CrankTank, Part II

CrankTank, Part II

Gravel riding is like mountain bike riding in a really interesting way. While at some level all roads bear something in common—a flat, straight road in Alabama is not all that different from a flat, straight road in Anaheim—because of how different the geography and geology can be from one region to another, every time I do a gravel ride in a different state, it’s always an education in learning to how to handle a gravel bike on a new surface.

Galena Lodge is a pretty interesting operation northeast of Ketchum, Idaho, on Why 75. It’s mostly a winter sports destination. They’ve got 50km of trails groomed for Nordic skiing—both classic and freestyle. There are also snowshoe trails for people to explore during the winter. In the summer, they switch to mountain bike riding, horseback riding, and hiking, plus a kids’ camp, not to mention a coveted place for weddings and receptions. While it’s easy enough to drive up there, we picked a spot just out of town to hop on gravel bikes from Moots and Turner and ride up to the lodge for lunch.

My ride for the morning was a titanium Turner Cyclosys. In talking to David Turner about the bike he cautioned me against calling it a gravel bike. In his mind, the Cyclosys is meant to be a versatile drop-bar bike, as adept at taking in a group ride while running 28mm tires as it is on a cyclocross course or taking in a milder gravel event. With a max tire clearance of 38mm, he doesn’t think of it as a gravel bike, which in his view would have a longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket than the Cyclosys does. I’ll get to more about that in a sec.

Up until now, the Cyclosys has been an aluminum bike. The new titanium version holds the promise of being a more comfortable and durable bike compared the the existing aluminum version. As I haven’t actually had a chance to ride the aluminum Cyclosys, I can’t say that the ti version is more comfortable, but what I can say is that it is a reasonably comfortable bike.

In looking the bike over, the weld quality was very high and the internal routing kept the bike looking clean (not to mention easy to pick up and put on a shoulder). The frame takes flat-mount disc brakes, is 142×12 thru-axle, and features a press-fit bottom bracket. The bike comes in six sizes, from XS to 2XL. The tubing is ovalized at the BB to increase the frame’s stiffness. Nice touch.

Press intros being the blunt instruments that they are, we don’t always get to size the bike according to our needs. Sometimes we don’t even get the correct size bike to ride. In this case, I rode a medium, which if the geometry for the original aluminum version of the Cyclosys holds for the new ti edition, then my bike had an effective top tube length of 54.5cm, a reach of 37.6cm, a stack of 57cm, a head tube of 14cm, a seat tube angle of 73.5 degrees and an 80mm stem. I was able to position the saddle in a pretty close to normal spot for me, but the reach to the bar, due to the short top tube, head tube and stem was, well, abbreviated.

The consequence of this was that I had a lot of weight on the front wheel and made getting out of the saddle for any reason a cause for the rear wheel to spin. While our route was mostly uphill, there were a few brief descents and even a section with some rollers. In those spots, so long as I kept my weight back, the bike handled really well.

Remember how I said that going to different places will yield different surfaces to ride once you’re off the paved roads? Well our route to Galena Lodge was on an old double-track dirt road. I wonder how many years that served as the main road north. With the passing of winter only six weeks before, a crew had hit the road with fresh gravel a week or two before and there were spots where the gravel was several inches deep and loose. That can make for some lively cornering.

More and more, I’m running across bikes that are meant to be more than a one-trick pony. The Cyclosys is one such bike. As Turner himself put it, he’s happy to do a group ride on it one day and race cyclocross with it another. With two wheelsets, one set up with some skinnier tires for road riding and something wider and knobbier for ‘cross and gravel riding, this is a bike that could serve as a rider’s only drop-bar bike. As cool as N+1 can be to dream about, there’s an elegance to a bike that can slay more than one course.

 


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18 comments

  1. Neil Winkelmann

    Yep, I ordered 2 wheel-sets with my Ti “gravel” bike. A 40mm gravel set and a narrower 28mm set for everything else. With the 28s it allows fenders to be fitted with no toe overlap and plenty of leaf/twig clearance, so perfect for winter commuting and winter club rides. In the summer, my carbon “race” bike does road duties, and the Ti bike does everything else with fenders off and the 40mm wheel-set fitted.

    The carbon bike is very much my preferred ride on tarmac. The Ti bike just isn’t quite as lively and responsive (and has a less aggressive position). It is also a couple of pounds heavier. If it was all I had, I guess it would be OK though.

    For me, the correct number of bikes is now 2.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      It would help a lot in the short term, but when a bike’s front-center is too short for a rider’s given use, such as gravel, there will always be too much weight on the front end. Just as mountain bikes are going with a longer front-center and shorter stem, gravel bikes need to bias more weight to the rear wheel than with a typical road bike.

  2. Timbo

    A ti gravel bike seems like a good contender for filling the role of bike for a lifetime. Let it be the constant that replaces n and then just keep switching out its +1 as the mood changes. However, I’m torn on the idea of a press fit bb for a lifetime bike. Moots and Lynskey go with threads; Litespeed, Turner, and others go with PF. On the one hand, a precisely machined Ti shell seems like it’d be less susceptible to some of the issues that crop up with carbon pf shells over time, but on the other hand… I hate creaks. Anyone have any long-term experience with Ti + PF30 + dirt?

