Is "gravelling a 29er" a good idea. Advice needed.

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  • Is "gravelling a 29er" a good idea. Advice needed.
  • I’ve done pretty much exactly what you’re describing, gravelling a Trek 29er (a Superfly).

    Started off just running narrower slick tyres for the commute (40c Kendas) which then had me looking at running a longer stem, chopping the bars and eventually fitting some 25.4mm bars and stem to go even narrower (SJS cycles is your friend for these parts). I was also looking for higher gears but couldn’t find a double to suit my purposes (although SJS Cycles stock suitable chainrings to create pretty much whichever combo you want). Eventually I just fitted a 38 tooth narrow wide with half an eye on the CX season.

    I’ve used it for loads of tarmac commutes, several 2-3 hour road rides with plenty of hills, and one 5 hour road ride, approx 125km, featuring some gravel sections, some incredibly rough tarmac sections, but also some good long tarmac climbs. I was with my buddy one his road bike for that one, hard to tell how much, if at all, I was slowing him down, think we averaged 25km/h which isn’t terrible for a road ride with stops on mixed surfaces.

    Definitely love the versatility, only thing I miss is more hand positions, the position of the flat bars is somewhere between the tops and the hoods of a road bar.

    I’ve done a handful of gravel races on my Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon hard tail and I love it! That bike is so light and wicked fast that I keep up with the CX bikes pretty easy. I can run some supper narrow tires on my rims and I’m pretty sure I could even put some CX tires on there if I really wanted but I haven’t yet.

    The one set back is the gearing. I run a 1×11. The CX have better gearing for pounding gravel. I run a 38T up front so I still hit a high top speed but that’s the biggest downside IMO.

    Premier Icon molgrips

    I drop barred my hybrid – it’s ace. I would need bigger tyres to do much off-roading on it though, and a lot of hybrid/road type kit is aimed at 32 or less – guards, narrow rims etc. So you might be better off starting with a 29er if you want to off-road. But then it depends on how rough your local off-road is.

    I do this all the time on a 29er MTB.

    Why not just buy some tyres and try it out? You don’t need new wheels and a carbon fork.

    Premier Icon mattclimb

    So, advice needed. Currently wanting a bike for winter training rides with a mixture of road/off-road/gravel/easy trails. I will be doing a lot of road miles on it as I always ride from the house, and most guys I ride with currently use cx/gravel type drop bar bikes in winter.

    My current road bike is too racy/aero/posh for such things. Do I:

    Get a cycle2work special such as an arkose or croix de fer for the allotted £1000 mark


    Convert my current mountain bike into something that may or may not be what I want..
    Bike in question is a giant xtc 2 carbon 29er 2014. Upgraded with xt brakes and single chain ring. I was planning on buying a new mountain bike in the new year anyway (Cotic flare or similar). So, option 2 is spend cycle to work monies on a carbon fork, nice wheels and fast “gravel” tyres with the aim of making a light weight fast 29er that I could hopefully keep up with roadie /cx pals on winter training spins but also take off-road, do stuff like the reiver, grinduro, bike packing etc. Maybe even put drop bars on it when new mountain bike can be afforded.

    Does anyone have experience on gravelling a 29er, or using a monster cross bike for anything other than bimbling around by yourself?

    Pros of croix fe fer type thing is i keep up on tarmac, better gearing, ideal for touring and occasional cross race should the fancy take me. It’s a safe option.
    Cons are its more expensive for mediocre specced bike, I would have to sell my hardtail to make room for new trail bike so therefore wouldn’t have anything that suitable for ht550, gt24, cairngorm loop type riding.

    Pros of 29er project- higher specced bike, potentially very versatile, cheaper as I already own the bike, can keep the bike as a do-it-all machine when project posh-trail-bike commences.
    Cons- I have no idea how it would ride when I’m out with folk on cross/gravel bikes into a winter headwind. Would the geometry and gearing be so wrong it would be horrible to cycle and impossible to ride with people of similar fitness but with more built for purpose bikes. Or maybe it would be pretty much the same especially with drop bars. I have no idea.

    Difficult to find good answers online and I can’t really tell how a bike will ride based on geometry charts and imagination alone.

    Or maybe there’s a different solution altogether.

    Advise appreciated, thanks in advance.

    Premier Icon takisawa2

    Planning this for my SIR.9 that’s been semi retired since the Puffin worked it’s way into my affections. I couldn’t bare to part with the Niner, I’d regret instantly.
    Always wanted a Fargo or Gryphon but they never come along at the right time, so just collecting bits for it now. Comparing geometry, the Niners longer top tube & shorter head tube will mean a short but steep stem if I use drops. I like the idea of the Fargo / Gryphon with their higher front ends & heavily flared drops, so your hands are roughly the same height as normal bars. But I’ve never got on with drops so looking at [cough] bar ends, to give some different hand positions. The Ergon grips with the integrated stubby bar ends might be an option. I’ve some Genesis Caribou bars that I’ve always liked too, have played with them in a few configurations.
    Bikes use will be pretty much as the Op described but more off road / fire road type use. I picked up some full guards for it also, looking at 1.5″ tyres.

    Premier Icon Cheezpleez

    I started down the road of doing this to my Swift. I got as far as putting some 35mm cx tyres on, which was fine, but then decided I could get a second-hand cx bike for about the cost of a drop bar conversion. I ended up picking up a really nice Ridley X-bow from ebay for £200 and I still have my Swift as a proper rigid 29er. Win.

