Bodging a winter bike for gravel (warning - contains half-sarcasm)

My club (who I have little contact with other than for 10 mile TTs and the occasional hill climb in the summer) are now indulging in this infernal "gravel" business.

Strictly in order to try it out so that I can diss it from an informed PoV, I was contemplating turning up some morning this winter. However, I don't have a gravel bike. I do have an old-school aluminium winter bike (Kinesis 4S Racelite) which, because it has clearance for full mud guards, I can just about squeeze 35mm cyclocross tyres onto (I have a set of Continental Cyclo X King lying about that fit).

Would this be functional for what most people in the UK consider an average gravel route to be?

I may have 53/39, 12-27 gearing on it at the moment... :#

Comments

  • veronese68
    veronese68 Posts: 27,503
    You are almost certainly stronger than me but I'd definitely want shorter gearing. Do you have a compact chainset you can swap in as a one off? Even with a compact and an 11-28 I find the gearing on my CX bike too long for some off road climbs.
    Other than that I don't see why not.
  • neeb
    neeb Posts: 4,470

    Do you have a compact chainset you can swap in as a one off?

    I think I do - that might be a good starting point.

    Last time I tried something similar (an off-road ride a few years ago for which I bought the CX tyres) I think I made the mistake of pumping the tyres up a bit too hard and while I was able to progress reasonably well on some fairly dodgy surfaces the ride quality was brutal.. But the tyres aren't tubeless so I'm not sure how low to run them without risking pinch flats, especially as the rims aren't particularly wide by modern standards (17.8mm internal, 22.2 external).

    Oh... the other major issue I had was with my speedplay pedals. They are mud magnets and almost impossible to use off-road. Not sure how to deal with that, other than fitting flats and wearing trainers!
  • veronese68
    veronese68 Posts: 27,503
    Do you mind spending a bit for this folly? Wellgo do some reasonable flats with spikes for about £15 or so. Think I got some from SJS some time back.
    Try about 40psi in 35s if you're not too heavy.
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,205
    What colour is your bike? If it isn't a gravel bike colour, you will be dropped on the first tow path.
  • orraloon
    orraloon Posts: 12,882
    Put some SPDs on. Is what those pro CXers do. I have those on all my bikes, never had any probs on the graveller, though I will unclip at least one foot when things get in Carlton K speak gnarly.

    Tyre pressures: I'm 100kg, run 38s at 50psi, might be a tad high as sometimes get wrist ache but then on the tarmac sections...
  • neeb
    neeb Posts: 4,470
    orraloon said:

    Put some SPDs on. Is what those pro CXers do. I have those on all my bikes, never had any probs on the graveller, though I will unclip at least one foot when things get in Carlton K speak gnarly.

    Would need new shoes though.. (no way am I swapping the cleats, even if that was possible).
  • neeb
    neeb Posts: 4,470

    What colour is your bike? If it isn't a gravel bike colour, you will be dropped on the first tow path.

    It's a slivery-grey with bright orange highlights. No muted forest green or burnt terracotta in sight.. I guess I'm doomed (although with rim brakes I was probably a non-starter anyway!).
  • veronese68
    veronese68 Posts: 27,503
    neeb said:

    What colour is your bike? If it isn't a gravel bike colour, you will be dropped on the first tow path.

    It's a slivery-grey with bright orange highlights. No muted forest green or burnt terracotta in sight.. I guess I'm doomed (although with rim brakes I was probably a non-starter anyway!).
    With rim brakes the howls of laughter from others will at least drown out the roars of disapproval. Mind you the honking of wet disc brakes will have deafened everyone by that point.
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,205

    neeb said:

    What colour is your bike? If it isn't a gravel bike colour, you will be dropped on the first tow path.

    It's a slivery-grey with bright orange highlights. No muted forest green or burnt terracotta in sight.. I guess I'm doomed (although with rim brakes I was probably a non-starter anyway!).
    With rim brakes the howls of laughter from others will at least drown out the roars of disapproval. Mind you the honking of wet disc brakes will have deafened everyone by that point.
    If you wear bibshorts with outside pockets, you may get away with it.

    And POC sunglasses.
  • masjer
    masjer Posts: 2,611
    Op, you need to change your original warning. It's now gone (quite rightly) full-sarcasm.
  • seanoconn
    seanoconn Posts: 11,493
    orraloon said:

    Put some SPDs on. Is what those pro CXers do. I have those on all my bikes, never had any probs on the graveller, though I will unclip at least one foot when things get in Carlton K speak gnarly.

