Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Concept Bike Revisited; Part 3

The Lynskey GR300 has the geometry, but misses on the details.
Last time I wrote about the "Concept Bike" ideas, I contrasted what I thought was going to make for a good gravel bike with what we can get today. This time I am going to write about materials, and also details, which I have preferences for in regard to what I deem as the "perfect all-roads bike". Keeping in mind that what you think may be radically different, I will proceed.

The geometry has to be right, and if it is, then I look at what the bike is made out of. I've been around the gravel riding thing for a long time and I have seen failures, heard about more, and I have ridden a lot of different bikes. In my opinion, titanium is where it is at for a gravel bike. Carbon is sexy, light, and can be made to ride well, but it also can be fragile in severe conditions. Finishes get scoured off by gritty mud, layers of carbon get ground through, and then what? Uggh..... 

Yes, I understand that titanium can break, get worn through by gritty mud, and suffer damage, but if it does, it can be repaired by a good welder/frame maker. Carbon can be repaired, but not always. Plus, it is very difficult to recycle if it fails. Titanium can be recycled easier if need be. But would it ever need to be? Carbon, depending upon the damage, is not always repairable. It's my opinion, but titanium feels like it is a longer term investment. And if I had my druthers, that's what I'd get. "So.....what titanium frame would you get?", you might ask. Well, there are a few I'd consider, but let's look at the Lynskey GR300.

The GR300 is U.S. made, high quality, well designed, and has the right geometry. However; there are "missing" bits. It has fender and rack mounts, but only the three traditional mounts for bottles. Yeah.....none on the fork. That could be remedied, by getting a different fork, but then you have to match the geometry, and it isn't as easy as it sounds. Plus, their fork is an unknown quantity which may or may not ride the way I want it to. So, now with that looked at, let's pick on another Ti bike example........

The Twin Six Ti Standard Rando
Another bike I could lay my hands on is the Twin Six Ti Standard Rando. I once owned the steel version of this bike, and so it has the geometry nearly locked down. A little steep in the head angle, but really, a good bike on Iowa gravel.

As you can see, it also sports an extra water bottle mount, but still no fork mounted bottles. Dang it! Anyway, I could make this work, but......

There is always a "but", right?

The Standard Rando has limited 700c tire clearances. You'd be hard pressed to stick a 42-43mm tire in that thing and say you had "mud clearances". The deeper bottom bracket height, (75mm), would be a bit of an issue at times with 650B x 47mm tires, as I know from having done that with the steel version of this bike. And, of course, it sports a Whiskey carbon fork, which again- I don't know that I'd like that. Oh, and this bike has one death knell in spec- quick release axle standard. Boo! If it had through axles, well then.....maybe.

But of all the bikes out now for gravel, I really like the more level top tube of the Twin Six. It just looks "right", but I am old-school. And yes- there is a Standard Rando XC, but it is 1X only. Boo again. Take the through axles that bike has, the wider tire clearances it has, and mix that with this Ti Standard Rando so I could have big tires and 2X? Sold! 

The Knolly Bikes Cache Ti
Okay, one more. The Knolly Bikes Cache Ti. It has the geo nailed. It's spot on. So, what's wrong with it? Well, water bottle capacity suffers due to the extreme sloping top tube. You get the traditional three bottle mounts. That's it. 

I'm also not a huge fan of a gravel bike that looks like a hard tail mountain frame with drop bars and anemic looking tires. It's that severely sloping top tube that puts me off there. Call me crazy, or vain, or both, but I am not excited by that. Even the fact that my pink BMC is somewhat like that bugs me. 

Carbon fork, of course, and while Knolly preaches compliance, well, I don't know anything about this fork. But let's say they have a good, nicely riding fork. Well, the price you pay here is steep. Like over 3G steep. That's frame and fork only. That's well within the range of custom frame pricing. I'm not going to compromise on anything if I'm spending that much, so yes- their lack of water bottle mounts is unacceptable. That and the unknown fork, and the weirdly sloping top tube.....well, I cannot go there without more knowledge and a blessing of unforeseen magnitude in cash anyway.

Yeah, so in the meantime.........

So, as you can see, it isn't easy. You can find titanium bikes, but at a reasonable cost and with everything I want? I think we are in custom bike frame territory here folks. And if that is the case, then titanium is going to be too rich for this poor bike mechanic. Steel is what I'd have to go with then, and ya know, that ain't all bad...... 

Next: The final look at this idea, what it would take now to make me happy, and some possible solutions. 


Marcin S. said...

I wonder what is your opinion on Ruut Ti? Seems to fit your requirements.

Guitar Ted said...

@Marcin S - What do I think of that Ruut Ti? Another "almost, but not quite" choice. The 700c tire clearance is listed at maximum of 40mm, if I got that right, and if so- uggh! That's not what I'd want.

The adjustable geometry is interesting, on the surface of it, but as with so many MTB bikes that have this, what I'd want in the head angle and the bottom bracket drop are mutually exclusive. Not good there either.