    Premier Icon djflexure

    I love mine but you are likely to be significantly slower on the road which may be a deal breaker depending on your relative fitness compared to riding buddies

    I have a rigid, weenie, carbon Cube Reaction 29er as a gravel bike-come-towpath-commuter. I love it. 9kg, 1×11, Thunderburts. Road sections are okay but it obviously works better on the rougher stuff. I’d rate it at 30/70 road/off.

    I also have a ti commuter set up with 35mm G-Ones which can also do the towpath commute thing, and weighs about the same as the Cube, but really is a different beast and prefers the road. Call it 70/30 road/off. I think it’s interesting that there is an overlap between the bikes but they feel so different to ride.

    Premier Icon rOcKeTdOg

    Gravelled swift here, no drops but has wiggley carnegie’s bars on. my thoughts…


    When I moved to the Sologne forest central France I gravelled my 29er short stem, bars are about 550 wide,bar ends and some 1.9 tires I picked up from CR in a sale this area is covered in gravel tracks and the bike is loads of fun for that style riding I don’t ride with any one so no idea about the road side of things I keep a road bike for that in the winters.

    The only cost was 20 euro for the tires 29ers are versatile bikes and the bar ends make the road sections better especially in a wind next I think ill buy an Inbred frame so I can hang a rack on it and tour.


    Narrow flats and bar ends will give you a good hand position, coupled with a longer stem will give a good overall position. Narrower tyres, rigid fork and the only thing you will be missing is the droped position. Should work well.


    CX tyres on a 29er didn’t work for me. Seemed draggy on road and slow off road. Not as efficient as a CX bike or a MTB.

    Not for me.


    CX tyres on a 29er didn’t work for me. Seemed draggy on road and slow off road. Not as efficient as a CX bike or a MTB. Worst of both.

    Not for me. I’ll stick to one or the other.

    Have you tried a light 2″ slick? Slicks at mtb pressures work surprisingly well off road.

    I find the 2.35″ G-One Speeds a good all-rounder on the Wazoo, but then my off-road travels are not that extreme, they will be replacing the 28mm Grand Sport Races very soon for winter.

    My pair of 38mm Marathon Cross are also very worthy, with a more knobby side tread that can come into play off-road if I drop the pressures from typically using ~60/70PSI on the road.

    Plus if I know I’m going somewhere relatively extreme, I always have the option of fitting the Jumbo Jim laden fat wheels.

    In mid summer, I rode the Meon Valley Trail for the first time and so not being sure what to expect, I fitted the fat rear wheel and the 29er front with the 2.35″ G-One.
    Until I tried to wing it back home after doing the trail and then Old Winchester Hill (surprisingly only ~1min slower than on my road bike), it was a fun ride! But ending up in Fareham, using the A27 at the tail end of the rush hour and turning into one of my longest ever rides with far too little food on me made things a a bit stressful and knackering.

    Premier Icon a11y

    Worth a try, yes.

    I love the idea of a ‘gravel’ bike but simply aren’t comfortable on drops. What I want/need is a flat-bar equivalent hence I keep toying with the idea of trying again but starting with a light/carbon 29er frame and forks, like being discussed here.

    I’ve come at this from the other direction: I’ve ‘gravelled’ (hate that term) my current flat-barred Roadrat with a 425mm carbon Exotic fork (for extra clearance), running 700x47f/42r Smart Sams, 580mm bars with barends, 34/46t double with 34-11t 10-sp cassette and Deore discs. Full-length SKS guards. Used for a mix of forest paths natural and gravel-surfaced, canal paths, a wee bit of road and a good amount of local trail centre blue/red. Not at its best on red trail centre stuff (unsurprisingly) but copes well enough.

    I actually tried gravelling a 29er last summer by swapping everything onto a Swift frame and forks (see Swapped back to my Roadrat within a month. Swift was the wrong choice for me: sluggish on everything other than the knarliest descents where funnily enough it excelled, was approx.. 4lbs heavier than the Roadrat with the same build apart from slightly heavier tyres. Pretty gutted as I’d admired the Swift for years, guess I was trying to use it for something it wasn’t intended for.

    You need both of course. I’ve an XTC with narrow XC tyres on – for dry/summer use – and a London Road with fat tubeless tyres and mudguards – for winter and touring.

    Use them both on the same mixed surface routes around the S.Downs.

    my ti commuter is flat bar

    46cm bar with carbon bar ends and Spesh ergo grips


    Those that want more hand positions, why not try a Jones bar? They’re surprisingly fine in tech situations and give plenty of hand positions.

    Premier Icon brassneck

    Hang on, you have a flimsy partially formed excuse to buy a CdF on C2W?

    What are you waiting for? 😀

    EDIT: I had a Whyte 29CS and the tripster, and the differentiation wasn’t huge – but for all the places an mtb wasn’t needed the tripster was the better bike to be on.

    The 29 got stolen on holiday this year – have replaced with an old T-129 suss, and it gives me a better spread. If I could only keep one though, I’d have the tripster as it covers more options.

    Premier Icon molgrips

    Those that want more hand positions, why not try a Jones bar?

    I can think of 150 good reasons why not.

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