Assemble Your Dream “Value” Bike

I’ve been looking to upgrade my bike for a while now. I officially have the green light. While my budget it fairly healthy (~$6,000 range) I want to find components that do a good job mixing cost with performance.

So here is the question, if you had to build an “all road” bike (50% gravel, 50% road) how would you do it? Which frame would you chose that would allow you to upgrade throughout the years?

Specifically Questions:
Which upgrades would you prioritize?
What components propose the best “value”? (Not the cheapest, but the best bang for your buck.)
Which set up will give you the most flexibility to upgrade over time?

My initial thought is to choose a high quality frame followed my some solid wheels.

If you’re working in the $6k range, consider a custom frame with like 105 and a basic wheelset and then slowly upgrade.

I started a similar process back in 2021 and it’s been a ton of fun. Long-term vision is Ekar and some sweet Zipps on my custom Ti frame, but right now it’s got Sensah Empire 11spd and DT 1800 wheels :man_shrugging:t2:. I spent about half of your budget and deliberately put more towards getting the saddle/bars/fork I wanted.


I’d start with a good frame and then upgrade over time. For example, the 3T Exploro RaceMax would fit your description:

  • It comes in a variety of builds: you can pick between 1x and 2x, Shimano, SRAM and Campag, etc.
  • Add a power meter (depending on the groupset you pick this could be a Quarq or Assiomas).
  • The only weakness of the stock configurations is the default wheelset. You can upgrade to a 3T wheelset, but that might exceed your budget a little.

They have SRAM Rival/Force 1x, SRAM Rival/Force 2x, and Campag Ekar for $5,300–$6,000. Their Shimano GRX mechanical is even cheaper at $4,300.

If you don’t have a preference as far as groupset is concerned, I’d look into the Rival groupsets. Personally, I prefer 1x, but that’s just a matter of taste.

First, I’d make sure that all contact points are to your liking. I really happen to like 3T’s handlebars, but handlebars, like saddles, are a matter of taste. Make sure they suit yours. Get a bike fit if you are not sure.

Next, I’d invest into a second nice wheelset. Ideally, you want to run this bike with two wheelsets, one with wide tires for (mostly) gravel and then a road-specific setup.


Felt FR Advanced DI2

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I recently did a build with nearly the same parameters and budget. Here’s what I did:

Sage Titanium frameset purchased from their outlet.

SRAM AXS Force/Eagle X01 mullet drivetrain. I bought a lot of components when SRAM gave dealers freedom to discount over the winter. But GX gear works just as well for less money.

Zipp SL cockpit

Light Bicycle wheels

Vittoria tires


I definitely have considered this frame. So I appreciate the suggestion!

First, I’d make sure that all contact points are to your liking. I really happen to like 3T’s handlebars, but handlebars, like saddles, are a matter of taste. Make sure they suit yours. Get a bike fit if you are not sure.

I immediately went wheels first. I never considered this! I’ve found a specialized saddle that I really enjoy, so I’ll probably just transfer that over.

I was leaning towards SRAM, it’s slightly cheaper, and I hear their wireless group sets are easier to work with. But their brakes are harder. Any insight into SRAM over Shimano?

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I haven’t given titanium much though. Why titanium over carbon? Longevity?


LOL @ $6000 = “Value” :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


I’m fairness, it is value for a dream bike


I think that’s an oxymoron. :grinning:


I’m very happy with my Mason Bokeh which does gravel and audax duty.

With a Rival AXS XPLR build, and zipp 303 Firecrests, it came in just shy of £5k. There were a few sale purchases to get to that figure, but it’s got pretty high end finishing kit.

No, it’s not the most expensive frame (£1300) but the geometry works for me, it’s got all the mounting points I need, internal dynamo routing, threaded bb, and is just a really sorted bike.

The pic below is in road mode.


Lol, fair point. But with some new bikes pushing $12k and wheels alone being $1k+, I figured it would be somewhat doable.


I don’t think I’ve heard of mason. I’ll look them up. Do you like the 303s?

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Mason are UK based and have a really good rep. The Bokeh is their gravel bike, but it’s quite road like in geometry.

There’s a decent review here: Mason Bokeh long-term frameset review: Solid numbers, solid performance - CyclingTips

The website is here: Bokeh | Shop | MΔSON | Make • Progress

The Zipps are very competent. They’re fast, tyres blow up big on the 25mm internal rim, I’ve had no problems with the hookless, and they’re light. The ride quality is noticeably better than the 303S, but I still think it’s a smidge firm. The bearings are ok but no better.

I just did a “dream value” build myself this year with something similar. Giant Revolt Advanced Pro frameset, SRAM Force AXS Mullet (X01 derailleur). Lauf Smoothie bars, with two Farsports wheelsets. With Black Friday deals and such, I was able to pick the whole thing up for around $5k US.

I’ve only done a few shakedown rides so far because it’s winter in New England (although that’s becoming less and less true), but I’ve been super happy with the set up so far. I also love the potential to switch to AXS 2x if that seems like a good option.


1 Canyon ultimate, ultegra groupset $2,999

1 Canyon Exceed Sram Gx 100mm travel $3,199

50% road 50% Dirt. $6,200


That and you don’t see as many of them. There’s a broad range of custom price points too. I designed mine and had it welded up by Titan in China, or you can get a builder like Strong/Seven/Litespeed (to name a few off the top of my head) to do it all for you.

The 3T has already been mentioned, but one other frame to consider is the Fairlight Strael. Just go read their design docs — super impressive.

Lol! That’s an approach I could get behind!

I was going to suggest similar but with an aeroad and lower-end grail.

I use my cross bike for gravel as the gravel rides in my area don’t require more than 32/35mm light treads. I do most of the official gravel rides on my roadie with 28s anyway. I have an Exceed that is 21lbs with fork lockout. If I ever need 42+ tires for a gravel event, I’ll just ride the exceed.

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I’d target $3500-$4500 for the bike, and buy a power meter. At that price I think you’ll either get SRAM Rival or Shimano GRX. Already have wheels so I would sell the ones that came with the bike. Exactly what I did 18 months ago when selling my Domane and buying a Tarmac. Upgraded to Red AXS crank (on sale) with integrated power and dropped a lot of bike weight.