Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 56 total)
  • XC bike for the road vs. flat bar gravel bike
  • bikesandboots
    Full Member

    I think I might want a new bike. First reason is to keep fitness up over winter by doing local evening rides from my door – my 140/130mm FS trail bike is no good for this in the city and old railway cycletracks, and I can’t be arsed spending hours travelling to the woods and dealing with the mud all for an hour and a half’s ride. Second reason is to replace my pretty knackered 15 year old BSO MTB that I use for urban commuting 3 miles each way two days a week and occasional nipping around the city. Thirdly I’d might occasionally (2 days a year, so not a major factor) like to use it to bike-in on estate/hydro/windpower tracks to do some remote hikes in Scotland, which my FS would do but I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving it hidden unsecured.

    I have no interest in drop bars, so I was wondering whether a flat-bar gravel (i.e. hybrid) or XC bike (aggro-gravel?!) with suitable tyres and gearing would fit the bill. I think the former is probably what would be recommended, but the latter seems to make more sense to me. In particular, I’ve spotted the Sonder Camino flatbar and Dial.

    I’ll be sure to throw a leg over some, but what does the STW collective think?

    Reasons to prefer gravel bike:
    – more capability/feel gap between it and my FS
    – no fork to maintain
    – more appropriate gear range (still 1x), and closer-spaced
    – more options for attaching racks, storage, and full-length mudguard
    – 2kg lighter
    – £200 cheaper (at the moment, between these particular models)

    Reason to prefer XC bike:
    – fork (has lockout) for comfort on rooty and broken/potholed tarmac, and occasional Scottish tracks
    – more robust (wheels, frame, componentry), can take more abuse such as kerbs and bunny-hopping horse barriers
    – gearing also fine with 36T chainring fitted
    – same parts and standards as my other bike, same to work on
    – clutch mech

    kerley
    Free Member

    If both bikes had the same tyres on them (and assuming roughly same weight for rims) then you would really wouldn’t notice much difference between them so I would base decision on what is more comfortable/fits you best.
    You would notice more difference on a drop bar gravel bike as it will be faster but once you put flat bars on it you lose that benefit so may as well have an MTB so you can change tyres to MTB tyres when required and have an MTB.
    I agree with you list of differences other than bunny hopping curbs and the like as I have been doing that on track bikes with 25c tyres for 20 years and never damaged anything in that time.

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    Whichever you prefer the look and feel of. That’s what will get you out and riding when the weather is naff. I’d ditch the sus fork if not going off road and run slightly bigger tyres at lower psi.

    If you’re not looking to smash out miles at speed then comfort and places to attach stuff are key.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    An mtb on gravel tyres is imo more versatile than a hybrid. Thats what I have used for my tour. I like a suspension fork even for road use

    zippykona
    Full Member

    I never thought I’d ride a rigid bike again.
    You need a Whippet…in fact everyone needs a Whippet.

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    Saccades
    Free Member

    Flat bar on the road? Why?

    Get the gravel bike and go faster on the road, most road bikes are grand with potholes and bunny hops/jumps over ramps etc.

    I’ve pissed about over the years and have settled on a orange FS and a road bike that can take 32c (nothing massive) which is well able for fireroad and means I enjoy my commute.

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    Flat bar on the road? Why?

    Because many of us find flat bar, bar ends or alr-bar type things more comfortable and useful.

    Each to thier own and all.

    Jamz
    Full Member

    Because many of us find flat bar, bar ends or alr-bar type things more comfortable and useful.

    Each to thier own and all

    A flat bar with bar ends is a drop bar without the drops 🤣 (and the drops are really useful sometimes).

    @the OP – my view is just buy a gravel bike and put some 40-55mm tyres on it. It is the bike that’s designed for what you want to do after all…

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    A flat bar with bar ends is a drop bar without the drops 🤣 (and the drops are really useful sometimes).

    Or a drop bar is a flat bar with superflous curly bits, weird levers and odd hand positions… 🤣

    kimbers
    Full Member

    As long as you adopt the most efficient aero position for the road

    You’ll be fine

    alan1977
    Free Member

    theres generally a a degree or 2 difference in head angle
    however, there is also usually a significant difference in gearing, my FB gravel bike runs a 44T chain ring. an XC bike is likely to be no larger than 36T. if you are doing a lot of road distance youll probably want hte higher top end
    Also, my gravel bike is only certified as a road frame, id expect an xc frame to be classified a little tougher

    thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    I’d +1 the just get something drop bars, they’re so much more comfortable once you get used to them.

