Author Topic: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?  (Read 2326 times)

Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« on: September 16, 2019, 03:00:34 pm »
For next years plans - some long ultra style races and longer audax I'm going to get a new steed.   It will need gears and this is a bit of a leap for me.

The races I am entering, starting with RaTN will be pretty much all on road.   Whilst I'm drawn to the off-the-peg gravel style bikes I am a roadie at heart and have done most of my miles in the last few years on an ally Dolan FXE.  I'm wondering if wide ratios, disk brakes and massive tyres are a bit of overkill.

I'm quite drawn to the Dolan Dual as it will work as a club ride bike, commuter and audaxer but could also be used for ultra races with my usual bags attached.   They do also have a gravel style carbon bike but I'm a little worried about maintaining and fixing a load of kit that will be very new to me.   A Dual built up with Ultegra comes in £4-500 cheaper than the gravel build which is budget I could use on some hand built wheels from my usual provider.

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2019, 04:06:22 pm »
Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?

NEED....   no of course not. But it may bring advantages of some kind...?  Swings and roundabouts of course...

cheers

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2019, 04:11:48 pm »
I mean it depends on how road-y you are. My best bike ( https://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=111306.0 ) runs 31mm tyres and is made of 853 steel, is 34-50 with 11-32, and I don't have problems keeping up with other road riders on social rides and performs well for touring and audaxing. Fiona Kolbinger won the Transcontinental on 28mm tyres, riding a stock Canyon Endurace which is just a road bike when all is said and done.

I do think discs have a lot of added value if the likelihood is you will be riding in rain, especially if you have descents (which the Audax grimpeur rides certainly often do - the Kent Invicta Grimpeur had a really fearsome one this year on a pretty ropey road surface) and are carrying cargo, but they're certainly not a critical need as you can get good caliper-canti pads these days. I really do recommend them though, hydraulics particularly are very easy going on the hands.

It's end of season sale time quite soon so holding your fire might bear some good results.
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD


zigzag

  • unfuckwithable
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2019, 04:24:59 pm »
if most of the planned riding distance is on the road, then a gravel bike will feel (and be) slower there. of course a road bike is no fun on the gravel/cobbles; i rode the tcr no5 on 25mm tyres, around 80km on gravel (one puncture on gravel). it sucked, but it was only 2% of the whole distance.
i rode my gravel bike with 30mm road tyres on several long audaxes and other paved rides - it was fine, but a proper road bike is faster and more fun on the road.
it has to be noted that there is a wide variety of gravel bikes, from fast(ish) racing types to mtb's with drop bars.

vorsprung

  • Opposites Attract
    • Audaxing
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2019, 04:25:03 pm »
I do think that my Genesis Datum gravel bike is a super long-distance ride

It is fast, comfortable and all that good stuff

Conceptually, it is a road "Racing" bike with somewhat relaxed angles and clearance for big tyres.  It will do 38mm+guards (just).

I can do long-distance rides on any bike but this is a good one for this, mainly due to the big tyres

One line comparison with a Specialized Roubaix: both are comfortable in their own way but the Genesis is slightly faster, partly because it is stiffer.   The Roubaix is better (suprisingly) on absolutely terrible road surfaces

Audaxing Blog follow @vorsprungbike on

vorsprung

  • Opposites Attract
    • Audaxing
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2019, 04:27:27 pm »
It's end of season sale time quite soon so holding your fire might bear some good results.

..or not if the exchange rate falls down a hole
Audaxing Blog follow @vorsprungbike on

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2019, 04:29:57 pm »
Depends - the shops might be desperate to clear out their stock paid for with hedged cash, before consumers reprioritise towards goods like tins of spam and barbed wire and DIY distillery kits...
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD


mattc

  • n.b. have grown beard since photo taken
    • Didcot Audaxes
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2019, 08:26:34 pm »
Has not the OP ridden PBP and LEL in the past?

What was wrong with the bikes he used on those long road events?*

Puzzled, of Didcot


*Well ok ... apart from not having a freewheel ...
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2019, 09:27:00 pm »
Has not the OP ridden PBP and LEL in the past?

What was wrong with the bikes he used on those long road events?*

Puzzled, of Didcot


*Well ok ... apart from not having a freewheel ...

