1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    First real bike: Road bike that's dirt/gravel ready?

    Hi all,
    I'm trying to step up to my first real bike but am torn between decisions. I'll be doing mostly road but want something with flat bars and capable enough to do packed dirt and gravel trails. My first thought was a Specialized Crosstrail, but after test riding one it was too heavy and I don't want suspension. With the recommendation of the LBS I tried the Sirrus and loved it. However, I'm unsure of which model to go with, if any.

    I rode the 2013 Sirrus Elite Disc and Comp back to back. I definitely liked the feel of the carbon fork, but also loved the feel of disc brakes. Since they don't offer a carbon forked disc option, I have to choose. Also, I liked having the bar ends on the Comp, which the others don't have. Are those something I can add later? Tires were also a problem as the Comp's tires didn't seem like they could handle anything other than pavement. I saw someone on here who fit 37x700 on an '07 Sirrus, but I don't know if things have changed since then. That person also had to use different wheels which might add unwanted cost.

    In short, I'm asking this:

    Sirrus Comp:
    + Better components
    + Carbon fork
    - Will need fatter tires
    - No disc brakes

    Sirrus Elite Disc:
    + Disc brakes
    + Decent tires
    - Lesser components
    - Aluminum fork
    - Needs bar ends

    What's my best option? Or should I forget the Sirrus and look elsewhere?

  2. #2
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    Tires and bar ends are easy to replace. Nashbar and biketiresdirect are always running sales on tires, don't let that be a deciding factor. Most people change tires pretty much right away depending on what kind of terrain they ride.

    On my Treck MTB I rode the stock tires ONCE around the block when I first got the bike then promptly replaced them. I knew the stockers would be hopeless on the terrain I ride.

    I read your topic heading and thought "cyclocross bike", but those have drop bars as like on a road bike. Son't discount them though, I just got one and it's a hoot. Coming from a strictly flat bar MTB background, I have to say I really like the drop bars and the multiple hand positions. I find it more comfortable on longer rides than the flat bars actually.

    You can always add flat bars to a 'cross bike I suppose.

    Or maybe buy a hybrid or less agressive MTB and add a sub- 2.0 tire to it for less rolling resistance. I run 1.95 Kenda Kross tires on my "street" MTB, and they're great - slick tread in the center touches the road, but it has knobs on the side for when it gets softer. I took them on a mild trail for kicks and giggles once and they did suprisingly well on some looser climbs.

    And don't get too hunb up on Specialized, there are plenty of other bike makers.

  3. #3
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    Not sure I would choose a Sirrus model for any off-road use. That is an on road designed bike. It's essentially a road bike with flat bars, there aren't any provisions made which make it suitable for off road use at any level. It's meant to be a road bike for people who are afraid of drop bars for whatever reason. It's a marketing bike, the kind of bike you sell to someone because that person doesn't know any better. It's too aggressive to be a casual hybrid with its 28c tires and riding position and it wouldn't be a good road bike because of the same reasons. It is an aggressive, pavement only, road bike for people who don't like drop bars.

    If you truly want to be comfortable off pavement then you need larger tires. I'm talking cyclocross; that weird, bastardized mash up of bikes which can turn a mountain bike ride into a weirdly fast bull ride or a road ride into a fire road race. A cross bike is tough, capable of fitting fairly wide tires, and have better brakes than most speed hybrids do.

    Of course, in most places it's hard to actually find a cross bike on the rack so you'd have to really know that you wanted one.

    If you're going with pavement only - buy the Sirrus.
    If you want to ride off of pavement, explore other options.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  4. #4
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    Typical...

    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    Not sure I would choose a Sirrus model for any off-road use. That is an on road designed bike. It's essentially a road bike with flat bars, there aren't any provisions made which make it suitable for off road use at any level. It's meant to be a road bike for people who are afraid of drop bars for whatever reason. It's a marketing bike, the kind of bike you sell to someone because that person doesn't know any better. It's too aggressive to be a casual hybrid with its 28c tires and riding position and it wouldn't be a good road bike because of the same reasons. It is an aggressive, pavement only, road bike for people who don't like drop bars.

    If you truly want to be comfortable off pavement then you need larger tires. I'm talking cyclocross; that weird, bastardized mash up of bikes which can turn a mountain bike ride into a weirdly fast bull ride or a road ride into a fire road race. A cross bike is tough, capable of fitting fairly wide tires, and have better brakes than most speed hybrids do.

    Of course, in most places it's hard to actually find a cross bike on the rack so you'd have to really know that you wanted one.

    If you're going with pavement only - buy the Sirrus.
    If you want to ride off of pavement, explore other options.
    Typical good advice. This is the correct answer.
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  5. #5
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    Thank you for the responses. I shopped around online a bit more and came across the Specialized Tricross series? I'll have to find one at a LBS to ride to try drop bars again, but it looks promising.

    I browsed Giant, Trek, and Cannondale but came back to Specialized because they offer a steel framed, disc version, which if I've done my research right, offers a smoother ride on chip seal roads? (majority of my local roads are chip seal) My current bike is steel, and I know I wouldn't want any harsher of a ride.

