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A do it all paved/unpaved road bike -- am I dreaming?(13 posts)

A do it all paved/unpaved road bike -- am I dreaming?PT
Jun 20, 2003 9:38 AM
I live where there are only 7 paved roads radiating from town, and if you want to ride longer than 25 miles without returning through town there are only 5 roads. Every paved ride is "out and back". Connecting the paved roads requires riding either gravel, dirt, or jeep trails, and none of these unpaved stretches are shorter than 7 miles. While I've connected up some of these paved roads on my current road bike, it was not exactly optimal.

While enjoying my Dura-Aced equipped Merlin tremendously, it is not set up to take the wider tires that would make extended forays off pavement more enjoyable. Hence I've been thinking about getting a cross bike and equipping it with the appropriate wheels so I can open up much more terrain, including miles of forest service and county gravel roads. However, finances and personal preference keep me from accumulating too many bikes, so I'll want that new frame/bike to work for group rides, 100% paved rides, and the odd road race with just a change of wheels. So my question/request for advice centers on whether I can expect a good approximation of road performance from a quality cross-frame? Has anyone taken this approach?

Historically, that's how it all started ...Humma Hah
Jun 20, 2003 9:50 AM
... so yes. Early roadbikes meant dirt roads. They were expensive and most cyclists had to stick with one. The same bike was used for centuries, roadracing, and maybe track, too. They were essentially fixed-gear cyclocrossers.

I believe the TdF was largely run on dirt roads into the 1950's.
re: A do it all paved/unpaved road bike -- am I dreaming?Marketing Dept
Jun 20, 2003 10:10 AM
My area is not as remote as yours, but there are many dirt roads and pastures around.

Get a cyclocross bike and you will love it. Put some 700X30's on it and you can still have some OK road times.
re: A do it all paved/unpaved road bike -- am I dreaming?climbo
Jun 20, 2003 10:14 AM
no dream at all. Cross bikes are out there in numerous forms (canti brakes/lots of clearance). Why don't you get rid off the Merlin and get a nice custom frame that can handle slightly wider tyres, slap on some 700x28 cross tyres and you are set to go (as long as your calipers can take the wider tyres).

Cross frames are usually slightly different in geometry due to the off-road aspect. More slack HT angles etc. will make the bike feel more sluggish intially than a road bike.

If you don't need a cross bike for handling MUD etc., all you really need is some extra tyre clearance so you can handle the off-road stuff. A nice steel custom frame that can handle even a 700x28/30 road tyre would be suitable for the dirt/gravel/bitumen road trips you describe. Then you can race on it with your race wheels swapped on to it and not notice an difference in the bike from one to the other.
Atlantis, of course (or any decent 'cross bike).cory
Jun 20, 2003 11:02 AM
That's what I bought my Atlantis for, and it works great. I live in a rural (rapidly becoming surburban) area with good riding both on and offroad. I already had a roadie and an MB, but (just for instance), there's both a pavement way and a couple of dirt ways to get to work. I wanted to whip in on asphalt in the morning, then go home on the fire trails. On 700x35 Paselas, it's pretty effective both ways.
I don't have a cross bike, but I converted an old Trek tourer to singlespeed and use 35mm Ritchey cross tires on it. If you could find an old touring frame or used bike, they're generally cheap and have room for real rubber.
re: MTB?cyclopathic
Jun 20, 2003 11:05 AM
you can pick up used hardtail under 200$, just put some semi-slicks. I'd keep Merlin for races and road rides. Most cross bikes have high BB and slack HA, you won't get good road manners out of 'em.


PS. Avocet makes cross 2K with reverse thread in 28mm might be enough for your off-road ventures
You have all the bikes you needAllUpHill
Jun 20, 2003 11:52 AM
I don't mean to skirt your question about a 'cross bike. But I suggest you can learn to ride just fine on your narrow road tires. I often take my road bike with 23 or even 19mm tires off the pavement for long stretches. It's quite plesant if the road is hard-packed dirt with little gravel, as most of my unpaved roads are. It does become slightly uncomfortable and awkward on extended stretches where the highway department maintains a thick layer of gravel, but few of my roads are like that and I deal. Some are flat, some are quite steep--all it takes is a little practice. I don't notice an increase in punctures. I'm not personally familiar of your road qualities, but I bet you can learn to ride them comfortably, and you'll be able to preserve your road bike's performance on the paved parts.

Just an alternate idea for you, FWIW.
re: A do it all paved/unpaved road bike -- am I dreaming?bcm119
Jun 20, 2003 12:13 PM
I have a cross bike that I use for commuting and touring. I don't like the sluggish feel of the geometry for fast road riding- laid back head angle and really high BB. I would suggest a custom steel road frame built with slightly longer chainstays and room for 28c tires. If you want to go with even fatter tires, say 32c, you might want to get it built for longer reach brakes (shimano makes them, actually called standard reach). I don't know you're budget, but maybe check out Curtlo or Teesdale... or if you have the cash maybe IF or Strong?
Touring bikes work well too.dzrider
Jun 20, 2003 12:18 PM
700x35 tires on a good, boxy rim like an MA-3 and you'll do fine on dirt roads. I take a bike like this out to Iowa when we visit and ride comfortably and confidently on the dirt roads out there.
Cheap Trick: A do it all paved/unpaved road bikechar
Jun 20, 2003 5:53 PM
Just buy a used 80's bike or frame, they usually have the clearance for 28-30c tires. I bought mine for $50, its my favorite bike; go anywhere, use it for commuting, group rides, fire roads, singletrack, and the occasional road/cyclo-cross/mountain race.

If you have the bucks, get one of the new cyclo-cross bikes, the road performance will not be slowing you down, just your legs and lungs.
Or 70's ...Humma Hah
Jun 21, 2003 5:57 AM
... My 74 Paramount easily handles a 32 mm in the rear. Probably will in the front, too. The 27" rim on the front forks at the moment can't quite handle a 1 1/4" tire, but runs 1 1/8 fine. I've had no flats yet running the local shoulders, which are scattered with gravel, nor crossing the two sets of RR tracks each way to and from work.
re: A do it all paved/unpaved road bike -- am I dreaming?peter1
Jun 20, 2003 6:10 PM
If you sell the Merlin, assuming you bought it new, you'll lose more than the price of a decent cross bike. My opinion, see if you can score a Cannondale Silk Road crosser. That would give you some front suspension.

As for cross geometry, there's a guy in my racing club who has done friendly crits in a crosser with fenders, swapping out the wheelset. he does just fine. You can always lower the stem or look for a frame with a lowish bb height.

Also, can you fit different brakes to the Merlin that would allow you wider tires? Or maybe, Merlin (well, the pre litespeed Merlin) might be able to braze on some canti bosses. With that, and a steel fork, you'd be good to go.
Move your Dura Ace group to a Ritchey Swiss CrossHoward2
Jun 21, 2003 3:37 PM
The Ritchey Swiss Cross frame with curved seat stays is a great frame for what you want. Fast on the road and fast on the dirt. There are several favorable reviews on this site, if I recall correctly one guy even races his in criteriums. Mine is built with Ultegra and Dura Ace shifters (I like the notchy feel of the Dura Ace STI).

Excel Sports, web retailer out of Boulder, used to carry the frames, but I'm not sure Ritchey lists the frame this year.

Good luck.