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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all! We live in beautiful Two Harbors, MN not far from Lake Superior. I'm looking for a bike for family rides, fitness, fun, and adventure. I really don't know exactly what sort of riding I will do, but here is a guess:
  • Gravel roads and logging trails - we live on an old railroad grade, miles of gravel just to get to the mailbox. Our road has been part of the Heck of the North route. Gravel is our everyday.
  • Paved trails and partial tarmac between state parks, to get into town, and up the shore
  • Single track - this is probably minimal, but just for fun occasionally. Nothing super aggressive. There are lots of nice trails in the area, so I'd be silly not to consider riding them.
  • Some of the time I'd like to try bikepacking with my wife and/or 13 year old son. Check out Straddle and Paddle for the sort of things we could get into. He has a Rockhopper, and my wife likes it, so she may get one too (or similar). I am also going to show Sirrus X's to my wife for consideration. Either seem great to me for her.
I'll be riding with our 4 kids much of the time, ages 7-14, so this is obviously pretty casual. Definitely will be lugging from time to time once I find a 6-bike rack I like. Currently we just throw all 6 in the box of the F350. So weight and dimensions do matter.

I have considered (All sight unseen):
  • Lightweight flat bar gravel such as Specialized Diverge Expert EVO
    • Lightest weight option should feel pretty great when riding long distances and I personally like the flat bar
    • Tires limited to 700c x 47mm / 650b x 2.1" but maybe that would be plenty for my purposes if I am on a lot of tarmac and packed gravel?
    • Future Shock 2.0 is intriguing, obviously would not expect this to do anything on MTB trails though
    • Lots of attachment points
    • I believe I could have a 2022 October-ish if I order now
  • Steel adventure rig such as Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV(obviously also looked at discontinued ECR)
    • 29x3.0" but I'd have the option of slimmer 'gravel' tires on a second set of wheels
    • Steel frame and rigid carbon fork seems like a nice ~30lb option, almost like a lighter weight but just as capable ECR
    • I believe these are Columbus steel
    • Sram GX 1x 10 - 52 T and Magura brakes seems like a nice kit
    • Lots of attachment points
    • Can be had "now" from mybikeshop
  • Hardtail like Specialized Fuse Expert, Chisel Comp, or Epic Hardtail
    • I see Lael Wilcox has made good use of HT's on longer rides than I will probably ever do, so there has to be something to this option
    • Could go "heavy/stout" with Fuse or more XC/lightweight with Chisel or ultimately almost as light as the Diverge with an Epic HT
    • Fuse can run 29x2.6" which could be the ideal all-around tire for my very mixed conditions (could even work in packed snow), sometimes all gravel/trail, sometimes mostly tarmac, and could happily run a decent size gravel tire. Chisel/Epic more limited to 29x2.3" but maybe that would be the sweet spot anyway?
    • No usable attachment points if I was running a frame bag, but Lael Wilcox seems to get by OK with that
    • Not sure about availability
  • Fat such as Salsa Beargrease
    • Zero experience with these but friendly LBS has them (or Mukluk) to try
    • On its face seems like it could be an all-rounder and obviously this is the ticket for snow, but I have a feeling I'd want a lighter/smoother package to throw around a bit and might feel limited
    • 5'10" but small-framed, I am a little worried about the fabled Q-factor
    • I am betting in a few years a lot of these will be on the used market for good deals, maybe I'd get one then specifically for the groomed snow trails we have here.
    • Minor thing but I really dislike the color ways on most all of this style of bike
In my younger punk rock years I rode freestyle BMX bikes everywhere, so I like the idea of something tossable, but also want to be practical. Friends of ours make Cedaero bags, so whatever I choose is going to be outfitted with a full complement.

Ultimately what I want is a good package that I won't need to upgrade. I have too many hobbies already to justify tinkering, I just want to ride. Budget would be roughly $3k. I'd go a little higher but also be quite happy if I can pay less for a tool that does the job.

Thanks for your time reading this!
 

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I've been toying with the idea of a mixed use road/gravel/adventure/easy xc trail bike and I really like what Hudski made in this space. Pretty much exactly what I envisioned.


 

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Personally, if I lived as close as you to groomed fat biking, I wouldn't be without one. I jumped in last season, somewhat pessimistically, and love it, even though we have no grooming here.

So with your one bike rule, I'd go Beargrease and a set of 29+ wheels for summertime use, provided you can live with a rigid bike.

Silly Side Note: Long ago, I grew up in Babbitt. Howdy neighbor!
 

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Kona Unit or Surly Karate Monkey.

I actually have two Units, both rigid, one is SS and the other 1x11. But I'm planning on swapping the 1x11 drivetrain with the 3x10 on another bike. This will give me more top end gearing as I'm planning on riding it on mixed surfaces from road to gravel to trails, possibly as an occasional commuter which would be about 75% road and 25% trail. And I'd like to take it bikepacking some day.