    Otherwise just get a nice XC bike. The speed difference is minimal (easily within the margin for fitness differences on a group ride) and the weight of the fork is negligible in the scheme of things.

    ballsofcottonwool
    Free Member

    +1 on getting something with drop bars, more comfortable, more aero, but gateway drug for head to toe lycra.

    I put drop bars on my old HT in the spring, I kept the suspension fork and 2.2″ semi-slick tyres so I don’t get shaken to pieces on the various farm, forestry and estate tracks here in South Aberdeenshire, it rolls fast enough not be a drag on the tarmac. Its been fab for riding from the door for 2-3hr rides.

    I would say that a36T chainring on that XC MTB you’re looking out is too small for riding on the flat, on well surfaced tracks with any kind of downhill gradient I’m spinning at 110rpm+ on those kind of sections with 40:11 top gear even at endurance Z2 pace

    kerley
    Free Member

    110rpm with 40:11 is 32mph. Not being able to pedal at over that speed is not a concern for me at all so may not be a problem for OP.
    (In reality I do pedal at 200rpm at over that speed but fixed gear is a different ball game!)

    esselgruntfuttock
    Free Member

    I’d +1 the just get something drop bars, they’re so much more comfortable once you get used to them.

    ‘once you get used to them’?
    I’ve done 1100 miles on my Free Ranger & the one thing I hate with a passion is the bars. How many more miles before I ‘get used to them’?
    Waits for the one inevitable ‘you need a bike fit’ bollox.
    Great bike. Shit bars.

    ‘Aggro-gravel? I like the sound of that!

    winston
    Free Member

    Hmmm

    I just bought a Trek Procaliber (tubeless 2.2 29er lightweight tyres, carbon frame, 100mm lock out fork running 1 x 12)

    My commute is a 25k mix of potholed country roads, broken up farmers tracks and SDW style bridleways. Normally i do it on my Pinnacle Arkose with 650b x 47 and very very flared drops running 1 x 10 but obvs with a higher range.

    I didn’t buy the XC bike for the commute but thought I’d use it as well. I also thought it would be at least as fast, having bigger wheels and a fancy carbon frame etc but even allowing for the better climbing and faster descending its soooooo much slower on the road that overall its a slower commute by several minutes, sometimes 10 if its windy. So much so that initially i was dissappointed with it – which is crazy if you think about it as its not a hybrid! Took it off road on some single track and loved it.I guess what I’m trying to say is that bikes are generally designed to be good at what they are designed for! The procaliber is a fast XC bike but not in any way good on road – yes its faster than a 160mm FS but much slower than even a slow gravel bike like my Arkose in 650b guise.

    EDIT Also my Arkose has full mudguards on in the winter and an XC bike will struggle with that – getting to work covered in mud is not great

    benp1
    Full Member

    What about a hybrid of the two? Rigid MTB

    weeksy
    Full Member

    Yup, that’s the sweet spot. Carbon fast MTB with a light rigid fork and decent brakes.
    If I bought some nicer wheels, my Raleigh would tick the boxes

    fossy
    Full Member

    Rigid XC may fit the bill better, and it has a bigger option of tyres and suspension forks at some point. Especially if you are ruling out drops (two MTB’s and two race road bikes here). You’ll want to watch the gearing though.

    Currently commuting 20 miles a day on a well maintained 90’s rigid MTB – Schwalbe Landcruisers and a 44 x 13 biggest gear – haven’t run out on the flat yea and it will do 18-20 mph loaded with heavy panniers. The bike isn’t light though, so a Whippet might be a good choice.

    My next bike would probably be a gravel bike to fit in the middle of what I have, with drop bars – I find these more comfortable, with more hand positions.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    ‘once you get used to them’?
    I’ve done 1100 miles on my Free Ranger & the one thing I hate with a passion is the bars. How many more miles before I ‘get used to them’?
    Waits for the one inevitable ‘you need a bike fit’ bollox.
    Great bike. Shit bars.

    ‘Aggro-gravel? I like the sound of that!

    The Selcof bars are horrible (IME, I seem to have Ritchey shaped hands, others probably do actually like the Selcof’s, but at least on the bike I built with the, they were also unnecessarily stiff so gave me numb hands too) , so that’s your reference point maybe try anything else before writing them off.

    esselgruntfuttock
    Free Member

    so that’s your reference point maybe try anything else before writing them off.

