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New Bike Dilemma


Interested in any thoughts on my current bike choice dilemma.

It's been a good 15 years since I've had a road bike, it's all been mountain bikes since then.  I'm now looking to get back to road cycling, both for fitness and general wellbeing.  I have quite a few good road routes near me, from 20 miles up to 100, as well as a fantastic cycle path which if done in full is a 60 mile round trip through glorious countryside and with 3 pubs on the way.  I've also got a number of options for fire roads with miles of exploring potential.

On the face of it, I guess a gravel bike seems the obvious choice - but I'm not really sure I want one.  I'm not under any illusions that I'm going to be at the front of any races or anything, but I'm put off gravel bikes by the thought - and I appreciate that may be all it is - that they'll be sluggish on the road.

I've had a look and a sit on the Sonder Colibri and felt that it would be ok on fire roads and maybe slightly crappier surfaces.  I'm also considering the Ribble Endurance or CGR, but would be buying online for them.

My LBS, who I have a very good relationship with, are a Cube dealer, so I have also looked at the Attain - carbon and aluminium models - and the aluminium Nuroad.  I've had pretty good email responses to queries from both Sonder and Ribble, but definitely appreciate the benefit of being able to go to an LBS to resolve any issues should they arise.

I know there's no reason a road bike can't be ridden on 'gravel', and have had a lot of fun on my son's road oriented hybrid doing just that - a bit of sliding about is no problem!  I think what I want is an endurance road bike that won't come to any harm on fire roads/gravel.  Or would I be better with a gravel bike and swap the slightly knobbly tires for slick ones?  I guess the crux of my dilemma is that I quite fancy the carbon Cube Attain, but am worried about using that on gravel where rocks etc. would quite likely be bouncing off the frame quite a lot.  The other issue for me is that the 115kg weight limit (bike + rider) on all the Cubes is pretty marginal.





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Joe579 | 1 year ago
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Well it's a funny old business...

Went to one of my LBS's yesterday to chat about the Cube Nuroad, but they didn't think they'd be able to get one of the models I liked any time soon.  So I went to the other LBS to look at a Merida Silex.  Couldn't get comfy on it at all.  

Chatted to the guy about what I want to do and he said how about the Trek Domane, as it is supposed to be fine for 'light' gravel, and the weight guy limit is decent at 125kg.  They loaned me one for the day today and I took it on some of the trails I mentioned, and all bar one thing I really enjoyed it.  The gearing was spot on, the sizing and comfort, and it's a nice clean looking bike.  The standard 32mm slick tyres were obviously a bit sketchy on the dusty gravel, but they'll swap those for free if I want.

The downside was the mechanical disc brakes - they were awful.  So we looked at the AL 5 (no stock in any size at Trek UK), and then the AL 4.  I was initially put off the 4 as it's Tiagra not 105, but having read a few reviews of current Tiagra, it looks like my preconceptions of it are no longer valid.  Best of all, they are currently discounted by 25% if you don't mind last years colour scheme of black with silver graphics - which I don't.  Seemingly a well regarded and popular model.

So that's what I've gone for, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Thanks again for all the suggestions.




Inder | 1 year ago

I have a titanium framed Dolan ADX disc, very much a road bike but has clearance for 35 mm tyres. It's marketed as an "endurance/audax" bike and it's certainly got a very relaxed geometry but in all honestly there is barely any difference between how this feels in terms of performance on the road compared to my more "racy" road bikes.

In winter it's on 30mm road tyres with mudguards. This summer I got rid of the mudguards and fitted 34mm WTB Byways and have been using it on bridleways, fire-roads etc and it handles this really well. My only criticism is that even with a 34T sprocket and 34T chainring it's a little overgeared in some scenarios, the hydraulic disc breaks with 1140mm rotors handle most descents well but I might consider going to a 160mm rotor up front in the future.

On road with these tyres it does feel sluggish and requires significantly more effort to move at speed! I guess in my opinion the tyres have a much bigger impact than the frame in terms of how it feels on the road. In the past I have done some light off-roading with the 30mm slicks (tubeless at 50psi), having now tried the 34mm nobblies I conclude the sluggishness on road is worth it for the better grip and increased comfort off it!

Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
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The Specialized Roubaix might be worth a look if you want something that can go like the clappers on road but take a fair bit of off-road punishment? Not sure what its weight limit is though.

mark1a replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago

Rendel Harris wrote:

The Specialized Roubaix might be worth a look if you want something that can go like the clappers on road but take a fair bit of off-road punishment? Not sure what its weight limit is though.

