Friday Group Ride #376

Friday Group Ride #376

I’ve got an organizer near my front door with two bins of cycling shoes, one for road shoes, the other for mountain shoes. For reasons of professional obligation having to do with review bikes and multiple brands of pedals, I’ve got more cycling shoes than I do sneakers and dress shoes. And while I’d like to say that I open the garage and pick a bike based on my mood, that’s not quite accurate. I pick a pair of shoes. The shoes dictate which bikes I can ride. And yes, I have crossed my wires, gotten to the garage, aired tires, thrown a leg, stepped down … and slid off the pedal.

Then I marched back upstairs and changed shoes.

I’ve watched with somewhat bemused detachment how infrequently I pull out the bin with road shoes. The majority of bikes with drop bars in my garage are equipped with some variety of mountain bike pedal. What I find remarkable is that there are days when I decide to go for a road ride, a ride that will feature no dirt whatsoever and I still choose to take a bike with tires meant for unimproved surfaces.

Recently, I was on a ride and encountered a friend as we both rode back into town. Like me, he was on a bike with disc brakes, and while his tires were a moderate 28mm wide, he told me that he had a second set of wheels set up with tires for offroading. In fact, he told me he’d sold his road bike and that his gravel bike was his only drop-bar bike in his garage. He noted that he wasn’t racing anymore, didn’t want to ride without disc brakes now that he had them and due to our deteriorating roads, a 23mm tire had become antithetical to his idea of a good time. That wasn’t the first time I’ve heard such a thing. Honestly, it makes a bunch of sense.

If we are willing to admit that N+1 is little more than a romantic ideal, the conversation about just how many bikes are appropriate to have in a garage, given all the different riding you want to do, becomes an interesting study in strategy and your idea of fun.

So this week’s question is, have you sold a road bike and shifted resources to a gravel or ‘cross bike? If so, which bike? And if not, is it something you’ve considered?


Image: Jorge Flores, Justpedal



  1. Jay

    Recently got rid of a Supersix in exchange for a Giant TCX, and a whole new world opened up. Currently switching between Gatorskin 28’s and Conti Cross-Ride 42’s.

  2. Kimball

    I have a 3 year old gravel bike that has gotten the majority of my miles since I got it. Full fenders all fall, winter, and spring, then stripped down for summer multi-surface rides. Its just not light enough to give up my carbon road bike for the long summer road rides with lots of climbing. But once they get down under 18 pounds with 28mm tires at under $5k it will be tempting to move to a single steed.

    1. rodd heino

      I dunno. Should be achievable.
      I just picked up a 1988 TVT92 that fits 28s.
      52×36 with an 11×32 cassette.
      18.5 with 28s, 105 shifters, pedals and cages and a mirror.
      That’s my go fast on guaranteed smooth roads bike.
      I usually take my steel bike that fits 40s. Usually shod with Compass EL 38s.

  3. Chris

    I bought what I hope is a forever road bike, a 22 Bicycles titanium with ‘endurance’ geometry. For better or worse, I was just ahead of the move towards discs and wide tires. I have 25mm tires on wide rims now, but can squeeze in 28s on narrower rims. I love that bike and have no plans to part with it.

    I am, however, looking to replace my cross bike with something more versatile. I did an off-road tour on it in July and 38mm tires were not quite wide enough. The hypothetical bike I have in mind will accommodate larger tires on 650b as well as cross tires on 700c rims, have a close to level top tube for shouldering in cross races, be nimble yet stable, light yet strong enough for light touring, and have a sufficiently wide gear range for climbing passes in the rockies while loaded and still able to keep up on a group ride. Easy, right?

  4. Lyford

    Thought about it. A light drop-bar bike with relaxed stable geometry and two sets of wheels would probably be fine for the vast majority of my rural New England riding.

    But I’m not entirely sold on the drop-bar dirt idea. For the past few years my dirt-road weapon of choice has been a flat-bar 29er hardtail with fast tires. I can sit and spin while the ‘cross bike folks are struggling on steep climbs. I like the stability on descents. I just put a rigid fork on it to shed weight and bob and like how it climbs it even more.

    I’ve tried a couple of drop-bar gravel bikes, and while I enjoy the speed on smoother stuff I’m not as comfortable on rough descents as I am on the MTB. I have seen folks do amazing stuff on ‘cross bikes, so I know it’s me, but as a relative geezer I doubt my skills are going to improve a whole lot, and crashing hurts a lot more at this age.

    Everything’s a tradeoff……..

