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Help - I'm drowning in information and confusion!

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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 - I'm drowning in information and confusion!

Old 07-24-19, 10:02 AM
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bjn74
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Help - I'm drowning in information and confusion!

First post here! I've not cycled for about 15 years and when I did I pretty much just did mountain bike riding. Now I'm looking to get back into riding for the following use:

- slow weekend rides with the wife to grab coffee, on bike paths, through parks etc
- training road rides
- riding gravel rides to get away from the traffic and I enjoy dirt roads
- looking forward to the future I can see us driving somewhere to ride through country roads/gravel for half day type of thing.

So I started researching (I'm an engineer so I research things to death) and a friend of mine who road races suggest I get a gravel bike. So I've been sucked down that rabbit hole. Now I'm just confused! I have no intent of riding muddy, messy roads, but want the option to go on gravel roads and maybe occasional single track. While I have no intent to road race, I assume I'll probably end up joining some group rides and want to be able to do those. Comfort is important to me.

Not having ridden for 15 years and never owned a drop bar bike before, I have no baseline for comparison when I jump on a gravel bike! I can't tell if the 'this front end is going to bounce around when I aggressively climb a hill' or 'I'm getting great power transfer through this stiff bottom bracket/frame', or 'this bike is too heavy to be fast enough on road rides'.

So I've ridden the following bikes with comments next to them. I'm looking at spending up to $3k:

Specialized Diverge: Took it for an hour long. Felt comfortable. Liked it. I like the looks.
Trek Domane: Not as comfortable as the diverge. Only a short ride. I like the looks. I'm assuming the smaller tires have an impact on comfort/smoothness.
Giant Revolt Advanced. Tested a size too small. Felt cramped. Front felt nice. It was just after riding the Diverge and my ass was sore after my first bike ride in 15 years, so the back end felt harsh. May not be a fair comparison! I want to test again with a medium. I like the looks.
Cannondale Carbon Topstone 105: Felt smooth. Really liked it. Looked boring in all black!

I have a test ride this week on a Trek Checkpoint but all the reviews I've seen criticize the stiff front end.

Then I get information overload and realize that if I'm doing 75% road rides, bike path etc, do I need a gravel bike or more a comfortable endurance bike that can take a wider tire! I really am confused. Then saw some information that Trek is releasing a new Domane this week that will take a 38 tire. So that has me interested!

Looking for any advice, guidance, as well as bike suggestions. This will be my only bike. I do realize the list of bikes above are mostly the big brands, and that's because they're easy to find/test ride. I do love the look of the Argon18 Dark Matter but can't find many reviews of that and the 105 version is $3200. HELP!!!
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Old 07-24-19, 10:17 AM
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Yeah, it is pretty competitive with a lot of changes recently.

I would get something that takes 40mm tires - if you want to go fast you can always get a second wheelset with ~30mm road tires.
Most people that go off pavement use tubeless ties. Have you researched that?

Then there are the tradeoffs:
  • Do you want endurance or Aero fit?
  • Do you want agile or stable?
  • Do you want comfort or responsiveness?
I ride my bike a little like a mountain bike - much more aggressively than a roadie. I like a higher bottom bracket for pedal and chain ring clearance and for acceleration. But a low BB tends to be more stable on fast loose downhills.
Short rear chain stays tend to give better acceleration, while longer chain-stays can be better for long steady power, or backpacking.
The head tube angle (specifically the trail) is going to determine how agile the bike acts

The checkpoint is interesting in that it has a relatively short trail and relatively long wheelbase. The steering is pretty precise - sounds like you would rather have comfort over precision.

The bikes you are looking at are pretty competitive - but the most important thing is that the shop works with you to dial in the fit. A good shop will measure your inseam, and make sure you have the body angle and reach (stack & reach) to make sure your hands are in the right position and that you are comfortable.

Sounds like you like the Diverge. ;-)

Last edited by chas58; 07-24-19 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 07-24-19, 11:16 AM
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bjn74
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Yeah, it is pretty competitive with a lot of changes recently.

I would get something that takes 40mm tires - if you want to go fast you can always get a second wheelset with ~30mm road tires.
Most people that go off pavement use tubeless ties. Have you researched that?

Then there are the tradeoffs:
  • Do you want endurance or Aero fit?
  • Do you want agile or stable?
  • Do you want comfort or responsiveness?
I ride my bike a little like a mountain bike - much more aggressively than a roadie. I like a higher bottom bracket for pedal and chain ring clearance and for acceleration. But a low BB tends to be more stable on fast loose downhills.
Short rear chain stays tend to give better acceleration, while longer chain-stays can be better for long steady power, or backpacking.
The head tube angle (specifically the trail) is going to determine how agile the bike acts

The checkpoint is interesting in that it has a relatively short trail and relatively long wheelbase. The steering is pretty precise - sounds like you would rather have comfort over precision.

