just want a quality frame, preferably steel, but aluminum would be acceptable.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your help,

John
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Old 09-25-18, 06:52 PM
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Breezer Radar Pro ? although it has a steel fork.

https://www.performancebike.com/shop...e-2018-31-8635
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Old 09-25-18, 07:23 PM
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The Breezer Radar is very intriguing. It looks like it fits my specs very well, and they have an even cheaper model would fit in my price range even better.

I guess this sort of brings me to another question, what size tires are necessary to be able to do moderate singletrack? Are the 700x45s really necessary?
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Old 09-25-18, 11:00 PM
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That is a hard thing to answer because it depends on you and what you consider moderate single track. I mean I run 28mm road tires 95% of the time on my cross bike but when it is dry enough and I feel like it I'll hit a couple miles of single track on one of my normal road loops just to mix things up with those 28mm tires and it is ok, just have to slow down. I actually think one of my fastest times on that particular trail is with my cross bike on 28mm tires, the dirt was just perfect for it that day though and it is a fairly smooth trail. Now when we know we are going off roading I run 39mm tires and I can ride all my normal mtn bike trails on them, maybe not well and there are some parts when climbing steep rooty sections with cross tires is really hard if not impossible but for the most part I can ride everything. If I were going to do that on the regular 2.1s sound pretty good, my rigid mtn bike runs 2.4 front and I think 2.2 rear with flexy carbon bars and ESI super chunky grips and I still woudn't mind a bit more cushion. My main bike is a 140mm FS trail bike though and I'm spoiled.

I guess having the ability to run wider is good. Means you don't have too but you can.
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Old 09-26-18, 04:44 AM
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Thanks for the reply! I have a full suspension mountain bike (Trek Fuel EX) so I donít really need this to be my singletrack bike. The scenario where I see myself doing singletrack on a gravel bike is when Iím bikepacking or doing a long gravel ride one day and want to explore some new singletrack for a little bit.

Right now I think Iím considering:
- Trek Checkpoint ALR 4 ($1700)
- Jamis Renegade Expat ($1200)
- Kona Sutra LTD Custom Build ($1500)
- Breezer Radar Expert $900
- Fuji Jari 1.7 $1100

I think the Trek Checkpoint is my #1 but itís very expensive for me.
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Old 09-26-18, 05:05 AM
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I took my gravel bike build to CO with me this summer. I did everything from pavement to gravel to single track on it. I was running Schwalbe Marathon 32's. For that kind of riding, I feel like it was a great compromise. I put over 300 miles on it in mixed riding over the course of my vacation and can't comlain. I wasn't attacking the single track mind you, but I used it as gravel and paved road connectors.


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Old 09-26-18, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
I took my gravel bike build to CO with me this summer. I did everything from pavement to gravel to single track on it. I was running Schwalbe Marathon 32's. For that kind of riding, I feel like it was a great compromise. I put over 300 miles on it in mixed riding over the course of my vacation and can't comlain. I wasn't attacking the single track mind you, but I used it as gravel and paved road connectors.

Great picture! I think Iíve realized that my main goal is to have an efficient bike that is fast. I donít want a clunky mountain bike (I already have one, haha). I basically want something like a road bike that I can run bigger tires.
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Old 09-26-18, 05:27 AM
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I just looked at that Trek on their website. From looking at your list, it looks like you might be considering mail order. If you are, Bikes Direct has Ultegra bikes for less money than the Tiagra Spec Trek.

Save Up To 60% Off New Gravel and Cyclocross and Gravel Bicycles from bikesdirect.com. Great for commuting, racing or just having fun riding most anywhere.
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Old 09-26-18, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul Barnard View Post
I just looked at that Trek on their website. From looking at your list, it looks like you might be considering mail order. If you are, Bikes Direct has Ultegra bikes for less money than the Tiagra Spec Trek.

Save Up To 60% Off New Gravel and Cyclocross and Gravel Bicycles from bikesdirect.com. Great for commuting, racing or just having fun riding most anywhere.
I am considering buying online, but most of the bikes on my list can be bought locally, either through my Trek store, Performance Bike in Pittsburgh, or another LBS shop that carries Fuji and Jamis.

