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Crotalus

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Reply with quote  #1 
What are the advantages and disadvantages of racing/riding gravel on a rigid 29er mountain bike compared to say a drop bar gravel bike like the Salsa Warbird or Niner RLT? 

I'm currently on a fully rigid, steel framed 29er mountain bike with 1.9" tires and am considering the pros and cons of buying a more race oriented bike. Nothing over the top, but something in the $2000-2500 range, a nice aluminum framed bike with disc brakes.

Comments please?
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mosovich

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Reply with quote  #2 
I would go steel or carbon..  Aluminum can be rough..  I have a Specialized Crux and a Zukas (Zukas Cycles, ck him out on Facebook) I think the advantage is on say paved sections you got different hand positions etc.  I feel as though I'm faster..  Just my .02... [smile] 

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AlanEsh

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Reply with quote  #3 
The roughest riding bike I own is steel, and this isn't 1995; aluminum rides much better than it did a couple of decades ago. i.e. the "aluminum is harsh" mantra isn't very accurate now. Add in 2" tires at 50lbs, and your frame material is pretty much a non-factor as far as comfort on gravel goes.

Crotalus -- There are a large number of bikes the manufacturers claim are "gravel" ... Take a close look at geometry (mostly bb drop) to make sure you're getting something that will be stable on gravel. I find my cross bike to be really twitchy and floaty on loose stuff, so I'm looking at alternatives right now.

Good luck in your hunt! Post back when you find something you like; we're always up for reading reviews [smile]
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Walt Brown

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Reply with quote  #4 
Alan, thank you for your post regarding aluminum. It was one of my concerns about going with the Willard.
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readycpa

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Reply with quote  #5 
+1 on what AlanEsh said about BB drop. I rode Felt & Ridley CX frames with high BB's for 2 years on gravel before changing to a 2013 BH RX Team (aka Pivot Vault) with the lower BB. Absolutely amazing difference in ride quality & handling on gravel descents, cornering, etc.
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advcyclist

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Reply with quote  #6 
I have both a '97 Moots Psychlo-X with YBB that I rode DK200 last year and won a gravel stage race with as well as a new-ish 2013 Warbird2 (bought "used" from a guy that never rode it). I used the Warbird on a Mountain 'Cross 72 miler last year to get an idea of its shortcomings. It was disassembled the day after the race.

I've completely rebuilt the Warbird to upgrade what I felt the Salsa engineers (or marketing team) neglected just so they could save a few pennies. 

  • un-laced the OEM Salsa hubs from the narrow and "dead" feeling Sun Assault rims 
  • re-laced those hubs to HED Belgium+ and drastically improved road feel and tire grip.
  • Pitched the OEM shifters and replaced with D-A 7800
  • replaced the 105 rear der. with an Ultegra medium cage
  • removed Gossamer crankset to replace with FSA SL-K
  • Replaced Salsa Guide Stem with SL-K (longer)
  • replaced OEM saddle with Fizik Gobi XM
  • replaced OEM seat post with Niner RDO post
With all that done... I have more confidence on loose stuff with the Warbird than I do the Moots. While the Moots does navigate single track better (more "suspension"), very few of our local gravel races (NC, VA, SC, TN) have single track sections. The Warbird is more planted and accelerates more smoothly than the Moots while also providing better road feedback to me. The Moots is a Cadillac on the roughest stuff though and is genuinely a comfortable plush ride for long hours in the saddle.

I'll be riding DK200 this year on the Warbird since I see a HUGE advantage on those roads with disc brakes if the conditions should deteriorate beyond dry...

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barturtle

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Reply with quote  #7 
I think a lot of the advantages/disadvantages can change depending on what "type" of gravel you're dealing with. While I've ridden gravel in MN and IA that was wondrous and packed and fast, the typical gravel I deal with in KY and IN, is loose, and chunky and riddled with holes. I'm more often running 2" rubber than I am 40mm, not so much for extra traction, but for the float and reduction in pinchflats. Some of the local gravel roads deteriorate to the point where cries of "FATBIKE!!!" are often heard as we shoulder our cross and touring bikes over boulders.
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IcySmooth52

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by barturtle
I think a lot of the advantages/disadvantages can change depending on what "type" of gravel you're dealing with... Some of the local gravel roads deteriorate to the point where cries of "FATBIKE!!!" are often heard as we shoulder our cross and touring bikes over boulders.

Excellent point.

There was one long gravel road I did that was something only a Jeep Wranger car could handle, and I turned back after a few miles to go and do it with my cross country MTB because it was going to do it so much better.

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Slim

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crotalus
What are the advantages and disadvantages of racing/riding gravel on a rigid 29er mountain bike compared to say a drop bar gravel bike


Since you can put the skinnier 'gravel' tires on your 29er too, that makes no difference.
The big change is in the bars. Drop bars are far more aerodynamic than mtb bars. They also offer a more comfortable hand position, and the option to change positions.


After that, there are also geometry changes, but they are very model specific.
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Subby

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Reply with quote  #10 
New here. Interesting thread for me, as I had been exclusively riding my rigid steel single speed 29'r MTB(Kona Unit) for the last 2 years, geared at 32x20, 2.4/2.25 tires, for where I ride here in the SoCal mountains (tons of climbing, often very rocky, no matter where I go for the most part). But, I wanted something that was gonna be a little more fun/practical for around town, but could still handle some of my local dirt so this past winter I got a Cross Check that I have set up single speed, with flat bars, 42x18 gearing, 41 Knards for tires. I've deliberately taken the Cross Check a few places that I know are better suited to the MTB, just to see how it does, and I'm pretty surprised how well it handles in the rough. Actually, REALLY surprised. And then on the ride to and fro on the streets it's WAY more fun, and of course, faster. On the many fire roads around here, it's pretty much a toss up--they're both fun, just different. So, I really like having both now--a dedicated trail bike(that I usually drive to the more technical trails with) and a gravel/all-purpose that I can use to go just about anywhere from right out the front door. I think drop bars are next for the Surly….
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Nubster

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanEsh
The roughest riding bike I own is steel, and this isn't 1995; aluminum rides much better than it did a couple of decades ago. i.e. the "aluminum is harsh" mantra isn't very accurate now. Add in 2" tires at 50lbs, and your frame material is pretty much a non-factor as far as comfort on gravel goes.


The harshest riding bike I own is aluminum and it's a 2015 so it's new tech. The two aluminum road bikes I had were also noticeably harsher than the carbon road bike I now own...and they were both newer model bikes. The best I've owned was steel. Carbon a close second. So...IME, the mantra does still hold truth.
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shiggy

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanEsh
The roughest riding bike I own is steel, and this isn't 1995; aluminum rides much better than it did a couple of decades ago. i.e. the "aluminum is harsh" mantra isn't very accurate now. Add in 2" tires at 50lbs, and your frame material is pretty much a non-factor as far as comfort on gravel goes.

It is not WHICH material is used, but HOW the material is used that matters. They all can be made into a bike that rides harshly, stiff, comfortable, or flexy. With production frames they are all going to be compromises.

And if you are running 50psi in 2" wide tires, you are doing it wrong. The ride with 50psi will always be harsh.
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