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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've taken an interest in riding some of the gravel grinders, with distances between 60 and 200 miles. ( Dirty Kanza, Gravel Grovel, etc.) It seems that most of the top riders are competing on cross bikes, though some do well on MTBs. Most of my riding these days is on my touring bike (Jamis Aurora), and at my age I don't see myself competing in traditional mountain races like I have in the past. I've got an old bike that I'd like to convert into a budget gravel/dirt road rider. The bike is extremely comfortable, and has proven to be reliable over the years. It was a back up bike for most of its life (I am the original owner) and has been well maintained and kept indoors. With the exception of a couple of scratches, the frame is in near new condition. Here is the current set up, and a list of proposed mods and options.

Giant ATX 760, steel frame front suspension mountain bike. Currently set up with a 7 speed mix of LX shiters and rear derailer, LX cantis, STX crank and front derailer, Pulstar hubs/Ritchey rims. The front fork is the original Rock Shox Mag 10, which offers little in the way of suspension and lots in the way of weight. The bars and seatpost are new, and I have a couple of new threadless stems laying around. Total weight of the bike as set up is around 28 lbs.

Here are my proposed mods:

Upgrade to 9 speed. (Already have a new set of Deore shifter/brake levers)
SRAM 11-32 Cassette and new chain
New Wheels (Not sure what, but keep in mind this is a budget build)
New front fork
Upgraded brakes

Here are the questions:

1) Rigid or suspension fork? A suspension corrected rigid fork would easily shave a couple of pounds. Don't really see a need for suspension for this type of riding, and it may even be a liability.
2) Which brakes? I've seen set ups with discs in front and v-brakes in back, or I could go with v brakes front and rear to save a little weight as well. I understand that either set up has its plusses and minuses.
3) Which wheels? I don't want to break the bank, but could stand to take a little weight off here as well. Shouldn't be hard, my old wheels are tanks!
4) Tires? I'm thinking something in the 1.8-1.9 range

My thoughts are rigid fork, front disc for wet, muddy conditions, decent v-brakes in back and 28 spoke, mid-level wheels. I'm due for a new outer chainring, so may go to 44 or 46 teeth in place of the current 42. My goal is reliability and comfort while bringing weight down to sub 25.5 lbs.

What do you think?
 

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On a budget right?

Rigid fork and V brakes. XT hubs for the wheels, good durability at a reasonable price. I'm not too sure what suitable rim brake 26" rims are available these days.

For tyres, you can probably afford to go a little wider on 26" rims to give you a little more cush. Maybe something like Ritchey Speedmax Beta 2.0?

Bar ends and some comfortable grips. Might want some new chain rings too.
 

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I think you should derive your inspiration from the cyclocross world. If you want to create a "frankenbike" for this budget build, you should consider drop bars and brakes/shifters. Get a new, rigid front fork in either steel or carbon, use cantilever brakes (avid shortys) and only build wheels that accept tires not larger than 40mm. Keep as much of the original componentry as possible. If you're just out to have fun, experiment with this bike. If you catch the bug, then you can buy something new for next season.

That's what I did. I tore down and completely rebuilt an existing road bike that I had and used it to race cyclocross last year. It was adequate, but not great. However, it was enough of a good experience that I bought a purpose built CX bike and now I'm ready for next season! I still have the other bike and I use it to train on the dirt and commute and it's still a hoot to ride!

Good luck on the build and post pictures.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
cs124 said:
On a budget right?

Rigid fork and V brakes. XT hubs for the wheels, good durability at a reasonable price. I'm not too sure what suitable rim brake 26" rims are available these days.

For tyres, you can probably afford to go a little wider on 26" rims to give you a little more cush. Maybe something like Ritchey Speedmax Beta 2.0?

Bar ends and some comfortable grips. Might want some new chain rings too.
Thanks for the feedback. I think you are right, V brakes are probably all that is needed for this type of riding. Besides, they will shave a little weight off of this fairly heavy bike, when compared to discs. I've been looking at wheels. XT hubs would be a good choice, and readily available. Still trying to locate solid, reasonably light rims to lace to them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
JD1 said:
I think you should derive your inspiration from the cyclocross world. If you want to create a "frankenbike" for this budget build, you should consider drop bars and brakes/shifters. Get a new, rigid front fork in either steel or carbon, use cantilever brakes (avid shortys) and only build wheels that accept tires not larger than 40mm. Keep as much of the original componentry as possible. If you're just out to have fun, experiment with this bike. If you catch the bug, then you can buy something new for next season.

