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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.

Help choosing gravel bike

Old 12-12-19, 05:08 AM
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bonsai171
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Help choosing gravel bike

Hello, I have a 31 lb mtb I would like to replace for gravel riding. Most of the bikes I'm interested in are 9-10 lbs lighter, so I'm trying to figure out how to narrow down the choices.

At the moment I'm trying to decide whether to build a bike based on 650b or 700c. I'm finding a lot of frames will take both sizes, but there don't seem to be as many wheel choices for 650b. Most of my riding is smooth to moderate gravel (50+ mi, 5000 + ft climbing). I also like to ride really fast, and am currently riding 1.75" tires, which is about 45 mm. Should I stick with that size, or go the 650b route and have the option for wider tires?

Dave
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Old 12-12-19, 07:58 AM
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For what it's worth. I ride Cannondale and have a Quick 3 and a Topstone 105. The 3 has a 50-34 crank with a 11-36, I had the rear cogs swapped, and the 105 has a 46-30 crank with a 11-34 cog set. When you compare the top speed at an 80 cadence you have the 3 at 29.08 and the 105 at 27.26. My point is that the mechanics have set me back 13/4 mph roughly right out of the box. If you are going to gear the bike for gravel and still want the high end than the chainset and cogs will need to be adjusted to your needs. I run 700c tires on both, 37 on the 105 and 30 on the 3. Not a tremendous difference in width but a big difference in the ability to run lower pressure with the 37's. Both bikes are from the same company but vastly different in feel and ride comfort. Adjusting the rear cog set to your requirements is fairly easy, changing the crank not as much but still very doable. The biggest issue would be finding a bike frameset that fits your body and comfort then you can adjust all of the other stuff to your liking. I tried a few of the bigger names and the Cannondale geometry just fits me best.
Hope this helps a little as I fully realize this is not the full answer you are looking for.
Frank.
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Old 12-12-19, 01:54 PM
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Regarding the gearing combo discussion above- very few of us can crank out 80rpm on gravel using a 50/11 combo for extended periods of time, so the 'loss' of top end speed is more theoretical vs realized. It would certainly be lost if riding with the wind on flat or slight decline segments of road.
Point is, I dont think much is actually given up on that side of the gearing spectrum.



As for the original questions by the OP, there are endless ways to decide what bike to get since there are seemingly endless options. I would go with the below process to start narrowing down.
1- price point. eliminate bikes that are above your budget.
2- decide on drop bars or flat bars. eliminate bikes that are the style you dont want.
3- decide if you want to only buy from a shop or if online works(must understand how to interpret geometry charts).
4- decide if you want a specific material or dont want a specific material. eliminate bikes that arent the material you want.
5- decide if you want a specific style of gravel bike as there are some that ride like rigid MTBs and others that ride like paved road race bikes. eliminate bikes that arent the style you want.
5a- part of this would be tire clearance. Some gravel bikes max out at 42mm while others are 45mm and some at 50mm. Given you ride wider right now, this may matter to you.

At this point, start looking for specifics like groupset, compare wheelsets, look at differences like water bottle mounts, gear mounting points, etc.
This is where actual test riding would be good too since gravel bikes can feel totally different from one another by brand, or even by size within the same model due to geometry differences.



The other way to do this is if you are going to buy local for sure- just go to shops and try what they have. The checklist above will then be naturally checked off as you ride and try.
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Old 12-12-19, 06:51 PM
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[QUOTE=mstateglfr;21243023]Regarding the gearing combo discussion above- very few of us can crank out 80rpm on gravel using a 50/11 combo for extended periods of time, so the loss of top end speed is more theoretical vs realized. It would certainly be lost if riding with the wind on flat or slight decline segments of road.
Point is, I dont think much is actually given up on that side of the gearing spectrum.

I guess I should have made this clearer as I was only using 80 as a constant not a practical cadence.. Sorry for the mistake as I was trying to show the minor loss of the potential top end speed as "speed" was a concern of the OP.
Frank.
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Old 12-14-19, 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Regarding the gearing combo discussion above- very few of us can crank out 80rpm on gravel using a 50/11 combo for extended periods of time, so the 'loss' of top end speed is more theoretical vs realized. It would certainly be lost if riding with the wind on flat or slight decline segments of road.
Point is, I dont think much is actually given up on that side of the gearing spectrum.



