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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 : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Older CX vs new Gravel bike

Old 03-28-21, 10:19 AM
  #1  
joesch
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Older CX vs new Gravel bike

Looking to add a gravel bike to the stable and I love the Colnago's.
Would a nice circa 2010 Colnago c50 CX compare to a new 2K$ gravel bike like a Canyon ?
Obvious reasons to go new would be disc brakes and wider tire options, believe the c50 limited to 38s.
The carbon c50 frame is very nice vs AL.
TIA for any advice
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Old 03-28-21, 01:18 PM
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You would not have the general gravel bike advantages of lower botton bracket for stability, more relaxed fork angle for better handling in loose gravel and more compliant frame for long distance comfort. Cross bikes are great for all out 40 minute sprints and weaving between slower riders. Gravel bikes are great for all day rides that do not require weaving in and out of tight packs of other riders. People do ride cross bikes for gravel, but generally most of the bikes are quite different.

The bike you mentioned seems to have more tire clearance than many older cross bikes, but generally cross bikes have less tire clearance than modern gravel bikes which is a big deal.

Last edited by dwmckee; 03-28-21 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 03-28-21, 01:40 PM
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I have a 90's CX bike. I've never felt held back by geometry or handling. In every aspect I'd describe it as excellent.

I did upgrade to modern gravel because the bike I wanted two years from now presented itself to me at a good price.

The whole stability thing is a bit overrated. Both bikes are incredible stable and sure footed (or I am).

I very much like the disc brakes. My hands aren't as strong as they used to be. Thru axles feel stiffer but I'm not sure they actually do anything.

It's a pound lighter and looks cool.
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Old 03-28-21, 02:18 PM
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Usually older CX bikes had relatively small tires because the people that designed them were silly. And the UCI didn't allow bigger tires for CX pros.

This continued until well after it became obvious that gravel bikes that took larger tires were in demand. More demand than CX bikes, in particular.
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Old 03-28-21, 02:48 PM
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To generalize:
- higher BB, the actual effect this has on handling is debatable and I won't argue about it here
- steeper head angle and higher trail leading possibly to more responsive handling, again arguable
- less tire clearance
- close-ratio cross-specific gearing
- cantilever brakes (I assume you're talking about a 2010 Colnago Prestige?)
- low stack granting an aggressive position

A CX bike can work well for racier gravel ride, especially if you find one that can fit wider (~45mm) tires. I have both a racy CX bike and a relaxed gravel bike and like riding both on gravel. They are very different bikes in how they ride.
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Old 03-28-21, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Usually older CX bikes had relatively small tires because the people that designed them were silly. And the UCI didn't allow bigger tires for CX
This is the main point in shopping.

My Voodoo will fit 43 or more in the back. Maybe more up front. It's not easy to find an old bike that can do that.
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Old 03-29-21, 11:01 AM
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CX bikes generally have lots of extra room for mud clearance, so most frames can fit tires larger than 33mm.
I'd say the biggest difference is rim vs disc, and CX geometry being a bit more "racy".
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Old 03-29-21, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
You would not have the general gravel bike advantages of lower botton bracket for stability, more relaxed fork angle for better handling in loose gravel and more compliant frame for long distance comfort. Cross bikes are great for all out 40 minute sprints and weaving between slower riders. Gravel bikes are great for all day rides that do not require weaving in and out of tight packs of other riders. People do ride cross bikes for gravel, but generally most of the bikes are quite different.
These are not bad things. CX bikes are very fun in "gravel". Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you a gravel bike.

