Core question: I’m thinking about building an Open U.P. or U.P.P.E.R. with SRAM Red AXS for gravel around Miami, Florida. Two wheelsets, one for road and one for gravel. What wheels, tires, and other components would you recommend? What should I be thinking about or careful about? This would be my first build. Thanks!
All the gory detail: Please help me choose, or build, my gravel bike. I have a fairly high budget available, so this should be fun. I’ll try to be brief with background, but ask for anything I forgot to include. And most of all, thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts and input.
I’m 48, 5’7" (170cm), 222 lbs (101kg). FTP 195W, just started riding a year ago and have fallen in love with cycling. I own two bikes: a 2018 Cannondale Synapse High-Mod Red eTap, and a 2020 Specialized Epic Hardtail. At least for now, I’m far more comfortable on the Synapse, though I look forward to spending more time on the hardtail as I get fitter and lose some weight.
Important point: I’m in Miami, Florida, so everything is flat as a pancake (the only “hills” are bridges!). And while I’m working hard to get more fit and ride faster, I’m doing so purely for the pleasure of it. I don’t race, and have no one to please but myself.
My three gravel options are a Cannondale Topstone, a Specialized Diverge, or a build-my-own Open U.P. or U.P.P.E.R. Approximate budget is $6K to $7K, but I focus on getting good value (bang for the buck), so I’ll spend more if it seems to be worth the investment, or spend less if that’s the right decision. Hopefully this bike will become my new favorite bike… love the Synapse, hate dealing with cars and traffic.
All opinions/thoughts welcome, but my real questions here are all about the Open build. If I went that route, I’m definitely going with a 2x build, and almost certainly the wireless SRAM Red or Force AXS drivetrain with the compact crankset.
I’d like this bike to be comfortable above all, sturdy and reliable, though of course fast is great if I can get that too!
It seems like the only difference between U.P. and U.P.P.E.R. is that the UPPER is lighter. But if I’m on flats, and going long distance, and I’m 50 pounds overweight anyway… do I, should I, care about saving ~180g on the frameset? Might a slightly heavier bike even be a good thing for momentum once I’m up to speed on long rides? Or is lighter always better?
I know very little about wheels so far, but I do know I’d be setting up this bike with 700c wheels, and tires that are not less than 40mm wide, more likely 40-45mm. Which wheels/tires should I be looking at, and why?
Other than frameset, wheels, and tires… what else should I be thinking about right now?
Again, thanks for your input!