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bethlikesbikes

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Reply with quote  #1 
I currently ride an XS Ridley Fenix and love riding paved and (especially!) unpaved roads. I’m looking to add to my stable with a bike dedicated to having wider tires, disc brakes and that I can beat up a little more than my road bike. I also want to do some gravel events.

The question is which bike do I buy? I know that Ridley’s X-Trail has a similar geometry. I have trouble with some bikes because I’m a fairly short-waisted woman and find many top tubes are way too long.

My main questions are:
- Is the Ridley X-Trail a good bike for my needs?
- Any other bikes I should consider? My price range is flexible, but would like to spend around or less than $3k. Fit is my major concern.
- When it comes to gravel, is there a noticeable difference between aluminum and carbon frames?

Thanks!
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owly

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Reply with quote  #2 
I looked up the XS Fenix frame geo, after reading your comment about long top tubes and that you are fairly short-waisted. 374mm reach and 527mm stack; which to me is a bit unusual, supposing you like the Fenix fit.

I'm short torso/long inseam. My road bike (which I hardly ever ride, now I have a gravel bike) is 372mm and 560mm. The stack height was fine, but I always needed a 10-15mm shorter reach (which the gravel bike has; the fit is great).

I agree with you; fit is number one.

You can read marketing spiel about some flash aluminium gravel bikes (like the Mason Bokeh), but to me, having test rode a few alu framed gravel bikes, you really can't compare them to a well designed (for gravel) carbon frame. The alu bike is always going to be more jarring off-road.

If I was doing some events, but not really planning to race full throttle, then I'd choose a lighter-steel frame (e.g. 725/Zona), or ideally a titanium frame (which I have). The ride feel of a well designed ti frame is something else, on gravel.
Both steel and ti will be a great ride.

With your budget, and depending where you are located, its possible to find a ti or lighter-weight steel frame bike.

A carbon frame will always have you a pound (ti) or two (steel) ahead in the weight game though, and I do like to get the weight down where I can.
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bethlikesbikes

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Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks! I’ll certainly take this considerations into account. I’m on a 2013 Fenix, so not sure if the geometry has changed on it since then, but it fits me very well. I have a short torso and a short reach.

Do you have any idea how the carbon Ridley X-Trail rides? That would be the easiest bike to buy, based on fit, but I like to weigh my options first.

I’m located in Eastern PA (Bucks).
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drwelby

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Reply with quote  #4 
Could you post a picture of your bike so we can see how it's set up?

First thing that popped in my head was the Norco Search XR. The 48 has the same stack as your Fenix but is a half inch shorter in reach. It pulls this off by being built around 650b wheels.
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bethlikesbikes

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Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 9.11.24 PM.png 
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chas

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Reply with quote  #6 
People that I know that have the X-trail seem to love it.  From what I have read, it is pretty aggressive for a gravel bike (and even a bit aggressive geometry for CX bike).  But being a seasoned roadie, you may like that more than a casual rider.

I'm thinking of getting a Canyon Inflite CX.  Being a newer CX design, it tends to take some mountain bike cues that would work well on gravel too (longer chassis with shorter stem, and ability to smoothly ride over rough terrain).  It is a race bike though, so it won't take too kindly to racks and fenders if you need that.

What I think makes it particularly good for you is that they design your size around 650b wheels instead of 700c.   (price ~3k).

Al vs Carbon.  Yeah, I have seen a huge difference, although it depends on the designer.
Most round tubed AL bikes are stiff.  Some of the new hydroformed and shaped aluminum is repudiated to be pretty good.  Salsa says they replaced a TI bike with an Aluminum bike with more  compliance.  That is impressive.

The benefit of carbon is that you can shape the material to be stiff or compliant - as the designer wants.  Its also likely to get chipped and abraded on gravel if that bothers you.

I have a stiff old school aluminum bike.  With a good fork, good tires (40mm at 35-40psi  (@ 175lbs)), and a good compliant seat post, I can tune it to be perfectly comfortable for me.  If it is really rough I use a leather brooks saddle with a small thudbuster seat post, and I'm happy.

Hope that helps.  Bottom line - if you are looking for an XS size, see if you can find something with 650b wheels.






