One Bike for Gravel and Crits? Impossible?

Any reason you can’t keep your current bike for road and crits and then buy a gravel bike when you get to the states?

I’ve got a last gen Giant Revolt Advanced 0 with a 50/34 crankset. I’ve also brought a pair of road wheels with me when I travel since that’s easier than a second bike. It’s crazy how much the tire size contributes to that sluggish feeling of a slacker gravel bike. With 30 or 28c tires it feels so much more like a road bike. Not as snappy or stiff as my Allez Sprint but more than good enough for a substitute.

If you’re looking to race crits regularly then I would have a dedicated road bike. It does handle better, has a shorter wheelbase, and allows you to have bigger gearing and narrower handlebars without compromising it’s gravel-ability.

But for a do-it-all bike and a couple crits a year then a 2x gravel bike with a second wheelset would be a decent option if budget and/or space were a limiter.

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That’s it right there - don’t really need to say any more, (so just like every other idiot with an opinion, a keyboard, and an internet connection I’m going to proceed to say quite a lot more :roll_eyes:)

I think for a lot of riders a racey gravel bike with two wheelsets can 100% do away with the need for the endurance bike category that was so huge 10-15 years ago (Roubaix, Synapse, Domane, etc.) Now, could you ride a 2015 Roubaix in a crit? Sure. Could you do well? Sure. Could you do as well as someone of similar ability who is on a Tarmac? Probably not unless they make some mistakes and you don’t.

Does that make it worth cleaning up your old CAAD10 in the back of the shed and replacing the worn rear tire for the crit? Definitely. Does that make it worth BUYING a new Tarmac? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on your finances, storage space, and whether you consider crit racing a primary discipline.

So it’s not a ‘don’t bother trying’ situation, just ‘don’t expect equivalence’. If crits are learning experience, skills practice, and a bit of fun for you then it might work out great. If you’re trying to cat up and win your local series then you’re going to end up buying a different (or additional) bike before long.

My Experience
Tarmac SL7 and a racey-ish carbon gravel bike. The gravel bike is just a very slightly more relaxed position (though I could set it up to be almost identical to the Tarmac if I wanted - just couldn’t switch back and forth very quickly). Gravel bike also has a 48/31 chainset, compared to the 52/36 on the Tarmac. Wheels from the Tarmac are a straight swap to the gravel bike (rotors spaced evenly with shims, etc.) With identical wheels fitted the gravel bike feels smoother and more forgiving than the Tarmac but doesn’t actually seem significantly slower overall really. I’m happy riding it even in the fast group on a bunch ride and never feel at a disadvantage.

In a crit I choose the more aggressive position, snappier handling, and bigger chainset of the Tarmac because I can, but if I had to ride the gravel bike instead I don’t think any of those would be the thing that limits me. Crits are very much a secondary (or tertiary) discipline for me though, so I’m pobably not overly picky.

For a roadie 100 mile hilly day or a long z2 road ride I almost always choose the gravel bike with the Tarmac’s wheels. 48/31 and 11-30 is amazing for that kind of riding. For an audax I’ll even go as far as to fit the 11-34 gravel cassette on the road wheelset. And the position is a lot nicer for long hours too. (sounds a lot like I’m describing a 2015 endurance road bike, eh?)

I’m riding the Tarmac in road races, but I’ve never done one over 3 hours. If I had a road race that was 5hrs and 10,000ft ascent then I might actually consider riding the gravel bike instead of the Tarmac (even though it’s heavier). Not sure where exactly the tradeoff point would be for me.

Hiccups

  • Gravel bike started out 1x and I could either have good gearing for road or good gearing for gravel but not both. I considered having two different length chains and swapping out chainrings depending on use, but that’s actually a fair bit of work so I knew I’d never end up doing it. 2x is a must for this kind of use IMO. (especially if you’re swapping wheels with other 2x bikes)
  • Buy some disc rotor shims - I’ve said this in probably a dozen different threads now but they still don’t seem to be very common. Just like swapping chainrings between uses, if you have to re-align your brake calipers when you swap wheels you’ll just never bother to swap. Syntace make 6-bolt ones and you probably have a local shop that does centrelock ones (there’s no major brand because they are actually just a generic shim from a machine parts catalogue in a specific size)
  • B-tension is usually a waste of time. Set it for the biggest cassette you’re going to regularly put in the bike and then forget it. Every once in a while I’ll dial it in for crisp shifting on my 11-30, but usually if I’m riding that setup it just doesn’t matter enough to be worth the time and effort. Indexing isn’t an issue either - usually just a couple clicks one way or the other on the barrel adjuster is all it takes.
  • Tyre clearance - I mentioned above that the Venon concerns me there. May be different where you live, but even a ‘fast’ gravel race bike should be able to fit 700x42-45 IMO
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I bought a new Crux with the same thought. One bike I can race CX, gravel, and road. Let’s just say I’m keeping my SL7. There’s no question it’s (SL7) just faster on the road. But it’s other things that add up. Gearing is a big one. It’s really hard to get the needed gearing for road races that will be effective for gravel. Either it’s going to be too hard for gravel or I’d spin out on the road (and yes I have spun out my 50-11 so much so I went to 52). So my Crux is 48/31t and my road bike is 52/35t. I also run 1X for cross season but that’s a single switch to start the season and another switch back at the end.