  5. Tracy Wilkins

    Last summer I bought what I considered to be my “forever” bike, a titanium Salsa Vaya and sold the road bike. No regrets at all but I do find it nearly impossible to to ride with a bunch of roadies, as the geometry, gearing, and tires all work against me in terms of speed. But on the other hand, I can comfortably ride that bike all day long.

    Just recently, I extended the trend and put the touring wheelset on our tandem instead of the Rolf Tandem wheelset to facilitate a smoother ride and accommodate wider tires.

  6. AC

    Yep. After realizing I was riding my cross bike way more than my road bike, when I went to disc, I went with a custom ti desalvo. 3 sets of wheels to date. November deep section carbon for those rare go fast rides, a set of Hed Belgium plus with 28mm slicks on them, and a set of Pacenti SL25s with knobbies on them. I’ve found that a 34/46 with 11/32 is nearly always sufficient, and simply swap wheels as needed.

    There is some satisfaction in knowing that the gravel bike trend of the bike industry is allowing me to reduce the number of bikes owned.

    1. Scott

      I’ve also been thinking of getting a custom Ti bike from Desalvo. Clearance for at least 32mm tires, slightly more relaxed geometry, and a 48×32 crankset. I bought a Ridley x-trail last year and it’s basically replaced my road bike after changing to a lighter set of wheels and 28mm tires. The geometry isn’t quite right though. Do you find there’s much compromise when road riding? I assume weight and aerodynamics aren’t quite as good as a traditional road bike but the difference may be insignificant. How did you like working with Desalvo?

    2. AC

      @Scott, I really don’t find there is much, if any compromise compared to a road bike considering how I used my road bike. The handling being a little less quick is the biggest thing, but I would describe that as being more like a classic stage racer than a nervous crit bike. The biggest issue for me has been that for pure road riding, the gearing is too low. Which is fixable of course, I just don’t. Aerodynamics come down a lot more to how you set up your fit than the bike build IMO. Weight is the place where carbon will win every time. Mine is on the heavier end for ti, I think I’m at 19lbs with 38mm triggers.

      Working with Mike was great. I did a ton of measuring my old bike and comparing geometry to new bikes. I took his standard build and entered in , and then modified to what I (thought) I wanted. Sending that to Mike and having it as the framework for our discussion really helped. He suggested a couple of small tweaks (dropped the BB 5mm, lengthened the CS’s 5 mm) based on my intended use. Couldn’t be happier with the result. I use it on everything from 100% pavement to 100% gravel. He is a very underrated builder. I still can’t believe that full custom ti, built by hand in the US is available for him for about the price of an s- works frame. I know which co I’d rather support. Good luck!

  7. Bill Wood

    I bought a Specialized Diverge in late 2015 and sold my Roubaix a year later, since I was hardly riding it. My Diverge has 35mm Compass Bon Jon Pass extra light tires, at 45 psi front / 65 rear they are smooth, comfortable, and fast. I have no issues on group rides and gravel riding is a blast. The disc brake trend has really opened up the options for wider tires, and although my road riding group is still mostly maxed out at 28mm, I predict over time we’ll see wider tires become more popular.

  8. Brian Ogilvie

    I haven’t _sold_ a road bike, but I’ve mostly retired it to rollers in the basement. Seven years ago I got a Bike Friday New World Tourist for summer travel and touring, and set it up with the fattest tires I could find, for comfortable riding in France, Ireland, the UK, and the Netherlands, regardless of the surface. It proved to be a great all-around bike, including the year living abroad when it was my only bike. Five years ago I ordered my dream bike frame, a Boulder All Road designed for 42 mm 650B tires. (In this case, a good part of the dream involved a reliable delivery date in the not too distant future, which ruled out a lot of full customs.) I set it up with Grand Bois Hetre tires and have now ridden it on five successive D2R2’s, as well as other paved and non-paved roads (some of which have been long discontinued) in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont and New Hampshire. I also take it out for the occasional club ride.

    I sometimes think about getting a lightweight 700C frame and building it up as a go-fast road bike, but then I think about the kind of riding that I like to do and remember that the All Road, with its fat tires, fenders, and 28/30 low gear, is exactly what I need for what I most love to do. If I were trying to make my way from the B group to the A group, I might reconsider, but at 49, that’s not my goal.

    Meanwhile, my original road bike is still on the rollers for those tedious slogs in the winter that keep my fitness up for the fun rides from early spring through late fall!

  9. Alan

    I still race on a TT bike a few times a year.

    It’s AWESOME. So fast. So twitchy. So much pain. BUT SO FAST.

    And I generally ride a full suspension MTB.

    I love bikes.

