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Steel Gravel Bikes with the Most Upright/Relaxed Posture

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Steel Gravel Bikes with the Most Upright/Relaxed Posture

Old 11-25-20, 06:58 PM
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ImTheDecider
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Steel Gravel Bikes with the Most Upright/Relaxed Posture

Hey guys—due to some injuries and the fact that I’m no longer doing group rides, I need to find an all-rounder bike for recreational riding. I’m considering a steel gravel bike, and was hoping the brain trust here could point me to the ones that are going to have the most relaxed/upright geometry. (My back has some issues, and really aggressive riding postures give me pelvic floor problems).

Any thoughts?

I’d originally thought about just getting a Specialized Sirrus, but I’m sort of leaning away from carbon and toward steel.

Also, am I wrong about gravel bikes in general? My understanding is that they’re very relaxed in terms of geometry, and that only “comfort” or cruiser type bikes are more relaxed.

edit: Forgot to say, I want this to be my only bike and the last one I buy for a long time. Custom fit is fine, expensive is fine.

Last edited by ImTheDecider; 11-25-20 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 11-25-20, 07:14 PM
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Fortunately, most brands now publish stack and height measurements. It sounds like you want a bike with a large stack (which is the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube).

The Salsa Fargo is one example of a very relaxed position, while the Salsa Warbird has a shorter stack for a gravel bike. Salsa Fargo in size Large has a 671mm stack compared with the Warbird which has a 622mm stack although both models have a 590mm effective top tube.
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Old 11-25-20, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by aggiegrads View Post
Fortunately, most brands now publish stack and height measurements. It sounds like you want a bike with a large stack (which is the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube).

The Salsa Fargo is one example of a very relaxed position, while the Salsa Warbird has a shorter stack for a gravel bike. Salsa Fargo in size Large has a 671mm stack compared with the Warbird which has a 622mm stack although both models have a 590mm effective top tube.
Maybe, but isnít the height of the saddle over the handle bars really the key? I could be thinking about that wrong. Honestly, this is surprisingly confusing. And the problem is, in my city I mostly have access to major brands like Specialized (current bike is a Roubaix), trek, etc. No Marin anymore, really not many or any boutique brands.
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Old 11-25-20, 07:27 PM
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Take a look at https://www.rodeo-labs.com/shop/framesets/flaanimal5/

I had mine custom made. I am not sorry.
https://caletticycles.com/bikes/gravel/
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Old 11-25-20, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by ImTheDecider View Post
Custom fit is fine, expensive is fine.
Iíd contact someone like Moots or Seven Cycles and see what they say. It wonít be steel, but you might be willing to settle for titanium.

John
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Old 11-25-20, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Iíd contact someone like Moots or Seven Cycles and see what they say. It wonít be steel, but you might be willing to settle for titanium.

John
Well, when I said expensive I meant like a few thousand, not like $9,000. At the end of the day, Iím just cruising around with my family or to the donut shop, or doing 10-15 mile exercise rides.
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Old 11-25-20, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ImTheDecider View Post
Maybe, but isn’t the height of the saddle over the handle bars really the key? I could be thinking about that wrong.
The distance between the saddle and pedal should stay the same bike-to-bike, so when the stack height increases, the top of the top tube is higher, and the bars are higher relative to the rider.

The Knolly Cache and Kona Rove are couple bikes that come to mind with pretty tall stacks. Honestly, most steel gravel bikes have relaxed geometry since they are designed with comfortable endurance riding in mind. If you're between sizes, you would probably want to size up as well. Most bikes are usually generous with the cable length too from the box, so you can run a 17 degree stem or such to get a bit more handlebar rise.
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Old 11-25-20, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by ImTheDecider View Post
Maybe, but isn’t the height of the saddle over the handle bars really the key? I could be thinking about that wrong. Honestly, this is surprisingly confusing. And the problem is, in my city I mostly have access to major brands like Specialized (current bike is a Roubaix), trek, etc. No Marin anymore, really not many or any boutique brands.
Yes, you’re correct that bar height relative to saddle height is the prime determinant in posture. Therefore, just about any frame which is properly sized can be more or less aggressive or upright by adjusting the bar reach and height at the stem.

At this point, it doesn’t sound like custom is a great idea because you don’t know what you want. Sure, a good framebuilder can guide you, but there’s no reason they won’t give you the same geo as an off the shelf bike might have, so I’d say to spend some time playing with fit, handling, and performance before theowing down for a custom so that you can fully articulate what you want.

If you have a bike now, get some stems, or one of those adjustable stems, find the bar position you like best, and get out the tape measure and take notes. Add that to the frame geometry numbers of your bike, which you can probably look up online, and from those numbers you can start to compare and visualize what a new bike will fit like, and what it would take to adjust fit to your ideal.

Another option is to go to a shop for a pro fit; they have fully adjustable rigs to get you into the position you like, and will give you numbers to shop frames with. Truly pro fitters also listen to you and help you get where you want to be by offering experience based insight.