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DrSpoke

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Reply with quote  #7 
I've been riding an X-Trail for 2 1/2 years and couldn't be happier.  There weren't too many options when I bought it and there are lighter bikes these days but it's a great bike.  Part of your decision is based on what you plan to ride.  I use mine for what I call urban adventure which is mixed road/trail.  I've got 3 sets of wheels w/35, 30 & 25mm tires mounted.  With the 25s it's probably very similar to your Fenix - which is a great bike by the way.  With an X-Trail and a couple of wheelsets you could probably sell the Fenix.  Regardless, if you like the fit of the Fenix I think the X-Trail would be a great option.  Ridleys, as you know, run very large.  I'm 5'8" and am on an XS where normally I would be a Med, maybe a Small or perhaps in between depending on the manufacturer.  In fact, the shop recommended a Small so with Ridley I'm sort of in between the XS & S but prefer my off road bikes on the smaller side.  Regardless, a great bike - I've got thousands of hard miles on it including two Belgian Waffle Rides - well, one Waffle and one Wafer.
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owly

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Reply with quote  #8 
Do you have any idea of what max tire width you'd like to run, for the surfaces around you?
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bethlikesbikes

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrSpoke
I've been riding an X-Trail for 2 1/2 years and couldn't be happier.  There weren't too many options when I bought it and there are lighter bikes these days but it's a great bike.  Part of your decision is based on what you plan to ride.  I use mine for what I call urban adventure which is mixed road/trail.  I've got 3 sets of wheels w/35, 30 & 25mm tires mounted.  With the 25s it's probably very similar to your Fenix - which is a great bike by the way.  With an X-Trail and a couple of wheelsets you could probably sell the Fenix.  Regardless, if you like the fit of the Fenix I think the X-Trail would be a great option.  Ridleys, as you know, run very large.  I'm 5'8" and am on an XS where normally I would be a Med, maybe a Small or perhaps in between depending on the manufacturer.  In fact, the shop recommended a Small so with Ridley I'm sort of in between the XS & S but prefer my off road bikes on the smaller side.  Regardless, a great bike - I've got thousands of hard miles on it including two Belgian Waffle Rides - well, one Waffle and one Wafer.


Sweet! Thank you for this. Are you riding a carbon or aluminum?

I've got 25s on my Fenix now, but can go up to 28mm. 

Ridley does size large. I'm 5'5" but have never ridden a bike with 650b, even cross bikes I've had. I think 700 should be fine.
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Zurichman

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Reply with quote  #10 
Bethridesbike:

I live in Pa. also around Shippensburg. Like others have said it really depends on where you are going to ride your bike as to what kind of bike set up you want. Newbie to gravel riding/racing. My first ride/race was the Pony Express 75 miler at Marysville Kansas and almost everybody out there were riding 40 mm tires myself included. Since that I have  done 2 gravel rides herein Pa. which is kind of a disappointment after during gravel in Kansas. The Maple City Century in Honesdale Pa and the Crush and Run II in Lancaster both rides were probably 50/50 50% gravel 50% road. People on both rides were riding roadie bikes with 28 mm tires or so. I plan on riding out of state a lot so yeah I want a bike that will handle 40 mm tires. Have fun out there I only wish we had more gravel here in the state. I have to ride 10 miles and climb 2 different roadie mts. to just get to mt. fire tower roads here where I live.

I bought A Raleigh Tamland 1 because it was cheap and wanted to see if I loved gravel first and yes I do. I have since bought a Raleigh Roker Comp. With your $3000 budget there are a lot of good bikes out there and you can be picky. If I had that kind of money I would only be considering carbon or ti Lynskey GR 260 is one that comes to mind. Moots out of Colorado(I think) builds custom bikes that you might be able to get in that range. I would only go with 2x.

Here are some other bikes that come to mind that I have seen on this forum but I guess most would be race only.

Salsa Warbid
Jamis Renegade
Devinci Hatchet
Why Cycles R
Parlee Chebacco
Open U.P

Good Luck
Zman

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If it was easy it wouldn't be a memory. You just hope you don't have all your memories in the same ride. been there dun that Zman
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chas

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethlikesbikes
I'm 5'5" but have never ridden a bike with 650b, even cross bikes I've had. I think 700 should be fine.


The trick is, to get the 'trail' and the bike handling of a normal frame to stay consistent when downsizing, you need smaller wheels.
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DrSpoke

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethlikesbikes


Sweet! Thank you for this. Are you riding a carbon or aluminum?

I've got 25s on my Fenix now, but can go up to 28mm. 

Ridley does size large. I'm 5'5" but have never ridden a bike with 650b, even cross bikes I've had. I think 700 should be fine.



I've got the carbon version.  It's the Performance Bikes version of the Ridley C30 which is mostly Ultegra w/DT Swiss wheels.

My big ride of the year is the Belgian Waffle Ride which is mostly road but plenty of dirt too.  In the past, I usually trained on the Schwalbe S-One @ 30mm (now G-One Speed) but I and most of my friends us the Pro-One road tire @ 28mm for the event.  And a few just left them on after that.  This year, I'm going to use the 35mm for training just to see how they do and especially on the road.  I'm in SoCal so the trails are mostly hardpack with a few rock gardens here and there.  But a lot of ups and downs.  Anyway, I've pretty happy w/Schwalbe and use them on all my bikes - 23mm, 25mm, 28mm, 30mm, 35mm, 2.1", 2.25" & 2.35".  The Pro-Ones seem to run big, especially on wide rims so my 25s are close to 28mm and the 28s are close to 30mm - on 20mm rims.