  10. Stuart

    Starting to think about it. I have rheumatoid arthritis and my hips/knees/ankles ain’t getting any better. Racing, crits especially, hurts. Surging hurts. Rotating pacelines hurt. Sprinting hurts. And honestly I’ve always been pack fodder anyway.

    You know what else hurts? Riding 30-someodd miles on my drop bar fatbike. But compared to the above it’s a good kind of hurt. Just focussing on the scenery outweighs the inevitable aches.

  11. AC

    I’m in the market now but can’t decide. My road commuter has a second knobby wheelset for gravel weekend rides but the bike is toast; not worth the money to replace everything. My weekend rim brake roadie will become my commuter but it won’t fit knobbies. Sooooo, on a budget, which way to go for the weekends? Just don’t know…..

  12. Hoshie99

    I thought about it but I use my cross bike as a race and gravel bike and it was a main ride for a few seasons and have done some challenging events like Grinduro on it. With road tires, it does do fine.

    But, I ride the road mostly, and my most recent purchase was a custom steel bike with nice components and I am really happy with it. It fits 28-30s, but I ride it mostly with 25s.

    So, in short, if I onlyhad two bikes – I’d have a road oirewnted one and an offroad one. if only one bike, I could see being fine with it, just not where I am right now.

  13. Slappy

    ’96 Serotta with 28c is fine by me, gravel or otherwise. Most of the time is spent on my Niner ROS with 2.5 Minion’s anyway

  14. Pat O'Brien

    I really thought about selling my road bike and touring bike. I would have taken the proceeds to buy a touring bike with disc brakes. I think a touring bike would cover all road surfaces, even the occasional smooth one, along with some dirt roads. But, I decided that just the disc brake upgrade wasn’t worth it. So, I will stand pat for now.

  15. Gordon

    I just rode my big tire Rock Lobster road bike for the first time today. It really does make the bad roads in Sonoma much nicer to ride and is fun in a mountain bike kind of way. it can be ridden aggressively on the torn up decents and rolls pretty well on the flats. I doubt that I will get rid of my road bikes, but the they all run on 25-32 mm tires. It will be interesting to see what I ride more on in the coming year.

  16. sbarner

    I’ve often thought about what I would do if some calamity wiped out my stable of several dozen bikes, or what I would do if I for some reason needed to pare down to a single steed. Since I must ride several miles of dirt before reaching pavement, all my bikes are gravel bikes, even those with skinny sewups, but the first (or only) bike would definitely be something more suitable for both dirt and pavement. I would probably run it with 32mm tires, but it would have clearance for fatter tires and likely disc brakes, since I’ve had a few rare occasions when cantilevers were not quite enough. Next would be a replacement tandem, then a dedicated road bike with 25mm tires. An older, used road bike that I can fit with 28 – 32 mm tires with fenders for a commuter and a mountain bike would complete the minimalist stable. It would be tough to avoid picking up a steel classic or two (or more), but they are just icing on the cake. I highly doubt that I would be satisfied with a gravel bike for everything. I love the snap of a road bike’s performance and I would miss that.

    A more likely scenario is that, when I have a bit more time, I’ll braze up a frame that addresses some of the limitations that keep my Gunnar CrossHairs from being a great bike for some of the Class 4 roads we have here in Vermont.

  17. Hans L

    I’ve haven’t quite sold the road bike, but it would make sense. After riding my gravel bike with 30mm tires this summer, I realized that I love how that bike rides with narrower tires just as much as I love how it rides with 40mm+ gravel tires. My road bike is running 28, also hydro disc brake, also a titanium frame, also a 1x setup, just with different gearing and flat-mount brakes instead of post-mount.. Basically my bikes have been slowly converging to the point where the road bike feels completely redundant. But I get on that bike, with it’s steeper HT and shorter chain stays and more aggressive positioning and it makes me smile.

  18. Troy Stamps

    I have definitely thought about a cross bike not so much due to road conditions where I live, but because I love both road and mountain biking now. I’m definitely wanting to decide if I will just go with a cross bike and if I do it will probably be a Fuji or Diamond back.

  19. SGH in Austin

    Totally. Got rid of a BMC road bike and another Mt. bike to get a Moots routt 45. I LOVE those 33mm tires on the chip seal that is ubiquitous here in Austin. It doesn’t jump out of its skin when I hit the gas but then neither does my above 50-year-old body so it’s a good fit. Smooth, nice gears to get up the super steep stuff on my ride, and I can jump on the trail to avoid traffic really easily. I’m sold, and the rest of the road bikes will be going soon.

