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  1. #1
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    Custom Frame for Gravel Racing

    I am going to have a custom frame made to tackle both long distance gravel races (Trans Iowa) and also long distance brevets/road events such as Paris Brest Paris. My builder thinks he can come up with a good frame. What are some specifics that I might want to tell him before he starts welding. I have finished many gravel races (including the Trans Iowa) on both 29'er frames as well as cyclocross specific (the Trek/GF Presidio). I want something lighter, more stable and versatile than most frames on the market right now. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. #2
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    My opinion: Low BB, long FC, long trail. Lots of weight on the back wheel. Clearance for wide tires and fenders.

  3. #3
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    You basically just need a road bike with clearance for 30c or whatever tire you want to run, plus some brazeons to mount random (lights, bags, racks, whatever) stuff.

    I mean, in all honesty, if you want "versatile" then a mountain bike frame is the way to go, since just a swap of tires will make it into almost anything you want.

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
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  4. #4
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    My opinion: slightly longer rando bike with bigger clearances for 45s or so. Mid-low trail with classic raked fork and canti brakes. Top tube fairly level and on the higher side to make room for frame bags. Maybe extra bottle mounts, if you're still using them.

  5. #5
    Harrumph
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    Consider using a more traditional level top tube double diamond style frame. That way you can run 2 bigger H2o bottles and a frame bag. A top tube with lots of slope or curved main tubes eat into that space quickly.

    I see that I missed Welby saying that better than I did... But I'll leave it anyway. In an effort to actually add to the thread, what brakes/hubs/Drivetrain are you planning to use? Those are going to make some decisions for you.
    Slowly slipping to retrogrouchyness

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dr.welby View Post
    My opinion: slightly longer rando bike with bigger clearances for 45s or so. Mid-low trail with classic raked fork and canti brakes. Top tube fairly level and on the higher side to make room for frame bags. Maybe extra bottle mounts, if you're still using them.
    Second that, nothing better than the Rando for long haul mileage on lesser roads.
    They Old School and are proven from all the years of roading development for over a century of time.

    Eric
    If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the ideas so far.

    Mt bike frame: I am actually riding the custom 29'er that I had built a couple of years ago in a more gravel specific set-up. It does OK. Maybe better than OK. But I am looking for something a bit lighter with more of a road bike feel.

    Brakes: Long reach side pull vs. cant's. I am drawn to Paul's or something like it. I think I will probably stick to canti's for the mud clearance.

    I am looking into a wide-rimmed (25mm) wheel by HED. If I can spring for them, an American made hub like Whites in a 28 hole.

    I use a homemade frame bag that takes half the inner triangle. Since I mainly use a hydration pack, I rarely use more than one bottle anymore. But I would build for three cages, and enough mounts for racks and anything else I might want to bolt onto the frame. I won't make that mistake again of skimping on those.

    Material: Steel.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkcustom View Post
    Brakes: Long reach side pull vs. cant's. I am drawn to Paul's or something like it. I think I will probably stick to canti's for the mud clearance.
    My previous gravel bike was built around long reach (traditional long reach 55-73mm, not standard-which-is-longer-than-short-which-is-now-normal) sidepulls. There is something nice and clean and simple about them. That bike was run as a fixed gear during the winter, so I could take the rear brake completely off and not have a naked cable hanger and canti posts. The limitations are less mud clearance, the quick release wouldn't open up the brake enough for fatter tires, and since the arms are a lot longer they are flexy. It's quite possible that they weigh the same as a set of Paul's cantis including the braze-on posts.

    (edit: clarified brake reach, since short/standard/long is confusing these days)

  9. #9
    Randomhead
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    my current dirt road bike has Tektro long reach sidepulls. They work really well, but I hear the Shimano long reach brakes are better. I'm currently running the world's largest 30mm tire. Would be a problem with much bigger tires, that's for sure

  10. #10
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    +1 on the Hed Belgium rims, Wait you said 25mm? Where are you finding those Rims only
    Ardennes? Belgium Plus? Do share...
    cheers
    andy walker

  11. #11
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    I run at least a 35c tire (lately the Conti Speed Cross...very nice tire IMO).

    I'm a little ignorant about the long reach side pulls. How big a tire can you run on these?

    The rims. I'll get back to you about that one.

    Thanks!

  12. #12
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    the tire isn't a problem once it is past the brake pads.

  13. #13
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    On the brakes I have (old Tektros), with worn pads on an MA2 rim, there's 55mm between the arms. The ones that Rivendell sells right now might give you a bit more.

  14. #14
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    Sorry to take this thread into brake territory...but it does concern the build....what are thoughts on center-pull brakes vs long reach side pulls (vs. canti's which I know a few things about..)?

    Thanks

  15. #15
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    Centerpulls have the advantage of more rigid mounting and therefore better brake feel. The way they quick-release by unhooking the cable probably opens the brake more than the little flip-lever on sidepulls. Both are much lower profile than cantis, with the tradeoff of mud clearance. Both cantis and centerpulls will need cable stops.

  16. #16
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    Dr. Welby. Thanks you. I certainly like the look of the Paul centerpull's...but the price is hefty. Beauty hurts. I will bring this back to my builder. Thanks again, all.

    Jeremy

  17. #17
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    A bunch of the Paul race team riders were riding custom cyclocross bikes with their centerpulls - I think they were Rock Lobster frames. Here's the man himself:

    Paul™

  18. #18
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
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    Quote Originally Posted by jkcustom View Post
    I am going to have a custom frame made to tackle both long distance gravel races (Trans Iowa) and also long distance brevets/road events such as Paris Brest Paris. My builder thinks he can come up with a good frame. What are some specifics that I might want to tell him before he starts welding. I have finished many gravel races (including the Trans Iowa) on both 29'er frames as well as cyclocross specific (the Trek/GF Presidio). I want something lighter, more stable and versatile than most frames on the market right now. Thanks for the ideas.
    Just tell your builder the above, plus the equipment/components you want to use. Let them sweat the details. That is what a custom builder does.
    mtbtires.com
    The trouble with common sense is it is no longer common

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