Gravel bike or 29er conversion – cons&pros

Viewing 36 posts - 1 through 36 (of 36 total)
  • Gravel bike or 29er conversion – cons&pros
  • drotos
    Member

    Hi,
    I’m seriously thinking about a new gravel bike. I have a pure cx race bike, and a road bike, too… but I had injuries and other problems before, and have back I have lower back aches and pains. So, I’m looking for wider tyre, lower pressure, and comfort. But in the other hand, I’m a performance-minded cyclist, and like to train hard. Do you think a gravel bike would suit my needs better, or a tyre change on my 29er would be enough?

    What are expecting to do on this bike that you cannot do on either of the two bikes you already have?

    lardman
    Member

    I did the 29er gravel bike kinda conversion.

    The only really difference to my untrained perspective, is the bottom bracket is higher on my 29er frame as it’s made for a 100mm suspension fork. I have a corrected carbon rigid fork in there, so it only means a slightly higher feel when on the bike.

    You’ll need to get the right size too, as the top-tube will need to accommodate drop bars if thats what your going for. I’m running flat bars, so it fine. (i’ve basically got a hybrid)

    I’m running stans crest 29er rims with ‘Spesh trigger’ gravel tyres @ 40c.

    drotos
    Member

    I’m not sure I could do any more on a gravel bike. I’m expecting little more speed, and more position than my 29er. I’m asking your opinions because I’m not sure that I need another bike… 😀

    lardman
    Member

    …..always need another bike.

    I only built one, as i had spare MTB parts and got a cracking deal on a carbon 29er frame. I bought the 9iner carbon forks second hand cheap too. It’s fast, light and also pretty tough.

    IMHO when it comes to gravel bikes the first thing you need to do is decide what/where you are going to ride as you will want a completely different bike to ride 50/50 road and gravel compared to a 100% offroad gravel/singletrack/rough tracks.

    This will depend on where you live. Not everyone has access to miles and miles of smooth hard packed gravel fireroads. Most of us end up linking bits of bridleways and byways together which could consist of gravel, mud, hard stone pack, cobbles, farm tracks and more.

    drotos
    Member

    I have too many bikes. 😀 I like to build them. But… I’m nor sure I REALLY need a gravel bike, or just swap the tyres. 😀

    scotroutes
    Member

    As you are “a performance-minded cyclist” you are probably all about numbers. I find a drop-barred bike just feels faster than a 29er (whether or not it is) and that works for me.

    Buy something second hand and try it out?

    kerley
    Member

    What are the widest tyres you can fit on the CX bike? I can’t see the need for another bike and I would just use the CX bike (maybe with some different wheels with wider tyres as guessing your pure CX race bike has tubs on it)

    pixelmix
    Member

    I rode my 29er hardtail with rigid forks and 2.25″ Racing Ralphs on at the Dirty Reiver a couple of years ago and on the fast smooth sections (gentle downhills) the guys on drop bars were cruising past effortlessly.

    I’ve since got a Tripster frame to replace my Pro6 and I’m enjoying it with 42mm gravel tyres on. Fast enough on the road but pretty competent for nipping off for local shortcuts so it suits my local riding. This is still my CX bike too and I just swap the tyres a couple of times a year if I’m doing a few CX races. The 42mm tyres make a lot of local bits more fun, rather than uncomfortably nervously bouncing off rocks and roots on the CX tyres.

    As above, if you have decent tyre clearance on your CX bike, that might be worth a shot first.

    In short, smoother tyres on your 29er is fine but if you want to be fast, the 29er will always feel a bit slower with the upright position and wide bars.

    drotos
    Member

    My CX bike has tubs, and max. 33 tyre width. So I could only use my 29er with gravel tyres… The question: is that worth to buy a new bike because of the drop bar? (I’d use it on mixed terrain.)

    lardman
    Member

    Put drops on your 29er? Using a shortish stem and cable disk brakes Thats what i did for a while on my carbon 29er.
    I didnt get on with drops so i went back to straight bars in the end.

    (little used set of drops, with shimano 10sp shifters and TRP cable disks for sale?)

    drotos
    Member

    I’m not sure if the drops have real advantage on technical descents. Maybe on longer on-road sections…

    corroded
    Member

    I’ve got a GT Grade. I would probably describe it as an all-road bike rather than a gravel bike – it can’t take the more knobbly 40c tyres. But it is extremely comfortable on road and on moderate off-road (smoother bridleways, gravel etc) and, with 35c G-Ones, I’m perfectly capable of keeping up with my mates on road bikes. The geometry is much more relaxed but since I’m not racing that’s not a problem. I did the Festive 500 (half on / half off road) and didn’t get any aches or pains at all. It would likely be a more comfortable on-road experience than a pure CX bike. It’s certainly a lot faster than my 29er, because of the handlebars and gearing (weight is probably about the same). Just my tuppence worth.

