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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I'm getting really frustrated trying to buy a gravel bike and hope some of you have some insight. At 43 years old, I've been riding close to 20 years and want a bike that I can spend hours on doing long meandering rides. I have neck issues so the aggressive geometry of a CX bike isn't for me. I'm looking to spend about $3k leaving a bit left over to swap some parts (carbon bars are a must I feel).

I'm a 5'7" woman and have been looking at many brands online but the problem always lies in actually seeing and riding these bikes. I drove an hour into Brooklyn yesterday to be told by a shop there they don't allow test rides. I'm about to go to another shop tomorrow but want to see what you guys/gals have / ride. Pro and cons of your bike? Recommendations??? Please help!!!
 

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Bikesexual
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Welcome, maybe post this in the Gravel forum or a mod can move it.

Some options:

Surly Midnight Special

All City Cycles may have one or two options.

Salsa also has a good line up.

Depending on location it's tough to test ride gravel bikes. Have you checked the used market as well?
 

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Do you have any bikes in recent riding history that fit you well for the length and intensity of the rides you're interested in doing on gravel? It might not be hard to match up some similar geometry frame for you. Some of the newer bikes do a really good job of being normal road bikes with clearance for larger tires.

The handlebar material might not be a big deal on a gravel bike. There's enough other factors at play. I have CF and AL bars on two identical cyclocross frames and can't really tell a difference. My gravel setup has a Shock Stop stem which became a game changer for long events.

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I had a similar problem I wanted to try a gravel bike but couldn't find any examples in seattle but where to start even? So I had bike that I was comfortable on and looked the geometry. I specifically looked at the front center as something that would place me in a position I liked for commuting and gravel roads. Then I searched through all the various manufacturers to find a geometry match (within the realm of standover and front center mainly) then I searched out dealers in my area.

I was able to find similar bikes at some shops to review but I ended up just ordering without riding a bike from Performance bike. When it came it was close to my bike that I preferred. I tweaked it with saddle position and then a stem. Most gravel bikes are coming with a fairly low rise stem due to the racy aspect of the genre. I grabbed a high rise stem to try out, a cheapy one from a place in town with used bike gear, but Amazon sells similar cheapies. Leaving the stack of stem spacers I played around with the high rise stem and found a position that worked for my back and neck.

Weirdly the bike was listed for someone much taller than I am but for my preferred geometry (which harkens back to my Bianchi Project Cross USA all purpose CX bike) it is pretty much perfect, minus the stem it came with (5° rise). The replacement 25° rise stem puts me in a perfect location for traffic, less so for aerodynamics but that is what the drops are for.

I would look at your best fit bike or just go try bikes at a shop that allows you to try bikes and then look at the geometry of the one that you prefer and try to find a model, pricepoint, and component level that meets your criteria. A good bike fit is more important than a good deal so it might be beneficial to go get a bike fit at a bike shop or sports medicine clinic and use that geometry to find a bike. When you are dealing with back and/neck issues you can't be too careful with fit.
 

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I can't fathom not being able to find a bike shop with at least Specialized Diverges or Trek Checkpoints to ride. Have you called around?

I spent one day in the Boston metro area riding bikes, and even in a size 61cm i rode Diverge, Checkpoint, Topstone, Renegade, Space Horse, and Straggler. Not all my desired trim level, but at least a representative bike.

On the least aggressive geo scale, i'd say Renegade, Space Horse, and Diverge. Of the more aggressive, i'd say Checkpoint and Straggler. I ended up with a Checkpoint.
 

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Ideally you'd settle on a bike that has been test ridden. However with your riding history (drop bar?) you should know what kind of frame reach works for you.

The front end height (stack) can also be considered looking at what your current bike has i.e. how much taller at the front end do you want the frame to be so you have a relaxed ride, but still be able to tweak that height position a little if you want?

If you end up purchasing online consider other things like standover, bb drop, chainstay length and front-to-centre (toe overlap).
 

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Loved my Jamis Renegade when I had it. did some nice long rides on that bike and it never let me down. Currently on a Kona Private Jake but it's more CX geo so wouldn't work as well for you. If you can find a Jamis dealer...I'd definitely try to check one out. They also do a steel version.
 

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With neck issues/injuries id look for a frame that would allow you to get the bottom half of the bar drop level or above the seat..a bit more upright position...The Salsa Vaya might be worth a look. you might consider asking people in your bike community if you can throw a leg over their bikes for fits sake..
 

