Some very specific gravel bike questions

Hey, folks. So - I just finished my first season of racing in 20ish years and overall would consider it a success, i.e. I finished each event roughly mid-pack as a 50 year old man carrying around a fair amount more weight than I’d like. With no more races to come, I can focus on the weight part of the equation without it impacting my training too much,

On the equipment front, I was pretty happy overall with the bargain bike I built up (open mold Carbonda CFR707 with Ultegra, 50/34 and 11-40 cassette), but I have a much better idea of the kind of racing that’s around where I live and fortunately, it’s the kind I enjoy most. I live in VT and next year I’ll be focusing on Rasputitsa, Rooted Vermont, and Vermont Overland (plus a few other events for fun). Each race has a whole lot of climbing and some very chunky Class IV roads which basically end up feeling like early 90’s mountain biking (VT Overland especially).

I’m looking for something that fits at least 700x50c tires and have settled on (probably unsurprising to anyone looking at gravel bikes now) the Lauf Seigla Race Wireless Rigid, Fezzari Shafer Pro, and Canyon Grizl Di2. I’ve mostly settled on the Lauf because it takes the fattest tires (29 x 2.2) and is an amazing bargain, but the Fezzari and Canyon both have their attractions.

I like that I could switch to 2x on the Fezzari Shafer easily while the Lauf is limited to 1x, and the Canyon has a pretty great parts spec for the price, even if the Shimano spec provides less flexibility because Shimano doesn’t provide anywhere near the necessary low gearing if I switch to 1x. The 2x gearing still doesn’t go quite as low as I’d like, either. I’d probably just end up swapping in a SRAM 11-36 cassette and maybe going with a 30/46 crankset.

So with the context out of the way, here are some very specific questions:

  1. Max Tire Size on 2x - The official specs for both Shimano and SRAM 2x say they’re limited to 700x45c, but I’ve seen forum chatter where people talk about getting a 50c on there, at least with the Shimano. It sounds like SRAM is less likely to work because of the battery size, but I’d be curious to hear from personal experience.

  2. Smallest AXS Power Meter-compatible Chainring - it looks like a 36T chainring is the smallest that will fit (which would be fine with a 10-44 XPLR cassette for VT Overland). I know I could also go with a mullet for lower gearing, but it’d be nice to not have to buy another chain, cassette, and rear derailleur to get something lower than 38/44 for a low gear. So is anyone using a 36T chaining with the AXS power meter spider?

  3. Any other bikes that should be on my radar?

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I’m a fan of the Salsa Cutthroat. Comes with 2.2. My wife just got one with AXS 1x and a 10-52 cassette. And it has a dropper! She has no idea how to use it beyond dropping it to sit flat footed to BS with friends. I’m thinking hard about getting another Cutty for myself. Not the fastest but comfortable and capable.

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That’s it’s primary use. :grinning:

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If you go for the Quarq D-Zero 5 arm power meter, you can get a 34t chainring on there. Garbaruk, Wolftooth and others do aftermarket rings that work great, as well as 36t ones for the AXS 4-arm spider (and the D-Four Shimano-style one too).

As for other bikes, I assume from your list you’re only after carbon. However the Fairlight Secan is a brilliant steel frame that takes 700-50c (and 47s with a front mech apparently). Has all the mounting holes you’ll ever need, Reynolds 853 for the smoothest ride and low weight, and you’re not likely to see another one (and if you do you’ll make a friend!).

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Have you looked at the geometry? There’s some pretty significant differences in these bikes. Compare: Fezzari Shafer 2022: L -VS- Lauf Seigla 2022: Large -VS- Canyon Grizl 2021: L -VS- Carbonda CFR 707 2021: L -VS-

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Huge difference in ride feel, for sure. That 83mm trail on the Shafer is definitely something you have to get used to (I like it now but would probably prefer it in the 70s)

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bikeinsights.com is a great way to visualize the different geometries between two bikes. The Seigla is definitely more race oriented whereas the Shafer is more relaxed (these are the two I’m debating between). I haven’t really looked at the others.

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Yeah, my one serious concern about the Lauf is how low slung it is. The Carbonda I’m riding was actually an experiment in several ways, and was an XL because I wanted to try something a bit bigger without dropping a ton of money on a frame I wasn’t sure would work. And as an aside, the Carbonda was $900 shipped and has been fantastic, if a little bigger than I’d prefer. I’d actually consider going with a Large, but the benefits of buying a complete bike are just way too big if I don’t already have the parts laying around.

My thought with the Lauf was that if it was just too low I could slap something like a Specialized Hover Bar on it for a little extra stack but it becomes less and less appealing as I consider it more seriously. And I actually like the slacker angles on the Fezzari since I’ve ended up doing a lot more riding on Class IV roads with my gravel bike than I expected this year and I’m having a blast with it.

So maybe I’m back to the Fezzari? For at least the next ten minutes or so.

And @JoeNation - I’m actually coming off a steel bike (Fairdale Rockitship), so I’m definitely not opposed to steel. Especially having ridden frames from Davidson, Serotta, Fat Chance, De Rosa, and others in the past. The Fairlight seems a bit more road-oriented and maybe a little less suited to the kind of stuff I’ve been riding.