Regardless, you can cover a lot of ground on 28s depending on conditions.  They're a bit small in sand and/or soft dirt and could use a bit more traction under certain climbing conditions.  And they'll beat you up a bit but most tires do that.

If you do mostly road, the new Fenix disc could also be an option - a 1 bike solution.  I'm not sure about max tire size but assume it would be in the 32mm range.  Then again, the X-Trail could also be a 1 bike solution with a bit more versatility.

You should be fine on 700c bikes.  Ridley, as you probably know, also makes an XXS, also in 700c, if you need to go smaller.  I have a couple of friends who have that size but they are closer to 5'0", perhaps a bit taller.
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DrSpoke

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurichman
Bethridesbike:

I live in Pa. also around Shippensburg. Like others have said it really depends on where you are going to ride your bike as to what kind of bike set up you want. Newbie to gravel riding/racing. My first ride/race was the Pony Express 75 miler at Marysville Kansas and almost everybody out there were riding 40 mm tires myself included. Since that I have  done 2 gravel rides herein Pa. which is kind of a disappointment after during gravel in Kansas. The Maple City Century in Honesdale Pa and the Crush and Run II in Lancaster both rides were probably 50/50 50% gravel 50% road. People on both rides were riding roadie bikes with 28 mm tires or so. I plan on riding out of state a lot so yeah I want a bike that will handle 40 mm tires. Have fun out there I only wish we had more gravel here in the state. I have to ride 10 miles and climb 2 different roadie mts. to just get to mt. fire tower roads here where I live.

I bought A Raleigh Tamland 1 because it was cheap and wanted to see if I loved gravel first and yes I do. I have since bought a Raleigh Roker Comp. With your $3000 budget there are a lot of good bikes out there and you can be picky. If I had that kind of money I would only be considering carbon or ti Lynskey GR 260 is one that comes to mind. Moots out of Colorado(I think) builds custom bikes that you might be able to get in that range. I would only go with 2x.

Here are some other bikes that come to mind that I have seen on this forum but I guess most would be race only.

Salsa Warbid
Jamis Renegade
Devinci Hatchet
Why Cycles R
Parlee Chebacco
Open U.P

Good Luck
Zman


The new Niner RLT carbon is also an option.  Also, both Pivot and Santa Cruz make a gravel/cx frameset.
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Zurichman

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Reply with quote  #14 
I forgot about the Niner RLT carbon.


Zman


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If it was easy it wouldn't be a memory. You just hope you don't have all your memories in the same ride. been there dun that Zman
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DrSpoke

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Reply with quote  #15 
Scott also has a lineup of carbon gravel bikes that look pretty nice too.  Very light.
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stevef

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Reply with quote  #16 
I'd definitely recommend a 650b-wheeled bike.  It's a lot easier to fit fat tires with these smaller diameter wheels without making compromises in the fit or geometry of your bike. 
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Durt

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Reply with quote  #17 
Giant TCX SX, carbon, carbon seat post designed to flex, thru axles, hyrdo disc, sram 1x11-42, wtb rambler 40c tires, tubeless ready, endurance type geometry. 21 lbs stock with shimano SPD's. Loving this bike. Smooth as butter on gravel with 35ish psi tubeless. 
Looks like you could fit 47's maybe even 50's. The chainstays have less clearance than the fork of course. 

Edit: right at $2k for a 2018

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bethlikesbikes

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Reply with quote  #18 
I appreciate all the detailed replies. Could someone explain the benefits of 650b wheels over 700s? 
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stevef

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethlikesbikes
I appreciate all the detailed replies. Could someone explain the benefits of 650b wheels over 700s? 


Sure, 650b wheels are slightly smaller in diameter so that a fatter tire on them gives you the same overall diameter as, say a 700c wheel with 23mm tires.  This allows you to run higher volume rubber for compliance and grip in the same wheel-space.  It's valuable particularly in smaller bikes, IMO because it allows you to fit a higher volume tire without causing toe overlap and/or undesirable tweaks in the fit/geometry just to fit a 700c wheel and 38mm+ tires.  If you look at a smallish bike with, say 42mm tires on 700c rims, the wheels look huge, the same volume tires on 650b rims will look (and are) smaller overall, fit in the bike better, and look more proportionally correct.




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chas

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Reply with quote  #20 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bethlikesbikes
I appreciate all the detailed replies. Could someone explain the benefits of 650b wheels over 700s? 


Picture is worth 1000 words.  Here is a normal frame (540mm top tube) sized down to a XS (500mm top tube).  Trail is the key factor to determine bike handling.  Its going to be hard to get a small frame not to have a large "trail" without smaller wheels.