As for the original questions by the OP, there are endless ways to decide what bike to get since there are seemingly endless options. I would go with the below process to start narrowing down.
1- price point. eliminate bikes that are above your budget.
2- decide on drop bars or flat bars. eliminate bikes that are the style you dont want.
3- decide if you want to only buy from a shop or if online works(must understand how to interpret geometry charts).
4- decide if you want a specific material or dont want a specific material. eliminate bikes that arent the material you want.
5- decide if you want a specific style of gravel bike as there are some that ride like rigid MTBs and others that ride like paved road race bikes. eliminate bikes that arent the style you want.
5a- part of this would be tire clearance. Some gravel bikes max out at 42mm while others are 45mm and some at 50mm. Given you ride wider right now, this may matter to you.

At this point, start looking for specifics like groupset, compare wheelsets, look at differences like water bottle mounts, gear mounting points, etc.
This is where actual test riding would be good too since gravel bikes can feel totally different from one another by brand, or even by size within the same model due to geometry differences.



The other way to do this is if you are going to buy local for sure- just go to shops and try what they have. The checklist above will then be naturally checked off as you ride and try.
To be honest, I think having water bottle mounts on the fork is a must for me. I did a ride in a rugged wilderness area this summer and almost ran out of water with 3 bottles and a water filter. That ride was 57 mi and 6500ft of climbing. That checks off a LOT of bikes.

I think tire size and gearing will be important too, but maybe hard to test the tire size without riding on some gravel, so that might be hard to do.

As far as gearing, I have a low gear of 26 gear inches. That worked fine carrying 10-15 lbs of gear on the aforementioned ride, but I wonder how it will hold up to bikepacking. A lot of the gravel bikes are geared more like road bikes. How many gear inches should I look for?

Dave
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Old 12-15-19, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by bonsai171 View Post
Hello, I have a 31 lb mtb I would like to replace for gravel riding. Most of the bikes I'm interested in are 9-10 lbs lighter, so I'm trying to figure out how to narrow down the choices.

At the moment I'm trying to decide whether to build a bike based on 650b or 700c. I'm finding a lot of frames will take both sizes, but there don't seem to be as many wheel choices for 650b. Most of my riding is smooth to moderate gravel (50+ mi, 5000 + ft climbing). I also like to ride really fast, and am currently riding 1.75" tires, which is about 45 mm. Should I stick with that size, or go the 650b route and have the option for wider tires?

Dave
If you're looking at building up a frameset, then you can always get a custom 650b wheelset.

I'd tend to think if you like riding really fast at times, then a 700c will keep its speed better than a 650b.

One thing to consider in a frame is the bb drop, even more so if considering to run two wheel sizes. You may find running a larger 700c that the ride position feels too tall, compared to something like a 650b 2".
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Old 12-15-19, 06:35 AM
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unless you are riding really REALLY gnarly stuff, you shouldn't need the extra frame clearance provided by 650 on most gravel frames. If you are riding stuff that's that rough, just use your mountain bike would be my suggestion.
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Old 12-31-19, 02:30 PM
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Is there a reason you can't just get a frame and have two wheelsets, one 700c and one 650b? 700cx40 should be good enough for most cases and a 650bx47 would be good for when you need it.
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Old 12-31-19, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by tFUnK View Post
Is there a reason you can't just get a frame and have two wheelsets, one 700c and one 650b? 700cx40 should be good enough for most cases and a 650bx47 would be good for when you need it.
I tend to be a minimalist, so the idea of having more than one wheelset creates extra clutter in my house. I'm frustrated with gravel bikes right now too, since what I'm looking for costs over $3k in a complete bike, and even more to build something. Maybe my expectations are too high, but from what I see it will cost at least that to get gearing low enough for bikepacking, tire clearance for 45mm tires, and enough brazeons for 3-5 water bottles.

Dave
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Old 01-01-20, 03:52 PM
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I think the closer to low-20s in gear inches the better, under 20 even nicer for heavy loads. But most gravel bikes i see are mid 20s.

Lots of $2,000 gravel bikes with 700c wheels. Have a 650b set built for around $380-$450 (Hunt has a set for $409), sell the original 700 wheels. You don't need lots of 650b wheel options to choose from, you just need one good set.