    I sold a Spesh road bike a few years ago for the same reason.
    I have thought about putting riser drops on to see if that makes a difference but I doubt if I will, I’ll probably end up with a Whippet or something similar, the main drawback being the size of the front ring possible. I quite like the 1×42 on the FreeRanger & don’t think the Whippet will take that size.

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    Ha! To drops being comfier! For true comfort you can’t beat insane risers with all the back sweep. Stooge bars are the comfiest thing. Just cruising along with relaxed wrists and nothing in a weird position. Madness! People preferring different things.

    ton
    Full Member

    jones bars are comfiest….. FACT
    but dont work with fused wrists.

    drop bars are good for racing. no more.

    flat bars and bar ends are good for touring.

    finephilly
    Free Member

    Tyre choice and tyre pressure would probably make more difference, especially on rides under 30 miles. Personally, I would go for a light XC bike, as you can take that off-road. If you do go gravel bike though, opt for at least 35mm tyres, so you can drop the pressure.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    I have thought about putting riser drops on to see if that makes a difference

    Counter intuitively I found rising the bars made the whole bike worse as it takes all the weight off the front end. There’s a narrow band between taking the weight off for comfort and not loading it enough for handling.
    Obviously the fitter and more flexible you are the wider that gets as you can comfortably hold a lower position, but the upper limit seems set by your body geometry.

    bikesandboots
    Full Member

    If both bikes had the same tyres on them (and assuming roughly same weight for rims)

    This is a bit concerning actually with the Sonder lower-grade wheelsets- the gravel ones are 2180g, the XC ones will be some amount lighter than the 2480g wider MTB ones. My XM481/Pro4 wheelset is only 2045g.

    Flat bar on the road? Why?

    The hand positions and body position with drops don’t appeal to me for comfort, control, and visibility. Never tried it though.

    It is the bike that’s designed for what you want to do after all…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that bikes are generally designed to be good at what they are designed for!

    Agreed, design intent and the choices the majority of people make isn’t lost on me. They can’t all be wrong, but I’m ok going my own way if I know the pros/cons (hence asking you folk – thanks).

    however, there is also usually a significant difference in gearing, my FB gravel bike runs a 44T chain ring. an XC bike is likely to be no larger than 36T. if you are doing a lot of road distance youll probably want hte higher top end

    I would say that a36T chainring on that XC MTB you’re looking out is too small for riding on the flat, on well surfaced tracks with any kind of downhill gradient I’m spinning at 110rpm+ on those kind of sections with 40:11 top gear even at endurance Z2 pace

    Looking at the Sonder examples and bikecalc.com, the gravel one (40T/11) maxes at 100 gear inches, the XC one (32T/10) at 94. Yes it’s a max 36T on the XC one, taking it to 105. But the gravel one will take much bigger.

    110rpm with 40:11 is 32mph. Not being able to pedal at over that speed is not a concern for me at all so may not be a problem for OP.

    Looking at this on bikecalc now too. No idea what RPM I do, googling says maybe 70. That’s 21mph on 40:11, which seems too slow, and pretty much about the same with 36:10 after adjusting for a bigger tyre.

    I’d ditch the sus fork if not going off road

    I like a suspension fork even for road use

    the weight of the fork is negligible in the scheme of things

    What about a hybrid of the two? Rigid MTB

    Yup, that’s the sweet spot. Carbon fast MTB with a light rigid fork and decent brakes.

    my Arkose has full mudguards on in the winter and an XC bike will struggle with that

    Rigid XC may fit the bill better, and it has a bigger option of tyres and suspension forks at some point

    I see no real disadvantage in use to the fork other than not being able to run full mudguards, and my commute is tarmac anyway. Don’t care about the weight, or the odd DIY service. If I wasn’t looking at complete bikes due to the value for money aspect, I’d probably start off with rigid and see how it goes.

    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    I’d go rigid over cheap sus fork for what you’re describing but again it’s what suits you. If you’ve never tried drops I’d definitely look to see if you can borrow or demo a bike with them. You might find they work well for you. Something wider with more flare than a road bar. I always liked Salsa Cowchippers.

    chestrockwell
    Full Member

    You need a Whippet…in fact everyone needs a Whippet.

    Yeah, but when push came to shove I sold mine rather than the gravel bike….

    I had both a drop bar gravel and rigid XC bike for a while. Gravel defo better on road, much easier to ‘make progress’ and not a chore like the XC.

