Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

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kupukupu
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Joined: 13 May 2020, 12:17pm

Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby kupukupu » 13 May 2020, 1:58pm

Hi hi

I recently got a good deal on a 2019 Croix De Fer 20. Most of my experience cycling so far has been riding a 1970s steel road bike I bought for cheap several years ago. Since I do not drive, I liked the idea of being able to explore further with more comfort and safety, both in the evenings and on multi-day bikepacking trips. The CDF 20 seemed like a well-tested "go anywhere" option.

So far, I have greatly enjoyed it for lockdown exercise and seeing nearby villages. However, as I have found myself more and more off-roading, from rocky bridleways to singletrack, I am regretting not getting a bike with larger tyre clearance. With a good deal of mountaineering experience and a dislike of traffic, the backcountry and side roads is where I prefer to be - it just usually takes a lot of pavement to get to new places. I don't mind the discomfort, so much as I don't want to damage the bike or plan a long trip that ends up being impossible.

So my questions are:

1. How big can I go on the tyres? Genesis lists the max as 38mm but was shipped with 37mm already. Since I have an XL, can I go larger (or does frame size not matter)? Is there any chance (and benefit) of getting 650b wheels with wider tyres on instead?

2. Have I bought the wrong bike? I naively didn't realize how limited and important the tyre clearance would be. I regret not spending more for a Vagabond with its 29x2.1, but I guess I got better components (and a lovely Reynolds 725 frame).  What is the advantage of the CDF 20 over a more "monster-cross" style adventure bike or a rigid mountain bike?

3. What is your experience off-roading or bikepacking with the CDF or a similar gravel bike? I'd love any suggestions for longer UK routes!

To sum it up: should I sell the CDF and get the "right bike", try to get bigger tyres or suck it up on what I've got, and/or keep the CDF as a road/gravel/intercity/commuter/exercise beast and save up for a mountain bike (a hardtail?) for backcountry bikepacking? I don't like to own a lot of stuff, but am willing to invest in the things I often use.

Sorry for the manyyyyy questions - I am slowing learning and appreciate any insights!

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LinusR
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Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby LinusR » 13 May 2020, 2:55pm

I found the same as you. Once I'd started going off-road (35mm tyres in my case) on my cyclocross bike I enjoyed it more and more and came up against the limits of the tyres. So I bought a hardtail 29er MTB with 57mm (2.25in) tyres which is great fun for more challenging terrain. Of course the CX bike is a lot quicker for the sometimes long stretches of tarmac between bridleways. It's also a lot quicker uphill when off-road. You will probably find that you cannot fit bigger tyres even if they are 650b in your frame. You always need another bike.

Richard Fairhurst
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Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 13 May 2020, 3:31pm

kupukupu wrote:2. Have I bought the wrong bike? I naively didn't realize how limited and important the tyre clearance would be. I regret not spending
more for a Vagabond with its 29x2.1, but I guess I got better components (and a lovely Reynolds 725 frame).  What is the advantage of the CDF 20 over a more "monster-cross" style adventure bike or a rigid mountain bike?

3. What is your experience off-roading or bikepacking with the CDF or a similar gravel bike? I'd love any suggestions for longer UK routes!

To sum it up: should I sell the CDF and get the "right bike", try to get bigger tyres or suck it up on what I've got, and/or keep the CDF as a road/gravel/intercity/commuter/exercise beast and save up for a mountain bike (a hardtail?) for backcountry bikepacking? I don't like to own a lot of stuff, but am willing to invest in the things I often use.

Sorry for the manyyyyy questions - I am slowing learning and appreciate any insights!


I've had a Croix de Fer since 2012 and have recently bought a Vagabond. I tend to treat the CdF as a super-capable tourer and weekend bike. If I'm going for a week's tour, it's the bike I'll use, no question. Last summer on the Loire I found myself wanting to go further and further every day - it's just such an enjoyable bike for that. If I'm cycling out for the afternoon or weekend on roads or NCN-style paths like towpaths and rail trails, it's ideal. And insofar as we have gravel in the UK, it's good on that too - the glorious Claerwen track, from Rhayader to Teifi Pools, is still one of my all-time favourite UK bike rides, and the Croix de Fer just soaked it up.

