New bike for gravel?
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  1. #1
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    New bike for gravel?

    Hi, I read alot here but this is my first post.

    I started biking somewhat regularly last year. I thought I wanted a road bike and I ended up with a Giant Avail Composite 1 that I like alot. This winter I bought a fat bike which I also like. But now I find that my favorite place to ride is out in the country on dirt/gravel roads and I am riding my fat bike. I have just committed to a century on the road at the end of June and have a lot of miles to get in to get ready as the most I've ridden in a day in the last 30 years is 35. My problem is that I really don't like riding on the "road" as I feel I'm going to get hit by a car. I ride alone 95% of the time. Last year I did most of my road riding at 4:30am before work when there was no traffic. The country is great as I barely see a car. I have not taken my Giant out into the country because of its 700x23 tires. I have read other things here that say I shouldn't train for my century on a flat bar bike, which I guess I agree on. My question is what is the mimimum size tire I can go out and ride comfortably and safely on gravel?
    I'm not sure how much bigger tires I can put on my Giant. It came with Giant P-SL1 Wheel system, a full-composite overdrive steerer fork and shimano 105 brakes. I really wish I had bought a CX bike which I considered at the time. I just didn't realize how much I prefer riding in the country. I am considering adding a CX bike, especially if people think I shouldn't be riding my Giant for miles on gravel.

    If I stick with my Giant or get a cross bike is there any reason I couldn't train predominantly on gravel for a road century? It would probably make the road miles seem easy.

    Thanks for any insight.
    Julie

  2. #2
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    You'll get about a million guys telling you that your 700x23's are just fine on gravel and they use theirs without any problem. Riding early mornings, on sketchy surfaces indicates to me that you're going to want that cross bike with at least 32's. I've got Continental City Rides in 32 on my CX bike. Smooth enough to roll pretty well and robust enough to get through crap roads with minimal drama. But check to see how big a tire you can put on your Giant. I've been able to get 28's (Gator Hardshells) on my Scott Addict (barely) and they seem to do the trick on variable surfaces.
    I got six Cadillacs, five Lincolns, four Fords, six Mercuries, three T-Birds, and a Mustang.

  3. #3
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    I agree with Terex - a great bike to consider is a cross bike with 32mm tires. I have one and it's great on gravel, and actually very good on smooth surfaces (I use it for commuting from the gravel roads I live on, into the city). I've used 28's but they're not nearly as comfortable and "sure" feeling on gravel and poor pavement as 32's. And 32's roll very nicely on pavement too.

    Remember - smooth tires are just fine for gravel. Unless the tire can actually bite into the surface (like mud or snow), aggressive tread doesn't really do any good. Most cross bikes come with heavy-ish, treaded tires that add nothing but noise, rough ride and weight to your bike if they're not actually needed. There's a lot of good quality smooth treaded 700cX32 tires out there.

    Three things to consider: look closely at the gearing on your road bike and what the gearing will be on the cross bikes you're looking at. Many (now most) cross bikes are set up fairly specifically for that purpose and sometimes the gearing is all-around too low for efficient road riding for some people. Might not be for you, but make a note of the highest and lowest gears you use or could get by with on your current road bike and make sure the cross bike has an adequate range.

    Second: as you're looking at the cross bike make sure you can very closely duplicate the position you have on your current road bike. The main dimensions you need to duplicate are saddle height (should be no problem), saddle set back (vis a vis the pedals), reach to whatever part of the handlebars you generally use (i.e. hoods), and saddle-bar drop. Again, this shouldn't be a big problem, but just make sure it can be done with fairly "normal" seat posts and handlebar stems.

    Finally, don't be at all hesitant to immediately change out the new bike's handlebars and saddle for the ones you like on your road bike.

    I have three road bikes (one being the cross/commuter/gravel bike) and they all have the same saddle, and all have very similar handlebars as well (two identical, the third very similar). The three bikes are within a 1/4 inch in all dimensions of fitting exactly the same.
    Last edited by Camilo; 04-01-2014 at 02:52 PM.