I also have a CX which sees pavement and gravel and a little trail, but it doesn't have the low gearing and I'm not going to take it on most of the singletrack around here and it doesn't have enough mounts for bikepacking. It does have dropbars which I prefer for longer distances and pavement.
 

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Just looked at your links, that Beyond is a really nice looking bike. Personally, I don't think I'd want the 3" tires for the riding you have described (unless they would suffice for the snow; I don't have that option). It comes with i45s so you would need a second set of wheels for more road/gravel as you mentioned. Are you sure you don't like dropbars? The Beyond 2 looks like a lot of fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
OK, so it sounds like we are narrowing in - on one hand I have lots of tarmac, on the other hand I have epic gravel routes, groomed snow, and single track on our doorstep. I am warming to the idea of a hardtail or plus bike, whereas a 'gravel' bike like the Diverge EVO or Hudski (both awesome IMO) might feel limiting on rougher trails. A ht/plus that can run something like a 29x3.0/29x2.6" but switch out to lower-resistance 29" if/when a route is all or mostly tarmac seems like it might be most versatile of all.

Locals definitely have suggested fat bikes, and the Salsa Beargrease has to be in the running, but I wonder if a ht/plus bike would have fewer frame/geo compromises and feel nicer for all-gravel or mostly tarmac sorts of rides, while still being capable on the trail.

One inevitable thought I have had is that around here I could probably find a used Salsa/Surly fat bike for a good deal in a few years once the 2020 hype has died down. Or similarly, if I went lightweight and gravel-focused with a Diverge EVO or Hudski Doggler, I could find a used HT in a few years if I feel like I am missing out on certain trails. But I'm still optimistic about the one-bike idea.

So -
  • Hardtail like a Fuse running 29" x 2.6" - would I feel limited by lack of attachment points? Is this exclusively a trail machine or would this feel good on long trips? I am encouraged by this review 'Josh Mercado, product manager at Specialized, mentioned: "this is the company's go-to bikepacking model so keeping the rack compatibility was important."'
  • Adventure bike like Beyond+ ADV - Effectively a rigid ht, but with a focus on long-range exploration (steel frame / carbon fork). Would this (like an ECR) feel limiting on trails where something easier to throw around might be fun, or at <=30lb is this sufficiently light to be suitable all around?
  • Lightweight flat bar gravel bike like Diverge EVO - I love the idea of the lightest possible option for lugging on bike racks, getting around with the kids, and up and down both gravel and tarmac. But this obviously is going to hit a limit sooner than the others on trails, and would be unusable on snow where a fat bike or even a hardtail with 29" x 2.6" would be a blast.
Color - we all know a bike is so personal... so being a product designer, I have to mention how much I love the Hudski olive color. I equally love the raw aluminum Fuse, and I am excited to hear the 2022 Diverge Expert EVO should be "Satin Pine/Forest/Chrome/Clean", that sounds awesome. On the other hand I tend to really dislike Salsa and many Surly color choices.
Availability - I believe the Bombtrack is still available from mybikeshop, Fuse I have no idea (maybe a 2022 in October?), Diverge would be ~October, Hudski appears available now.

 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Just looked at your links, that Beyond is a really nice looking bike. Personally, I don't think I'd want the 3" tires for the riding you have described (unless they would suffice for the snow; I don't have that option). It comes with i45s so you would need a second set of wheels for more road/gravel as you mentioned. Are you sure you don't like dropbars? The Beyond 2 looks like a lot of fun.
I agree. I would like an ADV-specced build with 29" x 2.6". But the 3.0" could be the "FAT" option for snow, and I could have a set of wheels with something more versatile for the rest of the year. I like the BMX and German pedigree of Bombtrack as a company, so that's definitely a top option not to mention I am pretty sure I could have one in a few weeks. With the other options I would wonder about components getting switched out due to supply chain, whereas with the Bombtrack I know I would get SRAM GX, Magura brakes, etc.
Handlebars - who knows, maybe I would love dropbars! I've only looked at flat (or alternatives like Jones or Moloko bars) because it seems like something flat would be easier to control on rough trails. Weirdly, the Jones is one hesitation I have with the Bombtrack - I am sure they would be great for everything from casual commuting to bikepacking, but would I wish for traditional flat mtb bars if I get into trail riding?
 