    Both with flat bars and similar tyres though, I doubt it’ll make much difference so personal preference and all that as there’s not a wrong answer.

    Stainypants
    Full Member

    I have 3 drop bar bikes and a nice flat barred gravel bike I built up myself from a Dolan frame. It hads taken me about six months to get the handlebar set up right but now I have I’m really happy with it. I have a really wide bar with inboard bar ends plus lifeline copies of ergon gp2.

    I almost bought a Sondor Frontier frame in the clearance last week but instead I built back my an old Scandal to use for a similar purpose as you it’s currently set up with 650b x42 wheels. I also have a nice hope 26 inch wheels to stick on when I want to take it on more rugged terrain and for bike packing. I took it out at the weekend and I was surprised how well it rode it was not much slower than my other gravel bikes.

    The gearing is currently 40 11-42 though I’m going to add a front mech I’ve already added a 28 inner as a bail out gear when it gets steep or it’s fully loaded.

    bikesandboots
    Full Member

    Today I learnt about low stack height on most XC bikes. My back is already hurting after I worked out the handlebar stack on the Sonder Dial, with the flat bar and 30mm of spacers it comes with standard. 45mm lower than my trail bike. Would be ridiculous to put a 40mm riser bar on top of all those spacers.

    Any recommendations for an XC (or other genre) bike with a stack around 620-630mm in medium?

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    For me, the biggest difference between a flat bar and drop bar gravel bike is the high cost of drop bar hydraulic sti shifters. I reckon I could have saved a couple of hundred quid if I’d put flat bars on gravel bike.

    kerley
    Free Member

    Any recommendations for an XC (or other genre) bike with a stack around 620-630mm in medium?

    An XC bike is for going fast under your own power so having a low front is good for that. You don’t want to be sat up straight if going fast on flat/uphill is your goal, XC racers even have downward angled stems to get the bars even lower.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    You can run full mudguards on a sus fork. Cable ties are you friend. Cable tie to the fork brace and p clips on the lower leg for the stays

    zippykona
    Full Member

    These are a godsend when fitting full guards to a sus fork.
    I just melt 2 holes in the mudguard with a soldering iron so that I can zip tie to the stays.
    These stays don’t move or rattle and are qr if you use their straps
    https://www.tredz.co.uk/.SKS-Veloflexx-65-U-Stay-Kit-29_242456.htm?sku=816882&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Mudguards&gclid=CjwKCAjw7eSZBhB8EiwA60kCW6RTZVNeTkMyiEpX-EL2W_SvK7iCWOsJq-W6GImadZQnm5bBb-VR9hoCeI8QAvD_BwE
    null

    bikesandboots
    Full Member

    An XC bike is for going fast under your own power so having a low front is good for that. You don’t want to be sat up straight if going fast on flat/uphill is your goal,

    I get that, it just happens to not be what I want.

    You can run full mudguards on a sus fork. Cable ties are you friend

    SKS Velo 65 is the plan now, found them a bit after writing the OP.

    thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    Any recommendations for an XC (or other genre) bike with a stack around 620-630mm in medium?

    Ok, if you’re determined to go this tall then I’d look at hybrids again. Raising the bars in isolation will unweight the front tyre and rob you of any front end grip. At least starting with something shorter reach/steep head angle, and longer stem will regain some of that (at the expense of all the modern benefits of stable handling).

    You could keep an eye out on ebay/facebook for a Mk1/2/3 Stooge?

    bikesandboots
    Full Member

    Cotic Cascade. Twice the price though!

    sirromj
    Free Member

    Take some of the comments up there with a pinch of salt.

    Take a look at the BBB BHS-25 Forged stem for a high rise stem. I ran it one on my rigid/hardtail with 35mm riser bars for a short while, I decided it was too high for me in the end (with suspension forks fitted but it was ok with the shorter rigid forks). But I didn’t loose front end grip, in some ways higher bars make it easier to weight the front, particularly standing.

    Maybe look at 3×8 gearing. Got it on my hybrid commuter currently, and miss the big chainring on my hardtail when riding down hills along the road or on the flat with wind behind.

    sirromj
    Free Member

    Maybe look at 3×8 gearing.

    Forgetting that most modern MTB frames are unlikely to be compatible with big chainrings and/or triple chainsets.

    kerley
    Free Member

    I get that, it just happens to not be what I want.

    Okay, rules out option 1 of your question then so there’s the answer – flat bar gravel bike it is

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