I really want to stick to a well-respected brand.
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Old 09-26-18, 07:28 PM
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Check out Salsa bikes, particularly their new Journeyman, and All-City.
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Old 09-27-18, 03:15 AM
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I'm helping my buddy online shop for his first gravel bike. We're both new to this. He'd love the steel Niner RLT. We both like Salsa's offerings. He's leaning towards a Kona Sutra LTD this week. The Jamis Renegade models caught my eye earlier today too. I just noticed Norco updated their web site today for the 2019 models. This one runs at $1,599. Aluminum frame (i know you said you'd prefer steel), carbon fork, 700c and 650b wheel compatible, 1x 11-speed drivetrain, mech disc brakes... my dealer knocked off $200/$400 for the two bikes i've bought from him, i'm sure yours could give you a good deal too for whichever brand you purchased.


https://www.norco.com/bikes/dirt-dro...uminum-apex-1/

Right now i'm a Norco fanboy because my favorite shop carries them and I've bought two in the last two years, my first bikes in around 30 years. There are tons of options these days. Kona sells their steel Rove as a frame-set at a decent price too ($600?), and that SEEMS to take both 700c and 650b as well.

By the way, I'm loving my 2018 slate blue Norco Search XR-S. I'm even getting used to the mechanical disc brakes (I thought i was hopelessly spoiled by my hardtail's hydraulics). It's not as fast as my 1983 Bianchi Campione d'Italia with 25c tires (can't imagine how quick a modern carbon-framed road bike might feel), but the Clement X'Plor MSO 40c tires, tubeless at 38-40psi, run great on pavement.

Eric/Fresno, CA

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Old 09-27-18, 05:35 AM
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Cannondale Topstone?

https://www.cannondale.com/en/USA/Bi...ntid=undefined

$1000 gets you Sora with mechanical disc brakes, but I'd really try to stretch and get the 105 version at $1650. It's a big jump but drive train is just way better, plus you get hydraulic disc brakes instead of mechanical.

Huge tire clearance, mounts for racks/panniers/3 bottles, etc.

Seems like an ideal gravel bike to me.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:11 AM
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Hi John, you'll probably get more input from our Gravelbiking forum, I'll move it there for you.

Moved from Road.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:50 AM
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Have you considered the Raleigh Tamland or Willard lines? Diamondback also has the Haanjo line. These may fit your needs. Find a corp. code and you may be able to get these at a great deal.

FWIW, I would try to find a used beater for winter riding. The thought of riding my new gravel bike in salty slush makes me cringe.
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Old 09-27-18, 03:50 PM
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The Raleigh Willard fits most of your requirements, I think. They make a similar bike in steel called the Tamland, and one in carbon if you can still find one called the Roker. All available if you find the right deal in your price range or under. Personally, I think the Willard is the best value of the bunch, and at 17 years old and on a budget, the best use of money for you. I was surprised at how smooth the Willard is, and was leery of aluminum before...not anymore. I thought I had to have steel, yada yada. I still like steel bikes, but I've been converted to one who now realizes aluminum is quite good these days.

I'd recommend a Jamis Renegade as well, but the deals with the Raleigh partner program are better for a roughly equivalent bike. If you found a great deal on a Renegade I'd have it on your list. Also the Diamondback Haanjo. GT Grade, Fuji Jari, etc.

But again, Willard for the win, given your criteria and budget, and based on my experience with one.

I watched the Raleigh site for a while, and waited for the Willard to go on sale. Got a Willard 2, which is comparable to this year's level 3 bike, for around $800 shipped to my door and tax free. Apex 1x11, carbon fork, tubeless ready wheels, Clement MSO tires, Spyre disc brakes, thru axles. I couldn't find anything else equivalent spec for nearly that price. I was looking at a Norco Search, but it was twice the money for similar spec. The bike I have was a steal for what I received.

I could have had a Tamland for around $1100 at the time, FYI, if you are stuck on steel.

I can't remember how I got signed up for the partner / corp code deal, but there is talk on the forums here about it if you search around.

Last edited by syncro87; 09-27-18 at 04:08 PM. Reason: more info
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Old 09-27-18, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnUSA View Post
The Breezer Radar is very intriguing. It looks like it fits my specs very well, and they have an even cheaper model would fit in my price range even better.

I guess this sort of brings me to another question, what size tires are necessary to be able to do moderate singletrack? Are the 700x45s really necessary?
I've ridden tons of singletrack in SoCal (rocky, gnarly) on 700x41s (Surly Knards). All the trails in Big Bear, you-name-it. I stopped riding my mountain bike once I got my gravel bike. Admittedly, I came from riding a rigid MTB, so I was used to picking lines really carefully. All that said, my new gravel rig is 650bx47 and I don't think I'm going back
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Old 09-27-18, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by syncro87 View Post
The Raleigh Willard fits most of your requirements, I think. They make a similar bike in steel called the Tamland, and one in carbon if you can still find one called the Roker. All available if you find the right deal in your price range or under. Personally, I think the Willard is the best value of the bunch, and at 17 years old and on a budget, the best use of money for you. I was surprised at how smooth the Willard is, and was leery of aluminum before...not anymore. I thought I had to have steel, yada yada. I still like steel bikes, but I've been converted to one who now realizes aluminum is quite good these days.