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What comes into play in regards to the handlebar is the width; dropbars are a lot narrower and you just don't have the control for picking lines with them. This also can come into play if you're descending on loose gravel. And when braking from the hoods, you don't have the torque on the levers, though I think disc would help, which I don't have on my CX. I've learned to go into the drops for better braking if descending very steep, a lot more control. It's a bit scary at first but it actually lowers your center of gravity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
What comes into play in regards to the handlebar is the width; dropbars are a lot narrower and you just don't have the control for picking lines with them. This also can come into play if you're descending on loose gravel. And when braking from the hoods, you don't have the torque on the levers, though I think disc would help, which I don't have on my CX. I've learned to go into the drops for better braking if descending very steep, a lot more control. It's a bit scary at first but it actually lowers your center of gravity.
Yeah that makes sense. Would you have the same leverage concerns about the Jones H bars? Otherwise would the Bombtrack be close to perfect as a all-rounder in my case (similar to the Kona Unit, right)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
How about the Esker Japhy? Anyone know if these really are shipping out this Fall, or what the ETA would be for an order made now?

 

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Yeah that makes sense. Would you have the same leverage concerns about the Jones H bars? Otherwise would the Bombtrack be close to perfect as a all-rounder in my case (similar to the Kona Unit, right)?
Look like the Jones are 710mm, which would be considered narrow now-a-day but it's what I have on a couple of my bikes and is wider than dropbars. I'd certainly give them a try.

And I just looked the Kona website and they are not showing the Kona X so unless you find a leftover, which is doubtful, you'd need to add gears to the SS Kona. But yes, I think the Bombtrack would be pretty similar. Going to narrower tires from the 29+ 3" will drop the bottom bracket so I'm not sure just how narrow of a tire you would want to go.

I rode my Lemond CX with 32cc today on a really rough gravel road and quickly remembered why i had decided that was the wrong bike on that road last time I rode it. Gravel was way too chunky and lots of other rocks thrown in, impossible to keep a line, just bouncing all over the place and on the brakes the whole time going downhill. I've ridden it on my Unit with 2.4s and it is much better. So you may want to consider what your gravel roads are like.

Oh, and I just reread and saw that I had missed that you are a product designer. I have a degree in Industrial Design but I've worked most of my career as more of an environmental designer, designing exhibits, museums, retail stores and now corporate events and with covid, video sets.
 

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Hi all! We live in beautiful Two Harbors, MN not far from Lake Superior. I'm looking for a bike for family rides, fitness, fun, and adventure. I really don't know exactly what sort of riding I will do, but here is a guess:

...
  • Fat such as Salsa Beargrease
...

Ultimately what I want is a good package that I won't need to upgrade. I have too many hobbies already to justify tinkering
I always recommend a fat bike as an all-rounder unless you need the speed to ride with your riding-mates... which is doesn't sound like you need (yet). They really are a year-round grin.

And as @kosmo, writes, winter biking is a big plus

Take a look at Growler Performance Bikes
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
I always recommend a fat bike as an all-rounder unless you need the speed to ride with your riding-mates... which is doesn't sound like you need (yet). They really are a year-round grin.

And as @kosmo, writes, winter biking is a big plus

Take a look at Growler Performance Bikes
The Growler bikes look really awesome, I had not heard of the brand. I am sure you're right; my hesitation with fat bikes is the 'Q Factor' and general girth. However, I know they could run a lightweight set of 29er's for the Summer or whatever. I could see that being a fine "one bike".

I have an order in for an Esker Hayduke (H2 build), but I may cancel it the MRP Raven 140mm fork they are using is 27.5-specific and can't fit 29x2.3 or so. I like the idea of having the option of running 27.5+ or a lightweight 29er wheel-set.

@kosmo howdy yourself! Yes, riding those groomed trails right down the road would be pretty awesome. In my mind that is like the lowest priority of all the riding I want to be able to do, but maybe I'm completely wrong and will be clamoring for a fat bike! Up here if I keep an eye out, I bet I could find a pretty good deal on a used one once the "2020" hype dissipates. If I do cancel the Hayduke, I will look again at those Growlers, maybe a Beargrease SLX if it's possible to get one, etc...

I will also revisit the Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV, which I still think is awesome.

@chazpat that's awesome re:your design experience! We mostly focus on the music industry but I appreciate anything well-designed. Which is why bikes became my latest rabbit hole to fall into...
 

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The Growler bikes look really awesome, I had not heard of the brand. I am sure you're right; my hesitation with fat bikes is the 'Q Factor' and general girth.
My sense is the Q-factor thing is a bit of hype. There are precious few reports of people having problems as opposed to zillions of people worried about having problems.

Regardless, bike shopping is fun -- good luck.

I did the Ore-to-Shore this year on my fat bike. I'm definitely not the fastest horse in the barn, but it was a grin.

Bicycle Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Wheel Bicycle wheel Plant
 

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One bike best suited to all the riding you describe is a drop bar mtb like a Salsa Fargo or Cutthroat.

If you think you'll ride more bumpy singletrack in the future then a fast, light, short travel hardtail mtb.

