Gravel Grinder = Smart Marketing
I purchased a Giant TCX Advanced for cyclocross racing/riding, but also, and maybe moreso, gravel racing. Interesting you may say because one might think that I made a mistake, given all of the talk of "gravel specific" frames being designed. The one that I hear brought up pretty often is the Salsa Warbird Ti. I own a Salsa El Mariachi and love Salsa, so naturally I was worried that I might have made a terrible misplacement of funds. Well, I just finished looking over the measurements and they are all but exactly the same when comparing similar sizing. There are 1/2 cm differences in a few cases which is negligible in my non engineer opinion. This is just like the All Mountain vs Enduro trend. Bike companies are smart enough to know that if they put a product out that speaks to a niche, they will get a certain amount of people who will buy that product because they are part of the niche. In fact, the Giant "cyclocross" bike has a longer head tube length than the Salsa! The opposite of what I would have expected since a cyclocross bike is supposed to be more flickable, harsh, "stiff." I'm sure other companies are putting out products that are different, but I think it's important to remember that cyclocross bikes are more road bike than mountain bike and gravel riding is more road riding that mountain biking...Something to consider. Gearing and tire clearance matter far more than the minor differences in geometry that as I have recently found out are negligible anyway. All the best. Here are the links.
2014 Warbird Ti | Bikes | Salsa Cycles
TCX Advanced 1 (2014) - Bikes | Giant Bicycles | United States
I completely agree. The problem I find with the majority of riders, is that they don't really look at the geo numbers, or if they do, don't know what geo numbers they actually like to ride.
One of the downfalls of many cx bikes and "gravel bikes", is they don't normally match the fork rake to the HTA across the sizes very well. Most bikes in the upper medium to XL sizes are good, but terrible in the smaller sizes.
My favourite all-purpose bike for cx racing, gravel, and road is the Speciialed Crux - they use 3 different fork rakes to get nice trail values - which is especially important in the smaller sizes. The frame also has short chainstays and a low BB - great for an all-rounder, and tonnes of tire clearance (on the disc model).
There are lots of cx bikes that have much better geo for gravel riding compared to dedicated gravel bikes.
From what I can tell the biggest selling point with gravel bikes are the little added touches like extra cage mounts and springy seatposts. I have been using my Wazoo for GGs for over five years now, never used it for CX, and one thing I wish it had, almost to the point I would buy a new frame, is more places to carry stuff.
But as far as geo goes I still think it'll take a few years to get right, and it will probably become more regional specific like MTBs. GGs combine elements of CX, road, and even rando/touring so I'd expect to see elements of all three.
Its all about the geometry. I prefer a CX bike set like and with the geometry of a endurance road bike like my giant defy 1. For some reason this works for me on trail riding and mixed terrain rides where a frame with dedicated gravel geometry would fail.
The Warbird has the cabling on the underside of the top tube. Wouldn't this make it difficult to "shoulder it" in a cross race?
While the Warbird is really a designated gravel bike, I raced a mountain bike with underside cable routing and it was not a deal breaker. Having put lots of gravel training miles on a Fuji cross bike I can't imagine that I would need a significantly different bike for gravel races (based on angles and tube lengths). I think my focus would be on a cane creek post and higher stem so I would feel less upper body fatigue and absorb less road vibration.
Originally Posted by 292beach
The most expensive bike in the world is still cheaper than the cheapest open heart surgery.
I completely agree with the observations made regarding 'badge engineering' to create a niche, and the appalling rake and trails used between sizes and forks using the same off-set for all.
To me, gravel grinders were the only bikes at the birth of the bicycle, and as such, as roads became paved, have lost there soul. A CX bike of today is a quick response devise to a performance requirement found in competition. A gravel grinder should be a different beast entirely. The road as used by the gravel grinder is far removed from a CX short course race. The ride characteristics are altogether different. Rides like the Almanzo 100 have no link to a CX bike, yet the market accepts these name changes.
What a gravel grinder needs in frame characteristics are a supple ride. A long Front centre for handling (GG's are not looking for sharp corners to tuck into). GG's don't need to be shouldered, so why have horizontal toptubes? I feel, IMO, higher trail values.
Higher trail values with longer front centres for me = a bike that will travel through hard pack and over a soft/loose patch and stay undaunted by the transition, carrying its speed without so much as a twitch of the handlebar.
A gravel grinder is a different kind of bike.
If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?
The new "gravel bikes" are reincarnations of old touring bikes. The angles are slightly slacker and the wheelbase a little longer--a stretched CX bike. If you're comfortable on a bike what's it matter? I ride my road bike with 25c tires on gravel all the time with no problems. What it comes down to is, rider skill.
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