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sully

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Reply with quote  #1 
As I'm browsing the internet, window shopping for a new bike, I'm wondering-is there a reason I shouldn't broaden my search to touring bikes?  It seems like they often have enough tire clearance, or even tons of it.

I'm specifically looking at the Kona Sutra(sadly, not available in my size for weeks and I want to be rolling faster than that) and the Marin 4 Corners(stack is a bit high for me, I think.).

I'm 6'4" and 240 lbs.  And doubt I'll ever get below 185 again.  So I'm not really concerned about touring bikes supposedly riding weird unloaded, given my size.

But what other touring bikes seem like great gravel bikes to the rest of you?  Or am I crazy for considering touring bikes, given that I'm not expecting to ever tour longer than a weekend?
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imwjl

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Reply with quote  #2 
Good point that I considered but I was not looking for a super light bike to race as some I know were or are. I liked the Sutras to associates have so much that I tested touring bikes too. You could say that's what I have with a Fargo and it made that bike more attractive. FWIW, high stack is something I wanted and something others I know didn't want.

One friend chose the Sutra Ltd for it having hydro brakes and coming with 700 x 50 tires. I checked it out with one pannier on that had his commuting to a meeting stuff. 71 and 73 degree angles make it old school MTB like and the geometry of the Fargo feels great to me.

Regarding your weight, that's not me but a few friends who've got or had Fargos. My other associate with a late model Sutra is not skinny.

I liked a modestly priced new old stock Fuji tourer I tried. For some reason it felt more supple or not as dedicated to carrying freight as Trek 520 discs. I also tried Soma Wolverine (frame only) and Surlys - Cross Check and Straggler. That Wolverine was set up as a tourer with 45c tires. I think on paper and in reality the Wolverine is a little higher stack than traditional bikes but not like a Fargo or Vaya.

I found some dealers in a wider circle from home had Kona sizes I wanted and deals on remaining '16 and '17 Sutra and Rove bikes. Casting a wider net with Craigslist and dealers was well worth it. There were some hardly used bikes by owner, dealer closeouts, and dealer used stock.

I have Conti Race King Protection on the Fargo that are way better on pavement than I ever expected and way better off road than 40c - 45c tires I tried. I bring that up because the 50c tires and hydro brakes at the start are part of why my friend likes his Sutra Ltd so much. Those bigger tires may not be super quick but they don't feel like you're riding MTB knobbies or a fatty with road riders.

Some found our touring style choices crazy but for us "gravel grinding" is really do it all bikes more than a race or for organized events.

Have fun shopping.
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Budgielord

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Reply with quote  #3 
Just to give you an idea, the Kona Rove's and Sutra's from around 2014 (i think) used nearly identical geometry if not completely identical. They have obviously diversified the line a bit in the last few years, but touring bikes and gravel bikes appear to come from a very similar place design wise. The 2 bikes were only differentiated by components.

I think the biggest thing you are seeing is that the tubing or carbon layups for gravel bikes are more focused on compliance and comfort over rough roads then they are in carrying loads. Most gravel bikes also come with carbon forks.

I personally use my touring bike for some light gravel riding, but a dedicated gravel geometry (shorter chainstays 450mm vs 425 for me) and lighter tubing of my gravel bike does tend to make longer rides more lively and enjoyable.

If you are ok with a more sedate ride, a touring bike can definitely be a great option.
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ljsmith

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Reply with quote  #4 
The thing with "gravel bikes" is that there is no such thing as a gravel bike. You can use whatever bike works best for you and your terrain. I personally recommend people find a bike that fits at least a 40mm tire, but other than that just about any bike can make a good gravel grinder.
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bobknh

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Reply with quote  #5 
My $.02: There is no reason not to consider a touring bike, or a randonneur bike or mountain bike, or cycle cross bike, or hybrid bike ... whatever works when rubber meets dirt. Some folks even ride old fashioned road bikes on dirt :https://eroica.cc
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moe53

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Reply with quote  #6 
In 2010 I bought an inexpensive Salsa Vaya, steel frame and fork. Shimano Tiagra components, BB5 cable disks. 42c tires, all kinds of tire clearance Clarence. Not for weight weinies for sure lol! At the time Salsa called it an allroad/anyroad touring bike, many thousands of gravel miles later that bike is still in use as a sloppy condition bike. I have Ti Salsa Warbird for gravel now. Touring bikes are fine for gravel. At your weight look for something with a sturdy steel tubeset, like Salsa/Surly/Kona etc.
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Volsung

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Reply with quote  #7 

I think the Sutra would be perfect for you.  Run what ya brung and that thing will bring you more places and on bigger more comfortable tires.

