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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been riding Mountain Bikes pretty intensively since 2014.
I currently own two Full Suspension Mountain Bikes, one is with shorter travel 120/120 for XC/Trail riding, and the other has a bit more travel 137/150 for more Aggressive Trail/Enduro riding.
Now I'm strongly considering getting a Road or Gravel bike. I've never owned or even test road one before, so I know nothing about them.
I was thinking to build up a custom one with my LBS, but not sure what frame to use for my build.
Should I be considering building something like Specialized Diverge with Two Wheelsets, one for Gravel and the other for Road riding? Or should I be looking at something like the Specialized Roubaix with primary Road Wheelset and Secondary Gravel Wheelset?
The third option would be just to forget the whole Gravel category and use my shorter travel 120/120 Mountain Bike for offroad riding and focus on a good road bike?
I'd be very curious to read an explanation on how different would be these two bikes with the same road-purposed wheelset and tires on the road and and with the same offroad-purposed wheels and tires on the dirt.

Appreciate any help or input in advance!
 

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A gravel bike IS a road bike, so it usually makes a better road bike than a road bike makes itself a gravel bike. It really depends on what your gravel is as well. Some areas of the country it's pretty smooth. Some areas it's dirt, rocks and sand called gravel.

There's a few in betweener bikes like a Giant Defy or Trek Domane that are good road bikes that do 38 mm tires without a hassle. But depending on your size, preference and local riding conditions 38 may not be enough.

An Allied Echo sounds made for what you are talking about since it has some adjustability and reviews say it can do a bit better than the 40 mm tire clearance as advertised.

I think we need to know more about you. Do you want to do road based group rides? Carry a bit of stuff and get lost all day? Race certain events? Potential bikecamping? Does a more MTB like gravel bike appeal to you or are you looking for something on the opposite spectrum?

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I’d say it all depends on what you want to do with the gravel bike. I have a Salsa Cutthroat, which, could be looked at more as a MTB with drop bars. It’s stock right now, so WTB wheel set with i25 Running 2.2” Terravails. This setup lets me really go anywhere, as long as I take it easy where needed. My plan is to get a second set of wheels so I could run skinny’s and ride it as a second road bike or a cross bike in the winter to have some fun and race a bit. But, we will see if I get that second wheel set. I’ve enjoyed the 2.2”, it’s definitely not road fast, but I can pace it pretty good And ride it on the local trails close to my house Getting a mixed ride in.

To this point, I’ve ridden this thing on many types of rides, from 10 miler to 75 miles with 5k climbing. At some point, I’ll do some overnight trips with it and load it up with some bags.
 

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I almost mentioned that Cutthroat as an example of a mtb inspired road/gravel bike. It's such a cool bike. It's the boost hub spacing that kind of ruins it for a road bike though. That's definitely going to have to be a custom build to get road rims on boost hubs. I sure wouldn't mind finding a gen 1 cutthroat for a commuter and bikecamping setup.

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A lot of it has been covered above, but I'll add this... after owning a gravel bike, I would never go back to a pure road bike and this is after riding for almost 40 years (and maybe that's part of it). We built two gravel bikes this year. Chosen expressly so that they would be good at both. Must be able to use wide 700c tires, but also support wide 650b's. Must be 2x compatible. I built a Warbird (gen 4) for me and a Bombtrack EXT-C for my wife. We run 700 x 38c GravelKing + slicks (these measure nearly 41mm on our 25mm iW rims) on the road/"groomed" gravel (the roads here suck, the gravel is better at times and the bigger tires at low pressure soak up a lot of broken pavement) and Maxxis 650 x 47b Ramblers for gnarly gravel/rock/singletrack. The Ramblers are as fast on pavement as the GK's and both are nearly as fast as my old 700 x 32c GP5000 TL's. Both bikes will support 650 x 2.2" and we will probably run those for the winter.

If I was going to race crits, this would have been a poor choice for me. But I don't ever intend to do that again. For long days in the saddle, either on road or off.... these bikes deliver many smiles/mile.
 

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I have to agree with everything stated above. A road bike really just does roads well, maybe some tame gravel. The right gravel bike is really what the hybrid craze probably should have been all along, a bike that people can ride and enjoy on the road, rail trails, rough roads, forest roads, and lighter singletrack, while actually handling the majority of those tasks very well.