Look at the terrain you'll be riding. on smooth stuff 38's are fine. Roughe stuff it's nice to be up into the 40-45 range. Canti's are fine. Disc breaks are a hassle and are over rated.
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Old 03-29-21, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
To generalize:
- higher BB, the actual effect this has on handling is debatable and I won't argue about it here
- steeper head angle and higher trail leading possibly to more responsive handling, again arguable
- less tire clearance
- close-ratio cross-specific gearing
- cantilever brakes (I assume you're talking about a 2010 Colnago Prestige?)
- low stack granting an aggressive position

A CX bike can work well for racier gravel ride, especially if you find one that can fit wider (~45mm) tires. I have both a racy CX bike and a relaxed gravel bike and like riding both on gravel. They are very different bikes in how they ride.
Yes the Colnago C50 Cross which is a CX circa 2010 and has cantilever brakes. I really want disc brakes.
The C50 carbon fiber is a very nice ride as I have the road version and its one of the best I have rode.
Not sure how much diff the AL would be for a <=2K$ gravel bike, probably good wheels/tires would make a bigger diff?
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Old 03-29-21, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
This is the main point in shopping.

My Voodoo will fit 43 or more in the back. Maybe more up front. It's not easy to find an old bike that can do that.
Agree and that CX 50 will not even fit 40s.
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Old 03-30-21, 10:05 AM
  #11  
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The differences between cyclocross and gravel bikes are greatly exaggerated. There’s a lot
of overlap and gravel bikes essentially developed as an evolution of cyclocross bikes. On average CX bikes will have a higher BB, shorter wheelbase and slightly steeper head angles. But again, there’s overlap and this is on average. Cyclocross bike handling is still pretty sedate compared to a road bike.

With that said, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to buy a rim brake bike these days. Plus, Euro cyclocross geometry in particular, which a Colnago will have, is going to be about as extreme as it gets relative to a modern gravel bike.

Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
Usually older CX bikes had relatively small tires because the people that designed them were silly. And the UCI didn't allow bigger tires for CX pros.

This continued until well after it became obvious that gravel bikes that took larger tires were in demand. More demand than CX bikes, in particular.
Oh boy. How old are we talking about, here? Truly old CX bikes took skinny tires cause they were literally road bikes with cantilever posts brazed on. In the 90’s, everyone raced on tubulars and tires wider than about 30 mm just didn’t exist. By 2010 though, the UCI still allowed for tires up to 700x35 and bikes of the time readily accommodated tires that size and had done so for several years. I’ve personally never owned a cyclocross bike that couldn’t fit 40C tires and I’ve had four or so of them. My experience isn’t exhaustive by a long shot, but CX bikes fit up to about 40C tires typically, not rarely.

I kind of object to the claim that all of this is because “the people who designed them were silly.” It was a different time and cyclocross bikes evolved over time as about the most specialized race bikes out there. Off-the-shelf cyclocross bikes only became a thing in about the mid-90’s when brands began to jump on them as basically the equivalent of gravel bikes
today. That is, a general-purpose sport-touring type bike. And that’s when they got lots of eyelets and generous tire clearance.

”Generous tire clearance” meant something different then, too. People act as though high-quality, fast-rolling 40C+ tires have been around forever, but they’re a super new phenomenon. Back in the day, even by 2010, almost all tires of that size were trash. Fine for touring, but building a performance bike around big tires was a genuine leap because designing a bike around a component that literally doesn’t exist is kind
of hard to do.
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Old 03-30-21, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
The differences between cyclocross and gravel bikes are greatly exaggerated. There’s a lot
of overlap and gravel bikes essentially developed as an evolution of cyclocross bikes. On average CX bikes will have a higher BB, shorter wheelbase and slightly steeper head angles. But again, there’s overlap and this is on average. Cyclocross bike handling is still pretty sedate compared to a road bike.

With that said, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to buy a rim brake bike these days. Plus, Euro cyclocross geometry in particular, which a Colnago will have, is going to be about as extreme as it gets relative to a modern gravel bike.



Oh boy. How old are we talking about, here? Truly old CX bikes took skinny tires cause they were literally road bikes with cantilever posts brazed on. In the 90’s, everyone raced on tubulars and tires wider than about 30 mm just didn’t exist. By 2010 though, the UCI still allowed for tires up to 700x35 and bikes of the time readily accommodated tires that size and had done so for several years. I’ve personally never owned a cyclocross bike that couldn’t fit 40C tires and I’ve had four or so of them. My experience isn’t exhaustive by a long shot, but CX bikes fit up to about 40C tires typically, not rarely.

