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Converting touring bike into a gravel grinder

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Converting touring bike into a gravel grinder

Old 10-22-19, 08:17 PM
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hhk25
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Converting touring bike into a gravel grinder

Thinking about converting my touring bike into a gravel grinder/bike packer. I bought this bike 2 years ago as my dream touring bike but found that I enjoy pavement touring less and less. Main reason being the lack of decent cycle paths and the generally unsafe road manners of car and truck drivers in my country (Canada). I have enjoyed riding mixed surfaces on my CX bike but find it uncomfortable for long rides which is why I'm thinking of the conversion of my touring bike. The bike is currently equipped with 105 3x10 speed and TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes.

I'm thinking of converting the 105 drivetrain to GRX (so I can go 1x11) and possibly going 650b so I can fit wider tires.

So a few questions for the group from a bikepacking noob - does anyone regret running 650b? Any reason not to do a 1x11 drivetrain (with 11-42 cassette)?

Last edited by hhk25; 10-22-19 at 08:27 PM.
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Old 10-22-19, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
Thinking about converting my touring bike into a gravel grinder/bike packer. I bought this bike 2 years ago as my dream touring bike but found that I enjoy pavement touring less and less. Main reason being the lack of decent cycle paths and the generally unsafe road manners of car and truck drivers in my country (Canada). I have enjoyed riding mixed surfaces on my CX bike but find it uncomfortable for long rides which is why I'm thinking of the conversion of my touring bike. The bike is currently equipped with 105 3x10 speed and TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes.

I'm thinking of converting the 105 drivetrain to GRX (so I can go 1x11) and possibly going 650b so I can fit wider tires.

So a few questions for the group from a bikepacking noob - does anyone regret running 650b? Any reason not to do a 1x11 drivetrain (with 11-42 cassette)?
I suggest that you first determine why your CX bike is less comfortable for longer rides. The obvious difference would seem to be the bike "fit", but that is only a guess. If you want to tour off pavement, carrying luggage such as camping and cooking gear, clothing for various weather conditions and food/water for a few days, you may not be happy with the low gears available on a 1 x 11. Or, with a small enough chain ring, you will be able to climb the gravel service roads but may not be satisfied with the high end of your range if you're occasionally on pavement.

I converted my Jamis Renegade to a gravel/bikepacking bike a while back. The TRP brakes are great. I have a 11 - 46 cassette and a 38 tooth chain ring, which is all I need unless I have luggage. And mountains. In that case I shift to the 26 tooth chain ring in front, which is the only time I've ever used that front ring. The front derailleur doesn't really like the 26 tooth ring, and so I use it only when needed, which means loaded and going up a long steep hill. It is my touring bike but it can also go on gravel. The max tire size is 29 x 40, which is a little narrow for gravel, in my opinion, though many would disagree.

I have another bike actually designed for bikepacking, and it is 1 x 11, 11-46 with a 30T chain ring, and 29 x 3 inch tires. I find wider tires more stable on gravel (provided the tire pressure is moderated), but they are slow on pavement. I don't see any disadvantage to 650b tires, but if you're going to climb mountains, I recommend an 11 - 46 cassette, and learn to pack very light.
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Old 10-22-19, 09:34 PM
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What would the 1x11 do that the 3x10 doesnt? Not disagreeing, just asking to understand. If the 3x10 does what you need, then is the change beneficial?

What size tire fits now and what 650 tire would you want to fit?
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Old 10-22-19, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
What would the 1x11 do that the 3x10 doesnt? Not disagreeing, just asking to understand. If the 3x10 does what you need, then is the change beneficial?

What size tire fits now and what 650 tire would you want to fit?
Well, you see, um, the 1x11 eliminates the redundancy in the 3x10 gearing, plus it also eliminates the very low end and the very high end of the 3x10, which isn't really desirable or necessary. But since you have no FD on the 1x11, you bypass the FD adjustment problems that you get once a year. Granted, that's not a very good reason, but I like simplicity and the 1x11 doesn't require that I think about what gear I'm using; only that I know to shift higher or lower.

Your question about the advantages of 3x10 over 1x11 is good, as is the question about tire size.
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Old 10-23-19, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
What would the 1x11 do that the 3x10 doesnt? Not disagreeing, just asking to understand. If the 3x10 does what you need, then is the change beneficial?

What size tire fits now and what 650 tire would you want to fit?
What DeadGrandpa said - you lose the FD, cables and shifter. Simplifies the setup. I guess you get some weight savings too. I'm never going to use the high gear off road although I might regret the loss of climbing capability when fully loaded.

I've got 700x32 on there now and I think 38s would fit with some clearance at the fork. I'm hoping I can get 47s on with 650b wheels.
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Old 10-23-19, 06:43 AM
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Does your touring bike have disc brakes or cantilever posts? If the latter (and these are designed for 700c), how do you plan on making this work with 650b? Also 47c may not clear the frame given that the bike was likely designed around 32c tires.
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Old 10-23-19, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
What DeadGrandpa said - you lose the FD, cables and shifter. Simplifies the setup. I guess you get some weight savings too. I'm never going to use the high gear off road although I might regret the loss of climbing capability when fully loaded.

