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.
mtn. biking 101
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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    Noob/geek question - Slack HT + steep ST + short CST + LWB + road drops?

    After a year back in the saddle, I've had the following evolution of experiences:
    Bought a large DB Overdrive that is a little big, but increasingly manageable with experience. Developing general XC skill, but not very good on trails pushing AM. Had difficulty keeping front wheel down, so decided I needed longer chainstays. Meanwhile, I flipped the front stem down and have had almost no difficulty since.

    Built a Surly Ogre medium as an all weather, all surface travel rig with 2.4 X-Kings and Nimbus Dominator rims, fenders, rack, and panniers. To fit fenders, chainstays are maxed out. This bike is now a complete monster, capable of traveling anywhere flat that I have to go out of necessity, but has a hard time with climbing traction, is hard to steer in tight spots, and too frequently has toe overlap. And while I like to be macho about hauling the weight, it makes it much harder to maneuver.

    Inherited a Centurion road bike, 56cm. Very much liking the road bike layout for speed and efficiency, but the 25mm tires are a little anemic for the multi-surface, obstacle negotiating, on/off trail riding, etc that I am looking for in an all-rounder. Also not sure I want to go downhill at speed on a non-paved surface, or down a steep drop like a pair of steps.

    A cross bike sounds close to what I think I need, but I think, and that's the key - I THINK I want a slacker headtube for less snappy steering, less toe overlap, and more front end stability. I THINK I want aggressive posture with non-aggressive handling. Think MTB wheelbase with road top tube and road bars. Short chainstays and relatively generous BB drop. Like taking my Ogre, putting on 700x38s or 27.5s, taking the chainstays to shortest position (431mm), sliding my seat all the way to the front (say to approximate a 74-75 deg ST), pushing the front wheel forward just a tad, and pulling back the head angle and top tube just enough to fit road drops with a normal length stem, say 70deg or so. Thought of a Troll. Nashbar CX frame too. It's kind of looking like the angles of an XS 29er or 700C hybrid, but with the TT of a M/L.

    Is there a bike out there like this? It sounds like a drop bar AM bike with slightly forward seat angle. It sounds silly just saying it, so that is probably farther than I'm thinking. But maybe a step in that direction.

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Hop on some stock 'cross bikes and see what you think. There are also a couple bikes on the market addressing the monster-cross/gravel grinder idea out of the box. Salsa and Foundry both make something. I forget the names, but go to their web sites and I'm sure you can figure it out.

    Basically, don't try to reinvent the wheel until you check out the prior art. There are a number of mixed-surface bikes with drop bars already out.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Ooh, also, see how big a tire you can fit in your Centurion. Those older bikes weren't as stingy about clearance as a lot of contemporary road bikes. You might be able to get the 38s you want in there.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  4. #4
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    Salsa Fargo, 29er drop bar offroad tourer.

    I don't know about availability, but Rawland Draakar or the dSogn is good if you want disc brakes, and they should be able to fit a smaller 29er or beefier 650b. The Sogn and rSogn have rim brake posts for 650b.

    Singular Cycles Gryphon.

    My neighbor had a Centurion LeMans, it didn't look like you could fit a beefier tire in there, but you don't know till you try.
    No fuss with the MUSS

  5. #5
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    The main difference between most MX or 29er touring bikes and what I think I'm looking for is the head angle. None of them seem to offer much different from the Ogre, and what I think I'm looking for is a front wheel that's farther away, like an MTB, but with the longer stem of a road bike.

    I'm picturing a 420-430mm CST, 65-70mm BB drop, 74 deg ST, 570mm TT, 70 deg HT, and a 45mm fork offset. Basically grab the Nashbar CX frame by each axle and pull.

    That, or start with a 29er CX, pick one with short CST and slack HT, drop down to 700x38 wheels, (same BBD but lower BBH), and pick one with a road length TT. So basically the changes from stock (assuming it's rigid) would be drop bars and downsized wheels.

  6. #6
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Are you thinking more road style drop bars or dirt drops?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    Road drops for sure.

  8. #8
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    Still thinking and looking. Current theory is that a Nashbar CX frame may be the best fit, due to a low BB and short chainstay, combined with a 70.5deg HT angle. I would then need to get a fork with generous offset to match the slack HT, as well as add a little bit to my wheelbase at the front (one of my supposed goals). Most forks seem to be in the 45mm offset range, but I would think I need 50-55mm. Salsa Vaya for the 50mm, but for 55mm it looks like I'd need a 29er fork (ie Fargo), which would start to tilt the whole frame back.

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