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Hi all,

I'm looking to build a gravel/do it all bike bike for linking up road and bridal ways.

Material and geometry: I'm thinking old school steel, mostly because I've always wanted a steel frame. It will need to be something like Reynolds 531 butted or similar to keep the weight down. I want it to be relatively slack to handle the rough stuff but I don't understand the dinner point of a geometry diagram
I know what feels right to me but will probably buy online. I will be using some tiagra 4700 that I have in my bits box so may have to cold set the seat stays but I'm prepared to do that. Wheels and tyres I'm thinking wide like hunt 4 season or similar and some fat rubber.

Braking: bosses would be preferable so that cantilever or long reach options can be used.

Price: I don't have the deepest pockets (twins have reduced my bike funds) however I do have a bit of dad points from upgrading the wife's bike to 6800.

Parts: groupset is mostly 4700 but might swap the cranks for 1x or put a smaller inner ring.

Please give me some advice on frames and bargains you might of seen. Also the pros and cons of cantilevers and long drop brakes.

22 comments

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Nick T [1273 posts] 1 week ago
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Open mould carbon gravel frames are about $550 USD from China after shipping and a few extras. I built up an ICAN GRA02 frame and it was easy dealing with them, the frame is better made than a lot of the big name brands I’ve paid 10x the amount for

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IanEdward [293 posts] 1 week ago
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You'll struggle a bit to get the brake bosses, I've been constantly on the lookout for a gravel frame (basically something between a road bike and a CX bike, with space for 40c or bigger tyres) which will take rim brakes (my preference is mini-Vs) but they are few and far between!

Kinesis do a CX frame called the CX1 which looks best, my only reservation is the relatively racey geometry, I'd planned on fitting a Specialized Hover Bar or similar to bring the front end up.

Spa cycles do some steel tourers and Audax bikes, and All City do the Mr Pink, but the Mr Pink is long drop callipers which I think limits you to 30c tyres or thereabouts.

Check out the Gunnar Crosshairs though, my perfect frame if I could afford $1500+ from the US...

 

Edit: I meant to add, I quickly gave up on cantilevers on my Charge Plug commuter, just couldn't get them squeal and judder free. Fitted some nice TRP CX 8.4 mini-V brakes (quite cheap on eBay, Ti hardwear and pimpy anodising as well) which are much better, especially with Swisstop BXP pads. I think mini-Vs have issues with rim clearance, they need to be set up quite close. I got around this by using Campag style levers with the quick release button on the lever. I run the lever in the 'released' position all the time which means more lever throw but also more clearance at the rim.

 

 

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kil0ran [1453 posts] 1 week ago
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You might struggle to find a brand new frame with canti bosses - the only one I can think of is the CXRace from Kinesis - https://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/Catalogue/Models/Crosslight/CXRACE

That's a CX racing frame though, probably not slack enough for gravel duties.

Salsa did a load of canti-bossed Ti frames a few years back, they turn on up eBay for buttons considering the quality. Surly possibly too are worth a look. 

Paul Milnes might be worth a call too - they do custom CX frames.

As to Cantis vs Long Drops - if its anything but bone dry go with cantis if you're spending a lot of time off road. Even long drop road calipers will get gummed up instantly in light gravel. Cantis need a lot of fettling to get set up well and it might be a bit of a dying art now discs are the default option, but there are still very good canti calipers out there. Just one thing, not sure if 4700 levers have any compatibility issues with cantis - worth checking.  

Have a good think though about how much you really need cantis, and how much gravel action you're going to see. The canti requirement is seriously limiting your options. You can get a set of cable-operated hydro disc calipers for around £100, which is about as much as you'll spend on a good set of cantis. 

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mrml [45 posts] 1 week ago
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Surly Cross Check has cantis. I have had one for a few years and it is a real do-it-all bike. It's not lightweight though. Depends how important that is to you.

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kil0ran [1453 posts] 1 week ago
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Possibly also worth tracking down old Santa Cruz stock, or indeed Ritchey.

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SilverBugle [8 posts] 1 week ago
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Have a look at the frames at Spa Cycles.

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BehindTheBikesheds [3156 posts] 1 week ago
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Long drop dual pivots have no draw back, they'll work just fine enough for both road and gravel, just make sure you set up well and get decent pads, if you ride a lot in the wet, consider getting a ceramic rim for the front at least, it's what i have on my do it all though used with mini v brakes.

Cantilevers, well Tom Pidcock won the world junior CX champs just a couple of seasons ago on a cantilever braked bike so you don't need anything more than that I'm sure!

As for frames, well Roux do a nice and very inexpensive caliper braked Reynolds 525 bike (Roux Menthe) that you can still pick up for not very much, £500 in fact. That gets you the modern equiv of R531 but with carbon forks that have mudguard and rack eyelets as std. It'll take 28mm tyres WITH guards and you can go 32mm without and possibly more. The Sora kit and wheels you can sell off and you'd still be left with a decent base frameset for circa £250.

Other options include buying an old school steel Reynolds hybrid and tricking it out or indeed a touring 631/725 oor colimbus frameset/bike, there's plenty on ebay to choose from

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CXR94Di2 [2585 posts] 1 week ago
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Look at the Kinesis AT or Ti ATR V2  both have relaxed geometry around 70deg head angle.  Wide tyre capability.  Disc brakes are it, forget rim brakes on a do it all bike.  Frame material isnt relevant on large tyre  bikes-all suspension is handled by the tyres. Its about function and fit.

https://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/Catalogue/Models/Adventure/Tripster-AT

or complete new bike https://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/Catalogue/Models/Adventure/Tripster-AT-BIKE

 

Also look at Fairlight, Mason, Boardman and Kona for steel do it all bikes.  The kinesis won for me because of head angle and material.  My Tripster ATR V2 is super planted at high speed descents, but also steers beautifully at slow speeds.

