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  1. #1
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    Talk to me about gravel grinding...

    Been lurking in this forum lately...cx curious you might say. I live in northern New Mexico and spend time on the 29er and the fatty on high desert/foothills singletrack and two track.

    There are literally thousands of miles of dirt road, old logging roads, old jeep roads and woodcutting roads all over the place around here, and I'm thinking about a cross bike/gravel grinder just to expand my horizons, both geographically and physically.

    Please talk me into doing so.
    What is it that sets a gravel grinder apart from ye olde flat bar wide tired 29er? I'm not going to be racing or anything like that, so I basically just want to know if the experience is vastly different from the same kinds of rides on my existing bikes, and if so, how.

    Also...most of the bikes I see on here have no front suspension. I can see this being an issue on anything slightly bumpy or washboardy...am I off the mark here? Do the wrists take a pounding? I'm in my mid-40's and having to think about that sort of thing more than I used to.

    Forgive my ignorance, and thanks in advance for any input or advice.

  2. #2
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    Well, first off, you don't want to ride anything technical with a gravel bike. You can do it, but it's a bit sketchy.

    Second, the benefit of a gravel bike is being able to jump on or off road at will. As well as, being able to out in large miles with out lower back fatigue (like a mountain bike)

    With my gravel bike, I can hang with fast Saturday group rides with roadies then jump onto a fire road for more adventure, then jump back into the group.

    Yes, this can all be done on a mountain bike, but it's harder to hang on to fast group and your lower back takes it's punishment.

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  3. #3
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    Gravel bikes are good fun, and extremely versatile. I whole heartedly disagree with the notion that you shouldn't take it through anything technical. I ride mine through technical, rocky and rooty east coast singletrack on the regular. I think it's fun to be under-biked. Granted I also have limited access to the volume of unpaved gravel roads you describe, but if I had more of that around here, I'd ride the shit out of that too.

    I have two bikes set up for offroad because that's where they get ridden 80% of the time. For me that means wide rims, knobby tires, geared appropriately, and good brakes.

    Gravel bike: Ride from your front door to your next adventure.
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  4. #4
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    I have a CX I've taken on a few gravel rides. For me, the big difference is the lack of traction, a lot less than riding single track on my mountain bike. Made it a new experience and fun. But where you live, the mtb trails may be a lot looser than where I ride so you may already be used to that. I've also ridden my CX on single track. It will beat you up, especially if you use a death grip, gotta remember to relax and let your arms and legs absorb. It is a thing of beauty on smooth sections and climbs.

    I also don't have close access to a lot of gravel. If I lived where there were "thousands of miles of dirt road, old logging roads, old jeep roads and woodcutting roads" I would be all over it, probably would never ride paved roads again.
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  5. #5
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    It's mostly nothing new but recent years (context here, I'm not young anymore) have had bikes of the road, CX and touring type that accommodate wider tires, disc brakes, and in some cases are a bit more slack.

    This is one of my gravel grinders and except for shoes and age of legs what it's looked like for almost 60 years.

    Talk to me about gravel grinding...-nab9tqc.jpg

    My modern gravel grinder is the well known Fargo bike. Some friends use MTBs, some touring bikes, some CX, and some have what I think is a pretty sweet class of bike such as the Vaya. I manage trails Trek and Mongoose staff use and have seen some nice new products from them.

    Members of my posse (me too) have also used modern and old MTBs and fatties.

    FWIW, I fell in love with the Fargo because it's a drop bar bike with more of a MTB feeling. It carries weight, feels great by itself and feels fine on pavement and single track as much as unpaved roads.

    There are a lot of really nice bikes that work for gravel grinding. You might only need a specialty bike if you plan on touring or racing.
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  6. #6
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    I ran this years Gravel Worlds Privateer on a Fargo with 40mm Happy Medium tires but two years ago I added a rigid fork to my Fisher Paragon to use it for Gravel and it worked fine. You can certainly run a MTB on a gravel course, I see Fat Bikes on them so anything goes. If you were going to get specific into the sport at longer distances I think you'd want more hand positions than a flat bar allows (but perhaps not), narrower tires and a locked fork (if yours doesn't already). If you want to try the carbon fiber route I have an Intense Hard Eddy Fork cut to 7 1/8 with about 40 miles on it (9mm QR - Disc) I'd ship stateside for $110 (shipping included).
    The most expensive bike in the world is still cheaper than the cheapest open heart surgery.

  7. #7
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    https://youtu.be/KT5WvP89_3E

    Saw this video yesterday. I like to get my GG into dirt, but haven't tried ST mostly because its not tubeless yet. I recommend looking at Steel frame.
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  8. #8
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    biggest benefits to a cx/gravel bike over a 29er...
    1) faster and more comfortable on the road
    2) far more aero (see #1)
    3) hand positions for long rides
    4) lighter (usually)
    5) 40c tires look dumb on a 29er

    Iíve done gravel rides on my SS 29er as well as various cx bikes. I find the cx bikes more enjoyable unless the ďgravelĒ is really chunky or nasty and there is little to no smoother road.

  9. #9
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    Coming from a road bike, I do like the similar position.

    Bikes like the Diverge have a little suspension up front with their latest design, or you could put on a Shockstop stem on a standard bike. There are a few seatpost designs out there for extra compliance at the rear end like the Ergon, or a suspension post.

    Once on the gravel/singletrack I tend to take it fairly easy unless its smooth.

