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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi gang. I've owned two "big kid" bikes in my life... The first was a Rhino from Toys R Us that had lasted me for 23 years, and now I'm on a 2013 Marin Bridgeway Triple. I live in Missouri and I have the grand and lofty goal of riding the Katy Trail... 240 or so miles of mostly hard packed gravel. I want to buy the bike that I'm going to ride that trail with, and possibly further, and possibly on a little bit more gravel and double track (I don't see myself doing much, if any, single track riding). I need some thing a bit more robust than I've got now. I've got 700 or so bucks to blow (possibly more if it's an amazing deal) and I've been eyeballing a few bikes at the LBS and online. I could use some input on these choices or other options.

I'm 5'5 with a 29 inch inseam. Anything with a standover greater than 28" brushes the berries a little. Makes it difficult to find things fitment wise. Here's what I've looked at so far...

2018 Marin San Rafael DS4 - I can get it for about $500 bucks online. It looks like a good all around bike with decent deore components, rack and fender mounts, and at 500 bucks it's hard to beat...
https://www.marinbikes.com/bike-archive/bikes/2018-san-rafael-ds4

2019 Marin Bobcat Trail 4 27.5... $765 after tax at an LBS. Fits me well, but seems like possible overkill with that wide a tire. I really like the shifters, seems very smooth.
https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/2019-mountain-hardtail-sport-bobcat-4

Fezzari Speedster Urban... $680 with shipping. Online only. Looks nice (IMHO), comes with Gravel tires already, fully rigid frame, rack and fender mounts. Seems like a decent groupset but it's an older compact 2x. More road than off, but so is my riding.
https://www.fezzari.com/road-bikes/speedster-urban

Airborne Guardian 29... $720 with a set of pedals. Good standover, can't beat the components at that price. Seems like a great deal. Online only. Very pretty. No rack and fender mounts but there are ways around that. Seems like a less overkill version of the Bobcat with nicer components.
https://airbornebicycles.com/collections/bikes/products/guardian?variant=6896941367354

Salsa Journeyman Claris flat bar (either 700 or 650)... Closer to a grand at an LBS with one year free tune ups. Nice, but expensive.
https://salsacycles.com/bikes/journeyman_650b/journeyman_flat_bar_claris_650

And what online bike hunt would be complete without a Motobecane... 900, sweet components and specs, all the mounts, remote lockout, etc. Right size and everything, seems very user friendly... The 2.1" tires seem like a good size and if I do decide to single track it'd be more than ready.
Save up to 60% off new Mountain Bikes - MTB - Motobecane Fantom 29Elite

The things that push me toward an LBS are supporting local businesses and more personalized service. The tuneups aren't a biggie, I've been doing my own for years.

Help and input on any of the above would be great, or any other recommendations. Given the type of riding I'll be doing I'm open to suggestions... Should I go for the maxed out mountain bike and be ready for whatever I decide to do, the "dual sport", or any of the above?
 

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A couple thoughts...

Suspension forks in that price range aren't so great, and it doesn't sound like you need one anyway. So consider rigid.

Do you want a "Fitness" bike or a "Mountain" bike in the end? If Mountain, take a look at:

https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/2019-mountain-hardtail-trail-27.5-plus-pine-mountain

or

https://www.jensonusa.com/Kona-Unit-X-Bike-2018

For your big gravel ride, you could probably run a 650b x 48 (27.5 x 1.9) tire like this at 50 psi:
https://www.universalcycles.com/shopping/product_details.php?id=90670
 

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Cycologist
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If you're going to be bike packing with it, start reading up on that. You'll need a way to mount a lot of gear onto the bike. The Unit has a lot of mounts, not sure the ones you're looking at do. I take it your budget for gear is separate from your budget for the bike itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If you're going to be bike packing with it, start reading up on that. You'll need a way to mount a lot of gear onto the bike. The Unit has a lot of mounts, not sure the ones you're looking at do. I take it your budget for gear is separate from your budget for the bike itself.
Yeah, the gear budget doesn't come into play for a while. What about something like the Muirwoods? Same mounts as the Unit but lower in price range - looks like a mountain bike with road tires (that from what I'm reading would be perfect for the Katy Trail anyway). It's an older 3x9 setup but I could always upgrade to a 2x or even a 1x after a bit with the coin saved on the bike itself.
 

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What about hunting for something used from Surly? ECR, Cross Check, Long Haul Trucker, Orge or Troll. All those seem like they would be well suited for what you want to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What about hunting for something used from Surly? ECR, Cross Check, Long Haul Trucker, Orge or Troll. All those seem like they would be well suited for what you want to do.
Been looking at a few Surly, but - and I know it's not the most important measurement, but - they're all really, really freakin' tall. The Bridge Club is a newer one and seems to be one that isn't gonna bug the bits. EDIT - maybe the troll. I'll look around.
 