The bikes you are looking at are pretty competitive - but the most important thing is that the shop works with you to dial in the fit. A good shop will measure your inseam, and make sure you have the body angle and reach (stack & reach) to make sure your hands are in the right position and that you are comfortable.

Sounds like you like the Diverge. ;-)
Thanks for the quick reply. Yeah - it's been pretty much information overload for the last 3 weeks!

I do like the diverge, I just have friends saying 'you don't need front suspension for your needs and it's going to be more of a liability for the sealed road riding you'll do'. I have no experience to be able to refute or agree! I lean towards comfort, but don't need something super plush. Agile or stable - I have no idea! Hence all my confusion. I guess that any of the bikes I'm looking at are going to be good bikes, so they'll all work. Just want to do enough research and learn enough that I get the one closest to my needs (and that I like the look of!).
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Old 07-24-19, 12:49 PM
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You can't go wrong with any of the bikes you listed. It comes down to which fits you best and aesthetics.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:00 PM
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Get the diverge.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:02 PM
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bjn74
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Originally Posted by Noctilux.95 View Post
You can't go wrong with any of the bikes you listed. It comes down to which fits you best and aesthetics.
That's kind of what I'm starting to think!
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Old 07-24-19, 01:03 PM
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bjn74
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
Get the diverge.
The 2020 models are a bit cheaper too. $2800 vs $3000 for the 105 equipped model.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:10 PM
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A gravel bike with a second wheelset for the road is great way to go. My Revolt does great on fast group rides and offroad.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
A gravel bike with a second wheelset for the road is great way to go. My Revolt does great on fast group rides and offroad.
That's good to know. I really like the look of the Revolt Advanced 2 with white frame. Going to test ride one this weekend.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:25 PM
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It is very difficult to get the perfect bike on the first purchase. I'd suggest finding a cheaper used bike with the idea of it being a starter bike. This way you can ride while learning what you like and not be out a lot of money when you replace it. Is your friend around the same height and can loan you a spare bike for awhile?

Or maybe you can rent some of your desired bikes and take it on a long 20mi+ ride.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
Get the diverge.
Originally Posted by bjn74 View Post
The 2020 models are a bit cheaper too. $2800 vs $3000 for the 105 equipped model.
To expand on this a bit:

Gravel bikes are trending right now because they're versatile, so really any of these bikes will do what you want and, unless you're racing at like a Cat 2 or 3 level will be fine for fast road riding if you slap on some road tires.

(Actually I know a fellow who used to crush the local crits and some longer road races on a Crux. But he's also probably going to be on the 2020 Olympic team so that's kind of an outlier as far as data points go.)

Anyway, any of those bikes will be up to the task and are all reputable and quality brands so just get the one that speaks to you.

Finally, I'm not exactly a Specialized fanboy but I have to admit they make quality stuff and I have not met a single person who has a Diverge who has anything bad to say about it. My local LBS is a Specialized dealer so I see a LOT of Diverges on the roads around here.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by bjn74 View Post
Thanks for the quick reply. Yeah - it's been pretty much information overload for the last 3 weeks!

I do like the diverge, I just have friends saying 'you don't need front suspension for your needs and it's going to be more of a liability for the sealed road riding you'll do'. I have no experience to be able to refute or agree...
Katsup is right. I started off with a craigslist bike, that helped me define what I liked and what I needed. Then I could spend the $$$ on the right bike.

Our LBS has rentals Ė that is a good investment (I think theyíll take the rental off the purchase price if you buy one). As mentioned above any of the bikes you listed are good. If you can do a 20 mile ride on them to cement it, all the better.


As for compliance, bikes can be pretty plush in the rear (especially with a goo seat post). Most complaints are in the front.

I stopped by the trek and spec. store yesterday. Dang, that diverge has lots of tire clearance. I do think it is odd that the trek had the iso-decoupler in the rear, but not the front. I would put a (mini) suspension on the front rather than the rear (just like a mountain bike Ė ever hear of a rear suspension and ridged fork?).

Personally, I donít put much weight on my front hands, so I donít really notice my front stiff end (other than the precision when CX racing or threading a tight course). Still, if you are doing any rough road riding, it is a benefit. If you are doing a lot of pavement and out of the saddle accelerations Ė maybe not.