I own a latest model Salsa Cutthroat. It's STUNNINGLY fast and takes wide tires. I ride it sometimes on smooth singletrack trails like Ollalie in WA State. Not preferred weapon for descending fast, mostly because drop bars aren't great for that sort of 1500vf of constant steep dirt braking, but gets down fine. Climbs great. On road rides I swap to 32mm road tires and light carbon wheels. It's then 90% of an expensive Colnago. And on rougher gravel roads its totally in its wheelhouse. Bikepacks supremely well and is very comfortable and vibration dampening.

It's not a mountain bike. My MTB is an Ibis Ripmo. It's great at real mountain biking. My advice about mountain biking, as opposed to just managing mountain bike trails, is get a mountain bike. If you want to actually mountain bike and also bike pack and noodle around with the family your bike should be a hardtail of the general type Lael rides, cross-country with a (relatively) more upright seating position. Short travel fork you can shut off. You'll be reasonably happy with this bike on gravel and road rides, and you'll be able to ride it fast safe and fun up to easier Black diamond single track depending on your bike handling ability.

I've been through a lot of bikes spanning the type of riding that you're interested in, and nowadays I'm mostly focused on three characteristics:


1) Stack Height. I need to be able to get my hands at the height that I want them to be, and I'm not a huge fan of slamming a stem to get there, or of a super tall goofy stack of spacers and a high riser bar. Figure out how it is you want to sit, relatively more upright or more forward, figure out the stack height range that works for that for you, and then buy a bike that fits that range. Don't cluge around trying to make an inappropriate stack height frame work for your body. Somehow it never quite feels coherent. You're going to sit on this bike for hundreds or thousands of hours, it may as well feel dialed in to your body.

2) Fast. I'm done buying the "what me worry?" Slow-pokey kind of bikes. I'm not the fastest writer in the world, but I do very much like the feel of what I can put in being efficiently turned into speed. To me that's the magic of cycling, and the more of that I get the more fun it feels. I like relatively light bikes too, it feels good to be able to whip a bike around underneath your body easily.

3) Comfortable. Not just the right body position, but a bike that doesn't beat you up. I recently sold a long travel, slack, burly steel hardtail because it was just kicking my ass with vibration and hard knocks transferring through the bike. If you can afford it titanium has a nice ride characteristic. And really nowadays my preference is carbon. It's like magic how they figured out how to lay up carbon so that it transfers power really well but also flex vertically so as to absorb chatter and vibration. In any case try to get a bike that has some smart tuning of the tube set meant to dampen road feedback. Don't get too hung up on getting a super burly apocalypse end of the world bike - lighter bikes are plenty strong for bike packing and big riders, intend to have much less of a tendency to bang your fillings out. Most of these super burly bikes tend to be ridden with big balloon tires to counter the vibration they transmit like crazy. Personally i can't stand the feeling of all that uncontrolled rebound - better to let your frame and fork deal with smoothing out road feel, and have tires that get down the trail with maximum efficiency and don't bounce around.

Anyway, I really like the categories that you're looking to buy for, lot of joyous soulful cycling in that broad niche you've sketched out. Enjoy whatever you end up on
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
@J_Westy I suspect you're right re:Q-factor. As an engineer, I guess the "fat specific" aspect of those bikes ran them out of consideration as a general-purpose rig - wider hubs, specific BB, more frame material, etc. So although it could run conventional 29er's or something in Summer/tarmac mode, would it feel needlessly bulky or heavy? Once I actually get out there and get some experience maybe I'll completely change my tune!

thanks @hankj for the detail! Joyous soulful cycling sounds right up my alley!! Well said. And Fast, you're right, I want to have the option of going fast when the situation calls for it. I haven't looked at Ti bikes because initially I didn't really know they existed. And since availability is such an issue currently, I guess I was trying not to narrow the field too much. But maybe I will consider that at a later date. I like that Ti (like steel) is readily recyclable too.

I ended up deciding a plus-friendly hardtail was the most likely to handle the most possible scenarios with the fewest compromises. The only thing that will be impossible is groomed snow since there is a 3.8" minimum. But I'll keep my eye out for a <$1000 used Fatboy/Mukluk/Beargrease/Ice Cream Truck, which I strongly suspect will present itself here in Northern MN before too long. Our kids and I could share it.

I have an Esker Hayduke on the way, with a 29"/27.5+ (120mm/44mm offset MRP Raven) fork, as opposed to the 27.5-specific 140mm they spec now, thanks to Tim. Probably still 4wk out. But this way I'll be able to run 27.5" x 2.8"/3.0" or some light wheelset with 29x2.25" or whatever. I also ordered the obligatory waxed canvas packs from our friends at Cedaero. I think this will be quite the handy bike. From what I have read this is a very comfortable steel hardtail, and I will find out if that's the case!
 
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