  6. #6
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    I rode a Tricross Disc Sport about 3 weeks ago, it was a nice bike mostly. I thought it had a comfortable ride (at least for the limited test ride I did) and a comfortable riding postion. Frame looked very nice in orange and the internally routed cables look tidy. However, I was underwhelmed by the disk brakes and though that for $1,300, it should have better than an aluminum fork and Sora components. Along these lines, check out the Trek CrossRip, it offers similar features as the TriCross. Neither are true 'cross bikes though.

    I ended up buying a Ridley X-Ride 'cross bike. It's a 7000 triple butted AL frame, with a full carbon fork. I'm actually quite impressed with the ride. Maybe it's because it has 700x32 tires on it with lower than road bike pressures, but I find it very comfortable to ride. And keep in mind that prior to this, the last time I rode a bike that didn't have front suspension was probably around 1995.

    Good to see you are giving drop bars a chance. I was going to ask why you were set on flat bars, but everyone has their own preference. I'll say again though, even coming from a strictly flat bar background, I LOVE riding with drop bars. The multiple hand positions are a real plus IMO for long rides.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by StuntmanMike View Post
    I rode a Tricross Disc Sport about 3 weeks ago, it was a nice bike mostly. I thought it had a comfortable ride (at least for the limited test ride I did) and a comfortable riding postion. Frame looked very nice in orange and the internally routed cables look tidy. However, I was underwhelmed by the disk brakes and though that for $1,300, it should have better than an aluminum fork and Sora components. Along these lines, check out the Trek CrossRip, it offers similar features as the TriCross. Neither are true 'cross bikes though.

    I ended up buying a Ridley X-Ride 'cross bike. It's a 7000 triple butted AL frame, with a full carbon fork. I'm actually quite impressed with the ride. Maybe it's because it has 700x32 tires on it with lower than road bike pressures, but I find it very comfortable to ride. And keep in mind that prior to this, the last time I rode a bike that didn't have front suspension was probably around 1995.

    Good to see you are giving drop bars a chance. I was going to ask why you were set on flat bars, but everyone has their own preference. I'll say again though, even coming from a strictly flat bar background, I LOVE riding with drop bars. The multiple hand positions are a real plus IMO for long rides.
    Thought I'd chime in because I can help explain the differences between cross bikes and Trek Crossrips. I've sold many at my job along with Cervelo Focus, Cannondale and more Treks. The crossrip is more a bike to gravel ride, commute or tour with due to the relaxed frame geometry and taller headtube as compared to race bikes that are better tuned to flexible experienced riders (racers) looking for aero positions. The crossrips tend to be alittle easier to get used to than a race bike if it's your first drop bar bike because they require less of a strengthened core and less pressure on your ulnar nerves in the hands. They also have rack mounts front and back and a slightly longer wheelbase than a cyclocross race bike - making them SLIGHTLY less accelerating and more stable frame wise for touring and longer gravel rides generally speaking. They are versatile bikes good for most people. They have isozone handlebars, so foam, then bartape making it plushy and have cyclocross brake levers on the bars in addition to the shimano dual controls. Just try a few different bikes unless you already know exactly what your goals are and can trust a salesman to cater something to your exact needs if you describe them well. Let us know!

  8. #8
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    You should also look at the Giant Revolt I picked up a 2014 Revolt 1 and have been gravel riding it a lot. You have to get the tire pressure correct for it to ride nice. It comes with 35 wide tires and can fit up to a 50. It is a drop bar but with a more upright position.

  9. #9
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    First real bike: Road bike that's dirt/gravel ready?

    Quote Originally Posted by richie64 View Post
    You should also look at the Giant Revolt I picked up a 2014 Revolt 1 and have been gravel riding it a lot. You have to get the tire pressure correct for it to ride nice. It comes with 35 wide tires and can fit up to a 50. It is a drop bar but with a more upright position.
    Great suggestion. I'd add to that the Giant TCX if you're open to alloy. I love mine!!!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by donnieboy View Post
    thought i'd chime in because i can help explain the differences between cross bikes and trek crossrips. I've sold many at my job along with cervelo focus, cannondale and more treks. The crossrip is more a bike to gravel ride, commute or tour with due to the relaxed frame geometry and taller headtube as compared to race bikes that are better tuned to flexible experienced riders (racers) looking for aero positions. The crossrips tend to be alittle easier to get used to than a race bike if it's your first drop bar bike because they require less of a strengthened core and less pressure on your ulnar nerves in the hands. They also have rack mounts front and back and a slightly longer wheelbase than a cyclocross race bike - making them slightly less accelerating and more stable frame wise for touring and longer gravel rides generally speaking. They are versatile bikes good for most people. They have isozone handlebars, so foam, then bartape making it plushy and have cyclocross brake levers on the bars in addition to the shimano dual controls. Just try a few different bikes unless you already know exactly what your goals are and can trust a salesman to cater something to your exact needs if you describe them well. Let us know!
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  11. #11
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    You could look into monster cross bikes Surly and Salsa are some place to start.

  12. #12
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    I can't recommend anything specific because there are so many choices out there. I would base the decision somewhat on what the local bike shop that you like the best has to offer. if the shop will stand behind their recommendation, they should be able to get you on the right bike.

    for road/gravel use, I would look into a cyclocross/touring type of bike. on a bike that is set up to fit you correctly is going to be wonderful with drop bars. there are soooo many of those out right now like the Tricross and the Trek Crossrip, but also the Surly Straggler and a few Salsa, Niner, and others. check this out:

    Cyclocross
    Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking

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