I've got 700x32 on there now and I think 38s would fit with some clearance at the fork. I'm hoping I can get 47s on with 650b wheels.
Ok. I asked why get rid of your current drivetrain because in general, the wider range of gearing will help when you when carrying gear bikepacking and also because wider tires effectively make gearing more difficult. And a 3x drivetrain is an easy way to get that wider range on the low end. A simple swap to a Sugino XD600 crank with 46/36/26 rings would give you all the range you need and eliminate the higher gearing you mention you will never use.

Not trying to talk you out of 1x, just curious since you already have a capable drivetrain in place. Going 1x certainly makes sense, given your ideals.
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Old 10-23-19, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Does your touring bike have disc brakes or cantilever posts? If the latter (and these are designed for 700c), how do you plan on making this work with 650b? Also 47c may not clear the frame given that the bike was likely designed around 32c tires.
Disc brakes.
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Old 10-23-19, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Ok. I asked why get rid of your current drivetrain because in general, the wider range of gearing will help when you when carrying gear bikepacking and also because wider tires effectively make gearing more difficult. And a 3x drivetrain is an easy way to get that wider range on the low end. A simple swap to a Sugino XD600 crank with 46/36/26 rings would give you all the range you need and eliminate the higher gearing you mention you will never use.

Not trying to talk you out of 1x, just curious since you already have a capable drivetrain in place. Going 1x certainly makes sense, given your ideals.
Getting rid of the current drivetrain is part of a bigger story. I have an old Trek 520 that needs some updating. Chainrings and RD are worn out. I thought about moving the 105 drivetrain over to the Trek and then getting a new GRX setup for the newer bike. Just not sure if I should go single or double. I think I'm sold on the 650b though.

After a couple of seasons, I've come to the realization that the Trek is better touring bike than my new Marinoni. It just needs some updating. So I want to repurpose the Marinoni as a dedicated mixed surface bike.
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Old 10-23-19, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
Disc brakes.
Got it; I thought maybe you were thinking of converting your 520 with cantis. 650b conversions are cool but the frame may limit how fat you can go with your tire. If you could borrow some 650b wheels to mock up the bike, you could take some measurements.
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Old 10-23-19, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Got it; I thought maybe you were thinking of converting your 520 with cantis. 650b conversions are cool but the frame may limit how fat you can go with your tire. If you could borrow some 650b wheels to mock up the bike, you could take some measurements.
Nah, but it's all part of the same project. Move the Marinoni's drivetrain over to the Trek. Install a new drivetrain on the Marinoni. I get bored when the weather turns bad and start thinking of projects.

I'll have to do some experimenting with tire width for sure. A bigger concern for me is clearance at the BB and pedals. I need to maximize the rubber size to get the BB up as high as possible.
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Old 10-24-19, 08:37 AM
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IIRC, a 700 x 28 is roughly equal in circumference to a 650b x 42 or 44, giving the same BB height. The challenge is width of tire at that size between stays/fork.
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Old 10-24-19, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
What DeadGrandpa said - you lose the FD, cables and shifter. Simplifies the setup. I guess you get some weight savings too. I'm never going to use the high gear off road although I might regret the loss of climbing capability when fully loaded.
For the contrarian view.

1x is great if you are doing solo rides and/or are not concerned about cadence.
2x is great if you are doing fast group rides when you really need to be in the right gear for the right cadence. Makes it harder to get dropped on the uphills and on the downhills.

You may be different, but for me:
1x complicates the setup - as I'm really gonna end up changing chainrings for the type of ride I'm doing
1x was a heavier option on my bike (those big cassets aren't the lightest).
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Old 10-24-19, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
I have enjoyed riding mixed surfaces on my CX bike but find it uncomfortable for long rides which is why I'm thinking of the conversion of my touring bike.
Is that the only reason, or is it 'cause its kinda fun to do too?

I've done the CX thing on gravel. Even on a stiff aluminum frame, I can get a fairly cush ride going with larger tires (tubless) and a cush seat post. I could take it farther with a redshif stem if I wanted to...
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Old 10-29-19, 08:04 PM
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You are going to spend a lot to do this and you will still have a "gravel" bike that has an overly heavy frame, too little vertical compliance, the wrong fork and too little tire clearance. You are better off selling the touring rig (or setting it back in the garage on the "some day" hook) and getting a purpose-built gravel machine just like you want. There are so many choices now and maybe the Jamis Renegade steel frame models might be a good place to start looking. What is your budget?
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Old 11-03-19, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
You are going to spend a lot to do this and you will still have a "gravel" bike that has an overly heavy frame, too little vertical compliance, the wrong fork and too little tire clearance. You are better off selling the touring rig (or setting it back in the garage on the "some day" hook) and getting a purpose-built gravel machine just like you want. There are so many choices now and maybe the Jamis Renegade steel frame models might be a good place to start looking. What is your budget?
I think you're right. I talked to the company that built my touring rig and I would have to get a new fork to accommodate anything wider than 38c tires. Better just to leave it alone for a future tour.

I probably want to spend 2000 US for a gravel bike. Steel frame, hydraulic discs, thru axles being the must haves.

I would prefer a frameset so I can build it myself.
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