I kind of object to the claim that all of this is because “the people who designed them were silly.” It was a different time and cyclocross bikes evolved over time as about the most specialized race bikes out there. Off-the-shelf cyclocross bikes only became a thing in about the mid-90’s when brands began to jump on them as basically the equivalent of gravel bikes
today. That is, a general-purpose sport-touring type bike. And that’s when they got lots of eyelets and generous tire clearance.

”Generous tire clearance” meant something different then, too. People act as though high-quality, fast-rolling 40C+ tires have been around forever, but they’re a super new phenomenon. Back in the day, even by 2010, almost all tires of that size were trash. Fine for touring, but building a performance bike around big tires was a genuine leap because designing a bike around a component that literally doesn’t exist is kind
of hard to do.
Agree with all of this. I have an 8 year old Cannondale CX bike with cantilever brakes. It was designed around 33mm tires, but also like most CX bikes had tons of extra room for mud clearance. With 33mm installed it has at least 12mm of clearance, so 40mm would likely fit (I've never tried it). My brand new Cannondale SuperX is a pure CX race bike, UCI world cup ready, and it fits 42mm.

Both of these bikes have race-oriented geometry (the SuperX is more extreme than the CAADX), but both also make excellent gravel bikes. In terms of geometry and handling, the differences between these CX bikes and the gravel bikes I've been on are very minimal. I've never found my CX bikes to feel unstable at speed or lacking for comfort (particularly my carbon SuperX) over long distances, but also I'm talking about normal rides, not 300 mile gravel races over extreme terrain. The biggest difference I've encountered is gearing. Modern CX bikes typically run narrow-range 1x setups whereas gravel bikes have gobs of gear range out of the box.

People forget that the whole gravel scene started with guys racing CX bikes (most of which were aluminum) and they were winning these insane gravel events where the majority of participants were riding XC style MTBs that proved to be much slower. The gravel bikes that were born out of that were specifically aimed at improving the long-distance gravel race capability, and focused on comfort and compliance while still being really fast.

Further evidence of the overlap is that you can find racers at the top levels of UCI Cyclocross on bikes like the Cervelo Aspero, Orbea Terra, Santa Cruz Stigmata and Pivot Vault, all of which are marketed as "gravel race" (or at a minimum as dual-purpose CX/Gravel race) bikes and have a far more minimal and race-oriented approach to their design than some of the more gravel-touring bikes that are also on the market.
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Old 03-30-21, 01:20 PM
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Long live the CX bike!
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Old 03-30-21, 01:57 PM
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My CX rules on gravel. I just got some nice Panaracer Gravel King SK tires (I think they're 38mm) and they roll like a champ. And my trusty old cantilevers stop me just fine. I can't imagine I would need anything else, except maybe some rack and fender bosses.
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Old 03-30-21, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
Both of these bikes have race-oriented geometry (the SuperX is more extreme than the CAADX), but both also make excellent gravel bikes. In terms of geometry and handling, the differences between these CX bikes and the gravel bikes I've been on are very minimal. I've never found my CX bikes to feel unstable at speed or lacking for comfort (particularly my carbon SuperX) over long distances, but also I'm talking about normal rides, not 300 mile gravel races over extreme terrain. The biggest difference I've encountered is gearing. Modern CX bikes typically run narrow-range 1x setups whereas gravel bikes have gobs of gear range out of the box.

People forget that the whole gravel scene started with guys racing CX bikes (most of which were aluminum) and they were winning these insane gravel events where the majority of participants were riding XC style MTBs that proved to be much slower. The gravel bikes that were born out of that were specifically aimed at improving the long-distance gravel race capability, and focused on comfort and compliance while still being really fast.
I don't know if people forget so much as they just weren't paying attention when it happened and maybe haven't ridden these bikes themselves? I'm not that old and have been Into Bikes for about 16 or so years, so none of this feels all that long ago, but when I just getting into it 1988-1990 seemed like ancient history so I kinda get that. But it is wild to those of us who are old enough to remember when people were excited about cyclocross bikes because of the relaxed geometry, comfortable fit and wide tires all compared to a contemporary road bike. Anyway, the point about gearing is insightful and you're right, that's a key differentiator. Back in 2010 standard CX gearing was 2x with 36-46 chainrings and 11-25 cassettes, and people were cobbling together dicey homebrew 1x systems. What a weird time!
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Old 03-30-21, 06:02 PM
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Umm, I still like my 46-36....
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Old 03-30-21, 08:27 PM
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IMO, it's about the gearing & the hills you ride.