 

I'm currently obsessed with my Soma Supple Vitesse 700x48 tires and won't recommend any bike that can't run them.  (unless they're short, then 650x48 tires are close enough)

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cmcalpin

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljsmith
The thing with "gravel bikes" is that there is no such thing as a gravel bike. You can use whatever bike works best for you and your terrain. I personally recommend people find a bike that fits at least a 40mm tire, but other than that just about any bike can make a good gravel grinder.


Best advice out there. If you follow the market and buy something new every time they say you need it then you'll be broke. I almost bought a Kona Sutra but they were backordered for 4 months at the time so I bought a Soma Wolverine. Don't regret it a bit. I also enjoy riding my rigid hardtail on gravel too.

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GuitarTed

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljsmith
The thing with "gravel bikes" is that there is no such thing as a gravel bike. You can use whatever bike works best for you and your terrain. I personally recommend people find a bike that fits at least a 40mm tire, but other than that just about any bike can make a good gravel grinder.


Okay, devil's advocate answer here.

So, using this logic to its inevitable end, why are there any different types of bikes?

The answer is so obvious, yes? Because some bicycles do things better than others. Some "tools" are better than others for the job at hand.

While I understand and agree with the "spirit" of your comment, the real world application is not a literal reflection of your comment. And, I think it is worth pointing out, not all of these different bicycles are designed simply to separate you from your money. They actually do work, in certain instances, better than some other bicycle choices for specific jobs. This is obvious.

So, you can say that there are "no gravel bikes", but some bicycles do work better on gravel than others, and some are purposefully designed to do gravel road riding better than others. While it isn't necessary to actually buy a bicycle designed as such, to say that they do not exist, and that they may not work better is not a wise thing to say. If it were so, then we could dispense with mountain bikes, time trial bikes, cyclo cross bikes, and on and on. That is, if we were to believe that these differences, however minute they may be, didn't matter at all.

But of course, they do matter. This is why we are here on this forum.
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bnystrom

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Reply with quote  #10 
I think the point here is that there is a broad spectrum of what can be used as a gravel bike. Heck, to take your point to an extreme, you could have different bikes for different events if you want to have the absolute optimum machine for each situation. No single bike is perfect for all gravel and off-road situations, but many can handle a pretty broad range of conditions well. No matter what you ride, it will be a compromise. My personal preference is for 'cross bikes (with 40mm tires), mainly because they handle the tight, twisty singletrack that I ride frequently really well and I haven't found any problems with them on dirt/gravel roads.

You can't take the rider out of the equation, as what we're really talking about is a bike and rider combination for a variety of conditions. I'm used to this type of bike and I don't feel the need for more stability, but that's my personal preference for the conditions I ride in. I compromise toward the quick-handling end of the spectrum, because it works for me. A more forgiving design might be preferable or necessary for someone else, in order for them to feel comfortable and perform at their best under the conditions they ride in.

That's why there is no archetype "gravel bike"; every bike/rider/conditions combination is unique.

And sometimes, you just "run what ya' got" and make the best of it. One of the nicest aspects of gravel riding is that many of the events around here are either non-competitive or just have limited KOM sections, so they're largely social events with a relaxed atmosphere. The courses can be incredibly challenging, but people ride whatever they want and everyone has fun because there's something in it for every type of rider.
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sgtrobo

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sully
I'm wondering-is there a reason I shouldn't broaden my search to touring bikes?


As an owner of a Salsa Cutthroat and former owner of a Salsa Fargo, I whole heartedly endorse your inclusion of touring bikes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sully
I'm specifically looking at the Kona Sutra(sadly, not available in my size for weeks and I want to be rolling faster than that) and the Marin 4 Corners(stack is a bit high for me, I think.).


for longer days in a bouncy saddle caused by the uneven surface that unimproved gravel roads frequently present, don't pooh-pooh a bike due to more upright geometry.  That upright geometry will probably make your back feel a lot better after 100 miles vs. the racier geometry of some other bikes

Quote:
Originally Posted by sully
 Or am I crazy for considering touring bikes, given that I'm not expecting to ever tour longer than a weekend?