The geo on my road bike is much more aggressive. The position I’m in for an hour long crit or even a 2-hour road race is not how I want to be for a 4-6 hour gravel race. And I don’t feel like swapping spacers depending on what I want to ride.

What about pedals? Are you going to swap those out every time or using one pedal system? So road on gravel or SPD on road? Another consideration.

Honestly, I actually find it simpler to have two bikes. They’re each setup and ready to go for their purpose. No swapping wheels. No swapping pedals. No worrying about gearing.

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I’d get a dedicated gravel bike. Lot of good gravel in Georgia and Alabama and a wide variety.

If i HAD to do it, i’d get a 1x CX bike (which are harder to find these days), slam/flip the stem, aero wheels and bigger 1x ring for crits and switch it with dedicated gavel wheels for gravel events. chain-ring switch and rise the stem height for gravel. I’ve tried racing my gravel rig in crits and road races and it just did not feel right (like taking a truck on an autocross course)

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This is what I did with Focus Mares CX 1 a few years ago. It was a blast. I honestly regret selling this bike.

Now I’m racing on a 3T Exploro RaceMax. A few top fives and tens. Haven’t ran out of gears yet, but got the GRX 48/31 the other day just in case for future races.

100% this.

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@grwoolf try navigating tight corners at high-speed on a 2015 Domane - its not fun! BTW I rented a Checkpoint earlier this year and really enjoyed it on some mountain bike trails at BWR AZ. Totally different bike from my old Domane, I could see using it in a crit.

I’m here for the 2x love.
(currently riding my 1x Crockett b/c its my number 1 bike, but have missed out on both low and high range during this work trip).

Historical CX racer, really like to (conquer while hating) the elevation gain of 3 hour road rides, though. Clydesdale. 9% grades have be at FTP (over 3 w/kg) at 60 RPM with my 40-11/34 single ring… And 9% descents have me at stupid high RPM and 100w at 39mph… Not that there are lot of crits with sustained 9%ers in either direction, but given this is a thread about a versatile bike…

Versatility is a thing and its a thing I like. Not perfect for CX racing, maybe, with the rapid accelerations and decelerations, but I’ll take versatile over “simple” more often than not.

40T x 11 @ 120 RPM = 36mph which seems cool, until gravity gets you to 36.1 MPH…
46T (Still a cross gear) x 11 @ 120 = 42mph, which is not an insignificant difference.

Most Cx bikes are pretty close to the stand road bikes. The newer ones have a bit longer chainstays for tire clearance. There’s a trade off for tire clearance and the bikes wheelbase. Otherwise, there shouldn’t be a downside other than changing a few parts.

On the chainring clearance, you can fit a decent size chainring if you spacer it out. Most of these will take a 50t in the 2x position. If you space it out another mm or two, you can probably get a 54t+ in there. It might make sense to have two different cranks and chains though.

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Well, that is confusing to me based on the actual geo of the 1st gen Domane to the current gen Checkpoint (if that is what you rode):

Compare: 2013 Trek Bikes Domane 6 series 58 cm vs 2021 Trek Bikes Checkpoint SL 5 58 cm - Bike Insights,

CP is longer Front Center & Wheelbase with marginally longer Trail. All of which should lead to a slower handling bike than the Domane, despite the CP having a 0.3* steeper Head Tube Angle. This is not exactly what I would consider a sporty bike for ripping corners.

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+1 for receipts.

But that 1 cm wheel base difference might easily have handling perception changed by a different tire volume, a different road condition, or a different tire pressure. Literally going from a few PSI below “minimum” up to the maximum can create pretty close to a CM of lifts and [MATHS] some difference in effective wheelbase length and “feel” on the road.

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Sure, It’s possible and even like that tire setup had something to do with the feel. But all else being equal the CP is the “slower handling” bike by nearly every measure compared to the Domane.

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Well I was slowly riding it on a mountain bike trail, just saying I’d give it a try in a crit. Could end up just as slow in corners as a Domane, I dunno.

I can change the chainstay length on my Checkpoint 15mm. The only difference is super slow cornering where you need to think about where the rear wheel is going to pivot. It’s like trying to park or mark a hard right turn in a slightly bigger car - hatchback vs a sedan. Otherwise, on the road, not noticeable.

Front center is far less noticeable.

In any case, the Trek Boone is the way to go here.

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Haven’t raced a crit in years (last one was major concussion), but I used to switch regularly between my tarmac and roubaix in crits and the roubaix certainly didn’t hold me back with the slacker geometry. I totally get the fun of a racier bike, but it’s not like you’re out there on a beach cruiser. Maybe height of bottom bracket to avoid pedal strikes would be a factor, but I find the geometry thing a bit overplayed as a difference maker in cornering performance.

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I totally get @WindWarrior’s description, it matches my experience (albeit with different bikes). I’m sure that you can make do with a more stable bike that steers more slowly, but I still reckon you can corner better with a more nimble bike. Even if it “just feels better”.

My aero road bike feels as if on rails in corners. On my old endurance road bike it get as if I had to force it and nailing corners didn’t nearly feel as good.