This review of steel frame bikes might help https://road.cc/content/buyers-guide/194720-20-best-steel-road-bikes-and...

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BehindTheBikesheds [3156 posts] 1 week ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

Look at the Kinesis AT or Ti ATR V2  both have relaxed geometry around 70deg head angle.  Wide tyre capability.  Disc brakes are it, forget rim brakes on a do it all bike.  Frame material isnt relevant on large tyre  bikes-all suspension is handled by the tyres. Its about function and fit.

https://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/Catalogue/Models/Adventure/Tripster-AT

or complete new bike https://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/Catalogue/Models/Adventure/Tripster-AT-BIKE

 

Also look at Fairlight, Mason, Boardman and Kona for steel do it all bikes.  The kinesis won for me because of head angle and material.  My Tripster ATR V2 is super planted at high speed descents, but also steers beautifully at slow speeds.

This review of steel frame bikes might help https://road.cc/content/buyers-guide/194720-20-best-steel-road-bikes-and...

Why, there's no need to have disc brakes for do it all bikes and rim-braked bikes work perfectly well even for those of us who like to chuck it about in all weathers and have been doing so in safety for decades. There are plenty of good and cheap rim braked options out there both new and second hand that work and work very well.

Maybe your thoughts on rim brakes are more informed than the GB cycling team with respect to csntilever brakes for world championship level events??

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CXR94Di2 [2585 posts] 1 week ago
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Disc brake bike frame allow without issue, larger tyres upto 50mm on gravel bikes.  Then there is the braking-but we will put that aside.  Most frames for gravel type bike will have disc brakes because that is the norm now.  

Whether a national squad use rim or disc is immaterial, the market is predominantly disc now.

The OP wants big tyres, sure he could go rim but is reducing options. 

 

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Jackson [418 posts] 1 week ago
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I built a gravel bike out of a 2nd hand Kona Jake the Snake alloy cx frame with cantis and rack mounts, 10 speed compact 105 groupset (50/34 chainrings), and a derailleur hanger extender to get an 11-36 cassette working (should work with up to a 42 but I haven't tried). It fits 38mm tyres and potentially a bit wider but it would be tight and I haven't tried.

It cost me well under £500. I never felt like the rim brakes were a problem, but I would like more tyre clearance.

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CXR94Di2 [2585 posts] 1 week ago
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Jackson wrote:

I built a gravel bike out of a 2nd hand Kona Jake the Snake alloy cx frame with cantis and rack mounts, 10 speed compact 105 groupset (50/34 chainrings), and a derailleur hanger extender to get an 11-36 cassette working (should work with up to a 42 but I haven't tried). It fits 38mm tyres and potentially a bit wider but it would be tight and I haven't tried.

It cost me well under £500. I never felt like the rim brakes were a problem, but I would like more tyre clearance.

Funny, my Jake the Snake, 3 or 4yr old is disc brakes with wide tyre capacity

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Pasley69 [10 posts] 1 week ago
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You could do what I did:- disc brakes on the front and canti's on the back. Works well even heavily loaded - adter all, in a hard stop most of the braking is at the front anyway.

Good luck with the build.

Cheers

Adrian

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Jimthebikeguy.com [255 posts] 1 week ago
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Any older cx frame with brake bosses and a threaded bb. Stick a set of flat bars and a 10spd deore groupset on it with the 11-42 cassette. V brakes and a set of levers. Then a nice set of clinchers and some 35mm cx tires. Theres your gravel bike.

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armb [164 posts] 1 week ago
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531 frame with wide tyres and cantilevers sounds like a traditional tourer to me. I guess you're looking for something lighter weight though? Not all 531 tubesets were the same.

(But if it is the sort of thing you are after and you want a new frame, as someone else said, look at Spa
https://www.spacycles.co.uk/m2b0s143p2984/SPA-CYCLES-Steel-Tourer-Frame-... )

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Miller [235 posts] 1 week ago
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You can find the Kinesis Tripster alloy frame at sale prices at the moment, I know cos I just bought one. But canti brakes on a new bike this year? That's a very limiting choice.

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IanEdward [293 posts] 5 days ago
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Have just spotted a near mint Specialized Tri-cross with Cantis on Facebook marketplace, wondering how fast and light that would build up...

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mattsccm [405 posts] 5 days ago
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I used a single speed Tricross for years for banging round the local forestry gravel and easy MTB stuff. Nice bikes. I got through a front rim a year (4000+ miles pa) . Cheap and easy enough to replce though.  It took 38mm tyres with a bit of space so more than enough. 

Wish I hadn't sold it now.

There must be stacks of rim braked CX bikes out there which do the job nicely and don't have the slow handling that modern "gravel" bikes have. 

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antigee [550 posts] 5 days ago
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might just check year and exactly how the front canti' is set up....of course people are sometimes wrong and the internet is full of people that didn't seek the advice of a qualified mechanic or failed to retain the packaging but maybe google     specialized tricross brake judder     and check what you are thinking of buying is set up ok or if you go for it be aware may need some care setting up

 

 

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mattsccm [405 posts] 4 days ago
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Can't remember what the judder was all about but I do remember that my bike had the set up that was sure to  vibrate under breaking. 100% defo the internet said. Mine didn't .  Worth checking though. It was a doddle to fix I remember, just an "uphanger" in the mudgaurd mount hole. 

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IanEdward [293 posts] 4 days ago
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Yeah, I had similar judder on my Charge Plug, is a consequence of cantilever brakes with cable hangers too far from the straddle wire.

Easily fixed.

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ktache [1575 posts] 4 days ago
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I think a brake booster can work wonders too,