    prezet
    Member

    I have a 100mm hardtail 29er and a gravel bike – feel completely different to me. If I’m going for distance on mixed surfaces the gravel bike is a no brainer. Drops help me stretch out and give me hand positions.

    kerley
    Member

    So I could only use my 29er with gravel tyres

    Don’t see the point. Use a semi slick MTB race tyre and you will pretty much have the speed of the gravel tyre but better grip on corners (plus your bike doesn’t look like it’s got the wrong tyres on it)

    philjunior
    Member

    I’ve got about the fastest tyres that are usable on vaguely muddy trails on my 29er, it’s quite pleasant to ride along “gravel” type riding, but I’m sure a full gravel bike hardtail would be nicer.

    In terms of whether it’s worth getting drop bars, I’d suggest it might not be if you’re getting back pains from road and CX riding positions (unless you go for drop bars but more upright than your race bike positions).

    philjunior
    Member

    So I could only use my 29er with gravel tyres

    Don’t see the point. Use a semi slick MTB race tyre and you will pretty much have the speed of the gravel tyre but better grip on corners (plus your bike doesn’t look like it’s got the wrong tyres on it)

    Totally agree with this incidentally.

    Premier Icon joemmo
    Subscriber

    you could sell the cx frame and get something with wider tyre clearance that you could use to race on and fit wider tyres for gravelling duty.

    drotos
    Member

    I’ve custom made steel frames (road, cx, 29er), and I’d not like to sell them. ANyway, I can’t get the right price for them… 😀

    My CX is a pure race machine with cantilever brakes and max. 33mm tyre width. The road bike is an old fashioned one, so I could use max. 25mm tyre. I like all the two bikes, but I can use them only a few times, because they aren’t made for comfort… and my lower back problems alert me to search for another bike(s) I could use everydays.

    I can use my 29er on the trail, I have rigid steel forks and 80mm suspension forks, too.

    I have a Cannondale Synapse for road training. That’s perfect with 28-30mm tyre width. (Instead my steel roadie…)

    But… I’m thinking because I’m not sure that my 29er with semmi slick tyre would be OK to ride together with real gravel bikes on their terrain.

    Premier Icon djflexure
    Subscriber

    Converted my Yeti hardtail to a monstercrosser and enjoyed it for a bit. Did the Full Monty with cowchipper bars, travers forks, hylex disc brakes and Gevenalle shifters – all ace kit. More enjoyable to ride off road than a CX bike IMO. I had Schwalbe Big Ones on it at the end, but previously ran it with Vittoria Saguaro’s.Did not need to race on it. Used it mostly for local loops of road, canal and BWs. Recently decided that I have too many bikes so have split it to sell and am going back to one MTB. If I was going to do loads of gravel riding then this sort of drop bar 29er would be my ideal bike.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    Where I live, the surfaces on the “gravel” are more akin to mtb trails, just wider, so I use a converted 29er so I can use high volume tyres.

    But a converted 29er has its limitations because it’s designed for mtb bars, so there’s compromises in the bike set up, but IMO tyres are the most important part of a bike, so I’ll go for a frame that allows me to fit the tyres of my choice. (I use Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35″)

    If I was to ride only on groomed surfaces like graded gravel roads, I’d be happy enough with 40mm+ tyres. They are also quite capable of handling rougher surfaces, but not so comfortably.

    drotos
    Member

    If i would opt for a gravel bike, what do recommend? What do you think about Bombtrack Hook Ext?

    I’ve used two bikes for “gravel” riding.
    A Rose CX bike with hydro disks and 35mm Gravel King tyres
    29er Ti hardtail with suspension fork, flat bars and 2.3″ slick G-One tyres on XC wheels.

    The 29er is comfier off-road and the geometry makes anything technical much easier as it’s basically riding a mountain bike.
    The CX bike can get out of shapre pretty easily if the going gets rougher, but when you’re doing longer stints of pedalling it is noticeably faster (and is – checked on strava). Again a function of the geometry.

    However, the hardtail has a 140mm Pike on it. I am considering getting a shorter rigid carbon fork to put on it for doing XC or non-singletrack rides. I already swap wheels on it. That might lean me over the front a bit more..

    But really, the big slick tyres make a huge difference. Cheap and easy to try too. I think I saw someone selling a set in the Classifieds?

    kerley
    Member

    Where I live, the surfaces on the “gravel” are more akin to mtb trails, just wider, so I use a converted 29er so I can use high volume tyres.

    This is a key point. Where I live the gravel surfaces are almost as good as road as it is very compacted but still drains well with a few patches of loose gravel here and there. I genuinely find it no less comfortable than riding on road and happily use 25c tyres. However, riding where Epicyclo rides I would probably want to change my bike within a mile or two.