Absolutely zero reason not to include a touring bike.  If it's comfortable and suits your needs, then go for it.
Perhaps a Salsa Warbird or Niner RLT9RDO will be better for a Dirty Kanza race competitor.  Is that you?  Are you looking to set speed records, or are you looking to go hit 50-100-150 miles of gravel and unimproved roads and have fun in the process, without having quite so much concern about a race placement?

Ultimately, set your price point, ride some bikes, and see what's most comfortable.  Decide what your goal(s) is/are.  If you want to win a gravel race or set some off-road Strava KOMs, then perhaps a steel touring bike isn't the ideal for you.  If you're simply looking to have a bike that can open up unimproved, off-road avenues for you while still supporting reasonably fast, longer-distance road (And gravel) riding, then why not look at touring bikes, especially if there is a good one in your price range that you can test ride.  


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BluesDawg

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Reply with quote  #12 
Good discussion here. Touring bikes can and often do make for good gravel riding. They certainly belong within the range of bike types to consider. Some people will find cyclocross bikes perfect for the kind of riding they want to do. Others might be just as happy with an old school road sport bike with more tire clearance. Some people choose to ride gravel on fitness hybrid type bike. Some people are quite happy riding gravel on hardtail mountain bikes. Some see the benefit of a bike designed specifically for riding gravel.

I was on a group gravel ride last weekend where all of these categories of bike were represented and everyone had a great ride. None of the 11 on this particular ride were on touring bikes, but past rides I've been on included riders on Surly LHTs and my own AWOL might be considered a touring bike and it was my gravel bike for 2 years. Many ways to go and many reasons to choose one type of bike over another and one particular bike of a type.

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bnystrom

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Reply with quote  #13 
I was on a gravel ride a couple of months ago where we linked up with three people on touring bikes for while. We're talking full-on setups with steel frames, racks fenders, generator hubs/lights and traditional-style handlebar and seat bags. Interestingly, they were also riding on fat slicks (~35-40mm), which seemed to work a lot better on the soft/loose/slick stuff than I would have expected. They swore by them for pretty much all conditions.
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bnystrom

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Reply with quote  #14 
I was on a gravel ride a couple of months ago where we linked up with three people on touring bikes for while. We're talking full-on setups with steel frames, racks, fenders, generator hubs/lights and traditional-style handlebar and seat bags. Interestingly, they were also riding on fat slicks (~35-40mm), which seemed to work a lot better on the soft/loose/slick stuff than I would have expected. They swore by them for pretty much all conditions.
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Rich S

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Reply with quote  #15 
I have a 2016 Kona Sutra (the touring version with the 3x9 drivetrain) that I rode at this year's Almanzo and the 5000. I DNF'd Almanzo but that was not the bike's fault at all. I also have an All City Macho Man that I usually use for gravel fun but I wanted the lower gears and bigger tires of the Kona for those two events. 

I personally think the Kona rides just fine unloaded and most important is still plenty of fun. It's my daily commuter bike so I wanted something that could do it all and not feel sluggish. I've also ridden it fully loaded from Chicago to Minneapolis. It's a great jack of all trades master of none sort of bike. 
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chas

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuitarTed


Okay, devil's advocate answer here.

So, using this logic to its inevitable end, why are there any different types of bikes?

The answer is so obvious, yes? Because some bicycles do things better than others. Some "tools" are better than others for the job at hand.


GT, I'll do devil's advocate too.

I'm going for the quiver killer - one bike to rule them all.   My garage is full of a variety from velodrome to mountain bikes.   Lately I've just been riding the cyclocross bikes.

For me, tires mean more than just about anything.  I can adapt to geometry.  Adapting to a tire that is too heavy, pinch flats, loses traction, etc. is more difficult.

With the CX bike, I can ride fast group rides on the road, commute, do long gravel days, and surprise people on mountain bikes (if the trail does not need suspension).  

I do get funny looks from the road race crowd and from the mountain bike crowd, but its all possible by choosing the right tire.  I do need multiple wheelsets, LOL!

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chas

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich S
I have a 2016 Kona Sutra (the touring version with the 3x9 drivetrain) that I rode at this year's Almanzo and the 5000. I DNF'd Almanzo but that was not the bike's fault at all. I also have an All City Macho Man that I usually use for gravel fun but I wanted the lower gears and bigger tires of the Kona for those two events. 

I personally think the Kona rides just fine unloaded and most important is still plenty of fun. It's my daily commuter bike so I wanted something that could do it all and not feel sluggish. I've also ridden it fully loaded from Chicago to Minneapolis. It's a great jack of all trades master of none sort of bike. 