  20. Tom Gandesbery

    Last spring I got a Diamondback Haanjo EXP – a so-called “gravel bike”. . It is all carbon so pretty light, and runs 27.5 wheels so tires are about 45mm wide.. It does everything my Lightspeed Ti road bike does, as well as my Bianchi cross bike, and might even be a substitute for my Salsa Fargo “mountain bike”. Truly a snappy but stable ride; such a blast. In case of house fire, it’s the one I save.

  21. wayno

    made a steady progression over the past few years from carbon race to carbon endurance to steel and making the progression from 23’s to 25’s to 28’s in between. Finally in 2016, I sold my last real road bike and rode a steel touring/monster cross that could take 40’s, racks fenders etc. Super chill and fun bike.

    And you know what? I missed flicking around a lightweight road bike especially on the hills. So I came back full cirle and bought a stiff assed race geometry bike this summer and currently ride the 23’s it came with – and you can’t wipe the smile off my face. Granted the 23’s are wider than what we rode 15 years ago thanks to better rim technology. I have a hard time believing we will get to the one bike to rule them all anytime soon despite what Open and others are doing with what are some pretty compelling rides.

    So for now, I am happy with the two 700c bikes I have, both used for different types of riding.

  22. Ronnie Bryant

    My wife and I have both stopped riding our road bikes in favor of our gravel bikes. They are more comfortable and if we see a dirt / gravel road nothing stops us from exploring it. She has a Salsa Vaya Ti and I have a Habanero Ti custom geometry. We both are running 38 – 42mm tires tubeless. Time to sell the pure road bikes.

  23. Dave in Houston

    Going the other way. Started with a cannondale CX bike. Moved to an endurance road Felt. Next one? Custom steel roadie with more aggressive road geometry (not quite a full on race rig, but getting there!) I’m not sure what’s wrong with having a stable of bikes, nor why we should be pushing to reduce it, barring a lack of storage space. I like all of my bikes, I like rebuilding old bikes, and unless something limits me (my wife, my budget, my space) why ditch a part of my favorite hobby?

  24. Tom

    Started this earlier this year – got a Jamis Renegade Elite and have not been on the road bike again. Now I sold the road bike what second wheelset should I get? Renegade came with AM Classic Argents – should I use those with road tires and buy second wheels for my mixed surface tires or go the other way? How about tubulars never have should I consider? Any additional 2nd wheelset advice? Not racing just riding and loving it at 52 years.

  25. Dustin

    I got into dropbars with a custom steel all-road bike. I had two sets of wheels, one with 23mm tires (about 26mm actual width on wide rims) and one with 40mm tires. For casual group road riding it was great. But then we moved, in in our new town the road scene is way different, it’s not just social rides where 19mph average (with almost no elevation change) is considered fast. In the new town the ‘B’ group started the summer averaging 19.5mph on a 34 mile route with 2200ft of elevation. Now we’re up over 21mph on a longer 37 mile route. So, I bought a cheap road bike – the cheapest Allez available, put a 105 group on it, a good set of wheels (I build wheels for a living), and it’s a WAY better tool for those Tues/Thurs Worlds rides than the steel gravel bike with road tires. It’s a few pounds lighter, has more reach, more drop, narrower bars, and it’s stiffer. For me at least. I guess it depends on how you have your ‘gravel’ bike set up, what it’s more optimized for, etc. Mine is set up for all-day go-anywhere and be comfy riding. I’ve ridden it on the Tues group road ride and then again on the Weds night MTB ride the next day, without changing anything. It wasn’t perfect for either of those of course.

    Some folks will tell you wide light supple tires (like the Compass Bon Jons and others) are just as fast as a skinnier more traditional road tire. I’ve got a set of 35mm Bon Jons, and I love them for mixed surface riding, and when I’m riding by myself and not pedaling in anger I’m just as fast as I am with roadie tires. But – jump into a fast group ride, and they are NOT as fast. Even though the rolling resistance is really low, the aerodynamics hurt you at speed. In a 25-30mph pace line the bigger tires are noticeably more work to maintain speed, or close a gap, or matching accelerations.

    As far as N+1 goes…when it comes to road/drop-bar bikes, I’m perfectly happy with two. A gravel bike and a go-fast-roadie. I don’t need (or want) two gravel bikes, or two road bikes.

  26. Bob

    I sold my Cervelo R3 and bought a lightly used Santa Cruz Stigmata. I have a set of Enve M50s with 25 or 28 road slicks and a set of i9 cx wheels with Clement Xplor MSO 36 tubeless knobbies. I found the front end steering geometry to be a little floppy until I slammed the stem which really improved the handling.

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