New (gravel) Bike Day (maybe)

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  • New (gravel) Bike Day (maybe)
  • Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    I have a new bike 🙂 although, for the first time, I’m not sure if I should keep it or send it back 🙁

    This tale starts way back in 2004, when I rode Etape du Tour in a futile attempt to convince myself that 40 wasn’t old. I signed up to a group tour and one of the other members of the group had this amazing Carbon Kona road bike with a two tone paint job. As a child of the 80s I just thought this was the coolest thing ever.

    Fast forward to 2019 and after around six years of riding almost exclusively off-road I hop back on my old 2002 Principia Rex road bike and (surprise surprise) find that it really is quite fun. Only the cars can get annoying, I miss the peace of the forests and I miss just being able to go where I fancy. So thoughts turn to this year’s (or was it last year’s) hot niche “gravel”. Only I don’t know the first thing about the subject, so I set about trying to find out. It’s a confusing world though and many conversations are had regarding geometry, wheel size (again!) and whether you need a dropper (I say yes, everyone else says no). I do know a few things; I know I like steel frames, I like 1x and obviously I want a threaded BB, but the rest is still up in the air and I’m looking forward to many more weeks of navel gazing.

    Then somebody points out that there are some discounts to be had on last year’s Kona Libre. It’s carbon, 2x has a press-fit BB and the geometry is almost certainly “wrong” (or will be once I work out what the “right” geometery might be). But it’s two tone purple/green ! They even call the colour “Deep Purple”. They might just as well call it the Kona Old Geezer.

    So, today, the nice man from ParcelForce delivers me a big box with an extremely well packed bike and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since trying to decide whether I’ve just made a big mistake.

    It is pretty though (even if I can’t work out how to capture the colour in a picture).

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    Why do you think it’s a mistake?

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Very good question 🙂

    I guess I’m just conscious that I don’t really know what I want and worry that when I do this wont be it. Gravel seems to cover quite a spectrum, from what are basically road bikes with slightly wider tyres to something more like a 1990s “mountain bike”. This is definitely at the latter end of the scale; a bit longer and slacker than a road bike, longer chainstays, wider bars, even a 31.6mm seat tube (that’s a 150mm dropper post in there, which seems to fit perfectly). I wonder whether what I really want is an endurance road bike that can handle the odd trail. But I guess I wont really know until I spend a decent amount of time on the bike, by which time it will be too late to sent it back anyway.

    MrSparkle
    Member

    Looks good. What’s going on with that saddle?

    munrobiker
    Member

    Looks like a great gravel bike to me (apart from the wierd saddle and the unneccesary weight of the dropper).

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Another experiment. It’s one of those Adams jobs. I’ve been using it on the turbo and quite like it.

    Only one way to find out……. ride it !

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Thanks @munrobiker. It’s ok I’ve got plenty of other unnecessary weight I can lose before I start worrying about the dropper. Mostly from me.

    You’re not wrong @trailwagger

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Looks ace, fit some mud tyres, get out and give it a thrash.

    Hard to say if you’ll enjoy it or not. I’m loving my cross bike at the moment, to the point my new hardtail hasn’t had a proper ride yet!

    Just sort those tyres for something knobly.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Yes, those tyres could be “interesting”. Although, luckily, we don’t tend to have proper mud up here. Mainly sandy or peaty stuff that doesn’t really stick. Still might benefit from a few knobs.

    I’ve got all the bits to set them up tubeless, so maybe I’ll do that this evening and then I’m committed. I’m just being daft really. The decision was made a while back, I just need to accept it #buyersremorse

    If you dont want it pack it up and send to me, I have a few spare saddles.

    scotroutes
    Member

    What size is it? Just thinking I might want first dibs.

    FWIW, I’m using Byways on my Amazon and not having any problems with them on most surfaces around here. There will, inevitably, come a point where they are overwhelmed by soft terrain but they are remarkably good given how they look.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    It’s a 54 although really it’s a 57/58 (weird Kona sizing). Oh and it’s not for sale 🙂

    Premier Icon rOcKeTdOg
    Subscriber

    the proportions of that 57/58cm frame have completely put me off trying 650b on my bike just on looks alone

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    You’re a man after my own heart @rocketdog. Although I don’t mind the look myself, I’m with you all the way. If it looks wrong it is wrong.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    For comparison here is my first ever “off road” bike. Not actually mine but one just like it. Maybe that’s why the 650b wheels don’t bother me 🙂

    http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/download/file.php?id=321943

    Premier Icon ta11pau1
    Subscriber

    The wtb byway tyres are great on the road and on dry trails, but hit anything muddy and it’s like a slip and slide! 😁

    Premier Icon Normal Man
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    Just fitted Byways to my bike now RP after giving up on the G Ones.