Where the Vagabond scores is comfort and handling on the bumpy stuff. Bridleway riding round here on the CdF was always a bit of a fraught experience, whereas with the Vagabond I can hurl it round corners, and take the descents without forever clutching the brakes. But at the same time it's an enjoyable ride for the 10 miles of road riding to get to that bridleway, more than a traditional MTB would be.
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meejozzz
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Joined: 16 Jan 2016, 5:55pm

Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby meejozzz » 14 May 2020, 11:00am

I feel your pain. It's the old n+1 conundrum I guess.

Over the years I've discovered that any bike is a compromise. I have a lovely road bike but there's usually a point in the ride when I wish I'd taken something with slightly wider tyres, the potholes are unforgiving in my area. Similarly on my full suss mountain bike, there's always a fair bit of flat surface when my Superbow hardtail would have been better. My Dawes Galaxy touring bike is shod with 32mm tyres at the minute which are suitable 90% of the time, but when out on an expedition, my gravel bike, Giant Revolt (which for all intents and purposes could be used as an ugly tourer) would be perfect with its 45mm rubbers when you get sidetracked onto some bumpy back lane or farmers track. It's probably the reason I have way, way too many bikes. According to my wife...

I guess what I'm saying is that there's no perfect 'one' bike. It sounds like your Croix de Fer, which is lovely machine BTW, is ticking most of the boxes.

hamster
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Joined: 2 Feb 2007, 12:42pm

Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby hamster » 14 May 2020, 3:44pm

I agree - either you find something a bit beyond your bike, or it's over-qualified for the terrain, draggy and slow.

The art is route selection.

PH
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Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby PH » 14 May 2020, 4:12pm

meejozzz wrote:I feel your pain. It's the old n+1 conundrum I guess.

It's also exasperated by do-it-all bikes, what do you get when you realise it doesn't do it all? I think a lot of people, myself included, can end up with too many bikes and more overlap than if we'd started with an empty rack and a blank sheet. I've ended up with four and have a hankering for a fifth, if I started again it would be three.
To the OP - Yes, unless you have something else pressing for the money, get the second bike.

mattsccm
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Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby mattsccm » 14 May 2020, 9:26pm

Always another bike. n+1 is not enough. I run 4 that overlap, all with a cx origin. The Ti is my road bike but with 30mm tyres it is fine for gravel. The steel has 36mm slicks so a touch tougher for reliabld road 0a gravel commuting. The carbon has 40mm semi knobblies for the rougher gravel and the alloy has cx knobblies for wet off road. All runninv tibeless. As many pairs again of wheels hanging in the roof so that one bike coul take anothers tiny niche with just a wheel swap. When i am bored i do some wheel or even transmission swapping just the ring the changes.

mattsccm
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Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby mattsccm » 14 May 2020, 9:29pm

OP. Those tyres will be more than big enough. You may go a bit slower down hill than could might feel comfortable one bigger ones but anywhere you need to pedal will be fine.i take my 30mm tyres anywhere my MTB goes, although wet rock grip maybe less uphill.

tenbikes
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Joined: 11 Jan 2009, 6:41pm

Re: Off-road Gravel Bike Limitations

Postby tenbikes » 22 May 2020, 10:53pm

I'm in the process of dropping from ten bikes to one carbon fat bike and three wheel sets, though a fourth wheel set might come in handy. Tyres from 4.8 down to CX 38 mm covers everything I do. Some tubeless , some tubed for ease of changing tyres.

I never use dropped bars now due to a neck injury, so one bike covers it all.

If you have clearance you can go thinner. If you don't have clearance you can't go fatter.......