    1. Noah

      The Enduro Torqtite PF30 BBs, and similar products from Wheels Mfg., have been absolutely silent and trouble free for me on both Ti and steel bikes. And that’s with multiple Dirty Kanzas, mostly dirt road riding, and various other gravel events on them. Go for it – you won’t be disappointed.


    2. Author
      Padraig

      I learned during my recent visit with Enduro that they are offering a thread-together option for pressfit, and that, combined with a ti shell, makes me think you might be able to have a creak-free BB.

    3. Shawn

      I suppose I’m among the few who actually likes the PF30 and thinks that it’s good engineering (so super easy to wrench!) and believes the groundswell of complaints was likely the product of mob mentality. Sort of like going on a car forum and watching everyone say that using an aftermarket windshield wiper will end civilization as we know it. Once one person says it …

      Anyway, I have no experience with a PF30 BB in a Ti frame, but … I’ve built and ridden a number of Carbon framed mtbs (with carbon PF30 BB housings), and only two of them ever creaked at the BB. One of the creaking BBs was a piece of Oregonian art (the kind that wears a crown) and the other was by Wheels Manufacturing. They both featured aluminum shells. All of the non-creakers were cheapie SRAM PF30 BBs, with plastic shells. Installation was the same for all: spotlessly clean installation with no lube or thread lock. My conclusion that the metal/carbon interface is the source of the creaking is reinforced by the fact that most of the bike creaking — in general — that I see on carbon bikes is due to dirt in the rear-axle-to-frame interface, another carbon/metal contact point. Just my $0.02.

  3. Scott M.

    About 25 years ago, I had the opportunity to do a point-to-point road ride from Red Fish Lake (Stanley) over Galena Summit and down to Ketchum. While it was the only time I’ve ridden that area, it remains on my personal list of Best Rides Ever. The paved road follows a flat, high desert valley splitting two mountain ranges. The human footprint is primarily ranches — both real and “dude” variety. It’s a ride to be savored. I’m living vicariously through your Strava tracks.

  4. Robert

    Hi Patrick
    thanks a lot for another intriguing review. The lion part of the brands state that their model is equally applicable for road and off-road [gravel] usage. But how does a road bike takes a beating on gravel roads. Assuming, it has enough clearance, don’t you think that a gravel or cyclocross bikes needs to be more robust?
    Because if not, I could theoretically use my Tarmac on single-track, gravel, rocky, roots as well. I am only curious as for the construction of the frame. Same Tarmac with, say, 40 mm mud clearance, would that be robust and sturdy enough?

    Thanks a million

    Sincerely
    Robert


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Hi Robert, when designing a carbon fiber frame, an engineer will take into account the kinds of loads—stresses—the bike will encounter in its use. The goal, whether the material used is carbon fiber, steel, titanium or aluminum, is to create a frame and fork that are robust enough that the use won’t cause it fail from fatigue. That’s hard with aluminum, but is achievable with steel, ti and carbon. And yes, in many circumstances a frame for ‘cross or gravel needs to be a bit more robust, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. The rider’s weight and riding style need to be considered. Finally, your question about a Tarmac made with clearance for 40mm tires has been answered: That’s essentially what Allied’s Alfa All Road is. It rides like a Tarmac, which is no surprise given the engineer who designed it was responsible for the previous (generation before the current) Tarmac, and it has clearance for 38mm tires (okay, not quite 40mm).

  5. slugsmasher

    Nice that the Turner has a road 2x setup. I have a Ti “gravel/cx” bike but it has a CX crankset with a 46/36. The gear range is not high enough for smooth tires on smooth roads, so I don’t run traditional smoothies any more. Now “fat” 40c smoothies with low pressure, well that is a different story (i.e. awesome!)

    With the equality in frame price between high end carbon and Ti, I see no reason to pound a carbon frame in the dirt and rocks. Titanium all the way for all surface conditions.

  6. Robert

    Patrick, I highly value our constructive advise . The Alfa AR is tad heavier/burlier since it is more robust and tailored made for gentle off-road riding too. Whereas the Allied is 95% road only for having a little more ‘fragile’ construction. So the myth of pure road race bike are usable/capable for gravel is highly limited. Ill touchbase with Allied in order to make sure I get the proper bike before I commit.
    Please keep up the good work.
    Bless
    Robert

  7. David Turner

    Hi Patrick, good to ride with you in Idaho. I gotta add that the graveled road the organizer picked for us to ride was heinous. I ride dirt and gravel all the time and that stretch we rode was perhaps the least fun piece of dirt I have ever ridden on drop bars. Beats doing yard work, but not by much.

    The BB is a Threaded 47mm shell. With the incredible bad rap press fit shells have gotten I would not think about using a press fit BB in the new bikes. For the record, the press fit models we have in mtb have been flawless. The factories we use have not screwed up tolerances and the fits are right on.

    David Turner


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for checking in David; I really appreciate it. I’ll admit that road wasn’t one I’d want to ride on a daily basis, but yeah, you’re right—it’s way better than yard work. I try to make sure not to complain about where I’m riding … except for the lack of oxygen. It’s good to know the BB is a threaded T47; that will give people a high degree of confidence that their bike won’t squeak, and some squeaks are so bad that you might actually prefer yard work, amiright?

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