Roubaix all up weight limit is 109kg. Another option may be its gravel stablemate, the Diverge (not STR). Very similar to the Roubaix, but also available in aluminium at the lower end, which has a weight limit of 125kg. The last few model iterations have gone way more gravelesque with 38mm tyres and 1x drivetrains, although the lower models are still available with 2x GRX. The 2018 Comp E5 model sounds good for the OP. It predates GRX so has 105 groupset, and is essentially an alloy version of a Roubaix with 32mm tyres. In fact I have one and have gone the other way with it, upgrading it with GRX800, 38mm tubeless, etc as it was too close to a road bike. 

Rendel Harris replied to mark1a | 1 year ago

That's interesting info thanks. I'm thinking of selling my "Sunday best" road bike to get something a little more forgiving, arthritis in wrists isn't going to get any better. I was looking at the Roubaix (weight limit not an issue for me (yet!)) but hadn't really thought about the Diverge. That's the rest of my morning off down eBay and Gumtree-shaped rabbit holes then!

Joe579 | 1 year ago
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Thanks for all the input.  I was up at Nevis Range in Fort William today, on my sons hybrid, with miles and miles of fire roads to explore.  Mindful of all the comments here and how much I enjoyed myself today, I'm definitely leaning towards the gravel bike.  The potential extra sturdiness is a big part of the appeal, and my concerns seem to be unfounded.

IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
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A modern gravel bike is only sluggish if you fit gravel tyres to it, the weight difference in the actual bike is minimal, and coming from MTBing and not wanting to set the world on fire, a relaxed endurance ride is where you are likely to be.

I have a gravel and road bike and the gravel is harder work, but then it has 32mm heavy tyres on it, as opposed to 25mm Conti's.

I keep meaning to swap rotors to try out a frame vs frame comparison. I'll do that when road bike is having its major service.

Modern road bikes are moving towards gravel-like specs anyway - 30mm+ tyre capacity, more relaxed geometry.

Basically, the answer is wheelsets - if you want a road bike fit lightweight wheel and narrower, lighter tyre, off-road, heavier wheel, more robust, treaded tyre - to whatever degree. Gravel with the right tyre can get down pretty severe stuff that is really MTB territory, though that is generally get you out of trouble riding.

Cugel replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago

IanMSpencer wrote:

A modern gravel bike is only sluggish if you fit gravel tyres to it, the weight difference in the actual bike is minimal,  (snip) I have a gravel and road bike and the gravel is harder work, but then it has 32mm heavy tyres on it, as opposed to 25mm Conti's.(snip) Basically, the answer is wheelsets - if you want a road bike fit lightweight wheel and narrower, lighter tyre, off-road, heavier wheel, more robust, treaded tyre - to whatever degree. (snip)

It's becoming possible to configure a bike as a genuine "all-road" item, with no compromise to it's performance whether used on the road or on various kinds of rough track. The same wheels and tyres will go just as well on "all roads".

For example, I have Schwalbe G-One All-Rounds on the winter bike, used mostly on the road (but on forest tracks in other seasons, as well). Despite the extra weight of their 40mm width over the 32mm Conti GP5000s on the swish & racey summer bike, the speed differential between the two bikes, around various habitual road circuits, is perhaps 2 or 3% - nothing of consequence for leisure or fitness riding.

The epitome of all-round tyres is probably the Rene Herse range of knobblies that are claimed to be tread-cut so as to retain the perofmance of a similar uncut slick tyre on the road but to also have tenacious grip on every other kind of surface, including mud. I haven't got any myself (they're very expensive and hard to get in Blighty) but many praise their abilities.

The weight of a bike (within the range of +/- 2 or 3 kg) makes no real difference to performance. The quality of the frame, wheels and tyres at transmitting power to the road without hysteresis losses are the true differentiators of bike performances. Many gravel tyres are subtle i' their sidewalls and roll very well on road as well as on gravel, despite their extra width and weight compared to traditional road tyres.

Joe579 | 1 year ago

Thanks.  I'd noticed the different categories on the Cube website, but hadn't realised they link to specific industry standards, I just assumed it was their own thing.

I'm quite sure my age, fitness level and type of riding I'll do put me very much in the group of people who wouldn't notice much difference on the road!  I've got a HT MTB with some slick tyres on it, so I'm probably incorrectly imaging a gravel bike would feel as sluggish as that does.

leelang229 | 1 year ago

Hello Joe, I have had a Cube Attain GTC (2016 model) since 2017 when I weighed between 95kg and 100kg.  I'm now down to 85kg, but the bike has been pretty sturdy (although I did snap a few spokes on the original rear wheel).  I ride in the Yorkshire Dales, so it gets heavy use and it as stood up briliantly. I even took it on some off-road sections in the Lakes this year (on some Lost Lanes routes).  I have had a few offs, but the paintwork/finish has stood up well. I ride it through winter too.  I'm on 25s all year, but I think you can get 35s on there pretty easily. Have fun choosing!