  4. #4
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    I have ridden 23's on gravel and they are ok. I mainly ride 28's which may fit on your Avail for my gravel rides. But I think the consensus seems to be 25's which I will probably switch to when my 23's where out.

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    I've ridden on 23's in gravel and dirt, and they were okay, to the extent that it was indeed possible, but by no means fast, comfortable, or recommended.

  6. #6
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    You can ride anything anywhere, but the problem with riding 23mm and 25mm tires in gravel is that you don't have a lot of cushion for when you hit a bigger rock - you are more likely to get a ding in your rim than you are with a 32-35mm tire. So if you want to ride on gravel at a higher speed, you want a larger tire.

  7. #7
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    you can never buy too many bikes.

    unless the limit is divorce

    Get a cross bike. When it comes road century, put on skinny road tires

    but... for hard pack paths, yeah, you can survive with road tires, until you hit a nice rut...

    or a deep pit of loose gravel... then you can sink in.
    2010 Specialized Secteur Elite with the RBR not-approved Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tednugent View Post
    you can never buy too many bikes.

    unless the limit is divorce

    Get a cross bike. When it comes road century, put on skinny road tires

    but... for hard pack paths, yeah, you can survive with road tires, until you hit a nice rut...

    or a deep pit of loose gravel... then you can sink in.
    "Unless the limit is divorce" lol you really cracked me up with this. Good advice though

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tednugent View Post
    you can never buy too many bikes.

    unless the limit is divorce

    Get a cross bike. When it comes road century, put on skinny road tires

    but... for hard pack paths, yeah, you can survive with road tires, until you hit a nice rut...

    or a deep pit of loose gravel... then you can sink in.
    Hahaha,
    it will take quite a few bikes to add up to my husbands corvette that is taking up all the extra storage space in the garage. I don't recall him asking my permission for that.
    He will be out of town next week. Maybe he won't even notice an extra bike when he gets back.

    Thanks everyone for all the useful information. I'll see what is available in my local shops.

  10. #10
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    Just don't lean your bike against that Corvette!

  11. #11
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    Depends on the gravel... I know a lot of people who refuse to ride gravel paths with a 23mm tire. I personally wouldn't go below 28's. That is for relatively finely crushed gravel like crushed limestone (such as the Great Allegheny Passage, most of the rail trails I've been on, most of the commuter trails in the Illinois suburbs, etc.). When I took my bike with 28's on the C&O tow path, I wish I had 32's or larger. If I was riding on fire roads or single track, I'd want something close to 40 (minimum) for stability.

    Climate plays a role too... you can get away with narrower tires in dry conditions but will want something wider after a rain storm.

  12. #12
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    No idea. No one of use know what the 'gravel' is actually like or your body weight so it's impossible to really say.

  13. #13
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    I ride fire roads in central PA. On some sections a road bike with 25mm is fine but unless I'm looking for speed I will use the Vaya with 40mm Clement X'Plor. Much greater comfort and control and when the fire road turns into double track or even most single track I can keep right on rolling.

  14. #14
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    Last fall I rode the GAP (Pittsburgh to Cumberland-150 Miles) on 700-32's, Ritchie something with a light/bairly visable tread and they worked fine, most of the road is compacted sand/gravel.. My original plan was to use the 28 gators which work great when dry but not the best for wet as they have a tendency to sink into the road..

    I love the new bike idea,, you know what they say "old enough to know better but too young to resist"

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.R. View Post
    I ride fire roads in central PA. On some sections a road bike with 25mm is fine but unless I'm looking for speed I will use the Vaya with 40mm Clement X'Plor. Much greater comfort and control and when the fire road turns into double track or even most single track I can keep right on rolling.
    Just goes to show how preferences diverge... there's no way I'd ride a 25mm on any of the fire/mining roads around Chestnut Ridge, the Laurel Highlands, etc. One good example is a strip mine road (and game land) near Gallitzin that leads to an overlook of the Horseshoe curve and the Altoona reservoir. I'd rather be on a mountain bike to take the road I have in mind, due to the many rocks that are larger than golf balls.

