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Will I enjoy a heavy gravel bike?

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Will I enjoy a heavy gravel bike?

Old 10-10-16, 10:05 AM
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12strings
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Will I enjoy a heavy gravel bike?

Hi all,

I have a decent road bike that I really enjoy riding, but which would barely hold 28mm tires, so I have no aspirations to gravel-fy it.

I also have a 1970's steel, lugged, heavy, but sturdy bike with plenty of tire clearance, but also heavy steel wheels, seatpost, bars, and components (Stem shifters). I purchased the bike for $15, stripped it to bare frame, cleaned and re-greased everything, and reassembled with new chain, cables, and 26 x 1 3/8 smooth city tires. It's nice for cruising around town.

Would I be able to enjoy much off-road (Gravel, trails, grass) adventuring with this bike if I simply got some more off-road tires, or would the very heavy weight (35-40 lbs, I assume, I really have no idea) severely limit my fun?
I know most even entry level gravel bikes are in the low 20's in weight.

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Old 10-10-16, 12:53 PM
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Not a very good idea IMO. Keep that bike for the city and buy an old rigid MTB for gravelgrinding duties.
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Old 10-10-16, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by plodderslusk View Post
Not a very good idea IMO. Keep that bike for the city and buy an old rigid MTB for gravelgrinding duties.
+ 1; this is a good way to do it if you want a quality bike at a decent price.
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Old 10-10-16, 01:53 PM
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If your not Into racing weight is less of a thing.
My Gravel bike stock was between 21 and 23 pounds or there about's, With the junk I've hung on it prolly 28 or 29 now, I don't care..
Get something that can take up to 35-40c tires with a little room to spare.
Any 2x drive train will be fine,,find a 3x, ride the 3X and no worries.

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Old 10-10-16, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
I know most even entry level gravel bikes are in the low 20's in weight.
Keep in mind that "low 20s" refers to showroom weight, which sometimes doesn't even include pedals. If you're planning on using full-length fenders and rack(s), plus pedals and bottle cages and spares, a 23lb entry-level gravel bike is going to be a heck of a lot more than 23lbs. My '79 Fuji America sport tourer is 24lbs according to the catalog, but as pictured here it weighs about 31lbs (blue bike in front):



So while your bike is definitely no lightweight, depending on how you're measuring it, it might not be quite as much of a brick as you think. If it's 35lbs as pictured, you're nowhere near Varsity territory.

or would the very heavy weight (35-40 lbs, I assume, I really have no idea) severely limit my fun?
That depends mostly on you. Actually, for reasonably hard-packed trail surfaces and most gravel you probably don't even need to change anything from how it's set up right now. Why not just give it a go and see what you think about it?
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Old 10-10-16, 02:55 PM
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I have a lightweight vintage bike that will see some gravel duty. It's excellent on smooth and firm gravel. However, a heavy vintage bike, like the one in your picture, would not be enjoyable. Get an aluminum Cyclocross bike from bikesdirect.com and you will have a much better ride for a modest outlay.
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Old 10-10-16, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by 12strings View Post
I also have a 1970's steel, lugged, heavy, but sturdy bike with plenty of tire clearance, but also heavy steel wheels, seatpost, bars, and components (Stem shifters). I purchased the bike for $15, stripped it to bare frame, cleaned and re-greased everything, and reassembled with new chain, cables, and 26 x 1 3/8 smooth city tires. It's nice for cruising around town.

Would I be able to enjoy much off-road (Gravel, trails, grass) adventuring with this bike if I simply got some more off-road tires, or would the very heavy weight (35-40 lbs, I assume, I really have no idea) severely limit my fun?
I know most even entry level gravel bikes are in the low 20's in weight.
Heck yeah. You'll probably have lots of fun. If not, at least you didn't blow $2000 on a new bike. Those tires will be totally fine for exploring dirt/gravel/grass. I think the first upgrades for that bike would be:
1) scuffing those steel rims for better braking in mud
2) replace the steel rims with aluminum ones for even better braking in mud
3) lowering the lowest gear
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Old 10-10-16, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by OneIsAllYouNeed View Post
Heck yeah. You'll probably have lots of fun. If not, at least you didn't blow $2000 on a new bike. Those tires will be totally fine for exploring dirt/gravel/grass. I think the first upgrades for that bike would be:
1) scuffing those steel rims for better braking in mud
2) replace the steel rims with aluminum ones for even better braking in mud
3) lowering the lowest gear
Yep, this bike has a 39t small chainring, and 28t big cog. I hope to take it out for some test rides off road soon. Maybe even do a comparison:
-lighter road bike with 25mm tires vs heavy bike with wider 35mm tires.
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Old 10-11-16, 04:32 AM
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It's a tossup as to whether the bike breaks first or you die in a downhill wreck due to extremely poor braking capability.

You could have some fun, yes-- cycling is fun-- but that bike is for rambling, not gravel road riding. In other words, you can ride dirt on it, but why would you choose to do that?

For the record, and I do hope you report back after some rides, I'm betting on breakages. Spokes, seatpost clamps, pedals, fork, frame...stuff like that failing quickly is my bet.
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Old 10-18-16, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
For the record, and I do hope you report back after some rides, I'm betting on breakages. Spokes, seatpost clamps, pedals, fork, frame...stuff like that failing quickly is my bet.
1. Sort of update, but only from my road bike (25mm clincher road tires, rear 75 psi, front 70psi):
I took it down a gravel road (quite large, deep, and loose gravel, IMO...mostly downhill about 3-4% going down, then the same uphill coming back to the paved road) I felt like I had to really control the speed going downhill since I felt that any kind of turn at speed would wipe me out. I attribute some of this to having zero MTB experience, so any kind of skidding felt very unsettling. Coming back up, I definitely lost traction several times, and had to fight to keep the bike pointing the direction I wanted.
OVERALL VERDICT: The bike held up fine, as I exepcted it to. No punctures, and no falls, but I was pretty careful. I don't think I would call the riding experience "fun"...more of what I would call "can I do this without getting hurt?"