OnYerBike | 1 year ago
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If you're close to the upper weight limit, I would be inclined to think that going for a "gravel" bike over a "road" bike is prudent. Although the nomenclature isn't always definitive, bikes are designed and tested based on various classifications. In Europe, the most common scheme is EN 17406 (summaried neatly here or ISO 4210 (summarised in this manual from Specialized: ). In America, the ASTM categories are more common (

Gravel bikes tend to be built to a higher classification of intended use and therefore will be a bit more robust. Taking a road bike on a gravel path might be fine for a light rider, but is asking for trouble if you're close to the weight limit, especially if the surface gets lumpier. Even on roads, a gravel bike will give you a bit more of a safety margin if you encounter potholes or other road defects.

You do get carbon gravel bikes, and carbon is pretty tough - although I would also be concerned about the potential for additional damage to a frame from stones if the frame was not designed for it. This can be ameliorated to some extent with after-market protection (e.g. RideWrap or generic heli-tape). Some gravel bikes come with integrated protection in key areas such as the bottom of the down tube. 

With appropriate tyres, a gravel bike also gives very little speed away on the road compared to a road bike. Sure, if you're at the pointy end of a race then it might make a noticeable difference, but in all other situations it won't matter. Fitted with slick tyres, you can quite happily do fast road rides on a gravel bike (and indeed I like the fact that my gravel bike has clearance for relatively wide slick tyres and full mudguards - for winter riding in the UK, both are highly recommended).

I know plenty of people who have Sonder and Ribble bikes, and they generally seem happy with them. Ribble have had some customer service/supply chain issues recently (well documented on this site) but as far as I can tell, the bikes themselves are good. My gravel bike is a Fairlight Secan which I am very happy with (although a slightly higher price point than the entry level available at Sonder/Ribble). 

Whilst having a LBS on hand for warranty issues can be useful, remember that a LBS will be capable of servicing/repairing bikes from pretty much any brand.

Geoff Ingram | 1 year ago

I'd say go for a gravel bike with wide tyres and get another spare set of wheels with fast road tyres, swapping them out depending on your route. I had an oldish cyclocross bike, a tad sluggish, and tried on the wheels from a road bike and found out the speed difference virtually disappeared. 

Cugel | 1 year ago

Its always been possible to get or build-up an all-purpose bike albeit such mounts are not the very, very best at all kinds of cycling. Only the marketing names have changed.  Well, and a few of the technologies have improved.

I currently have such a bike which is the most versatile of such bikes I've ever had .... and I've bought or built-up a few in over 60 years cycling.  These days it would be called an "all-roads" bike.

It's used primarily as a winter (road) bike but also as a touring bike, a gravel bike and a shopping bike. The design of the frame is such that the swap of a few components transforms it into whatever sort of bike you like. It could do cyclo-cross, audax, commuter and also road racing bike. The compromises are very few indeed compared to such bikes of yesteryear.

The important features are: ability to take wide tyres as well as road-width tyres; fixings for mudguards & rack (which can be of the hidden or standard kind); a geometry that enables changes of rider position by use of different stems, bars, setposts and saddles.

Such bikes are still rapid on the road, even if not TdeF standard. Yet they're tough enough for all those other uses with just a change of a few components (stem, tyres/wheels, gearing, mudguards/racks, etc.).

A bike purveyor will generally prefer to sell you two or even five bikes, one per cycling-style. But there really are bikes that can do it all. These days they do it all very well, with so little compromise that you won't notice.

You do have to be something of a bike mechanic and component collector to make the most of them, though. And immune to the yen for a collection of bike frocks of various current-fashion must haveness.   1

PS The bike I have of this ilk is a Vitus e-substance but you can find any number of similar designs without the motor/battery. The e-bike version uses Fazua, which is a motor/battery module that can be taken out and replaced with an empty case (good for carrying stuff if you need to). This makes the bike even more versatile in being a 14.5kg e-bike or an 11.5kg ordinary bike.



froze replied to Cugel | 1 year ago
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If I were you, and of course this is an opinion, I would go with the gravel bike. Gravel bikes are more capable than a road bike, and while a road bike is a tad faster you said you weren't racing anyways so what's speed got to do with it?

Most gravel bikes, if not all, can be fitted for 32c tires, that's only 7 mm less than a 25c road tire, combine that with a smooth treaded tire and you will darn close as fast as the road bikes are, and if you go with the Grand Prix 5000 S TR 32, those things only use 12.8 watts which puts them smack dab in the middle of the fastest road tires.   Then you can have another set of tires for whatever suits your needs if you don't want to be on the road all the time, a simple 20-minute or less, swap of 2 tires and you're good to go.  Also with a gravel bike, you can do bike camping/touring with it if you want whereas that won't be possible on a road bike unless you credit card tour.  Gravel bikes will be a bit heavier than a road bike, by around 4 pounds on average, that weight is for stouter frame/fork & wheels because it has to support a person plus camping gear.

My vote is for the gravel bike.

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