I’d suggest looking at the semi-compact geometry of bikes like the Breezer Radar and Doppler.

Last edited by chaadster; 11-25-20 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 11-25-20, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by ImTheDecider View Post
Well, when I said expensive I meant like a few thousand, not like $9,000. At the end of the day, Iím just cruising around with my family or to the donut shop, or doing 10-15 mile exercise rides.
When you start out expensive is fine and then you go well not so expensive it ruins things!

If you want a long term bike a custom fit is well worth it. If you are looking at little lower cost you can find some smaller newer builders or do the semi custom route. Co-Motion has excellent bikes which will do great on gravel and aren't too terribly priced. The Deschutes is a neat bike at a pretty low cost considering you are getting a nice steel frame made in 'merica with some decent enough parts no customization like a lot of their other stuff but looks like a good solid comfy choice.
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Old 11-25-20, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ImTheDecider View Post
Well, when I said expensive I meant like a few thousand, not like $9,000. At the end of the day, Iím just cruising around with my family or to the donut shop, or doing 10-15 mile exercise rides.
Fair enough. Hoping someone could live out my dream... lol!

John
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Old 11-25-20, 08:44 PM
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OP should look at Rivendell.
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Old 11-25-20, 09:41 PM
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You might check out some of the bikes in this thread. A vintage MTB with comfy bars is a lot of fun on smooth trails and gravel roads. Might not be expensive enough for you though.

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...nversions.html

Otto
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Old 11-25-20, 10:07 PM
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Trek Domane
Kona Libre
Salsa Vaya


These have taller stacknabd shorter reach as compared to most other companies.
There are more, plenty more. You need to figure out what you are looking for first though. No point in people searching for you if your stack and reach numbers are so far out there that no large brands carry what you want.
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Old 11-25-20, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
You might check out some of the bikes in this thread. A vintage MTB with comfy bars is a lot of fun on smooth trails and gravel roads. Might not be expensive enough for you though.

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...nversions.html

Otto
Old mtb drop bar conversion are often the opposite of what the OP wants. This is why so many bikes in that thread are kludge together to make the fit work. Many bikes have really short stems, hi rise stems, short head tube frames, etc- all that is evidence of kludging together a setup that fits in spite of the frame's geometry.

A lot of the bikes are neat, but many more are just...questionable due to frame geometry.
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Old 11-25-20, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Old mtb drop bar conversion are often the opposite of what the OP wants. This is why so many bikes in that thread are kludge together to make the fit work. Many bikes have really short stems, hi rise stems, short head tube frames, etc- all that is evidence of kludging together a setup that fits in spite of the frame's geometry.

A lot of the bikes are neat, but many more are just...questionable due to frame geometry.
Oops! Thanks! I meant to link this one...

https://www.bikeforums.net/classic-v...nversions.html

I was thinking of a vintage MTB like my RockHopper with a longish top tube, but with swept bars to bring the reach back to a decent place and add a few inches of bar height. Just pasted the wrong thread.

I ran the RH with drop bars for a while and it was a lot of fun, but that bike has a lot of wheel flop and it just felt a bit unstable with any normal width of drop bars. Plus I am loving the swept bar height and reach running the thing single speed, but we can save that for another time. 😊

Otto

Last edited by ofajen; 11-25-20 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 11-26-20, 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Old mtb drop bar conversion are often the opposite of what the OP wants. This is why so many bikes in that thread are kludge together to make the fit work. Many bikes have really short stems, hi rise stems, short head tube frames, etc- all that is evidence of kludging together a setup that fits in spite of the frame's geometry.

A lot of the bikes are neat, but many more are just...questionable due to frame geometry.
I think that is a totally wrong perspective; geometry and fit are not synonymous. Fit is how the rider wants to sit on the bike, and while the means necessary to achieve desired fit derive from the geometry, the geometry is about how the bike frame is put together.

What youíre talking about is aesthetics.

Things like stems and bars and seatposts are exactly the tools of fit, and itís silly to call them kludges. You may not like the look, but as they say, if the shoe fits...
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Old 11-26-20, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I think that is a totally wrong perspective; geometry and fit are not synonymous. Fit is how the rider wants to sit on the bike, and while the means necessary to achieve desired fit derive from the geometry, the geometry is about how the bike frame is put together.

What youíre talking about is aesthetics.

Things like stems and bars and seatposts are exactly the tools of fit, and itís silly to call them kludges. You may not like the look, but as they say, if the shoe fits...
I think he just means some frames naturally support certain fits better than others.
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Old 11-26-20, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by ImTheDecider View Post
Well, when I said expensive I meant like a few thousand, not like $9,000. At the end of the day, I’m just cruising around with my family or to the donut shop, or doing 10-15 mile exercise rides.
LOL, you need to be careful on this site.

And just like the word "expensive", even relaxed comfort bikes are not overly upright. To get a bike more upright consider a riser stem and/or a wrap back treking bar.