And there’s the rub.  I’m investing in a geared bike so I can do more adventurous riding, but not sure I need to go full-on gravel as in disk brakes and 35mm tyres.  I have had my fair share of comfort issues of late but that may just be age.

I suspect I can solve with a less extreme position and some tri bars.

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2019, 09:31:44 pm »
35mm is definitely on the shallow end of gravel - really that's more cyclocross. From what I can see 40mm or wider is what clearance seems to be for the off roady bikes these days. For really gnarly gravel it gets up to the 50s e.g. https://www.brothercycles.com/shop/frames/big-bro/ and https://www.brothercycles.com/shop/frames/mehteh/
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD


Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2019, 09:44:06 pm »
Leaving aside the whole CAADX recall that Cannondale are currently undertaking, my fastest bike is my 2016 CAADX. I'm noticeably faster, for a lower heart-rate than any of my other bikes, including its much more expensive cousin, a Carbon Synapse.

It's some kind of magic. I don't know how it works - I'm riding it on the road, with its original 35mm Sammy Slick cross tyres, feeling like I'm doing a "normal" not-quite-threshold effort, and my speed is like 38kph; it just wants me to go faster.

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2019, 10:26:41 pm »
Has not the OP ridden PBP and LEL in the past?

What was wrong with the bikes he used on those long road events?*

Puzzled, of Didcot


*Well ok ... apart from not having a freewheel ...

And there’s the rub.  I’m investing in a geared bike so I can do more adventurous riding, but not sure I need to go full-on gravel as in disk brakes and 35mm tyres.  I have had my fair share of comfort issues of late but that may just be age.

I suspect I can solve with a less extreme position and some tri bars.

Something like the Cannondale Synapse that Chris mentions in the previous post is more road orientated than a 'gravel bike'. It also has slightly relaxed geometry compared to a full on road bike and can take 32mm tyres without guards. Hydraulic discs as well so ticks all the boxes.

to quote a bit of Cannondale blurb

'Performance focused, but slightly more upright for comfort. Perfect for long days in the saddle and confident handling on all road surfaces'.

2019 models are on discount at the moment - here's one that fits in with your budget I think (you may find it cheaper elsewhere)

https://www.evanscycles.com/cannondale-synapse-carbon-disc-105-2019-road-bike-EV338184







 

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2019, 10:40:19 pm »
Back in the 70s / 80s I used to have a tracker bike I'd built from a frame my dad got from the dump. So cowhorns, single speed, knobbly tyres.  The tyres I ran were 1 3/8" so 34.5mm by my calcs.  We used to do jumps down the woods, ride through streams, and take them local  places like Jacobs Ladder and Mam Tor near Edale.  So don't let anyone tell you 35mm isn't more than fine for that kind of use.  Besides gravel bikes are for the piss easy side of off road else you'd really want a mtn bike for rock gardens, gnarly stuff etc.

Disc brakes will mean you'll be able to have the better clearancess off road so things don't get trapped like they might with rim brakes.

I have a Van Nich Amazon.  Clearances for 37mm according to specs though I reckon more. I run 32mm tubeless with guards for Audax. Guards off and 35mm tubeless (off road tyres) for winter fun.  Not a gravel bike and in fact the model predates the term gravel bike. But pretty much any touring or road bike with clearance for wider tyres will do just as well on the type of terrain gravel bikes are pitched at.

bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2019, 10:53:44 pm »
Oh for sure 35mm can do the 'gravel riding' you get in the UK, it's just that is the lower end of the gravel sliding scale in the global context, particularly in North America where gravel roads are a lot more like actual gravel than just 'hard pack'. My friend just did the Central Ontario Loop Trail (COLT) and this is about as good as it gets:





I am assured that this stuff is the real deal and you want to be 40mm at the minimum, ideally much wider, especially with cargo.
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD


Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2019, 11:08:16 pm »
Ah but that's less like gravel and more like sand in the photo. A fat bike would be better suited to that, just to stop you sinking in to the surface. I've ridden 35mm on gravel in Alaska, Andes, Himalayas. Admittedly touring not racing but it has been fine. Besides Rob is looking for the odd bit of gravel in mainly long road races.  You want a bike better suited of 99% of the terrain it'll be on.  The bike in your photo would be as slow as molasses.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2019, 07:52:19 am »
The COLT photos look like gravel to me, not sand. They also look very like the Fosse Way, only without hills – probably rather more remote though; will your plans include carrying 'bikepacking' luggage?
sideways bounding monkey lounging under fruit tree

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #16 on: September 17, 2019, 11:24:40 pm »
Whilst I'm drawn to the off-the-peg gravel style bikes I am a roadie at heart and have done most of my miles in the last few years on an ally Dolan FXE.  I'm wondering if wide ratios, disk brakes and massive tyres are a bit of overkill.

The Mason Bokeh is highly adaptable and a very capable long-distance machine that has been raced in plenty of ultra events.  It'll take 700c tyres up to 40 section with mudguards and even fatter 650B tyres.  I'm very fond of mine.

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2019, 02:01:12 pm »
Buy a cheap frame that takes discs and wide tyres, build it up with budget components or those you know you'll re-use and beg, borrow, buy as many different tyre types/sizes as you can.  IMO, as long as you know it's a suitable geometry and size, the tyre choice above all else will be the thing that decides what works for you.  I can tell you what I'm faster and more comfortable on, but there's nothing to suggest that would work for you and even if there was it'd have to be in the context of comparable rides. 
Alpkit have the alu Sonder Camino frameset on offer for £200, might be a suitable test bed. better than spending £££'s on something that's going to have a large element of chance. You can always upgrade later.
https://www.alpkit.com/sonder/bikes/sonder-camino-al-frame-and-fork-V2

mattc

  • n.b. have grown beard since photo taken
    • Didcot Audaxes
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2019, 07:01:53 pm »
... or for an even better value experiment, buy a used Cross bike with Cantis (their value has plummeted in this age of disk brakes).

Available in all 3 major frameset materials.
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

IanN

  • Voon
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2019, 07:12:00 pm »
True. I periodically think I want a bike with fatter tyres and then realise I could put 35mm (or more) on my much abused cross check. It's got V-brakes so plenty of stoppage.

A 2020 project I think  :thumbsup:

I suggest looking at the archives of the rough stuff fellowship. 1950s touring bikes. On glaciers and up cliffs. With capes and thermos flasks. If they didn't need a fat bike...

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #20 on: September 18, 2019, 07:47:39 pm »
I suggest looking at the archives of the rough stuff fellowship. 1950s touring bikes. On glaciers and up cliffs. With capes and thermos flasks. If they didn't need a fat bike...
I doubt a week goes by without reading this answer on one forum or another, though I'm never sure what question it's addressing. 
Rough Stuff Fellowship riders in the 1950's rode the most suitable bikes available, much like the RSF riders do today, but generally today's riders are not using the same bikes, so why would anyone else?  Maybe it's an answer to the question if it's possible,  in which case, having looked at the photos, the answer seems to be - Not without a lot of walking.

IanN

  • Voon
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #21 on: September 18, 2019, 09:32:48 pm »
Tongue in cheek emoji required, evidently.
Either that or make woollen riding britches and ordinaries compulsory.
One or the other.   ;D


bludger

  • Randonneur and bargain hunter
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2019, 09:42:07 pm »
I actually own a copy of the rough stuff book. One of my favourite photos is this one:



If the old timers could have had 40mm or wider tyres I think they'd have said yes!
YACF touring/audax bargain basement:
https://bit.ly/2Xg8pRD


IanN

  • Voon
Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2019, 09:54:00 pm »
Isn't there a note to the effect that they 'straightened it' and carried  on?
It does play to the 'they were made of sterner stuff' thing, which may or may not have been true.
As has been said they didn't have a choice  - in kit  - or budget probably
If they'd had MTBs they would have cycled more of their routes, certainly   :)
Might be getting a bit OT here

Re: Do I NEED a Gravel Style Bike for Long Road Events ?
« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2019, 09:55:56 pm »
Tongue in cheek emoji required, evidently.
Either that or make woollen riding britches and ordinaries compulsory.
One or the other.   ;D
Usual rule is if you need to tell someone it's a joke - it isn't funny enough.