 In this case, anything 520 or lower top tube length gets 650b wheels.

[Inflite-CF-SLX-_667] 
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chas

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chas


Picture is worth 1000 words.  Here is a normal frame (540mm top tube) sized down to a XS (500mm top tube).  Trail is the key factor to determine bike handling.  Its going to be hard to get a small frame not to have a large "trail" without smaller wheels.

In this case, anything 520 or lower top tube length gets 650b wheels.

And - I have friends your size that had custom built frames to get smaller wheels in order to avoid toe overlap.

[Inflite-CF-SLX-_667] 
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DrSpoke

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Reply with quote  #22 
I don't disagree w/what has been said re 650b wheels.  Many mtn bike manufacturers and some gravel bike manufacturers, such as OPEN, are making frames that allow for either or both.  With mtn bikes, it allows a 27.5+ tire in the 2.6" to 2.8" range compared to 2.30" or so w/a 29" tire.  Similarly for gravel bikes.

That said, the need in this instance is partly based on the type of riding that is intended which I don't think was specified.  The original post mentioned "wider" tires but didn't specify how wide.  This could mean anything from 30 or 32mm up to say 47mm or larger.  Accordingly, a 650b may not be required.  In addition, her current Ridley has an approx. a 52.5cm top tube so that some of the compromises mentioned for very small frames may not apply.

Finally, what is being left out of the discussion is fork rake.  Trail is a function of head tube angle, tire diameter and fork rake.  In my opinion, the biggest problem is that frame manufacturers design only one fork and generally it's to fit a larger frame.  They then use this fork for all their frames.  But as the head tube angle decreases to prevent toe overlap on the smaller frames the trail increases to unacceptable lengths.  The problem could easily be solve by having a larger fork rake on the smaller frames which would both decrease trail and increase toe clearance.

An example is the geometry of the OPEN U.P.  The smallest frame would be my size based on top tube length.  But the head tube angle on this frame is much smaller than even the next size up w/the same fork rake.  I wrote Vroomen to ask about the handling as I was concerned about the trail number.  I got sort of a vague answer which was disappointing from such a high end designer.
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stevef

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Reply with quote  #23 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrSpoke
I don't disagree w/what has been said re 650b wheels.  Many mtn bike manufacturers and some gravel bike manufacturers, such as OPEN, are making frames that allow for either or both.  With mtn bikes, it allows a 27.5+ tire in the 2.6" to 2.8" range compared to 2.30" or so w/a 29" tire.  Similarly for gravel bikes.


I love this idea myself, and my next bike will be designed to fit both 650bX50-ish and 700cX38-ish.  I envision two wheelsets, one with fat, 650b, somewhat nobby gravel tires and the other with fast, plump 34ish 700c tires.  Versatile!


Quote:
Originally Posted by DrSpoke
Finally, what is being left out of the discussion is fork rake.  Trail is a function of head tube angle, tire diameter and fork rake.  In my opinion, the biggest problem is that frame manufacturers design only one fork and generally it's to fit a larger frame.  They then use this fork for all their frames.  But as the head tube angle decreases to prevent toe overlap on the smaller frames the trail increases to unacceptable lengths.  The problem could easily be solve by having a larger fork rake on the smaller frames which would both decrease trail and increase toe clearance.

An example is the geometry of the OPEN U.P.  The smallest frame would be my size based on top tube length.  But the head tube angle on this frame is much smaller than even the next size up w/the same fork rake.  I wrote Vroomen to ask about the handling as I was concerned about the trail number.  I got sort of a vague answer which was disappointing from such a high end designer.


Great example!  I didn't refer to fork rake specifically, but the "compromised to fit 700c" front end geometry of the Open U.P. you mention here is the sort of geometry compromise I meant to imply.  It's not necessarily bad, and it might handle and fit fine, but with smaller diameter wheels, it just isn't necessary to tweak the geometry of smaller frames as much...
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DrSpoke

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Reply with quote  #24 

I'm not a big advocate of 650b on gravel bikes as I don't feel the need for it at my size.  But they are a nice option for others depending on size, expected trail conditions and/or other bike options available.  And I am considering, and will likely end up with, a set for my new mtn bike as I went small @ 2.1" for the 29er set and thinking of going big on a 27.5 wheelset.

Just saw this - a nice visual treatise by GCN Tech:

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bethlikesbikes

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Reply with quote  #25 
Wow, so much to consider. I'm honestly not sure how wide I need my tires to be. In PA we have a lot of loose gravel and there are some light singletrack trails through fields that I would ride on. Otherwise, I have a mountain and a road bike, so would probably defer to them for the extremes. I'm going to try to pop into the LBS tomorrow to talk to them about the Ridley X-Trail and they also sell Scott and Kona.

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