My wife and I have always mtb'ed and our nights out used to be riding some singletrack on the mtb and then loading them up on the car and going to get dinner. Since we built up gravel bikes last year, we ride into town on the back roads (7ish miles), catch rail trails, hit some easier singletrack long the way, more roads in the town or bike paths, grab dinner, then just keep riding until we head home. Usually ends up being 30-50 miles and super fun. A good portion of that wouldn't be fun on either a road or mtb, but on the gravel bikes we just go and have fun.
 

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My wife and I have always mtb'ed and our nights out used to be riding some singletrack on the mtb and then loading them up on the car and going to get dinner. Since we built up gravel bikes last year, we ride into town on the back roads (7ish miles), catch rail trails, hit some easier singletrack long the way, more roads in the town or bike paths, grab dinner, then just keep riding until we head home. Usually ends up being 30-50 miles and super fun. A good portion of that wouldn't be fun on either a road or mtb, but on the gravel bikes we just go and have fun.
This is a fantastic point. My wife and I both have nice full-squish trail bikes, but increasingly we find ourselves riding to the place we would have driven our MTB's and then riding those trails on the gravel bikes. My wife's MTB skills have improved dramatically from adapting to a fully rigid "mountain bike" on trails we already knew and it brings a whole new flavor to them. And then you appreciate them all the more when you let it rip on the FS MTB's.
 

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I went with your third option (use mountain bike). Owned a carbon gravel bike for a couple of years, with a max tire size of 700x40. It just wasn't enough to lessen the chatter of our gravel roads, and I felt beat up fairly quickly on my rides. I reason that the folks that like riding these things either know how to run their tires with more optimal pressures to lessen the fatigue, or (more likely) they are tougher than me!

I am now riding my new hardtail bike on these gravel roads and am much happier. It also allows me to link real single track trails that I dared not attempt on my gravel bike so the possibilities to do major rides in National Forest lands, for example, went up significantly. I could do the same on my Hightower, I suppose, but it just wouldn't be snappy or efficient like a hardtail on those long gravel climbs compared to the hardtail...
 

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I would avoid Road Boost, period. Mostly to show bike companies that they can't force stupid standards into the market that consumers aren't asking for, but also because wheelset availability will be terrible for the next couple of years until inevitably Boost becomes the new road bike standard... which we were all impatiently waiting for because our current 142mm gravel bikes are unrideable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I would avoid Road Boost, period. Mostly to show bike companies that they can't force stupid standards into the market that consumers aren't asking for, but also because wheelset availability will be terrible for the next couple of years until inevitably Boost becomes the new road bike standard... which we were all impatiently waiting for because our current 142mm gravel bikes are unrideable.
Could you explain a bit more about it?

I’m very familiar with all of hubs spacing on MTB like the non boost 142x12 rear and 100x15 front. Boost which is 148x12 rear and 110x15 front and my least favorite Super Boost 157x12 rear only.
But for now in the Road/Gravel world I’m a blind man. I have no clue what hub spacing is the common one on Gravel or Road bikes. I pretty much last night discovered that 700c is actually a narrow 29er


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Gravel bikes generally have 3 or more bottle mounts. The planet I live on it keeps getting hotter and hotter, so I need to carry a lot of water.

I ride aero wheels with 40mm slicks mostly on my carbon gravel bike. I'd rather have one good wheelset and change tires than two okay wheelsets.
 

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Could you explain a bit more about it?

I’m very familiar with all of hubs spacing on MTB like the non boost 142x12 rear and 100x15 front. Boost which is 148x12 rear and 110x15 front and my least favorite Super Boost 157x12 rear only.
But for now in the Road/Gravel world I’m a blind man. I have no clue what hub spacing is the common one on Gravel or Road bikes. I pretty much last night discovered that 700c is actually a narrow 29er
You want me to rant MORE??!!?!! Gladly. It's stupid. Stupid Stupid Stupid!

Gravel bikes (and disc brake road bikes) normally have 12x100 front axles and 12x142mm rear. It took a few years for the industry to land on this "standard". I think it's a good standard and there is NO NEED to do anything different.

It started with E-gravel bikes and is quickly making its way into normal gravel bikes. Manufacturers claimed the road boost gravel wheels were 10% stiffer or something. My question is...