    I had them before on the CGR that was stolen so I know I like them as a tyre.

    Congrats on the new bike. Now get out and enjoy the ride, just no overthinking 😉

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    That’s a bit like asking a politician not to lie NM, but I should be able to manage the first part OK 🙂

    Premier Icon dove1
    Subscriber

    That’s a lovely looking bike. Looks like there is plenty of room for 700c wheels and skinnier tyres if you want to use it on the roads more.
    Once you ride it on a few fire roads and less technical single tracks I’m sure you will love it.
    Gravel biking is like mountain biking was in the 1980’s but with drop bars.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Thanks @dove1. I’m looking forward to trying it out over the weekend, so expect more ramblings after that.

    A few points just in case anybody is reading this and actually thinking of buying one:

    I bought the bike through Cyclestore. Ordered on Monday and arrived on Thursday,so that’s not bad.

    The bike was extremely well packed. A mass of cardboard, styrofoam and zip ties to ensure that nothing rubbed in transit.

    Setup was easy and things like gears and brakes had been adjusted already.

    Personally I think all the cables are a bit long, but I appreciate that this does help to prevent any rubbing on the frame

    The tyres are tubeless but come with tubes. The rims are already taped though and tubeless valves are included in the box, so you just need to add sealant. Tubeless setup was very easy.

    Mine had a noticeable buckle on the front wheel. Annoying, but I think that’s just the price you pay for buying online. Support your LBS and you may pay a bit more, but can expect them to true the wheels for you. As it was 10 minutes with the spoke key got them straight enough for my liking.

    It came with those reflectors on the spokes and they’d been installed using some stupid plastic security screws, which made getting them off harder than it should have been.

    There was a bit of helicopter tape for the chainstay in the box, but I had to stick it on myself.

    There was grease on the axles, which was good to see. I’ve not checked all the bolts yet, but I doubt there is grease on many of these. Even buying a bike from my LBS I had to check every bolt and most were dry.

    corroded
    Member

    I’m not sold on the wheel size, the dropper or the pressfit BB but I still think you’ll have lots of fun on it. Be sure to take it down inappropriate tracks.

    fasthaggis
    Member

    OP

    Can I heartily recommend …

    jist do it

    >> lots of smileys <<

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Nice one @fasthaggis. If you decide to print some T-shirts I’ll have two 🙂

    On the plus side, I did finally finish fettling on Saturday. Honestly, it’s easier to build it yourself and avoid the rigmarole of removing every bolt, checking it and adding grease to anything that you might want to undo again one day. The only advantage I can see to getting a fully assembled bike is that they’ve cut the cables for you and I reckon they left those too long !

    Anyway, managed to get a nice shakedown ride in yesterday. A mix of country lanes, tracks then a spin back on the A-roads when the weather closed in.

    I’m still not sure where I’m going with this gravel thing. Do I basically wants a rigid MTB to make tame trails more interesting, or do a really want an endurance road bike for long days on back roads with just the odd track? But I guess versatility is the key with these bikes. I could stick some knobbly MTB tyres on. Alternatively I could fit lighter 700c wheels and road tyres to make an endurance road bike. I could easily lower the front by 5cm just by moving spacers and flipping the stem. I could remove the dropper of course and even fit narrower bars if I wanted to go the whole hog. There are also a ton of mounting options should I get inspired by one of scotroutes’ more upbeat ride reports and decide to strap our lightweight camping kit to it.

    One thing that struck me as interesting was the issue of speed vs comfort. It’s common in reviews of road plus tyres for the reviewer to say that they are not quite as fast as a road tyre, but more comfortable, which is true up to a point. My road bike with GP4000s would win a sprint any day. In fact anything up to around an hour it would be faster. But once I get beyond a couple of hours it seems that comfort and speed amount to the same thing. If I’m feeling beat up, I can’t put the what little power I have down.

    Yesterday I set 6 PRs on Strava, all on road sections. Nothing unusual about that. A new bike always results in a few PRs, probably because I subconsciously push a bit harder to justify spending all that cash. But what was notable was that they all came towards the end of the ride and weren’t by small amounts. In once case I was almost a minute faster on a five minute segment, compared with a time set on my road bike only a month ago on a similar ride in more benign conditions.