That's what I did. I tore down and completely rebuilt an existing road bike that I had and used it to race cyclocross last year. It was adequate, but not great. However, it was enough of a good experience that I bought a purpose built CX bike and now I'm ready for next season! I still have the other bike and I use it to train on the dirt and commute and it's still a hoot to ride!

Good luck on the build and post pictures.
Thanks. I've pretty much decided that a rigid fork is the way to go. Not sure I want to mess with the expense of adding drops and brifters when I already have a servicable set of mountain shifters. I understand the advantages, but I'd rather focus on wheels and brakes. As you said, I can always buy a cross bike if I decide I need it. The purpose of this one is to use what I have to get through this season. I'll get some pics of the bike as is today, and post progress pictures as well.
 

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tcmers said:
Thanks for the feedback. I think you are right, V brakes are probably all that is needed for this type of riding. Besides, they will shave a little weight off of this fairly heavy bike, when compared to discs. I've been looking at wheels. XT hubs would be a good choice, and readily available. Still trying to locate solid, reasonably light rims to lace to them.
Clinchers or tubulars? Look at Velocity rims. 32 hole clincher A23's or Aeroheads or Major Tom tubulars. These are good quality rims at a reasonable price. I'm pretty light at 150 lbs. but rode the Aeroheads for an entire cross season as well as training in between and they've never given me any problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thanks. I'll check out the velocity rims. I'd rather put most of the investment into wheels, as that is where you get the most out of any weight savings.


Just saw the Nashbar cross frame for $90 bucks....could move a lot of the parts over, have to buy a fork either way, and I already have beefy 700c wheels for the touring bike. Hmmmm......might have to change my plan!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well, I've bounced all over and almost had myself talked into a new cross bike, but have decided to proceed with this one. I have the frame stripped down, and parts on the way. Here is a list of parts I have, parts on order, and decisions yet to be made.

Frame: Mid 90s Giant ATX 760, steel, in great condition with low miles.
Fork: Nashbar rigid carbon fork
Bars & Stem: Ritchey (Already had these)
Shifters/Brake levers: Deore (Already had)
Crank: Truvativ Firex 22-44. (Already had)
Frt. Derailleur: STX (NOS that I already had)
Rear Derailleur: LX (Already had)
Cassette: SRAM 970 11-28
Chain: Sram PC-971
Brakes: To be determined. I am considering BB7 in front and Avid v-brake rear. (No rear disc mount) May go with v brakes front & rear, but like the idea of disc for wet, muddy or snowy conditions.
Wheels: Haven't ordered yet, but considered Mavc Crosstrail UST tubeless. Love the low weight and ability to go tubeless, but not sure I like the low spoke count as I am just under 200lbs. I'm leaning towards having some built with XT hubs, DT DB spokes and Alex Adventurer rims. The cost is about the same, and the adventurures have been extremely durable and remained true on 1000s of fully loaded touring miles on my Jamis Aurora.
Seatpost & Saddle: Will start with whatever I have.
Headset: TBD I am taking the frame/fork to the shop to have the fork installed. I'll buy the headset from them.

I am sure I've missed something. Will post pics of the build in progress once the fork arrives.
 

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I'm doing a similar build, using my Trek 930, 99 model. Replaced the stock fork with a Surly 1x1 and the cassette with an 11-28. I'm going with Soma Sparrow bars. Stock shifters and brakes will be fine. Tires are yet to be decided and will likely depend on the conditions. Currently I'm running Kenda Kwest 1.5s, or some Kenda 1.95 knobbies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
barturtle said:
I'm doing a similar build, using my Trek 930, 99 model. Replaced the stock fork with a Surly 1x1 and the cassette with an 11-28. I'm going with Soma Sparrow bars. Stock shifters and brakes will be fine. Tires are yet to be decided and will likely depend on the conditions. Currently I'm running Kenda Kwest 1.5s, or some Kenda 1.95 knobbies.
I'll have to look into the Kenda Kwest. I'm curently using Michelin Country rocks for my road/bike path rides.
 
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