How much weight do you plan to haul, and what kind of terrain? I did a short lightweight bike packing on my 48/32 x 11/34 Norco Search XR last summer, in the Sierra Natl Forest of California, and it worked great on the $425 Kinlin rims/Bitex hub 650b wheels i had built, now running Schwalbe 2.1 Thunder Burts. I see no reason to pull out the original 700c x 40 wheels i have stashed in my closet unless, maybe, to sell.

The latest Norco Search XR S2 (latest version of my 2018) is $2,000. It's only 10-speed, but has GRX 46/30 crank, and 11/36 cassette, and GRX hydraulic brakes. Double mounts on the fork blades, rear rack mounts, inner triangle bottle mounts and one beneath the downtube, and thru-axle front and back. Comes with 700c x 42, but maybe a shop will swap a 650b set for you at purchase. This is just one example of what's out there. SO many options these days:
https://www.norco.com/bikes/2020/dir.../search-xr-s2/

Build up some 650b wheels, add a RedShift StopShock stem, 30 chainring, 36 large cassette cog, you would have a great bike packing bike.

(i'm mentioning the Norco Search model mainly because i have one, and just saw the latest 2020 model in my shop the other day, and the blue really caught my eye, it's a nice looking bike that can take both 700c and 650b.)

eric/fresno, ca.

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Old 01-01-20, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ericzamora View Post
I think the closer to low-20s in gear inches the better, under 20 even nicer for heavy loads. But most gravel bikes i see are mid 20s.

Lots of $2,000 gravel bikes with 700c wheels. Have a 650b set built for around $380-$450 (Hunt has a set for $409), sell the original 700 wheels. You don't need lots of 650b wheel options to choose from, you just need one good set.

How much weight do you plan to haul, and what kind of terrain? I did a short lightweight bike packing on my 48/32 x 11/34 Norco Search XR last summer, in the Sierra Natl Forest of California, and it worked great on the $425 Kinlin rims/Bitex hub 650b wheels i had built, now running Schwalbe 2.1 Thunder Burts. I see no reason to pull out the original 700c x 40 wheels i have stashed in my closet unless, maybe, to sell.

The latest Norco Search XR S2 (latest version of my 2018) is $2,000. It's only 10-speed, but has GRX 46/30 crank, and 11/36 cassette, and GRX hydraulic brakes. Double mounts on the fork blades, rear rack mounts, inner triangle bottle mounts and one beneath the downtube, and thru-axle front and back. Comes with 700c x 42, but maybe a shop will swap a 650b set for you at purchase. This is just one example of what's out there. SO many options these days:
https://www.norco.com/bikes/2020/dir.../search-xr-s2/

Build up some 650b wheels, add a RedShift StopShock stem, 30 chainring, 36 large cassette cog, you would have a great bike packing bike.

(i'm mentioning the Norco Search model mainly because i have one, and just saw the latest 2020 model in my shop the other day, and the blue really caught my eye, it's a nice looking bike that can take both 700c and 650b.)

eric/fresno, ca.
Eric,

That looks like a pretty awesome bike! Checks almost all the boxes. Gearing, water bottle mounts, even tubeless. I'd be curious what a bike like that weighs?

As far as bikepacking, it will probably be local stuff at first, maybe a 1 nighter to start. Eventually I'd like to bikepack in the North Georgia mountains. Last ride I did there was 58mi, and 6500 ft of climbing to give you an idea. Trying to keep the weight I'm carrying to a minimum.

Dave
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Old 01-04-20, 01:02 AM
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Originally Posted by bonsai171 View Post
Eric,

That looks like a pretty awesome bike! Checks almost all the boxes. Gearing, water bottle mounts, even tubeless. I'd be curious what a bike like that weighs?

As far as bikepacking, it will probably be local stuff at first, maybe a 1 nighter to start. Eventually I'd like to bikepack in the North Georgia mountains. Last ride I did there was 58mi, and 6500 ft of climbing to give you an idea. Trying to keep the weight I'm carrying to a minimum.