If you really want upright consider a touring bike. A Surly disc trucker can be set up with a nice upright geometry. A quintessential do everything, one bike for a lifetime ride.
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Old 11-26-20, 06:31 AM
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How tall are you and what is your inseam?

The sirrus is not a gravel bike. Not the most relaxed in terms of reach.

look for bikes with a reach of 390 or less and convert to flat bars
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Old 11-26-20, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I think that is a totally wrong perspective; geometry and fit are not synonymous. Fit is how the rider wants to sit on the bike, and while the means necessary to achieve desired fit derive from the geometry, the geometry is about how the bike frame is put together.

What youíre talking about is aesthetics.

Things like stems and bars and seatposts are exactly the tools of fit, and itís silly to call them kludges. You may not like the look, but as they say, if the shoe fits...
The OP wants a bike with high stack and short reach. 80s and 90s MTB frames aren't known for high stack and short reach.
Its just history- design of mtbs then didnt result in high stack and short reach.

My best fit on a drop bar bike is 650mm stack with 405mm reach. I can make a bike with 530mm of stack and 365mm of reach fit with some absurd adjustments, but itll be a kludge. Call it something else if you want, but its the same difference.

Again, the OP wants a high stack and short reach frame per initial description. Old rigid mtbs drop bar conversions just aren't that.
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Old 11-26-20, 09:09 AM
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Check out BikeInsights.com to compare geometry

Black mountain cycles road+ or MCD have pretty relaxed geo
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Old 11-26-20, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
The OP wants a bike with high stack and short reach. 80s and 90s MTB frames aren't known for high stack and short reach.
Its just history- design of mtbs then didnt result in high stack and short reach.

My best fit on a drop bar bike is 650mm stack with 405mm reach. I can make a bike with 530mm of stack and 365mm of reach fit with some absurd adjustments, but itll be a kludge. Call it something else if you want, but its the same difference.

Again, the OP wants a high stack and short reach frame per initial description. Old rigid mtbs drop bar conversions just aren't that.
100% right.

bikes with a short reach tend to be designed around drop bars .

Its up to you after that to find a good fit using whatever stem and handlebars best suited to your needs, so long as you know the sufficient measurements for yourself.
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Old 11-26-20, 10:22 AM
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Sorry I accidentally posted the drop bar conversion link first instead of the upright conversion. Useful to recall that those are all the same type of frame, but with a quill stem, it is easy to make changes to height and reach.

Iíd also agree that Rivendell might be a good brand to try out. I also joke that my RockHopper is what a Jones bike wishes it could be like, though itís perhaps more apt to call it a low budget version of a Jones bike.

Anyway, this is the sort of relaxed fit Iím riding that may be what the OP would want. I do perhaps longer and faster rides, but obviously it would be well suited for all-round recreational rides (probably with derailleur gears or maybe an IGH, rather than single speed as I ride it).




The stem clamp is about level with the saddle and the bars have two inch rise, but angle down. Iím using a long stem so there is a good range of grip from all the way forward (about like drop bar hoods at the forward bend) to a much closer position at the grips.

The Jones ends up with a similar fore-aft range but the bars are wider and angle at 45 degrees while these angle back at 70 degrees.

I should add, Iím using the long Nitto stem adapter, so the stem and bars could easily work on a modern threadless fork.

Otto
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Old 11-26-20, 10:27 AM
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IIRC, it’s not so much with early 90’s mtbs not being designed for a short reach as it was a small frame era that got the reach from 140mm stems.

There was a time when an undersized frame was considered a benefit in being more agile and weighed less. Although not necessarily founded in design reality, fitting was done with seatposts and stems. That said, handlebar height was still low and more front wheel weighted.

I’ve never been a fan of tall steerer tubes/quill stems especially riding off road. Somehow all that real estate between the headset and the stem just doesn’t seem like a good idea. But the answer for a steel frame/fork with a steel steerer might just be a longer steering tube that raises the bars and brings them closer.

As already suggested, I’d talk to frame builders who can give the OP a steel bike that works along with higher bars. It might cost $1000 or so more than some production bike with an extender, but it might be a better one bike option.

John

Last edited by 70sSanO; 11-26-20 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 11-26-20, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
The OP wants a bike with high stack and short reach. 80s and 90s MTB frames aren't known for high stack and short reach.
Its just history- design of mtbs then didnt result in high stack and short reach.

My best fit on a drop bar bike is 650mm stack with 405mm reach. I can make a bike with 530mm of stack and 365mm of reach fit with some absurd adjustments, but itll be a kludge. Call it something else if you want, but its the same difference.

Again, the OP wants a high stack and short reach frame per initial description. Old rigid mtbs drop bar conversions just aren't that.
Did you mistakenly quote me? I wasnít talking about the vintage MTB issue. My reply to you was about the relationship of fit to geometry. The OP pointed out I may have misread you, though.
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