Why do you say this? I’m interested because I’m similarly torn between the Shafer and Seigla. As for geometries, the Seigla looks similar to your Rockitship. bikeinsights.com shows that the Seigla has 9 mm more stack and 13 mm more reach, comparing 56 / large, which should be able to be overcome with spacers and a different stem length.

Argh, I’m totally in my head here. I’m a bit concerned the front end will need to be seriously jacked up to get where I need it to be but you’re right … it’s not actually that far off from my old Rockitship (which was a 58).

This is part of what’s so crazy-making with buying bikes sight unseen. Lots and lots of time to obsess, and differences that seem huge on paper are actually pretty insignificant in real life.

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True, but … my previous bike was a 2010 Motobecane Immortal Pro but it was the equivalent of a 59 in today’s geometries. I’m 5’ 11 1/2" tall, so right on the edge between a 54 (medium) and 56 (large) from most brands. The Fezzari Empire medium has a 55 cm effective top tube length and is perfect. Additionally, I prefer a more aggressive geometry.

I’ve taken my Empire off road with some 31 mm tires and it handle just fine on well maintained dirt roads, which is why I feel comfortable going with the Seigla. However, I like the idea of being able to bikepack and do longer rides with my kids, where I’d likely carry most of their stuff (even if just additional water), hence my draw to the Shafer.

However, the Seigla has a two week lead time whereas the Shafer is 20+ weeks. Decisions, decisions, decisions … Maybe I’ll get a Seigla and convince the wife she should pick up cycling in the spring and I’ll order her a Shafer. :rofl:

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On my true grit, I had to put a shorter stem, only 10mm shorter than what came with it, and played around a bit with spacers and stem rise to get it just right. But I feel like that’s normal for any bike I’ve bought. If I go to LBS and find a bike that fits I will still fine tune the front end which likely can take a dozen rides to dial in. I’m going through that process with my new mtb right now.

Another true grit rider friend of mine got the redshift sports gravel bar which has a very short reach and like 30 mm rise. He loves it.

I’ve had the true grit for 3 years now so I think I’ve forgotten what a bike that isn’t so long is. lol

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Would love to see some pics of your 707. I have one in my garage waiting for a free weekend to build it. Haven’t seen many in the wild so keen to see how it will look. For anyone interested, I also have a Carbonda 1056 and it looks fantastic built up. Thanks!

Another bike to put on your radar. Ibis Hakka MX. I bought mine with 650b x 2.2’s. Will eventually get a pair of 700c wheels for cross but haven’t yet. Love the big tires and low volume. Mine is a 1x but has all the holes drilled and plugged to run 2x.

All great suggestions above! I would see what can fit a big cassette on the back instead of the smallest ring you can get allowing for less chain drag and increase the tension a bit to lesson chain drop chances.
Also on the tires (and the gearing), 50’s are huge and just curious if you are planning to rally this thing as a MTB as well? if so then great but all the events you mentioned are pretty tame and you can easily get away with 45’s…just saying too big of tires on 700c’s can be slow/weird on a gravel bike and if it were real chunk you should look also at a second 650b wheelset that will allow some bigger meat.

I’m actually quite curious the use cases for gravel bikes with clearance for essentially MTB tires. My true grit can fit 45s. If it’s going to be really muddy I might be better off going slightly smaller but the 45s clearance isn’t THAT tight.

I guess a gravel bike with 50+ tires will ride more comfortably. But at that point it’s a mountain bike with dropbars without the suspension. It feels like some gravel bikes have veered from midway between a road and mountain bike and very close to a mountain bike with no suspension.

I think the key is that you can do it if you want to. Putting 650 wheels with a mtb tire on a gravel bike completely changes the bike and gives you n+1 without having to buy a second bike. I know many guys with 2 sets of wheels.

I’m sure it does. I have 2 sets of wheels. But if I feel like I need mtb size tires then I would think you’d want mtb suspension too.

It’s actually a blast

For me, there are basically two situations where I’d like to be able to use something like a 29x2.2 XC tire:

  1. Northern New England Mud Season - This is riding potentially between mid-March through to mid-May, depending on the year. I live in a pretty rural area (central Vermont) on a dirt road and have tons of dirt and gravel roads around me that turn into wet, rutted soupy messes when all the snow melts at once. Being able to hop on the gravel bike with a nice fat tire would be a good alternative to breaking out the full suspension MTB.

  2. Mixing MTB trails with gravel - last year I started pushing my gravel riding a bit more off-road and had a blast. Instead of stringing good dirt roads together with pavement, I was able to string them together with some Class IV roads (picture below, but they can get a lot more chunky and washed out) and singletrack, and some of these rides were just absolutely incredible. You could certainly make the case for a hardtail MTB, but I like the drop bar set up better for this kind of riding.
    image

A 700x50c would probably be plenty, too, and I’m constantly waffling around about which bike would be best. I’ve also added the Giant Revolt Advanced Pro into the mix, as well, since it’ll fit up to a 700x53c tire, although I’m not sure how fat it could go with a 2x.

And @Jackc70 - I’ll try to get some pics of the CFR707 up in the next day or so.

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