Gravel tyre & bike thoughts for UK - two options

So…I am looking for a cheap and cheerful gravel bike, for the purpose of well… gravel, but for it to be a winter bike for my SL7 and a bike I can keep on the turbo.

I am looking at two options Ribble CX AL and Ribble CGR AL I am swaying towards the CX because it seems to be more like the Spesh Crux 2022 model which is what I would buy if money was no object.

The reason I am thinking of a more aggressive bike is that I want it to feel a little like my SL7 for those winter months, but also have fun in the gravel. The gravel riding I am looking at, won’t be hardcore or many backpacking miles.

The gravel riding I will be looking at is hardpack/fire road stuff. Like Tasmin Way in Richmond Park surrey or things like the New Forest.

The CX will take up to 38mm tyres and 33mm with mudguards. Whereas the CGR will take up to 45mm + 650b wheels.

Will the 38mm tyre be enough for “casual gravel” and would the CX be a good N + 1 or should I be looking at the CGR?

A friend of mine said the following:

Anything with a gear ratio of 1:1, hydro discs, 38mm tyres is more or less the ideal set up.

And he lives in York so much more hardcore gravel riding up there.

chart of the geo for comparison

Thanks yours truly…gravel noob

I got myself an Orbea Terra h30 1x last year from Tredz and it’s been a fun addition to the fleet. I’m using the stock 38mm Vittoria Tirreno’s and they are more than adequate for Scottish gravel, fire roads and even mud due to bigger knobs on the edges, they also roll well on road especially at higher pressures. One consideration for me was choosing an aluminum frame versus carbon which was around a £1200 saving with decent Shimano GRX components.
Although it feels very different to my road bike I was surprised to find how similar my fit measurements are, it is very comfortable to ride.
Sadly, in my head I think of the road bike as a sports car, my MTB as a rally car and the gravel bike as a Land Rover, as if that’s justification?

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I have an Sworks SL7 that I race on and a CGR SL for gravel and fun; almost exactly what you’ve described. I think I could get my CGR to be just as aggressive, and I might otherwise say go with the Ribble CX, but I didn’t realise that it’s got less tire clearance. I’d definitely go with the CGR for the sake of flexibility in the future.

If it were me I’d rather go for the cgr, bit wider tyre options in case you do want to go further afield in the future.

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I do some pretty daft gravel/mud/off-road rides on Teravail Rutland in 700x38c that measure up 36c on my wheels. It is possible BUT I’ve also got a second wheelset with 650b x 47c running Teravail Rutlands for bigger stuff and more comfort.

You can get around the tasmin trail or new forest on road tyres but you may find yourself wanting to try some harder stuff in the future. If I was to compromise to 1 wheelset, I’d choose 700x 40-42c. Basically, get the CGR AL. It also has mounts for other future possibilities (touring/bikepacking) and for running mud-guards, like all proper winter bikes should.

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I have done more research and have been looking at the Ribble CX AL in a small, as it’s very similar to the Crux in a 52 and seems more like my Tarmac.

Although you mentioned going CGR I think the CX would be better suited for my needs, although I don’t know what the future for my gravel riding would hold. I do only see day rides on things like fire road hard park gravel stuff. Going from country pub to country pub…where 38s should be more than enough. As I’m a roadie really…I am torn though. Never know might even race CX one day

A friend of mine rides a santa cruz stigmata with 35mm tyres, he says that does everything for him.

But good to know a fellow tarmac rider has done the same as I am thinking.

I put 35mm knobbly tyres on my cross bike in the summer and call it a gravel bike. It’s perfectly fine for that imo. When the “gravel” gets too chunky, it really is mountain bike territory anyway. You are more likely to encounter mud in the UK, and bigger tyres just drag more in mud.

Have no experience of either of the two Ribble bikes, but I’ve found I’m not keen on slack head angles and long chainstays, they just make the bike feel sluggish imo. So I’d vote for the CX bike, lol.

I do kinda want a snappy bike, as I wont be bike packing anywhere I want some fun gravel trails. Now I just can’t seem to decide on the a S or M frame

Can you try them out?

only by making a purchase and returning it for a cost

As you already have a road bike don’t get the CGR. Get the CX and also buy their Gravel bike. :wink:.

Joking aside I’m also looking at the same options as you. I’m not sure if the CX would make a good winter bike as I’ve never ridden one before. Can you really put in 3 hours on one? I’m also constrained by £2,000 upper limit as I’m using bike to work voucher. Which means an aluminium frame for CGR in that price range. Not sure if I want to do that either. I’ve got a couple of months to decide so if you get the CX soon could you update this thread with your experience?


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Sure thing @Kentish_Man!

I’m going for the CX AL in a S.

I’m 171cm and it suits the geo of my 52 Tarmac. Looking to get it next month, certain parts don’t come in till June anyways.

I also want to keep it under £2k.

I might even start racing CX haha.

If you’re struggling to decide take a look at this awesome site, where you can compare the goes.

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To be honest, I’d buy neither, I’d buy Planet X CX bike instead. I was looking for a new winter bike a couple of months ago and nearly did, but ended up building up a road bike instead (with parts that were on offer). I also felt I wasn’t allowed yet another CX bike, lol.
I looked at the Ribble ones, but I didn’t like the geometry that much.

I think there’s too much overlap with these bikes and the SL7. Both of these can double as a road bike and function as a CX bike at the cost of ride quality. For example, Tour Int measured that Crux to ride about 1.5x as stiff as a Canyon Grail or Giant Revolt.

It’d point you to something with a shorter seat tube or some rear suspension gizmo (d-shaped seat tube or fancier). That’d give you more off-road comfort and a bike you can use as an “all day” road bike. Find something that can take 700x45c as this pretty much maxes out what you can do with a rigid fork and non-mtb tires, while leaving you with some room for a bigger chainring.

I ride my cx bike as a gravel bike (Uk too - Chilterns based).

I’d be thinking setup as much as geo here.

I think 40c is the sweet spot for tyres, so look for a bike that will take that with clearance for mud too. My TCX is fine with that width as long as it’s not too muddy.

In terms of gearing, I’d regard 1:1 as the highest possible low gear unless you’re really keeping it flat; not only are the slopes steeper off road, the bike tends to be heavier, you have less momentum, and (most importantly) you’ll need to stay seated more when climbing to keep traction. If you run a 2x, that’s pretty easily achievable. FYI, I run a 1x (makes more sense for CX) with a 40T and 11-42 setup as a ‘do it all’, and wouldn’t want a harder low gear for gravel.

I might be tempted with a second hand Crux if I were you.