Dave
The only real potential negative is the pressfit BB. Mine got a little crud in there after a few months and my LBS cleaned and added some grease and it's been fine after that. The LBS owner said this PF BB is not the same style that draws criticism. It is of a slightly newer design. I took him at his word, since he owns the bike shop and chose the same bike for himself; he knows his stuff and is a racer-racer kind of rider. I've since upgraded to a better Wheels Manufacturing BB from the original Praxis when I switched to GRX. Still PF of course.

I think the bike weighs around 25lbs, NOT a lightweight. It's 720 Reynolds. I easily gained 10 lbs just over the holidays, so my priority right now is me, not the bike's weight.

eric/fresno, ca.

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Old 01-04-20, 09:31 PM
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We have the same bike and with pedals my size 53 was 24.5 pounds. I also have the priority of me loosing the weight, and not the bike.
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Old 01-04-20, 10:52 PM
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.

Have you looked into the Bombtrack (EXT, etc.) range of bikes? They have both complete bikes and framesets; threaded BB, multiple cage mounts (on fork too), 650b options, etc.
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Old 01-05-20, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by ciclista tifoso View Post
.

Have you looked into the Bombtrack (EXT, etc.) range of bikes? They have both complete bikes and framesets; threaded BB, multiple cage mounts (on fork too), 650b options, etc.
The bombtracks look nice too as far as the bb, gearing, cage mounts, etc. Looked at the beyond a while ago, and they are a little bit hefty at 27.5 lbs.

If was I buying something today, I think the Norco XR S2 would be a strong contender, though probably a compromise because of weight (yet still pretty good at 6lbs lower than my current bike).

The Salsa Cutthroat GRX 600 would be ideal, but I don't know if I'll get to the point where spending that kind of money is feasible.

Dave
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Old 01-05-20, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by bonsai171 View Post
The bombtracks look nice too as far as the bb, gearing, cage mounts, etc. Looked at the beyond a while ago, and they are a little bit hefty at 27.5 lbs.
OMG, that's heavier than many mountain bikes - what a pig!
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Old 01-05-20, 03:37 PM
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.

When i suggested the Bombtrack, i was thinking of the EXT or EXT-C (carbon frame), both of which will be lighter than the weight referenced above, the carbon being the lightest of the bombtrack builds, of course.
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Old 01-05-20, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by ciclista tifoso View Post
.

When i suggested the Bombtrack, i was thinking of the EXT or EXT-C (carbon frame), both of which will be lighter than the weight referenced above, the carbon being the lightest of the bombtrack builds, of course.
Fair enough, maybe an assumption on my part! I will check those out. One thing I did notice about bombtrack is that there aren't any local dealers. At some point I will be test riding some of these bikes out, so not being able to ride it may play into my decision. The ext-C does look nice though.

Does anyone have experience with Ocoee bikes? They are a relatively new bike company based out of Chattanooga, TN (and a subsidiary of Litespeed). They have a 105 carbon gravel bike which looks pretty nice for $2,600.

https://ocoeebikes.com/collections/g...s/boundary-105

They are consumer direct, but Chattanooga isn't too far from me, but only 1.5 hours away, so testing one might be possible.

Dave

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Old 01-06-20, 05:34 AM
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Not really a fan of that 67mm bbdrop on those frames. Personally I'd prefer around 72mm or so if running a larger 650b or mid-700 like a 42mm.

As they're pretty close though, I'd definitely test ride one. Get a feel for the geometry. Ideally I'd be looking for a threaded bb bike.

Seems you like seeking out similar rides to me. Just getting into overnighters also. I like to keep the bike and gear weight down where possible. My build is 17.5 lbs, running 650b x 2.1 at the moment.

If you knew what you were doing you could build up something like a Carbonda frameset with a few previous gen higher-end secondhand components to keep the weight and price down.
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Old 01-06-20, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by tangerineowl View Post
Not really a fan of that 67mm bbdrop on those frames. Personally I'd prefer around 72mm or so if running a larger 650b or mid-700 like a 42mm.

As they're pretty close though, I'd definitely test ride one. Get a feel for the geometry. Ideally I'd be looking for a threaded bb bike.

Seems you like seeking out similar rides to me. Just getting into overnighters also. I like to keep the bike and gear weight down where possible. My build is 17.5 lbs, running 650b x 2.1 at the moment.