To some degree it is a passion decision. Specialized has some gorgeous paint jobs. I road an old diverge and didnít like the super low bottom bracket. Seemed to accelerate slow, and I hate pedal strike. But it should be more stable. If your doing fast downhills on gravel, stability can be very important. If you like long gravel road rides, it can be nice. If you like CX, single track, or making your neighborhood commute feel like single track, agility and precision are a plus.
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Old 07-24-19, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by bjn74 View Post
That's good to know. I really like the look of the Revolt Advanced 2 with white frame. Going to test ride one this weekend.
I have a '19 Advanced 2, I wanted the metallic orange, but it has full 105 hydro like the '20s, love it (my first disc brake bike, what a difference!). I've done two gravel centuries and multiple 5+ hour road rides, very comfortable, imo.
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Old 07-24-19, 02:02 PM
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I have a 2020 Revolt in white like you are about to test ride. I like it so much that I really am thinking about getting rid of my dedicated road bike. The thing I really liked about the Revolt is itís lack of extra moving parts such as future shock, decouplers and whatever Cannondale is calling their suspension system.
That being said, the rear wheel on mine has been garbage. It has a non serviceable freehub that keeps getting dirt and sand into it. I know itís a warranty part but I just have been flushing it out myself as best as I can with oil but every time I ride in the dirt, it gets junk in it again because itís a junk part with almost zero seals. I just ordered a set of Hope Pro 4 wheels to remedy the problem.
Besides the rear wheel, the bike is absolutely fantastic. I have already done about 500 miles the past month. It transitions from road to gravel grinder without any drama. The other day I was on the road when I noticed a mountain bike singletrack loop through the woods and did it no problem.

Hereís a pic because Iím partial to how good it looks:
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Old 07-24-19, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by BluFalconActual View Post
I have a 2020 Revolt in white like you are about to test ride. I like it so much that I really am thinking about getting rid of my dedicated road bike. The thing I really liked about the Revolt is itís lack of extra moving parts such as future shock, decouplers and whatever Cannondale is calling their suspension system.
That being said, the rear wheel on mine has been garbage. It has a non serviceable freehub that keeps getting dirt and sand into it. I know itís a warranty part but I just have been flushing it out myself as best as I can with oil but every time I ride in the dirt, it gets junk in it again because itís a junk part with almost zero seals. I just ordered a set of Hope Pro 4 wheels to remedy the problem.
Besides the rear wheel, the bike is absolutely fantastic. I have already done about 500 miles the past month. It transitions from road to gravel grinder without any drama. The other day I was on the road when I noticed a mountain bike singletrack loop through the woods and did it no problem.

Hereís a pic because Iím partial to how good it looks:
That sucks about your rear wheel, I'd def have them replace it and then you can keep the stockers for backup. Thankfully I haven't had any issues with mine, through wet/sand/mud/etc.. I have over 1,000 miles already, and actually ride the gravel tires most of the time. They're comfortable and ride pretty good on the road, so if I'm not looking to keep up with a fast group, I'll take the comfort and then can always venture off road if I feel like it. I figure the extra rolling resistance just gives me a better workout.
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Old 07-24-19, 05:30 PM
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Settling on a bike is half the fun. I'd agree about a second wheelset with narrower tyres if you do end up going on group rides, however that pushes out your budget somewhat. Maybe you could look around for a secondhand wheelset for that after you have the bike.

See how you go this weekend on those test rides again. There's a lot of bikes out there though the bigger brands tend to have the better spec for price.
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Old 07-24-19, 05:46 PM
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IMO the best advice I can offer is given the parameters you stated for what and where you want to ride is that a standard road bike is definitely not for you. If you accept that advice as offered then one of the several choices left that seem to have the potential for your needs would be a gravel bike with the widest tire you can get.

Good luck on finding the right bike and getting the maximum enjoyment and safe use or rides out of it.
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Old 07-24-19, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by katsup View Post
It is very difficult to get the perfect bike on the first purchase. I'd suggest finding a cheaper used bike with the idea of it being a starter bike. This way you can ride while learning what you like and not be out a lot of money when you replace it.
This strikes me as great advice. My bike cost me $600, and after four years of just using it to get around the city, I am deep down the rabbit hole of piecemeal upgrades as I do longer and faster rides. I've learned a lot in the process, and it has definitely shaped how I will approach when/if I get a new frame. (Who am I kidding...of course I'll get a new frame.) At $600, I'm not out out a ton of money, and the upgrades will transfer over.
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Old 07-24-19, 09:05 PM
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Our backgrounds are almost identical. I used to ride mountain bikes years ago and started looking at gravel bikes. Being an Engineer as well, I tend to research the heck out of things. You listed a lot of good choices to choose from in your original post.