    I didn’t immediately jump on the bike and think “this is comfortable” but it was really noticeable how much more I was enjoying the ride after a few hours, or rather how I didn’t have the usual catalogue of aches and pains.

    Anyway, enough rambling, here are some pictures.

    Blackflag
    Member

    Take it through some wooded singletrack and off a few tiny drops. You’ll not be dissapointed.

    I didnt really “get” gravel until i started using mine (Arkose 2 with 45c tyres) for more XC Mtb style routes. Then i felt like a kid again. Ace!

    Premier Icon Normal Man
    Subscriber

    Hi RP

    I am thinking of going tubeless now. I had stuck with tubes after a bad experience years ago. But after 3 punctures in 2 weeks, all small shards of glass on road sections, both in the G Ones and then on Saturday on only my second ride on the newly fitted Byways.

    I am hoping that will help tbh. I really am enjoying the bike but not the flat tyres!

    Prior to this I hadn’t had a flat since 2016🤦‍♂️

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    I’d definitely recommend tubeless NM. A bit of a faff to set up but the only puncture I’ve suffered in the last few years was on my tubed road bike. OK, I was being daft and trying to ride it on a track, but still 🙂

    The Byways on WTB KON rims were a doddle to setup tubeless to be honest, so no reason not to, but I know other rim/tyre combinations can be a very different story.

    @BlackFlag I’m looking forward to the ice melting so I can push it a bit more off road, but I’m not so sure about the whole rigid MTB thing to be honest. I took it down a few rough(ish) tracks yesterday and it was fun in a “can’t believe I’m riding my road bike down this” sort of way. But 47mm tyres at close to 40psi are no substitute for a mountain bike really and if I were going to spend the vast majority of a ride off-road I think I’d still take mt MTB. I may change my mind on this, but for now I think my main use for this bike will be exploring lanes and tracks. Not being limited to the red, brown and yellow roads, but taking in all those white ones and the ones that are just a couple of dashed lines. If I could find some nice smooth flowing singletrack that would be great too 🙂

    toby
    Member

    Looks nice. As one of the few who agrees with you on a dropper (at least I think I do – it seems like a good idea to me, I’ve not got round to getting one yet), I’d be interested to know how you get on.

    ETA: Oh, and just enjoy it, overthink a bit less! Even if it is wrong for you, you’ll learn a lot more about what’s right for you by having and riding that.

    scotroutes
    Member

    Almost every ride is a compromise but it’s worth trying lower pressures if you are riding mostly off-road.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    I will fiddle with pressures a bit, but I suspect this is going to be my “ride from the door” bike. With the MTB I tend to drive an hour or so to get to nice trails, enjoy those, then drive home. Part of the appeal of “gravel” is just riding from the door, so it’s likely to be a lot of road. Often crappy back lanes and farmers tracks but a fair chink of tarmac.

    I can’t really comment on the dropper yet as I’m still waiting for the remote to arrive. So, while I did have the dropper post fitted for the maiden voyage it really was just extra weight for no purpose (other than fiddling with the saddle position/angle). I know there are plenty who think that about droppers on gravel bikes anyway but my main thought on all the descents yesterday was still “this would be so much better if I could just get the damn saddle out the way”.

    The points about over analysing are well made and one of my take home messages from the first ride was that it really isn’t about the bike. These bikes have to span such a wide range, from endurance road to rigid MTB that they are all a compromise. This one leans a bit more to the MTB side, but it’s only subtle. In fact, I’m beginning to think that the differences in geometry on these bikes has more to do with feel than performance. Whether you like the pin sharp handling of a road race bike or just find that twitchy an unsettling and prefer something more relaxed. Outside of a race they all do the same job really.

    Blackflag
    Member

    a lot of it comes down to where you ride it. I live near delamere forest so its a good mix of gravelly fire roads and tons of forest singletrack which is ideal for few hours of non technical off road shenanigans. traffic free but would be a bit too dull on an mtb.

    scotroutes
    Member

    my main thought on all the descents yesterday was still “this would be so much better if I could just get the damn saddle out the way”.

    I know you’ve written about this previously but are you suggesting that you’d use a dropper on your MTB and be sitting on the saddle while it is lowered? I’m not sure I ever do that. Getting the saddle “out of the way” is to allow more room for body movement and I can’t say I’ve ever missed that on my #gradventourer regardless of the descent.

    Premier Icon ta11pau1
    Subscriber

    I will fiddle with pressures a bit, but I suspect this is going to be my “ride from the door” bike. With the MTB I tend to drive an hour or so to get to nice trails, enjoy those, then drive home. Part of the appeal of “gravel” is just riding from the door, so it’s likely to be a lot of road. Often crappy back lanes and farmers tracks but a fair chink of tarmac.