If you knew what you were doing you could build up something like a Carbonda frameset with a few previous gen higher-end secondhand components to keep the weight and price down.
How does the bb drop play into the bike? Is the only potential issue a pedal strike?

Geometry wise, I'd like something on the more relaxed side. Don't really know a lot about geometry, except that a longer wheelbase frame will be more stable.

Was looking at running 700x45s, but with a frame like the Carbonada, I'd probably have to run 650b. How do you like the bike/ride quality? I see that it is toray carbon, made in China. If you don't mind me asking, what does a frame like this cost? Building isn't a problem as I've done a few bikes before.
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Old 01-06-20, 02:01 PM
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Is there some reason the Jamis Renegade line doesn't work for you?

And as to the extra bottles - have you considered using a Camelbak? That's four bottles' worth of water right there and less "stuff" that should appeal to your minimalism.
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Old 01-06-20, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota View Post
Is there some reason the Jamis Renegade line doesn't work for you?

And as to the extra bottles - have you considered using a Camelbak? That's four bottles' worth of water right there and less "stuff" that should appeal to your minimalism.
The renegades are nice too. Only potential issue I can see is the max 40mm with the renegade elite. The exploit can do 700x42s or 650x47mm. Not sure how I feel about smaller tires like 40's or 42s. Maybe another potential test ride opportunity.

Not sure if I would like a Camelback. This is something I could test though. A buddy has a few of them and has offered to let me try it. Guess that is a win win.

Dave
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Old 01-06-20, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by bonsai171 View Post
The renegades are nice too. Only potential issue I can see is the max 40mm with the renegade elite. The exploit can do 700x42s or 650x47mm. Not sure how I feel about smaller tires like 40's or 42s. Maybe another potential test ride opportunity.

Not sure if I would like a Camelback. This is something I could test though. A buddy has a few of them and has offered to let me try it. Guess that is a win win.

Dave
I'm pretty sure the steel ones can fit a 45mm tire. And yeah give the camelbak shot. I wasn't sure if I'd like it but I was shocked at how much I don't notice it on my back.
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Old 01-06-20, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by bonsai171 View Post
How does the bb drop play into the bike? Is the only potential issue a pedal strike?

Geometry wise, I'd like something on the more relaxed side. Don't really know a lot about geometry, except that a longer wheelbase frame will be more stable.

Was looking at running 700x45s, but with a frame like the Carbonada, I'd probably have to run 650b. How do you like the bike/ride quality? I see that it is toray carbon, made in China. If you don't mind me asking, what does a frame like this cost? Building isn't a problem as I've done a few bikes before.
Pedal strike yes, but when you start running a larger tyre its not really an issue when the bb drop is between 70-75+. A lower bb puts you lower in the bike when riding it, rather than a higher riding position.

Haven't built one up, just suggested doing so as one route. The 696 frame has the larger 650b and 700c clearance. From memory a custom colour frameset with threaded bb and mounts runs near $700usd. The Riding Gravel Forum has a huge Carbonda thread. It starts with people building up the 505 as that was Carbonda's first gravel frame.
Edit: Just read through the last few pages on that thread. A comment mentioning the Boundary is the 696 frame.

Diamondback still does the Haanjo builds. Their 700c $3k is pretty good. Frame geo is fairly relaxed. Good clearance. The frame is supposed to weigh around 1150gm in a medium. Frame has a taller standover; best suits riders with taller inseams. You may still be able to get their online bike discount when signing up.

Any frame/bike you're looking at its a good idea to start with comparing the stack and reach in the geometry chart. That will give you an idea of how relaxed the front end position is.

Last edited by tangerineowl; 01-06-20 at 06:36 PM. Reason: txt
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Old 01-06-20, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by bonsai171 View Post
The renegades are nice too. Only potential issue I can see is the max 40mm with the renegade elite. The exploit can do 700x42s or 650x47mm. Not sure how I feel about smaller tires like 40's or 42s. Maybe another potential test ride opportunity.

Not sure if I would like a Camelback. This is something I could test though. A buddy has a few of them and has offered to let me try it. Guess that is a win win.

Dave
Just measured the wife's tires on her steel renegade. They're 44mm, so you'll be fine with 45s if you don't want fenders.
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