Touring bikes actually handle pretty well.  They typically have a pretty low trail value.  They need to, otherwise we would not be able to control them very easily when loaded.  
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bnystrom

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
I do need multiple wheelsets, LOL!


One bike with multiple wheel sets is cheaper than multiple bikes with one wheel set. [wink]
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ljsmith

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuitarTed


Okay, devil's advocate answer here.

So, using this logic to its inevitable end, why are there any different types of bikes?

The answer is so obvious, yes? Because some bicycles do things better than others. Some "tools" are better than others for the job at hand.

While I understand and agree with the "spirit" of your comment, the real world application is not a literal reflection of your comment. And, I think it is worth pointing out, not all of these different bicycles are designed simply to separate you from your money. They actually do work, in certain instances, better than some other bicycle choices for specific jobs. This is obvious.

So, you can say that there are "no gravel bikes", but some bicycles do work better on gravel than others, and some are purposefully designed to do gravel road riding better than others. While it isn't necessary to actually buy a bicycle designed as such, to say that they do not exist, and that they may not work better is not a wise thing to say. If it were so, then we could dispense with mountain bikes, time trial bikes, cyclo cross bikes, and on and on. That is, if we were to believe that these differences, however minute they may be, didn't matter at all.

But of course, they do matter. This is why we are here on this forum.


Well the first thing I would say is take a look at the winners of various gravel races.  Or even the winners of the same gravel race each year.  What you would find is that there is a great variety of bikes and tires sizes in use.  So to say some bicycles work better than others, that is not necessarily true.  Some riders are using cross bikes with 33c tires, while others use mountain bikes with 2.1 tires.  If both have won the same races, how can you say one was a better bike than the other.  My point is that for a given person you can ride whatever you feel most comfortable on and that works for your terrain.  Look at a mountain bike race, or a road race.  You will see everyone on almost identical bikes, just with different brand names on them.  This just isn't the case in gravel.  

Secondly, the whole concept of "gravel riding" is silly to begin with.  What is it?  A "gravel" ride/race can include road, singletrack, gravel, crushed limestone and all kinds of other varied surfaces. What we are really talking about is multi-surface riding, not strictly gravel.  When you have varied surfaces certain bikes will be better at certain sections of the ride/race.  For instance, some people ride road bikes with 28c tires.  They may be slower on heavy gravel sections, while they would smoke all the other bikes on smooth/paved surfaces.  The guy on the mountain bike will smoke everyone else on singletrack but be really slow on the road.  This is why I say there is no such thing as a gravel bike.  Any bike can work, if it is what works for you. 

Bottom line is ride the bike that works best for you, and this may be totally different than the bike that works for someone else. 


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cmcalpin

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Reply with quote  #20 
On my ride this summer a mother and a son showed up on full suspension carbon bikes. I personally would never want to ride something like that as I am a believer in full rigid even off road. But let me tell you that woman was one hell of a rider. They said they were training for the Triple Bypass this year. I haven't talked to either since (to see how they did in the Bypass) but the point is, a lot of it is the rider, not just the bike. Another thing we encountered on that ride was about 4 miles of fresh THICK BIG CHUNKY gravel going into Corning Iowa. This stuff was MISERABLE. Myself I was running 700x42 Cazaderro tires on my "drop bar touring/gravel rig" and I was riding the brakes on the downs because the gravel had my bike sliding towards the ditch and almost out of control. Then all of a sudden my friend on his fat bike went sailing by me about 20 mph downhill without a worry in the world. His big fat tires just glided over that 4" of thick gravel.

On another story.......A buddy of mine was in a gravel race in Nebraska on his fat bike and he said there was this one dude who places regularly in those events and he always rides a fat bike.

I talked on the phone yesterday to Jeff Jones for the 2nd time in a year and I am starting to believe his thinking. I think that guy is on to something but so few won't listen because his way isn't "cool" and everyone is too busy trying to impress their clubs and buddies. Sitting upright "aint cool" unless your a beach bum cruising the boardwalk.

So there ya go, Touring, fat, full suspension, rigid hardtail MYB, just about anything can successfully ride gravel if a person doesn't let themselves get trapped mentally by the popular majority. There are all types of bikes riding gravel and yet so many people still think they need a gravel racer. Not true. My 2 cents.

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Ahme1996

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Reply with quote  #21 
I have no idea what gravel bikes and adventure bikes are.....
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