Finally, that fork looks brutal. I very well may be wrong, but in general, when you put that much material into a fork, the fore/aft action of the fork blades, so vital to mitigating vibrations, is taken away. Just judging on the looks, which isn't fair play, I'd be very skeptical that it would work.

It looks as though there are two places to mount a bottle, and if there is one on the underside of the down tube, it isn't clearly shown, so again. No-go.

In terms of price and what I am seeing there, I wouldn't be interested then.

Greg said...

Mark I know you mentioned that the Lynskey is not for you, but I purchased the GR270 frame and fork last year (appears nearly identical to the GR300)and love it. I also purchased the Lynskey set back seat post and the ride is very comfortable and stable. This bike replaced a carbon cross frame and fork for the reasons you mentioned regarding carbon. I highly recommend the Lynskey - company was great to deal with too. Makes and awesome all road bike.

Scott said...

First a quick question. I know you've discussed in the past that adding the disc brake mount to a steel fork will make it less compliant than it might be otherwise. I am curious if fork bottle mounts have a similar effect? It seems they would need to be reinforced with more material?

I think having 3 water bottle mounts within the frame like your BMC MCD should be a minimum standard for gravel bikes going forward.

My first gravel bike was a Vaya Ti. It was the model where Salsa supposedly outsourced production to Lynskey. For whatever reason that bike did not embody the mythical qualities of Ti I had always heard about. The ride quality was VERY unimpressive. Thankfully I was able to sell it. The springy steel of my BMC Road+ is so much nicer.

Because of my experience with my Vaya I struggle with the Ti = long term investment idea. When I got hooked on mountain biking 10 years ago a lot of local guys "invested" in Ti 29ers from Lynskey (the one with the twisted helix downtube. Incidently, many of those frames ended up breaking). These guys always talked about how their Lynskey was a lifetime bike. Given the advancements in 29er geometry over the last 10 years I doubt many people would still enjoy riding one of those 10 year old Lynskeys. Add in the constantly evolving standards in the bike world and it is hard to imagine a scenario where an investment in Ti wouldn't result in an obsolete bike within 5 years. Another example would be the first Warbird Ti. Our LBS owner had one for a short time but I think it barely cleared a 35mm tire in the rear.

Scott said...

Here is another question I've been meaning to ask that might be relevant for this Concept Bike theme. In the MTB world some brands are starting to vary the chainstay lengths across their sizing range. The idea being that as the wheelbase grows from size XS to XL the chainstays should be lengthened in order to keep taller riders more centered and balanced on the bike. Do you think this concept could also be relevant for gravel bikes or would the benefit of stability at speed be negligible? Thanks GT!

Guitar Ted said...

@Greg - My friend Grannygear has a GR250 and recommends it as well. Yes- it's still on the radar for me. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts on it.

@Scott - Forks with bottle bosses need only be reinforced at the attachment points. And if the bosses are on the rear or front of the fork blades, the cages are far less likely to shear off. If the cages are on the outward facing sides of the fork blades, then that presents more of an issue. Disc forces are far greater, so reinforcing the fork to prevent twisting is more of a concern.

As far as Lynskey's track record goes, I am well aware of it. Yes- Ti can be incorrectly designed and assembled. As can any other material. I think Lynskey has learned its lessons.

In terms of the Ti Vaya, it also has to be mentioned that the bike wasn't Lynskey's design, and it was being made on an outsourced basis- not one of their models. I cannot then fully say it was "their fault" the bike rode as it did for anyone.

MTB is an ever changing bag of tricks. This year's geometry probably will look just as goofy ten years from now as the geometry from ten years ago looks today. Gravel and road bikes seem to not be affected by the "geometry du jour" factor which has plagued MTB design since 1980. To say that my ideal gravel bike in Ti would be "outdated" in ten years because of what has happened in MTB geometry is not a good comparison then.

Guitar Ted said...

@Scott - I almost missed your question on chain stay length. Yes- I do believe that variable chainstay lengths can be effective at bringing better handling and ride comfort for larger riders especially. Obviously there are cost concerns in terms of manufacturing which help prevent many companies from opting to provide this.

Marcin S. said...

Thanks for the reply. I had a chance to check the 2020 version with the new fork. It is much slimmer fork with triple mounts. The listed clearance at 40mm is very conservative, you could definitely fit 50mm there. And I can confirm that there are triple bottle mounts under the downtube. Still availability is not great and it is 1x only so not good for you anyway.

nellborg said...

I agree with your ti comments. I had a GR270. Geometry and handling/stability was great, but the front end was way too stiff with that overbuilt carbon fork. No compliance at all. Rattled my fillings loose. I ended up selling it and got a Black Mtn MCD which is much more compliant overall.

Pete Witucki said...

Twin Six is about to drop a new version of the steel STD Rando - looks like TA and bigger tire clearances. Not sure when or if the new geo will make it to the Ti (esp since they already have the XC in Ti), but the teaser photos on Instagram are rolling out.

I love the idea of a Ti bike someday, but the cost is a lot to swallow and I’m just not convinced it’s that much better than some of the really nice steel frames. Fortunately (?) it’s just a theoretical problem for me for now!