Thursday, August 09, 2012

Musings On A Gravel Road Bike

What Is A Gravel Road Bike?

Fair question. How about this for an answer? "Any bike you ride on gravel roads is a "gravel road bike". 

Snarky- yes. But true. You can ride about anything on a gravel road. But the point really is, what would be the "fine tuned" option? What would be the rig if no holds barred enginerding could be applied?

The final answer, at least to my mind, is that no single "fine tuned" option would make "the perfect" gravel road bike for everybody. That hasn't stopped me from pontificating on the subject. And I won't stop doing that some more today. So, get ready for my current take on some of what I want in a gravel specific bike for my kinda riding. (Might not work for anyone else, but hey.....it's my opinion, that's all.)

First off, I really like my Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush" rig, but there are a few tweaks I would make for "the ultimate" gravel road riding rig. So, here goes....

  • Material: No holds barred? Titanium all the way. Corrosion resistance, good. But the big thing would be ease of maintenance on the finish, and ride quality. Smoove. Nuff said. 
  • Geometry: Slightly slacker head angle than anything I've seen. 71.5 degrees? Yeah- maybe. Seat tube angle- 72.5-73. Chainstays, long-ish. Maybe 435mm. Yeah. BB drop? 70-75mm. Stability. Clearance for up to 45mm tires with no fenders. 42mm tires with 'em. 
  • Components: Probably disc brakes, just because of the mud clearances, but for normal riding, not necessary. Cyclo-cross crank set with a 11-34T out back, which should climb anything you'll ever need to climb on a back road. Titanium seat post for sure. 
  • 135mm rear spacing
And that's pretty much it except for a finer detail that I would insist upon, just because I've seen a need.  That would be a mini-track end drop out with a derailleur hangar, Whack a derailleur and you can single speed it easily. Oh...and a chain hangar, pump peg, and fender and rack mounts.

So why bother with all of this? Just so ya'all have an understanding of where I am coming from with my gravel road bike musings. I believe a bike like I have described would easily be a great racer, or a great fun bike for long rides in the country. It has its roots in Pre-World War II road bikes, and touring bicycles meant for rough roads. Stability and durability are paramount. Being able to carry on despite disaster figures in too.

You don't have to agree, and you can cast me as a fringe freak. Whatever, but that is my opinion, and I stand by it. Hopefully it casts my views on some recent developments in gravel bicycle offerings in a light that makes more sense.

13 comments:

Jerry said...

i think you're spot on. cx bikes work but lack stability at speed. the casseroll seems really close in my book. i'm tempted by it.

why does the vaya not hit the mark? no ss option?

Guitar Ted said...

@Jerry: It does a great job on gravel, but yeah...My personal take is that the Vaya is overbuilt, (it is a touring bike, after all), and the SS option isn't there, as you say. However, the Vaya Travel does address the SS thing, so there you go...

Webbies said...

Great view points! Sounds like you described a 29er with cx tires :)

Ben said...

I dig it, and would definitely like to see something like that. I've had the same thing on my mind as of late, as I'd like to sooner than later expand the stable beyond The One and get a dedicated gravel/adventure rig.

Something lighter than the Long Haul Trucker that actually knows how to climb, lots of bottle bosses, and the ability to ride comfortably over the gnarliest rock and steepest rollers.

I keep thinking Fargo Ti because of comfort, but I spied the new Foundry CX rigs at Cycle Works this weekend and they looked unreal. Like a buddy put it, I'd kill one in a season, but that'd be a hell of a season!

Jon said...

Sounds a lot like the bike I desogned for FUNK bikes, a couple of years ago. I have the prototype frame, and I use it for everything from mountain biking to long road rides...

I don't want to Spam your comments, but if you are interested in seeing the bike, let me know and i will post a link.

Jim G said...

My 650B rando bike hits most of these points, save for Ti and disc brakes.

Guitar Ted said...

@Jon: Sure, I'd love to see this bike.

@Jim G: Sure- Rando bikes certainly tick a few of the boxes, but not all. In the case of gravel, the larger 700c X 40-45mm wheels are also a better thing.

MG said...

Agreed... The BWNN fits the bill on all those counts. I guess I'm lucky. Plus, I can run a fork on it. Perfect for a guy with 20 screws in his forearm...

Titanium, when applied well, is magical.

Jon said...

Here is my post from when I built it up...

http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=21208332#editor/target=post;postID=8565432476221916266

I have done a couple of 24 hour mtb races on it, and quite a bit of gravel grinding, here in Colorado plus mountain biking in Fruita and along the Front Range and 100-mile road rides.

Other than my Mukluk, there really isn't a bike in my quiver that this bike can't replace.

Guitar Ted said...

@Jon: Thanks for the link, but Blogger won't allow me to open it up. :(

Jon said...

Well...it is the February 14, 2010 post on my blog www.grinderswheels.blogspot.com

Blogger kinda sucks, sometimes.

Lincoln Jamrog said...

you just nearly exactly described a Karate Monkey frame....

Guitar Ted said...

@Lincoln Jamrog: Nearly only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. ;>)

But seriously- who would ever mistake a Karate Monkey for a lively frame? It is seriously over-built for gravel riding, and I should know, I've ridden one for 152miles in one shot on gravel.