Roadplus on the road


I am currently planning what my next bike will be like.
Thing that concerns me most is having kind of “do it all” bike. I am thinking about something that will handle gravel, but without losses in performance on a smooth tarmac. I would like to achieve that with simple wheelset swap, instead of having two builds under my roof.

It seems that there are many possibilities in terms of road-ish framesets that can easily handle 35+ mm tires, with some claims of being competitive in terms of aerodynamics, stiffness and handling. However, aesthetics play big role when it comes to the dream bike, as well as selection of the components. There comes my several questions, I would really like to see what’s your opinion on following points, maybe with some examples from your experience.

  1. How do the bikes which can accommodate wide tires look like when you put a wheelset with road specific tires (25-28 mm)? I am talking about Scott Addict Gravel, Supersix Evo CS, New Crux, Open Up, Allied etc. Any of you have some photos to show if it does not look too funny?

  2. Compared to road specific bike, is the potential loss in performance really visible? I am planning to ride fast group rides, some races, but on the other hand also some long distance rides, including gravel, but to stay in all of these fields competitive. Is it even reasonable to have one bike for all of those purposes, with two wheelsets, or is that only an unreal dream at this point?

All the insight would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

I have exactly the bike you describe. Currently busy with work stuff, but will upload some photos and a fuller comment when I have time. In short, it works.

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I have a Salsa Warbird that I use for road only rides as well as gravel/all road rides.

I did run my bike with 25mm tires for a bit, and it does look pretty goofy. However, it rode very nicely and other than the obvious geometry differences, I didn’t notice much performance difference between the Warbird and my previous Emonda. I’m no racer, though, and my only competition is against myself. I’ve been using 35mm slicks for my road tires and it’s been fantastic.

I’m also doing the two wheelset thing. I have two wheelsets with the same hubs. My plan was to run my gravel wheels tubeless, but I’ve not done that yet. I’ve found that it takes me less time to change tires on one wheelset that it take to change wheelsets, adjust the brake alignment, and tweak the derailleur for the different cassette.

So, while I believe one bike can pretty much do it all for me, your mileage may vary when adapting it to your riding style. My Emonda was on the market for a couple months and I almost pulled the ads so many times. I don’t really miss it, but I can see the appeal of having dedicated rides.

So here’s the N=1 (except it’s not…):

Factor LS, with Force/Rival AXS. 46/33 chainset, 10-33 cassette for the road, 10-36 for gravel. It is my long ride road bike and (obviously) my gravel bike. It gives away very little to a pure road bike on tarmac, and is pretty capable off-road as well. Excuse the flat front tyre in road guise!

Going forward, this will share road duties with my forthcoming custom build and probably increasingly be my off-road bike, but that’s not because it’s not totally capable: I don’t need another bike - I just want one! :rofl:

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I’ve tried the whole 1 bike to do CX and road thing and it just didn’t work for me.
Unfortunately it’s just not as easy as a wheelset swap. This is what I found I ended up doing:

  • Swap wheels then realign brake calipers
  • Smaller cassette on road wheels meant change of chain. I’d also sometimes change the chainring if the parcours of the CX race was tough.
  • I use a 90mm stem off road and use a 120mm one on the road as I prefer the shorter reach off road but don’t like the skittish handling on the road. I’d also move the stem a couple of spacers up when off the road.
  • I prefer a 44cm handlebars off road for more steering leverage but a 40cm handlebar on the road.
  • Taller off road tyres will require an adjustment to your seatpost.

I found it time consuming to be doing all these changes all the time, I think if I did it again I would have a bike that did gravel in the summer and was then a winter bike so I’m only doing the change twice a year. As I’m in the UK mudguard mounts are a necessity for a winter bike which does annoyingly rule out some of the options you mentioned.

I tried it with a 1x bike and the gaps between the gears on the large cassette did my head in on the road, I never felt I was quite in the right gear. If I did it again I’d definitely try it with a 2x bike.

As I did it with a CX bike I didn’t enjoy the high BB on the road and the affect it then has on the handling, this could be different though with a gravel bike. For example the new Crux is supposed to have the same BB drop as the Tarmac. Speaking of BB drop, I probably wouldn’t use less than a 28mm tyre on a bike that’s designed for 40mm+ tyres.

Some riders do seem to be more sensitive to geometry changes than others, also some are happy to put up with gappy cassettes. It’s difficult to advise too much without trying yourself hence me just relaying what my experiences were.

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OP, you mentioned “fast”, “races”, “competitive” as well as “road/tarmac”, “gravel”–kind of at opposite ends of the spectrum–it would be different if you wanted an all rounder, capable of all terrains, but that, AND fast/race/competitive, you’re really talking two different bikes–a wheelset switch just won’t do it–as noted above, it’s more than just wheels, and clearance, but it’s also aerodynamics, frame geometry, crankset/cogset differences, chain length differences, tires and so forth. I would go separate dedicated bikes if I wanted to be serious in either domain, much less both.

3T Exploro, the first “full aero” gravel bike… this has become my all-road-gravel-adventure bike. At this point I’m not sure what I’m giving up on road rides as I haven’t ridden a proper road bike for a few years now.

I’ll take this on local club rides even with the 48 mm/650 b setup. It does feel a bit faster with the 700 wheelset, I think I have 28 mm road tires on those wheels. This may be more due to the lower spinning weight than aero. Or maybe both.

3T frames generally seem to work better with a 1x setup, so you’re going to give up some cadence options. I went with AXS as a mullet set up. The new gravel specific Sram cassette options may help with that. The rear cassette is just an Eagle 10-50, so the jumps are pretty big in spots.

This is also geography-dependent. I have 44t chainring up front, and at least for me, when I was in San Diego in August riding those hills (where the pic came from) I could have used a smaller front chainring. But back home this has been fine.

Pure road rides will have a higher speed range than gravel and adventure-gravel (singletrack, etc) so that is something to consider. I also have a single speed MTB that gets a fair amount of use, and I think that’s helped with my cadence range. YMMV

“some races”. I’m done with road racing. Not sure if you’re talking crit vs open roads, I would not want a bike with gravel (endurance) geometry for a crit.

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It’s worth noting that I don’t race (on the Factor or otherwise). I do know from experience, though, that it is perfectly capable on fast group rides .

I’d also expect that it, and that bikes like it (Aspero, Stigmata, etc) will, with the right wheels and tyres, acquit themselves well at lower level racing. Getting suitable gearing that doesn’t necessitate chainring or chain swapping might be a pain, but apart from how they’re set up, the bikes themselves will probably only cost you a handful of watts relative to a ‘proper’ road bike.

It’s the 90/90/90 idea: a really good all-rounder will do 90% of what 90% of people want it to do, 90% of the time.

If you’re actually racing (especially at Cat 2 or better) with any regularity, then yes, I’d suggest something more specialised. But for most of us, the all-road setup with 2 wheelsets would/will do the job just fine.