    Tyre pressures: I'm 100kg, run 38s at 50psi, might be a tad high as sometimes get wrist ache but then on the tarmac sections...

    100kg!? How tall are you?
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • orraloon said:

    Tyre pressures: I'm 100kg, run 38s at 50psi, might be a tad high as sometimes get wrist ache but then on the tarmac sections...

    Has to be tubeless to run them so low, Shirley? :o

    I'm ~84Kg and run 38mm Marathon Cross at 55-60PSI front and 70-75PSI rear for commuting with tubes on my hybrid Marasa, any lower and it feels so squirmy when cornering and super draggy on the straights.

    ... Still yet to ride a tubeless bike, maybe this is another rule for modern day gravel riding? :D

    ================
    2020 Voodoo Marasa
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,205

    orraloon said:

    Tyre pressures: I'm 100kg, run 38s at 50psi, might be a tad high as sometimes get wrist ache but then on the tarmac sections...

    Has to be tubeless to run them so low, Shirley? :o

    I'm ~84Kg and run 38mm Marathon Cross at 55-60PSI front and 70-75PSI rear for commuting with tubes on my hybrid Marasa, any lower and it feels so squirmy when cornering and super draggy on the straights.

    ... Still yet to ride a tubeless bike, maybe this is another rule for modern day gravel riding? :D

    I should add that having empty side pockets in your gravel bibshorts is a no-no. You must have a tubeless repair kit in one of them.
  • orraloon
    orraloon Posts: 12,882

    orraloon said:

    Tyre pressures: I'm 100kg, run 38s at 50psi, might be a tad high as sometimes get wrist ache but then on the tarmac sections...

    Has to be tubeless to run them so low, Shirley? :o

    I'm ~84Kg and run 38mm Marathon Cross at 55-60PSI front and 70-75PSI rear for commuting with tubes on my hybrid Marasa, any lower and it feels so squirmy when cornering and super draggy on the straights.

    ... Still yet to ride a tubeless bike, maybe this is another rule for modern day gravel riding? :D

    Yes tubeless 38s. These are Schwalbe G-One, Ultrabite on front for less slip in the gloopy stuff, Allround on rear, switch front to Allround as well if I'm doing a mainly tarmac route for less roll resistance and surface ain't slippy. Don't feel any 'squirm'. On reflection, prob running nearer 55psi as I always put that extra couple of pushes on the track pump when needle hits 50...

    Suppose with the offroading gravelling, it's not about speed, it's grip and impact absorption.

    And for the info of SoC, I'm 7'8" so watch out.
  • Neeb - to answer your question, what you have should be fine for an average gravel route.

    As for gravel riding on the whole, I admit I got suckered in about 5 or 6 years ago and bought a gravel bike (I don't usually succumb to marketing hype, I must have been desperate to justify a new bike :D ).

    My honest opinion is that the need for a gravel bike is really dependent on where you live and the terrain you can access. In the UK, most of our riding mainly seems to be road or trail. Actual gravel roads, fire roads etc. just don't seem to make up a huge amount of rideable terrain here, so I have found that a road bike and a full sus MTB are more suitable. I can completely understand a gravel bike being perfect if you live somewhere like North America (California for example) or Canada where you will have thousands of miles of suitable roads to utilise.

    Having said that, mine has come in useful for commuting, canal towpaths and as a backup winter bike, but it is a bit of an N+1 and something I could easily get by without.

    However, it has allowed me to buy a full new wardrobe of Rapha gravel riding kit with cargo pockets and a camelbak (thought I had better add in some sarcasm somewhere!).
  • edward.s
    edward.s Posts: 222
    I'll admit I got a gravel bike 'cause I thought they looked cool and, well, N+1 and all that. I got a pretty 'gravelly' one, 650b x 55 tyres, dropper etc. As the poster above said, I struggled to find somewhere it was actually useful close to home, finding my 29er hardtail or the road bike covered most things......

    ......then I went to the New Forest for the weekend. That has loads of amazing gravel trails and the bike really came into its own.

    So I guess I am echoing what has been said above - if you live somewhere there are gravel trails, then surprise surprise, a gravel bike works really well!
  • MattFalle
    MattFalle Posts: 11,644
    if you don't have a trendy beard or at least a small selection hipster style clothing then forget the whole thing - it'll just end in tears.
    .
    The camera down the willy isn't anything like as bad as it sounds.