    Saying that, the problem you are trying to fix is bike position/pain when riding. MY bike fits me very well which is probably why I am comfortable on any tyres.
    Difficult for anyone to solve on the internet as don’t know what pains you have and what positions make them worse. Are you more comfortable on the MTB in whatever position that puts you in?

    drotos
    Member

    Difficult for anyone to solve on the internet as don’t know what pains you have and what positions make them worse. Are you more comfortable on the MTB in whatever position that puts you in?

    I’m more comfortable on wider tyres… beacause on shock absorbion. I use the drops less than before, but the key is the wider tyres, I think.

    kerley
    Member

    I’m more comfortable on wider tyres… beacause on shock absorbion.

    In that case I would use the MTB with big tyres as they will give the most shock absorption.

    Premier Icon jameso
    Subscriber

    I have lower back aches and pains. So, I’m looking for wider tyre, lower pressure, and comfort. But in the other hand, I’m a performance-minded cyclist, and like to train hard.

    OT maybe, maybe not – do you stretch properly? Depends on the sort of aches you get. I had this sort of issue, cured more by adapting myself to fit the bike than changing the bike. If strong legs are pulling your hips and weaker lower back out then bike changes won’t sort that since the bike isn’t the primary cause.

    I’m not sure if the drops have real advantage on technical descents.

    They don’t have any advantages imo. Fairly clear drawbacks I’d say, esp when a common reason for drops is positioning that works on longer road or really easy dirt sections. Still, I like them but the tech is where they hold me back.
    If you have a rigid 29er it may make a better all-rounder with something like an H-bar on it – they work well for mixed terrain rides if you favour technical descents over being low in drops on tarmac, ie which side of the road/off-road line you bias the bike.

    damascus
    Member

    How about a cx bike that takes 2 inch tyres like a genesis vagabond? Best of both worlds.

    If you don’t want a steel frame then I’m sure others will suggest similar lighter bikes.

    Premier Icon bowglie
    Subscriber

    In the good old tradition of recommending your own bike – I took a punt on a shop soiled ex display Sonder Camino Al, after a quick demo ride suggested it was a lot less harsh than my existing gravel bike. It’ll take 700×40 tyres quite easily, but I’ve bought some old Arch EX 650b wheels and plan to run it on 650×47’s. I’ve tried a Camino with this set up and found it very comfy for a drop bar bike, but still a lot quicker than my 100mm hardtail on milder tracks (and the hardtail is a couple of pounds lighter and on fast rolling XC treads).

    Premier Icon jameso
    Subscriber

    a cx bike that takes 2 inch tyres …. Best of both worlds.

    Or, good for little? Not a dig at the Vagabond or Fargo etc though, they’re great options. Just for sake of debate. For some they’re neither good at what a bike that has drop bars on should be good at, nor able to maximise the advantages of a bigger wheel/tyre like that on anything trickier. All depends on what you ride and where your priorities lie I guess. If I had endless easy dirt roads on my doorstep it’d be a great bike format to have.

    Premier Icon djflexure
    Subscriber

    The only drops I have ever found useful are the Salsa Cowchippers. Shallow so I don’t have to fold in two to reach them. Extend a decent way back too, in addition to the flare of course.Put them on my winter road bike and they may make it onto my best road bike too.
    For off road I found the drops were the best place to be for anything a bit technical. Felt fine to me.
    Agree that main purpose of the drops is to have a few more hand positions on long rides and perhaps get a bit more aero on straight stretches.

    TiRed
    Member

    Just stick some Schwalbe G-Ones on your cross bike with a set of decent clincher wheels from your road bike and get riding. You might get a bit more clearance with mini Vs if you need. Mine seems to have no issue with wider than 33.

    Gravel, just don’t see the distinction. I’m obviously a Luddite with too many bikes.

    My brief experiments with a gravel bike confirmed that I really don’t like riding drop bars and that riding over cobbled surfaces with skinny (40mm) tyres and no suspension feels horrible. On the plus side I was considerably faster on it uphill than on my hardtail (probably down to weight) and it was nice having gearing that didn’t spin out above 30 mph on the downhills. Sold it though, not for me – my hardtail is a more suited “adventure bike” for what I want to do with it.

    drotos
    Member

    I think I’d have chainline and chainring clearance issues on my hardtail… I could use maximum 34t chainring in the middle position, and the outer ring would be out of the line, especially in low gear at the rear.

    wind-bag
    Member

    drotos…the Bombtrak Hook EXT you mention is an excellent machine, they are very popular on the Continent for a reason, well designed and fun to ride. They were popular at last years a Dirty Boar. Seriously worth considering rather than trying to cobble together a compromise.

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