In CX racing, you get off & run up the steep bits, so low gears are not needed. If your conditions are flat-ish this is OK,

but running up 1,500' is not great, & the new gravel bikes come set up for hills.

That said, I ride a circa 2010 CX bike that I have fussed with the gearing, but the cool kids on their fancy gravel bikes look really happy.
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Old 03-30-21, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
CX bikes generally have lots of extra room for mud clearance, so most frames can fit tires larger than 33mm.
I'd say the biggest difference is rim vs disc, and CX geometry being a bit more "racy".
I have a cross bike that I've been very happy with - a Jamis Nova Pro frameset that I built with a triple and MTB cassette/derailleur about 10 years ago before they were marketing "gravel" bikes - but that's exactly what I bought and built it for.

It's been a great bike. The first downside is the tire size limitations, but it really hasn't been a big miss for me. This bike has linear pull / V brakes. The front brake won't open far enough for anything larger than ~35-38mm and even that has to be forced through. The fork doesn't allow the brake arms to open any further. I built up a similar bike for my wife based on a Cannondale cross frame and fork. Hers has canti brakes and has the same issue.

One very nice feature of both of these bikes is that you can mount this size tire on most regular rim brake wheels so it has been pretty cheap to obtain two sets each, one for the large tires, the other for ~23-25mm road riding tires. The ~37's we have on them are really OK for most riding we do and I was happy until last summer. That's when I got with some friends who were real gravel/trail riders and I did a few fairly ambitious gravel/trail rides. The 37's were OK, but I was thinking 40+ would be better. Not to mention, I think hydro discs will be better for some of the steep, twisty stuff we did. For regular gravel riding, basically roughish road riding, the rim brakes were really OK. But with the sort of stuff the wider tires open up - better grip, more stopping capability, you end up on steeper and rougher stuff, I think the same rationale for discs exists as does for MTB.

Another issue - which only applies to a small set of people - is that the high BB and the fairly level top tubes (for shoulder carry) can cause standover issues. My wife takes an XS frame and with modern slanted TT designs, doesn't have any standover problems. But with the cross frame, in the smallest frame size I could find on the used market a few years ago, which fits her very well otherwise, the combination of the high BB and level-ish TT causes a significant standover problem. We both know that huge standover is not needed, but really, some is. She deals with it OK but has been uncomfortable a couple of times coming to a quick stop and stand - it's over an inch too high. For others who don't require the absolute smallest frame size, they can probably find one that doesn't present this issue.

The gravel frames we're looking at, because of the disk brakes will take up to, IIRC 700X45mm tires and have the option for 650B/27.5 (@2.1"/53mm) which we'll probably opt for her. The lower BB and slanted-ish TT, will give her a more comfortable standover with similar stack and reach. I think she'll really like the hydraulic discs not having really strong hands.

I've never been bothered by the handling or comfort with my cross bike. I haven't used it for really long rides, but very similar to my road bike - 1 to 4 hours. It's comfortable, set up properly with the saddle, reach, handlebars, etc. I like.

