Even as I typed that post title into the box, I winced a bit. I even rewrote it several times before I ended up with those words. Gravel bikes…Adventure Bikes…All-Road, Any Road, Multi-Surface. The list goes on as the industry struggles to wrap it’s ad copy around a new genre of bikes that draw from the past and mix in the future, bringing together the idea of taking a robust, skinny tired bike onto something other than pavement, hardly a ‘new thing’, yet doing so with modern brakes, drivetrains, etc. is.
N+1. The idea that the perfect number of bikes to own is always one more than you have does smack of the insatiable desire to accumulate ‘more stuff’. But I will submit that, for many mountain bikers out there, this Adventure bike deal is the perfect foil to the average trailbike. Why is that?
Many cyclists are multi-discipline. I mean to say that they ride MTB and road, having at least one each of the type of bike that is made just for this. But many MTB’ers have tried the ‘roadie’ deal and found it lacking. It can be a bit pretentious and unkind to the unshaven legged masses looking to try skinny hoops for a change. It’s a different world for sure and the bikes can be a bit flighty and uncomfortable. Then there are the traffic concerns that make riding on public roads a lottery you do not want to win.
I began road riding a couple of years ago now and I ride that at least 50% of the time. So I am dipping my bucket in two wells of different waters. But when I, with a good deal of skepticism, purchased and assembled a “Gravel Bike”, I honestly was not sure I could justify doing so. In So Cal, most all the dirt roads we have are hardly smooth or graveled. Yet that bike, a Salsa Warbird, has become one of my favorite bikes to ride and is different enough to make a lot of hardcore MTB riders sit up and pay attention.
Why is that? Bigger tires, lower gears, and slacker geometry than any normal road bike makes the typical Adventure bike a challenging and fun bike to ride. Challenging, as it is amusing to find yourself on roads or trails you would normally see only as an MTB route, working your way along on this drop bar’d rigid beast with tires way narrower than you would think even makes sense. Yet, there you are.
They are a road bike for mountain bikers in that they allow a pretty big tire, often up to 40C and more (1.5″-1.7″). That and a slower responding geometry…slacker head tube angles and longer chainstays with more BB drop…makes this a bomber-quality road bike. Slower a bit? Yes, but not as much as you would think and while all-out speed and response are not what they do best, a strong rider can still worry a pack of average roadies while aboard a decent Gravel Bike. I still have a Strava PR on a rolling, hilly section of country paved road done on my Salsa Warbird Gravel bike which preceded this build. And downhills on crummy surfaces like chip seal? Well this type of bike is comfy and faster than all get out.
What I love is the ability to make some large and interesting loops, loops that would be a bit laborious on a pure MTB (even a 29er hardtail) due to the longer stretches of pave’, but have enough dirt to where any road bike would be super sketchy and slow. And I enjoy the challenge too. To some degree, the state of the modern MTB can make most trails pretty tame, but get on a Gravel Bike and that fire road or smooth trail demands your attention to the correct line and a fine balance. It’s a hoot. And these things climb like scared rabbits.
Now to be realistic, they are not magic. You are still on a drop bar bike, a VERY rigid one with moderate volume tires so there are limits, but those limits are higher than you would expect them to be.
My latest ride is a fine example of what I would call the ‘second gen’ of production Gravel/Adventure Bikes. The Lynskey GR250 (which I am reviewing HERE for ridinggravel.com) is one of the latest efforts from this ‘Made in USA’ company that has been building bikes out of Ti longer than most cyclists have been riding bikes. They are not super high end like Firefly or someone like that, but neither are they outsourced, race-to-the-bottom Ti. Their pricing is at least approachable, although Ti is not a low budget item.
From the Lynskey website:
“A frame that leads to freedom. The GR 250 allows you the freedom to roam almost anywhere without adhering to the rules of traditional cycling categories. With adventure oriented geometry, and loads of tire clearance, this model blurs all the lines, conquering any manner rough roads, gravel and mixed surfaces. The GR250 features a 1 ¾” biaxially ovallized downtube rounding out a butted, 3AL-2.5V aerospace grade titanium tubeset. Added to an adventure geometry that is designed for the rider to be in the cockpit rather than on the bike, and clearance for 700c x max 45 or 650b x max 2.1″ tires, this model is capable of taking riders over any variety of terrain in all-day comfort.”
As stated above, the Lynskey GR250 allows for up to a 45C in a 700c wheel/tire combo and for those seeking some real tire options, will fit a 650b (or 27.5″) wheel with up to a 2.1″ tire. That allows for some expanded capability for rougher trail surfaces if you are rolling on a 2.1″ 27.5 tire, although just how much room you will have will depend on what tire and what rim, etc.
Rear rack mounts and fender mounts allow for light touring or practical use like commuting, and the slacker geometry and smooth ride make potholes and curb hopping just a point of fun, not concern.
I am running FSA wheels with Panaracer 40C tires that are nearly 42mms wide. The drivetrain is SRAM Rival 22 based. Hydro brakes with 160mm rotors haul me down and the 36/46 crank and 11-36 cassette haul me up. So far 1:1 has been adequate on the low end and I seldom spin out an 11×46 gear.
The Relevate Tangle frame bag is a permanent addition to the bike. I love the function it offers in carrying goods and it never gets in the way.
With the recent boom in Bikepacking, an Adventure bike like the Lynskey GR250 will fill a lot of those desires to ‘get out there’. Frame bags, handlebar bags, and seat bags keep it light and simple and many of these will take rear racks, others front racks too. It’s the real deal, these new Gravel/Adventure bikes and I am smitten. Even an old mountain biker can learn to love new things.
Note: The products shown here were purchased at a discount to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.