    Granted, there are other roads that I would ride with 25's. Where are you riding at? Thanks for the tip on the Clement's, I might try those out.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    No idea. No one of use know what the 'gravel' is actually like or your body weight so it's impossible to really say.
    Hasn't anyone ever told you to never ask a woman how much she weighs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by seacoaster View Post
    Hasn't anyone ever told you to never ask a woman how much she weighs?
    better than to tell her which size to use
    Blows your hair back.

  18. #18
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    it really depends on the gravel, the rider, how worried you'd be to slide a bit, is it wet etc. to give a good answer.
    some ride 23mm tyres where other refuse to take anything but a mountain bike. not saying either is right or wrong.
    Blows your hair back.

  19. #19
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    I'm a moron,, I re-read your post and wish to ammend my first thoughtless response.

    Why not pick two,, a cross and MTB,,Then no matter the terrain you have the bases covered.. A Surly Cross Check for the dirt/small gravel and a Nice 29er for the real rocks.. Currently I only have tow of the three bases covered, road and cross,, let us know whitch MTB you choose..

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    No idea. No one of use know what the 'gravel' is actually like or your body weight so it's impossible to really say.
    5'8" 150 lb and age 49 for what it is worth.
    I live in Iowa so the gravel is quite variable. Some of it is an inch or more chunks that can be quite loose. I like to explore, so I never know what the road might turn into. I think I would not feel comfortable on my 23s. I ride crushed limestone without any problems.

    I'm somewhat paranoid of flats on the gravel. Is this a problem? Should you run higher pressures to avoid pinches? I've been riding 90-100.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by bradkay View Post
    Just don't lean your bike against that Corvette!
    Yes, this WOULD cause a problem.

  22. #22
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    New bike for gravel?

    My cross bike is tubeless... So flats are a lesser concern
    2010 Specialized Secteur Elite with the RBR not-approved Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset
    2009 Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29er upgraded to SRAM X9 with 1x10 and Stan's Arch EX rims and tubeless.
    2013 Cannondale CAADX-6 Tiagra with 9-speed SLX RD to run 11-32T cassette and Stan's Alpha 400 rims and tubeless
    and
    Some Burton snowboard setups, one with stiff ol' Camber and one with Rocker-Camber-Rocker

  23. #23
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    I agree with Camilo agreeing with me and….where was I…Oh! His point about gearing - good point. I ride my CX bike above 7000 ft., I'm in crap shape, so I'm good with the CX gears going up hill. Downhill, not so much. You may want some taller gears in Iowa than normally come on CX bikes.

    Good point on fit too. I normally ride a 56 and decided to go to a 54 on the CX bike in case I ever ride in a CX race. Not gonna happen, and the bike is just a little too small for me. Whatever you buy, get fitted properly for road riding on your new bike. (We all assume that you're going to get a new bike, so don't disappoint us!)

    And I'd get a CX bike with disc brakes too, just because I love disc brakes. I vote for tednugent's tubeless solution too.
    I got six Cadillacs, five Lincolns, four Fords, six Mercuries, three T-Birds, and a Mustang.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by headloss View Post
    Just goes to show how preferences diverge... there's no way I'd ride a 25mm on any of the fire/mining roads around Chestnut Ridge, the Laurel Highlands, etc. One good example is a strip mine road (and game land) near Gallitzin that leads to an overlook of the Horseshoe curve and the Altoona reservoir. I'd rather be on a mountain bike to take the road I have in mind, due to the many rocks that are larger than golf balls.

    Granted, there are other roads that I would ride with 25's. Where are you riding at? Thanks for the tip on the Clement's, I might try those out.
    Bald Eagle State Forest. I've always enjoyed a nice "adventure" ride but never had a bike that could venture off-road much until I bought the Vaya last fall.

    Here's a map of a ride home from Dubois (no gravel or dirt) I did last summer that was great fun.

    The picture is from a ride two years ago where I was out on my road bike and ending up on a gravel "short cut"
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by J.R.; 04-02-2014 at 03:34 PM.

  25. #25
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    Okay, the picture didn't show up on my first attempt. I'll try again.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by J.R.; 04-02-2014 at 03:56 PM.

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