2. As for the Old Free Spirit...I hope to try it on the same road toward the end of this week, but I dont' expect anything to break, simply because the bike is so old and tank-like that if anything was going to fail in the last 40 years, it would have already. Having completely stripped the bike down to bare frame and built it back up, I would have found any failing parts. I did not mess with the spokes much, and they could all probably be tightened a bit, but they are all about the same tension, based on ear, and mostly true, and there are a LOT of them (36/wheel).
I have the feeling I could let this bike fall off my car rack at 20-30mph, and most of it would be just fine.
As for braking, I have replaced the brake pads on the bike, which are a big improvement over the 40-year old brake pads. :-)

EDIT: Maybe I'll actually get around to weighing this bike too!
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Old 10-18-16, 10:56 AM
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Do you know that you enjoy riding on gravel on anything? It's different from road riding and you may or may not like it. Take that bike out on some short non-technical gravel rides and see if you like the experience and see how well it handles. If that convinces you that you want to do more, then maybe think about another bike.
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Old 10-18-16, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Do you know that you enjoy riding on gravel on anything? It's different from road riding and you may or may not like it. Take that bike out on some short non-technical gravel rides and see if you like the experience and see how well it handles. If that convinces you that you want to do more, then maybe think about another bike.
Nope, really have no idea...My bike experience consists of:
-Childhood bmx style riding around town
-Teenage mountain bike that I only rode on the roads (I lived in a downtown area)
(though I remember enjoying going fast on snow-packed roads and slamming on the brakes to skid for fun...)
-Adult: Commuting, group rides, and recreational rides on road bikes.
(no off-road experience or technical handling skills).
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Old 10-18-16, 11:44 AM
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Who knows, maybe the steel rims will prevent you from locking up the brakes in a panic on the descents, helping to maintain control. Certainly wouldn't be my choice for anything, though.
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Old 10-18-16, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by plodderslusk View Post
Not a very good idea IMO. Keep that bike for the city and buy an old rigid MTB for gravelgrinding duties.
Totally the way to go for cheap.
Like this (titanium not required):

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Old 10-21-16, 01:23 PM
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UPDATE! I rode about 3 miles of the gravel road today. (Same road I tried with my road bike (25mm tires) last week...mix of small and large gravel, anywhere from 1/2"-2" rocks, with a few packed down tire sections as well, but plenty of loose, deep gravel also). 1.5 miles of rolling hills trending downward, then back up to the paved road.

In a word, it was awesome! The 38lb (with fenders and rack), 40-yr old bike with 26 x 1/38 road tires worked like a champ! It was extremely confidence-inspiring by comparison. I immediately felt free to go MUCH faster, both on downhills, and even on turns. The ride even included a dog chase for about 30-40 seconds that got me really moving fast to get away, and I felt I was able to do it with this bike in a way that would have had me terrified of wiping out on the road bike.

Also, nothing broke, no flat tires, and even the lowest gear I had (39/28) didn't feel like it was excessively hard...I used it, but never felt like I needed another gear.

I could definitely see myself doing some gravel adventure riding or light gravel touring with this bike AS-IS. Any upgrades would just be icing on the cake, not necessities. Thanks for reading!
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Old 10-21-16, 01:39 PM
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An old road bike is an awesome choice for a gravel bike, but I see at least two weaknesses with yours, and both relate to the wheels.

First, 26X1-3/8 (650A?) is not a common size so your tire choices are going to be limited. You may not have easy access to appropriate tires for the riding you want to do. You can surely find something decent online, but you might not have good luck at LBSs.
Second, steel wheels are much more easily dented than aluminum wheels, but more importantly is that brake pads on chromed steel rims generally provide the worst possible braking performance, especially when wet.

But if you already have decent tires, and you don't ride in wet conditions much (or you find a set of 26X1-3/8 aluminum rims for cheap) then there is nothing stopping you from getting out and ripping up the gravel roads.
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Old 10-21-16, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by plodderslusk View Post
...Keep that bike for the city...
Find another ChroMo to gravel with, but a real good start is getting a set of good gravel tires. I don't really do gravel ridding but the back roads I ride are pretty rough in places and a good set of tires pays off big when getting through a bad patch. I'll vouch for Continental Tour Ride as they are cheap, fast, and durable.



https://www.biketiresdirect.com/prod...r-ride-27-inch
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Old 10-21-16, 02:53 PM
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Yes, I've researched, and there is exactly ONE choice for 26" off-road tires close to this width...they are $30. Not bad. (The bike won't fit the more common 26 X 2" mtb tires)

However, as noted, unless I were actually racing off road, the tires I have actually worked great at 35psi. Where knobs would help would be if I were riding in mud.
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Old 10-21-16, 02:57 PM
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Regarding brakes, slightly slower braking doesn't seem as big a deal on gravel as it would on a road bike:

1. You aren't usually bombing downhill at 40mph.

2. A fall on off road is usually softer than a fall on road.

3. The fact that ita harder to stop your wheels should actually help on gravel, since you don't really want to lock the wheels up anyway.
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Old 10-22-16, 10:46 AM
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my gravel bike is pretty heavy, but nothing like that free spirit. I don't really notice, except I had to hump it up some stairs and that got old really fast.

Your location is in Indiana. Around here, braking is key to staying out of the hospital. I don't know about Indiana, brakes might not be that important. In central PA and much of the northeast, there are big rocks everywhere and falling off of your bike is a really bad idea.
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