Where are all the customers on gravel bikes that are complaining about flexy wheels????? Where are all the people who have exploded gravel bike wheels because they weren't stiff enough laterally????

Modern rims are stronger than ever, a 28h or 32h gravel wheel is plenty stiff even for my 215lbs. Gravel rims are also wider than MTB rims from 10 years ago by quite a bit. (old MTB was 19mm internal, gravel wheels are 22-26mm)

This is one new standard we don't need. It makes my blood boil when product managers spec BS like this just to create something new to buy. Big brands force it into the market and there's no way to stop it unless literally nobody buys one.

This aspect of the industry infuriates me. Do NOT support these brands.
 

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There are very few "Boost" gravel bikes out there at this time, and no road bikes that I know of...... it is mostly related to 1x drivetrains, I believe. I run a 2x drivetrain and am perfectly happy with my hub spacing.
No, it's because of better triangulation due to wider hub flanges.

Even "room for wider tires and shorter chainstays" would have been an easier sell. "Stiffer wheels" is a joke.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Gravel bikes generally have 3 or more bottle mounts. The planet I live on it keeps getting hotter and hotter, so I need to carry a lot of water.

I ride aero wheels with 40mm slicks mostly on my carbon gravel bike. I'd rather have one good wheelset and change tires than two okay wheelsets.
Just out of curiosity why most of the Road or Gravel cyclists never carrying a Camelback or at least a Hip Pack with a water bladder?

On my local MTB rides 20-30 miles with 2.5-5k of elevation which I usually do on my lighter duty 120/120mm bike, I’m usually fine with one larger water bottle that I know where I can refill it during the ride.
But if I go further away from home for longer day rides 30-40 miles with 3-6k of elevation and on the heavier duty (also 6 lbs heavier) 147/150mm bike, most of these places don’t have a place to refill water, so I carry a Hip Pack with 3L water bladder and on extra hot days I bring the water bottle as well.


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My story sounds about like yours.. except I came from a road bike background. Bought a Fuji Gran Fondo road bike and put a 650b second wheelset on it for gravel. Found out I really like gravel and ended up buying a Specialized Diverge because the all road Fuji just didn't do a good job on gravel. I just recently put some 38 Teravail Washburns on the Diverge and thinking about maybe aselling the road bike and using the Diverge for both.

All that said- I'd recommend the gravel bike and use it for both vs. the road bike.
 

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A lot of people don't want the weight on them when riding. I don't mind it but I also lift a lot so a little water's not gonna bother me. It's also easier to get at water bottles when you're not deciding what line to take, you can just grab it whenever instead of taking a quick sip on a hose when you get a chance.

In my opinion MTB hydration packs don't sit right on drop bars. The weight sits a bit too low. I have a camelbak one that sits much higher and it feels better on road-ish bikes.

Never tried a hip pack. On hot days I regularly ride with 5L of water (3 Zefal 1Ls and the pack). My city turned off the water fountains because of Covid (before they learned thats not how you get it) and left them off to discourage homeless folks from being homeless where they can be seen. Crazy times.
 

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Just out of curiosity why most of the Road or Gravel cyclists never carrying a Camelback or at least a Hip Pack with a water bladder?
Some do. I will for some events were the terrain is that gnarly or super long.

I can only speak for myself, but I find two reasons to ditch the hydration pack on a drop bar bike. The first is that you stand up so much less and I really appreciate anything that doesn't add weight to my sit bones and undercarriage. You stand so much more on a mtb that saddle comfort is typically less of an issue. Secondly, if I'm in the drops, the hydration pack typically slides up my spine and sits up super high.


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A gravel bike will do road better than a road bike will do gravel. Modern gravel bikes have longer front centers, slacker head tubes, higher BBs, longer chainstays, and wider tire clearances compared to road bikes. That leads to more stability, more traction, more clearance, and eliminates toe overlap. For a dual purpose bike, I would start with the gravel bike and get a second wheelset.

With that said, gravel bike doesn't really work for me where I live. Gravel roads here are too loose and rough to be enjoyable on a gravel bike. I have a far better experience running narrow 29x2.1 tires on my FS Epic Evo (120/110). So currently I have a road bike and a FS bike. Before you go out and buy a bike, I suggest you put some skinny gravel tires on your FS bike. Lock it out, go ride around, and see if that works for you. If so, gravel bike might be the answer for you.
 
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