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Cycologist
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For gravel, I would prefer tires a lot thinner than plus tires. And depending on the distance I planned to cover per day and overall, probably drop bars as well, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're wanting. And "brushing the berries" is ok, it's really not an issue like people used to think it was. Have you already factored in money from selling your current bike or are you planning on keeping it?

The Bridge Club looks like a great bike for your purpose.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For gravel, I would prefer tires a lot thinner than plus tires. And depending on the distance I planned to cover per day and overall, probably drop bars as well, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're wanting. And "brushing the berries" is ok, it's really not an issue like people used to think it was. Have you already factored in money from selling your current bike or are you planning on keeping it?

The Bridge Club looks like a great bike for your purpose.
I do like the Bridge Club. Might have to stash a few pennies away and wait a month or two for it, but I'm sure it's not going anywhere and there's a Surly dealer like 3 blocks away from me.

Definitely keeping my current bike. Not really worth much selling it anyway - just my pretty paved path princess.

I don't really plan on doing more than 50-60 miles at the longest stretches of the KT path.

 

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I sometimes regret picking up a Surly Crosscheck instead of a Salsa Fargo. I love the Crosscheck to death and after 7 years it is still amazing, but a small percentage of me wonders what the Fargo would be like. They are very different bikes for sure.

J_Westy asked a good question on bike purpose. What is the long term goal beyond the big trail ride? For fitness I would definitely go drop bar gravel grinder/monster cross. If bike packing is more the path then go for more mounts/wider tires. There are a ton of frames that will easily handle some unloaded/lightly loaded single/double track as well, adding to the versatility.

The budget will be tough, but if you can go used then go steel of course, because, well, steel. :) Definitely go rigid and make sure the bike fits.

Good luck with the hunt, I have some friends out in Columbia, MO and I really need to get out there and do some riding with them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
@fly4130 - 75% pavement/fitness, 20% the "big ride" (Basically my bucket list goal right now), and after that... 5% no idea. The KT going to take 1-2 years to get up to (I can do about 20 miles right now with a tailwind before I die). I like the Salsa the more I read about it because I could size up to a 52cm for better fitment (I am "all torso" according to the LBS guy) and still not dent the top tube.

Question, though - I keep eyeballing that Fezzari Speedster. What are your thoughts on it, given the 75/20/5 split I just came up with? It's lacking the top tube bottle cage mounts of the Salsa, but at that price point it's got the Tiagra components (I could swap out the crank/rings and still pay less than the Salsa), has a front rack mount point, comes with the fenders, and seems like it'd be good for my intentions. The only thing it lacks is the drop bar - but I am really weird about the drop bars to begin with, and when I look at the Salsa I keep switching back to the flat bar option.

https://www.fezzari.com/road-bikes/speedster-urban
 

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For the riding you describe, I'd definitely stay away from a mountain bike.

A mtb would be able to do the big ride, but it would only make sense if your overall riding ratio included a lot more singletrack riding.

I also tend to lean a bit more towards the drop bar spectrum of things for a bike with this kind of purpose. Flat bar is fine when your riding is shorter distances only, but long rides on smoother surfaces REALLY beg for the extra hand positions of a drop bar. I have an older Salsa Vaya, and IMO, Salsa does great bikes for this kind of riding. The Journeyman looks to be a touch less of the "touring bike" type of philosophy than the Vaya is, and more of a broader purpose road bike. Should suit what you're wanting to do with it quite well.

I'd revise your list and start looking at bikes with similar purposes/use scenarios.
 

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More hand position options was one of the main reasons I ditched the flat bar hybrid road bike (a Trek similar to the Fezzari) and went seeking a better drop bar bike. Being stuck upright was no fun after a while.

Don't worry about the weirdness, that goes away as soon as you realize the potential and comfort of the multiple places to rest your hands. Hammering on the drops is fun too. You can always just throw a flat bar on if you must, but the bike was designed around drops and puts you in a much better pedaling position than a hybrid road bike, for both comfort as well as power/speed.

That Journeyman does look nice. The bridge club is sweet too. I am trying to figure out how to get my wife to care enough to want a new bike so i can add one to the garage :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·

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That's pretty hot. I'm still looking around - I can't do a Surly right this second - gotta wait for the tooth fairy and some birthday money, know what I mean? - but that's definitely attainable.
There are a couple of youtube reviews, if you want to look them up. One by Dustin Klein and the other by the Path Less Traveled.

I'm day dreaming of a Cross Check, which I don't really need but! :) That would actually be the perfect bike for what you are describing, simple and classic look, and fits wide tires.
 
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