I'd recommend a Jamis Renegade as well, but the deals with the Raleigh partner program are better for a roughly equivalent bike. If you found a great deal on a Renegade I'd have it on your list. Also the Diamondback Haanjo. GT Grade, Fuji Jari, etc.

But again, Willard for the win, given your criteria and budget, and based on my experience with one.

I watched the Raleigh site for a while, and waited for the Willard to go on sale. Got a Willard 2, which is comparable to this year's level 3 bike, for around $800 shipped to my door and tax free. Apex 1x11, carbon fork, tubeless ready wheels, Clement MSO tires, Spyre disc brakes, thru axles. I couldn't find anything else equivalent spec for nearly that price. I was looking at a Norco Search, but it was twice the money for similar spec. The bike I have was a steal for what I received.

I could have had a Tamland for around $1100 at the time, FYI, if you are stuck on steel.

I can't remember how I got signed up for the partner / corp code deal, but there is talk on the forums here about it if you search around.
I really appreciate your help! The Raleigh Willard looks very nice!

I think Iíve narrowed it down to the Raleigh Willard, the Fuji Jari, and the Jamis Renegade. Any opinions on that comparison? The Willard looks nice.
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Old 09-27-18, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by pbass View Post
I've ridden tons of singletrack in SoCal (rocky, gnarly) on 700x41s (Surly Knards). All the trails in Big Bear, you-name-it. I stopped riding my mountain bike once I got my gravel bike. Admittedly, I came from riding a rigid MTB, so I was used to picking lines really carefully. All that said, my new gravel rig is 650bx47 and I don't think I'm going back
I like your endorsement of 700x41s and gravel bikes! Thatís exactly what Iím looking for! I think bikepacking would be great, and knowing I can do some singletrack is nice.
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Old 09-27-18, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnUSA View Post


I really appreciate your help! The Raleigh Willard looks very nice!

I think I’ve narrowed it down to the Raleigh Willard, the Fuji Jari, and the Jamis Renegade. Any opinions on that comparison? The Willard looks nice.






Any of those three would work for you, in my opinion. I'd check them all out and figure out which trim or spec level of each would be the minimum that would suit you and meet your requirements. Then, I'd look for a sweet deal on any of them.

In my case, I wanted 1x11 since I had never had a bike that was one by before. For the kind of riding I do, relatively flat terrain trail / gravel, the gearing works well for me, and I liked the small weight savings and less complexity. Plus, I was just curious. I will say that I probably prefer Shimano's shifting vs. the Sram style, but the Sram isn't bad. I also wanted thru axles, so that was one of my criteria.

I wasn't hot to trot for the Willard. I was looking at a variety of bikes. Then one day after I had signed up for the Raleigh corporate program, I checked the website and found you could get the upper level Willard (there used to be only a one and a two level) for under $800. I noticed that a guy up in Iowa who rides a lot of gravel, goes by Guitar Ted, rides a Willard as his own personal bike. That seemed like a decent endorsement to me, the bike spec was what I wanted, and the price was unbeatable, so I took the leap.

I probably have 2500 miles on my Willard now, and am totally satisfied with it. I have yet to find anything for $800 new that is competitive. Sure, if you spend $1500 or $2000, you can buy a better bike, probably.

The one thing I was iffy on was aluminum. I really wanted a steel bike. I thought aluminum bikes would be harsh on gravel. This turned out not to be the case at all.

The bottom line for you, I would think, would be what is the maximum bike I can get for my money. I wouldn't worry so much about brand at the price level you are looking at, under $1500. At the roughly thousand dollar price level, compromises are going to be made in some areas, and you have to decide what you care about and what you can live with not being 100% ideal. If you can get lucky, be in the right place at the right time, keep a sharp eye out, maybe you can score a Willard 3 or 4 (not as much of a fan of the new 1 and 2 trims personally) or a Jamis or whatever for under a grand and with good spec.

Raleigh and Diamondback ( sister company ) both usually have good deals once the riding season is over, online. November, December, January, etc. Most people aren't buying bikes then. The bike market is pretty seasonal. Lots of folks buy in the spring into summer. Fall into winter, the bike market dries up considerably. That is the time to be a buyer.