    I suppose a 29er would do the job if you're just cruising along.

    My ti bike is 17.5lbs with 650b 2.1" tires. Light, nimble; it makes a difference. Good on the road as well.

  10. #10
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    Iíve been riding an on one inbred 29er on gravel, my friends both have Salsa cuttthroats, I manage to keep up with them ok. Main thing I takeaway from mtb vs gravel. Better range on most gravel bikes, also drop bars are a must because being able to reposition hands is important. I definitely donít think sus is a must . Most modern gravel bikes have geometry thatís geared for long runs in the saddle. My friends that ride salsas say they are comfortable all day on them. Iíve got my eyes on a framed gravier carbon in the future


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  11. #11
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    Talk to me about gravel grinding...

    Quote Originally Posted by khardrunner14 View Post
    5) 40c tires look dumb on a 29er
    Everything goes with a Fargo but they're OG in a way a lot of bikes aren't.

    I'd vote against lycra for a lot of situations before no skinny tires on MTBs.
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  12. #12
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    Thanks all for the input.
    The search for my next bike begins now!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wjphillips View Post
    Well, first off, you don't want to ride anything technical with a gravel bike. You can do it, but it's a bit sketchy.

    Second, the benefit of a gravel bike is being able to jump on or off road at will. As well as, being able to out in large miles with out lower back fatigue (like a mountain bike)

    With my gravel bike, I can hang with fast Saturday group rides with roadies then jump onto a fire road for more adventure, then jump back into the group.

    Yes, this can all be done on a mountain bike, but it's harder to hang on to fast group and your lower back takes it's punishment.

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    Your lower back fatigue comments is confusing. Most 'gravel' (drop bar) bikes are going to have a lower bar position than a MTB which probably means more lower back issues until he gets used to it. Based on what the OP is saying, he's a MTBer not a roadie, so is likely no accustomed to a low bar setup.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArizRider View Post
    Your lower back fatigue comments is confusing. Most 'gravel' (drop bar) bikes are going to have a lower bar position than a MTB which probably means more lower back issues until he gets used to it. Based on what the OP is saying, he's a MTBer not a roadie, so is likely no accustomed to a low bar setup.
    That's what I'm saying

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by *OneSpeed* View Post
    Gravel bikes are good fun, and extremely versatile. I whole heartedly disagree with the notion that you shouldn't take it through anything technical. I ride mine through technical, rocky and rooty east coast singletrack on the regular. I think it's fun to be under-biked. Granted I also have limited access to the volume of unpaved gravel roads you describe, but if I had more of that around here, I'd ride the shit out of that too.

    I have two bikes set up for offroad because that's where they get ridden 80% of the time. For me that means wide rims, knobby tires, geared appropriately, and good brakes.

    Gravel bike: Ride from your front door to your next adventure.
    ^^^This!!!!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rad3144 View Post
    Most modern gravel bikes have geometry thatís geared for long runs in the saddle. My friends that ride salsas say they are comfortable all day on them.


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    Absolutely. The geo is a bit easier on the body than a cx or road bike. I love riding mine and have found myself spending most of my time on it vs my road and mtn bikes this past year.
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  17. #17
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    One of my favorite brewries is about 25 miles from my house. 5 miles pavement, then a service road, then a loop on the MTB trail, a couple more miles of pavement on a rail trail, another loop on a different MTB trail, back on the paved rail trail which turns into crushed limestone for a few miles, brewery 50 feet to the right, have a beer and fill the stainless growler, and retrace back home. Always the most fun on my gravel(ish) bike.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by knl2stl View Post
    One of my favorite brewries is about 25 miles from my house. 5 miles pavement, then a service road, then a loop on the MTB trail, a couple more miles of pavement on a rail trail, another loop on a different MTB trail, back on the paved rail trail which turns into crushed limestone for a few miles, brewery 50 feet to the right, have a beer and fill the stainless growler, and retrace back home. Always the most fun on my gravel(ish) bike.
    Sounds like its worth the trip/ride! Its always better to have a destination, especially one that serves good beer. My favorite brewery is over 40 miles away, but I envision a trip there next season after I build a proper gravel/road bike this winter.

    In case you're in NH, the brewery mentioned is called Kettlehead in Tilton, NH. Here's the link and check it out with or without the bike!

    https://kettleheadbrewing.com/
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  19. #19
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    A lot of this has to do with my history of injuries and my age being north of 50. I liked all the drop bar cx/gravel bikes ive built but since i ride the tops and hoods most/all the time i found i suffered major hand/arm fatigue even with zero seat-bar drop-rise.

    After selling my last build, a cotic escapade, i decided to rebuild a niner emd frame i had sitting around. At first i used a flat bar and soon i was looking for an alt bar to replace it due to the lack of hand positions. About 2 weeks ago i installed a jones sg h -bar. Ive got a couple of mixed rides on it and am still making tweeks here and there but so far its a go.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by knl2stl View Post
    One of my favorite brewries is about 25 miles from my house. 5 miles pavement, then a service road, then a loop on the MTB trail, a couple more miles of pavement on a rail trail, another loop on a different MTB trail, back on the paved rail trail which turns into crushed limestone for a few miles, brewery 50 feet to the right, have a beer and fill the stainless growler, and retrace back home. Always the most fun on my gravel(ish) bike.
    Definition of the perfect ride. Most envious.
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