Last edited by Camilo; 03-30-21 at 10:08 PM.
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Old 03-31-21, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
The front brake won't open far enough for anything larger than ~35-38mm and even that has to be forced through. The fork doesn't allow the brake arms to open any further. I built up a similar bike for my wife based on a Cannondale cross frame and fork. Hers has canti brakes and has the same issue.
Have you tried deflating the front tire enough to get the wheel on, then re-inflating?
I can usually force a 33mm tire through my open canti, but anything wider requires deflation.
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Old 03-31-21, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
Have you tried deflating the front tire enough to get the wheel on, then re-inflating?
I can usually force a 33mm tire through my open canti, but anything wider requires deflation.
Oh yeah, that's been in my repertoire for years with this bike and others. For instance, it's sometimes tough getting a 28mm past the rim brakes on my road bikes, even if they fit otherwise. I also have a vintage Sannino frame with short chain stays and horizontal drop outs that requires me to deflate the tire just to get enough clearance with the seat tube to install it. Your experience is about the same as mine with the cantis and V brakes both.
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Old 04-01-21, 12:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
Oh yeah, that's been in my repertoire for years with this bike and others.
It depends very heavily on the particulars. In the pre-MTB era, cantis commonly used short pads that were positioned to swing clear of the fork blades, so there was no limit to how far they could swing open. Nowadays most canti pads will hit the fork blades, so how wide they can open depends on the geometry of that interference, and on how far apart the blades are from each other.

The Rat Trap Pass ELs on my gravel bike measure just a bit under 2.1" wide, and I can squeeze them through my v-brake pads when they're inflated. But that bike is built from an old MTB frameset.

For instance, it's sometimes tough getting a 28mm past the rim brakes on my road bikes

Sidepull calipers often suffer from a separate issue, which is that the quick-release causes them to open by a certain amount rather than to a certain amount. So how wide of a tire can be squeezed through depends on how far you set the pads from each other, which mostly depends on how wide the rim is at its brake tracks.
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Old 04-01-21, 01:16 PM
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You would not have the general gravel bike advantages of lower botton bracket for stability, more relaxed fork angle for better handling in loose gravel and more compliant frame for long distance comfort. Cross bikes are great for all out 40 minute sprints and weaving between slower riders. Gravel bikes are great for all day rides that do not require weaving in and out of tight packs of other riders. People do ride cross bikes for gravel, but generally most of the bikes are quite different.

The bike you mentioned seems to have more tire clearance than many older cross bikes, but generally cross bikes have less tire clearance than modern gravel bikes which is a big deal.
Those are good generalizations, but its hard to say they are "quite different," as there are racy gravel bikes (similar to cross bikes) and more endurance oriented bikes. I'd say there is a significant difference between an endurance gravel bike and a racy gravel bike, while not much difference between a cross bike and a racy gravel bike. For that matter, some gravel bikes are pretty similar to mountain bikes, while others are pretty similar to road race bikes (with fatter tires).

And, there are those of us who are dynamic riders and appreciate the agility of a bike with more aggressive geometry.
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Old 04-01-21, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by joesch View Post
Looking to add a gravel bike to the stable and I love the Colnago's.
Would a nice circa 2010 Colnago c50 CX compare to a new 2K$ gravel bike like a Canyon ?
Obvious reasons to go new would be disc brakes and wider tire options, believe the c50 limited to 38s.
The carbon c50 frame is very nice vs AL.
TIA for any advice
I haven't ridden the Colo, but I have test ridden an bought that vintage CX, bikes and bought the newer Canyon (carbon).

wide tires with canti's is a PITA. Disk brakes have opened up a lot of tire options. But my having to deflate a tire to take it on and off is no fun.
Hydraulic brakes are very nice, although in most cases I can lock up the canti's. but the modulation of the newer (hydralic) disks is much better.
Any cross bike is going to have a more aggressive fit and handling, if that is your thing. Some like it, others maybe not.
That vintage bike tends to have narrower tire clearance, and tends to ride much stiffer. A modern cross bike or gravel bike has a much more compliant ride and much more tire clearance.

you mention it has clearance for 38s and a very nice ride, so that knocks two of the complaints off the list. Personally, I can have a lot of fun on an old cross bike (provided its not too stiff, and I can fit my tire of choice on it).
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Old 04-01-21, 01:52 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
And, there are those of us who are dynamic riders and appreciate the agility of a bike with more aggressive geometry.
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Old 04-01-21, 03:30 PM
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i gravel bike can be anything , unless you are packing or racing you can use just about any bike you like , convert a hard tail MTB with discs and thrus , add drop bars now u can run any tire size or wheel
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