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jcd's best friend
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I just picked up a 2017 Norco Search Carbon Ultegra from a bike trade the other day. It's a really nice bike and very comfortable! Do you have any Norco dealers in your area? That can also be another option.
 

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Hello! I'm getting really frustrated trying to buy a gravel bike and hope some of you have some insight. At 43 years old, I've been riding close to 20 years and want a bike that I can spend hours on doing long meandering rides. I have neck issues so the aggressive geometry of a CX bike isn't for me. I'm looking to spend about $3k leaving a bit left over to swap some parts (carbon bars are a must I feel).

I'm a 5'7" woman and have been looking at many brands online but the problem always lies in actually seeing and riding these bikes. I drove an hour into Brooklyn yesterday to be told by a shop there they don't allow test rides. I'm about to go to another shop tomorrow but want to see what you guys/gals have / ride. Pro and cons of your bike? Recommendations??? Please help!!!
I so badly want the 3T Exploro but closets dealer is 3+ hours away. The geometry on their website looks odd compared to other bikes, especially to stack and reach. I know Specialized really well so looks like I may just end up with a Diverge. I'll checkout the Trek's as well but don't like the LBS they are at.
 

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So full disclosure, I live in Northern California, but doing some research on the internet, I think you should call 718 cycles in Brooklyn. They seem to specialize in gravel/adventure bikes and have all sorts of rentals and a group rides available.
 

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My husband was desperate to get in on the gravel thing and we bought him a Ridley X-trail from Competitive Cyclist. Even though it was fine on paper and the spec was what he wanted, it never fit him right and we're now looking at taking a bath on it.

He ultimately ended up with a Trek Checkpoint SL5, which he is very impressed with. The geo is a bit more relaxed than my CAADX, which I use for all-purpose cruddy weather, CX and gravel riding. I also looked really hard at the Diverge for me, but ultimately couldn't justify replacing my Cannondale. I loved the Futureshock feature on the front, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So full disclosure, I live in Northern California, but doing some research on the internet, I think you should call 718 cycles in Brooklyn. They seem to specialize in gravel/adventure bikes and have all sorts of rentals and a group rides available.
Thanks for all the replies and insight. Regarding the comments about the bike I'm most comfortable on, unfortunately (well fortunately for me) I'm mainly a mountain biker and don't have much experience with road/CX/gravel bike fits. While I do I have a road bike, I was crudely fit on it, it caused me pain almost constantly, I then got a more specific fit on it having to change a few parts but my hands and even feet still go numb on almost every ride. I'm sure this is why I'm so concerned about finding the right bike, I want something that I look forward to riding so much that I ride more if you get what I'm saying.

I did go to 718 cycles last week and while I was under the impression they would have a bunch for me to test ride, the stock in my size was limited and I only rode two bikes. 1 however, I really liked...it was a Lauf with that weird cool suspension fork, so I'm seriously looking at that company. They make some beautiful bikes.

I'm also heading to NJ to test and maybe demo for a day the Ibis Hakka MX when they get it in. The shops on LI stock the big brands some have mentioned but I like to look at smaller, more unique companies. I own an Evil mountain bike and there aren't too many of those riding around, I like that.

In the end, I've decided to do a fully custom fit at Red Beard Bikes in Brooklyn. I was leery at first because they don't carry many brands (because they mainly focus on fit) but this will give me the missing piece of knowing how to compare my fit numbers to a company's geometry charts and go from there.

Ideally I want to get a bike and have two wheel sets, one for trail, and a slick set for road. I hope the time and research pays off!
 

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What about a more touring like bike? Something like a Surly Disc Trucker or Bridge Club? Surely there is a Surly dealership somewhere around there.
 

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I just bought a Salsa Cutthroat and absolutely love it. I also test rode the Salsa Journeyman apex and for half the price it's an aluminum bike and a little heavier and it felt pretty good too. If you can find a shop that has them maybe check em out.
 

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x2 on the Cutthroat, put 6k miles on mine in the last year and half, a fun bike. I'd say its more of a drop bar mountain bike than a gravel bike. Most of my miles are on gravel, and it's been great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I did find a shop in NJ that rents bikes and has the Ibis Hakka, but, it's a size too big. I am going to go there to try it anyway. I was able to get on a 3T Exploro today and LOVED it so it is a huge contender. I'm heading back to Brooklyn Sunday to ride a Parlee and I know they have a 3T as well so we'll talk about them. Excited about the purchase, just not the process!
 
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