I ended ups with a Trek SL5 Checkpoint. I like the bikes handling and the 40cm tires for gravel as well as light single track. Wanted a carbon frame and was happy with he updated 105 set. Most of my test rides on the bike I look at were shorten distance. Difficult to tell whether a model will work for you unless you get some miles on it. I guess I got lucky with my choice. The Trek as been outstanding. The only modification I needed to make was a more comfortable saddle.
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Old 07-25-19, 04:09 AM
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The bad thing about the web is you don’t know who is saying what. Misinformation travels at the speed of light. Be careful what you read.
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Old 07-25-19, 07:22 AM
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do not buy diverge now, wait until they update the futureshock to hydro damping
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Old 07-25-19, 08:19 AM
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just a thought...

The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 with a full 105 group is $2299 right now.

https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bi...accordions=1_1
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Old 07-25-19, 08:50 AM
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just a thought...

The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 with a full 105 group is $2299 right now.

https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bi...accordions=1_1
I wasn't going to say it, but since you did - yeah - Great bike at a good price point.

Specifically for bjn, the negatives are:
  • Dealing with mailorder and mild assembly isn't for everyone - especially someone who is just getting back into things.
  • PITA trying to figure out what size bike you need, and the carbon bikes are not as adjustable as their Aluminum bikes (stem). Although they have a "fit" calculator, the only parameter that matters is your height. Its fine if you are in the middle of their size range, not so much if you are between sizes.
  • If you don't like it, Canyon will take it back (if in "new" condition) and you will be out $0, and will be out about 2 hours labor (assembly, disassembly, and boxing). They have great customer service!

Yeah, its an impressive build for the $$$.
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Old 07-25-19, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
Dealing with mailorder and mild assembly isn't for everyone - especially someone who is just getting back into things.
I'll assemble it for the OP if he is near Atlanta.

Labor charges will be one cup of coffee and allowing me to get it dirty on a test ride.


-Tim-
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Old 07-25-19, 10:12 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by BluFalconActual View Post
I have a 2020 Revolt in white like you are about to test ride. I like it so much that I really am thinking about getting rid of my dedicated road bike. The thing I really liked about the Revolt is itís lack of extra moving parts such as future shock, decouplers and whatever Cannondale is calling their suspension system.
That being said, the rear wheel on mine has been garbage. It has a non serviceable freehub that keeps getting dirt and sand into it. I know itís a warranty part but I just have been flushing it out myself as best as I can with oil but every time I ride in the dirt, it gets junk in it again because itís a junk part with almost zero seals. I just ordered a set of Hope Pro 4 wheels to remedy the problem.
Besides the rear wheel, the bike is absolutely fantastic. I have already done about 500 miles the past month. It transitions from road to gravel grinder without any drama. The other day I was on the road when I noticed a mountain bike singletrack loop through the woods and did it no problem.

Hereís a pic because Iím partial to how good it looks:
Yep - that's the one! Looks great! I'm looking forward to my next ride this weekend.

Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
just a thought...

The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 with a full 105 group is $2299 right now.
Interestingly I have been looking at the Canyon bikes too. I love the look of the Grail CF. Yes, even the hover bar! Just a bit uncertain as I can't test ride those bars. I also like the look/value of the Grail AL 7. That's about the same weight as the carbon bikes I'm looking at. And way cheaper with budget to spare for other stuff.

Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
I'll assemble it for the OP if he is near Atlanta.

Labor charges will be one cup of coffee and allowing me to get it dirty on a test ride.


-Tim-
If only I was in Atalanta - I do have a good espresso machine so could have done that deal! You'll have to come to Dallas for the coffee and ride.


Thanks for all the other comments and inputs too! Will keep doing test rides. I'm not in a rush (intend to purchase in the next 2-8 weeks). Have been slow to reply as apparently I can't post more than 5 times in 24 hours.

Any comments on the whole Aluminum vs Carbon frame issue? I initially assumed carbon = lighter weight. Apparently not the case. So why spend a $1000 more for a carbon frame for no weight savings? As mentioned above something like the Canyon Grail AL 7 with 105 running gear for $1700 seems attractive. It's about the same weight as all the carbon bikes I'm looking at and leaves a lot in my budget for other stuff (like a set of lighter road wheels). More information to digest!

I did see more information on the new 2020 Trek Domane too. Looks pretty nice! And will take a 38mm tire with 4mm to spare either side.
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