    Exactly why I have mine.

    I run around 30psi in the byways for gerenal riding, a bit harder if doing the commute which is 90% tarmac.

    i like it. lovely looking ride..

    my question and answer solution is usually

    do you need it, no do you want it yes, can you afford it yes, room in the garage yes, does it compliment your current n of bikes, yes keep it and go for a ride..

    the wifes logic; havent you got enough bikes, 1 in 1 out :0)

    i just got a topstone 105 its similiar in its got a stupidly high toptube, so a CX rider can hold it and jam their elbow straight through to place frame on shoulder..

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    I know you’ve written about this previously but are you suggesting that you’d use a dropper on your MTB and be sitting on the saddle while it is lowered

    No, I’m not sitting down when I’m descending off-road on either bike. I’m standing and trying to use my legs to soak up the shocks and move the bike around under me. But that’s hard with a saddle rammed up my rear ! I’m guessing that I’m probably doing it wrong, but I haven’t worked out what right is yet.

    scotroutes
    Member

    I think when you described it before you were suggesting you wanted to lower your centre of gravity, especially when cornering. It was that made me ask.

    Premier Icon dove1
    Subscriber

    That looks gorgeous. Paint colour is great.
    I think you need to consider it as a “do lots of things well, but not necessarily perfect for any of them” bike and just try and enjoy riding it.
    My gravel bike came with 700c wheels shod with 40mm tyres. It’s good on the road and fun on back roads and tracks. I’m thinking of getting a set of 650b wheels made up so I can run wider tyres and try more techy single track. If you are going to take it off-road then I think a dropper is a good idea. I have seen a few slopes locally that I could easily ride on my MTB but am hesitant to try them on the gravel bike with the saddle in the way. Unfortunately the bike has a ‘D’ shaped seat post so a dropper can’t be fitted.

    What computer mount are you using? Looks like a top cap mount, and that’s what I’m after.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    @scotroutes Probably me just not explaining very well. It’s mainly about being able to move about (and let the bike move about) without feeling like the saddle is trying to throw me over the bars whenever I hit a bump, but being able to get a bit lower feels as though it could be useful too. So many gravel riders (including those that use droppers on MTBs) claim that they are unnecessary on a gravel bike though. So I’m prepared to accept that they are probably right. I’ve just got so used to using one I guess.

    Thanks @dove1 I think you are spot on. They are the ultimate compromise bike really, so it’s pointless worrying about whether you’ve got the perfect compromise. There is no such thing. Best just to forget about it and enjoy the ride.

    The mount is one of these by the way.

    https://www.chainreactioncycles.com/k-edge-mtb-stem-adjustable-mount/rp-prod151499?gs=1&sku=sku552296&istCompanyId=8d42cf00-fc35-44ce-8770-97ae3ffd4c16&istFeedId=c759ee22-6d7f-4501-bd00-f1af47c60490&istItemId=iwxtttrat&istBid=t&pgrid=60711843018&ptaid=pla-427222972303&utm_source=google&utm_term=&utm_campaign=PLA+All+Products&utm_medium=base&utm_content=mkwid%7CsEw1iwM9l_dc%7Cpcrid%7C309840120698%7Cpkw%7C%7Cpmt%7C%7Cprd%7C552296UK&gclid=Cj0KCQiAn8nuBRCzARIsAJcdIfM_MuzG0gj7jUPXLNruuJwLFBpnhjuJuT7_QR771KNTsYW9FYqNo48aAr5kEALw_wcB

    kerley
    Member

    So many gravel riders (including those that use droppers on MTBs) claim that they are unnecessary on a gravel bike though. So I’m prepared to accept that they are probably right. I’ve just got so used to using one I guess.

    That may be because they are riding gravel roads on them and not going down any steep/technical singletrack? Even riding down the steepest gravel road where I live I stay seated.

    Doesn’t mean anyone is right or wrong just that your use is different.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Well I’m certainly not rad 🙂 A big part of the motivation for trying a gravel bike is that I’m tending to avoid the tech on the MTB these days in favour of more exploring type rides where a gravel bike may be a better option. It is true that even the tame stuff up here tends to be rough enough that sitting down would be a painful option though. So that could well be part of the reason why I’m so keen to add the dropper (besides just having got used to one). If I had miles of smoothish gravel roads I dare say I wouldn’t bother.

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