One other thing. Join REI Co-op. They have some bikes worth considering, and some under their house brand Co-op. Sometimes they clear out last year's bikes at good prices. They also have a liberal return policy and good customer support in general. Some of their bikes are on sale currently, not sure which models specifically or if anything there interests you, but worth joining REI at any rate.


edit. by the way, I am in the 200+ range weight wise. My bike had 700x40 originally and I am now running 700x38. My personal opinion, of course depending on your riding environment, is that 35-40 range is a sweet spot of comfort and performance. Lower than that, you are giving up more comfort than you are gaining back in performance. Fatter than that, you are giving up more performance than you are gaining in comfort. This is obviously not a hard fast rule but just a generalization based on my gravel and trail riding. Of course there are situations where a thinner or fatter tire would be optimal. General all purpose trail use, though, I'd say 700x 35-40 is ideal. A bike being limited to 42 tires would not be a big minus to me, as I don't see much constructive purpose in going larger than that on a gravel bike and for the kind of riding you've described you want to do.


LAST EDIT I PROMISE ------>

So, I just looked on the Raleigh Corp site and the price for a Willard 3, the '18 equivalent of my '17 Two, is $834.99. That is a great deal. MSRP is $1049. If you can find another bike of equivalent spec for eight hundred bucks shipped to your door, I'd be interested to see it.

Last edited by syncro87; 09-27-18 at 06:33 PM.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:11 PM
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Thank you very much! I think Iíll wait until November and see what deals I can find. All I really want to do is buy the bike before winter.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:27 PM
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You might wanna look at a 2018 Kona Rove ST. Stock they are 700c but you can run 650bx47 if you want to try that. The 2019's are just out (I just bought one) so the 2018's price is knocked down a bit. Excellent bike that can handle everything you're talking about: KONA BIKES | ROAD | ROVE | Rove ST
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Old 09-27-18, 06:32 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnUSA View Post
Thank you very much! I think Iíll wait until November and see what deals I can find. All I really want to do is buy the bike before winter.
That price above is within 5% of what I paid a year ago at the best possible time. FYI. If the Willard 3 interests you, probably about as good as it is going to get price wise barring an asteroid hitting the Earth.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by syncro87 View Post
That price above is within 5% of what I paid a year ago at the best possible time. FYI. If the Willard 3 interests you, probably about as good as it is going to get price wise barring an asteroid hitting the Earth.
I like the Willard 3 but the 1x gearing isnít what Iím looking for. Thereís a lot of hills where I live and I like having a better range of gears - both for climbs and descents. The Willard 2 has Sora stuff, but it is 2x.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnUSA View Post


I like the Willard 3 but the 1x gearing isn’t what I’m looking for. There’s a lot of hills where I live and I like having a better range of gears - both for climbs and descents. The Willard 2 has Sora stuff, but it is 2x.



The 2 level loses the carbon fork. 4 has better crank, bb, wheels, etc, also, basically upgraded components throughout. The 4 level sounds about perfect for you if you don't want 1x. 105 set, nice stuff. On sale now for $1139 with corp discount. Seems like a bargain unless I'm missing something, for that money, given the component spec.

Actually, if the 4 had been out when i got mine, I would have gotten that one.

Comes in a box to your door free from R. Mostly assembled. I had mine together in 20 minutes if I recall. You basically bolt the bars on and the front wheel.

real life view of W4-->
https://hips.hearstapps.com/hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/images/img-7703-1537546287.jpg?crop=1.00xw:1.00xh;0,0&resize=5760:*

Last edited by syncro87; 09-27-18 at 06:52 PM.
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Old 09-27-18, 06:56 PM
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I picked up one of these for the winter -
Blue PRO-secco

Got it from their ebay site and they took the offer of 1200.00 for it and ebay had a sale of 15% off up to 100.00 so I got it for 1100.00

RBP had really good service. Frames good enough. Itll fit at least 40mm if not 42mm tires on it. I threw 32mm tires on it and its has room to spare. Havent beat it up enough yet but for 1100.00 Im not worried about it.

i emailed Blue and they said they would warranty the frame and fork for 12 months and to let them know if I had any issues with it.

There is a thread on this bike over in the cyclocross section.

-Sean

PS - Sorry... noticed you wanted steel or aluminum. Its Carbon fiber. But for the price you could sell the carbon frame if you feel like doing all the work...

Last edited by Wilmingtech; 09-27-18 at 07:10 PM.
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