New Bike Musing - - Road or Gravel?

By way of background, I currently own a folding bike (Brompton), which is for commuting and joyrides, a tri bike (2007/2008 Felt B2) from back when I did triathlons. This bike also has some carbon Enve wheels (circa 2012) with a built in wireless powertap, and my gravel bike which is a circa 2006 Cannondale Optimo (it is powder blue, fairly lightweight, and I just love it except it needs a new drivetrain).

Earlier this year I thought, time to invest in some upgrades and I put a deposit down at my LBS towards new components and a quarq for the gravel bike. I thought in early February that surely I would have those things on my bike by the time the RR 100 rolled around for it’s originally scheduled date…Well, here we are four months later and I have nothing to show for my deposit (which was made in cash because I thought I could trust this particular shop) and I am trying to figure out how to handle the situation. In the mean time I have taken the old Optimo (named Pigpen) outside on two longer rides and I love it but I have also been getting the urge to join select friends on group rides on the road and not sure I want to show up for that on my tri bike (I wouldn’t be the only one on a tri bike however, just not sure I want to ride it anymore). I have been thinking about getting a road bike - - I live in a tiny house so this either means getting rid of the tri bike or putting all the holiday ornaments in storage to make room for more bikes. I always prided myself in not having so much junk that I needed to rent storage but maybe it is time to swallow my pride. I think if I sold the tri bike I would recoup about 8% of what I have invested in it while if I ever had the urge to do another triathlon, buying a new bike would be a serious expenditure even if I bought one with cheaper components.

As I do research on bikes I am more than a little overwhelmed. I feel like EVERYTHING has changed in the 13 years since I bought my (then) state of the art tri bike. From disc brakes to electronic shifting to even the type of tire and wheel…I really cannot absorb it all. I understand there may be road bikes that can handle gravel or even gravel bikes that are so aero, you slap on a different wheel or maybe even just a different tire and, bam, you have a road bike and are good to go on a quick ride? if this is true, I think maybe that is what I want…a gravel bike that is also speedy enough to hang on a group ride where everyone else is on a dedicated road bike…or do I want a road bike since outside of RR100 I probably won’t do tons of gravel riding but I will do some and maybe Pigpen is good enough (by the way I enjoy the course but don’t have an interest in racing it after riding it twice now LOL).

A friend who really knows bikes and is a very serious rider recommended I look at a 3T, the one that literally just came out. Boy is it pretty…he also recommended I look at a Connondale System Six - - but that looks to me to be exclusively a road bike?

Anyhow, I realize this is a topic where everyone who has an opinion will have one that is informed by their specific riding style and strengths. I am looking to potentially invest in another machine, also possibly sell the old tri bike (or keep it and rent storage for all my Halloween and Christmas ornaments lol). What say the bike / technology experts here? Particularly if you have recently purchased a bike, what would you do differently, what were you choosing between, what finally made you choose your current ride? What do you like? What do you wish you had? What could you have skipped?

Thanks so much - - I think the best ideas always come from groups like this so I am interested in hearing what everyone thinks on this topic. Also, I don’t want to pen myself into a budget until I understand what is out there - - so recommendations can run the gamut. I will say that I have lost all respect for the Competitive Cyclist [Edit: might have been “Outside Online” that made this absurd recommendation of a Pinarello Dogma for use as a commuter] because they recently published an article where the best all round bike recommendation “for commuting, group rides, and racing” was a $12.5K Pinarello Dogma. LOL. Where does the author commute I wonder? I would NEVER commute on such a bike! (So I guess what I am saying, is don’t post a link to that particular article, but feel free to recommend that particular bike if you feel strongly about it).

I am going to ask @dfriestedt to provide some thoughts here when he has a moment, as he has I-don’t-even-know-how-many bikes and he has done quite a bit of research throughout the years. It sounds to me that your gravel bike is a keeper, and you’d get more out of a road bike at this point. Have you looked into FACTOR bikes? My coach (retired World Tour pro) uses his road Factor on gravel by swapping wheels/tires. I have heard amazing things about these bikes and I’d probably get a Factor if I were on the market for a new road bike. They are fully made in the US.

I have a Colnago (older and now fully dedicated to the trainer) and a Trek Madone 9, which is super light and aero. I also have a Trek Boone for gravel, that I also use for CX. I would not buy another Trek though.

I would definitely recommend electronic shifting and disc breaks.

Look at this Factor Vista: road and gravel!! :heart_eyes:


Thank you! See - - I hadn’t thought of Factor so I will definitely take a look. Curious why you wouldn’t go with another Trek - - I am not yet seriously considering any particular bike but Trek seems like they are everywhere so just curious what you dislike. For me, while I love my Felt, I would never buy another bike with horizontal drop outs on the rear wheel…not sure if any bike is made that way these days though.

Treks are notorious for bottom bracket issues and I just keep hearing that other bikes (Factor, Seven, Parlee) have much better performances. For gravel in particular, Drew has an OPEN which is quite superior to Trek.

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So today I went and saw the fellow who fit me on my first “real” bike back in 2005 - - he pulls out my road bike fit sheet and sets up the machine / fit contraption according to the specs on that sheet and we get started. It is amazing how aging impacts fit!! My fit now it very different from what it was 15 years ago. When I told him about the issues I have been having with my feet swelling and getting painful he said “No wonder, your seat is probably too high. I have lowered it considerably as compared to where we were in 2005” - - I am sure “considerably” is relative, but nonetheless it was super interesting just how much about me beyond the obvious has changed in the past 15 years.

He just recently opened his own shop in the same space his former employer had and is trying to build the business back up (former employer closed rather abruptly last December after their side hustle, barbeque sauce, went international.) He is going to study 3T and Factor to see if they will work and said it was an excuse to reach out to those companies anyways since he wants to sell them. He already carries Orbea, Parlee, Colnago, Moots, Seven and Argon so I guess there is a decent selection and he said he could get me the bike, two sets of wheels and a power meter but not electronic shifting, for well within my budget so that is good. The previous bike shop would have scoffed at the number I threw out as my budget and convinced me it was too low…so I already have a good feeling about this.

If I were to pick a bike based on appearance alone though it really would have to be the 3T. All the rest of them look alike to me or just have the most hideous graphics/paint jobs…which as absurd and shallow as it sounds is an actual consideration for me since bikes double as wall art in my tiny home. We will see what he recommends…meanwhile I have lowered my seat on my current bike just a touch and we will see if that helps on longer rides.


@reservoircat i forget where do you live? I have an Argon so always curious about shops that carry it - not always easy to find let us know how the new fit goes!!

Your fitter sounds fantastic @reservoircat! And the new bike is getting closer to happening. How exciting!

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Hey @PaleGail I live in Chicago - - Shop is Peregrine (Old “Get A Grip” space on Fulton in the West Loop but east of Halsted).


@reservoircat thanks! That’s what I was thinking that you were here - i thought the closest Argon dealer was IN but maybe since it changed hands, its new for A18

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That really a tough one. For me, I need to go as fast as possible on all surfaces, so I get bikes specific for the terrain. Road for road, Gravel for Gravel, MTB for mountains, All-Terrain for mixed surface.

I have the Open (3T equivalent) and the System 6. I’m too tall for the 3T, so I had to do the Open UP. I think the Open is a GREAT gravel bike and do not have a single bad thing to say about it. I tortured the bike at Kanza. I broke the frame, but it was my fault. If raw speed on all surfaces was not important, I would get a 3T. You can ride it on gravel, mixed-terrain, and road. And the components are very durable, especially the derailleur hanger. The tire clearance is great so you can run 40s and even MTB tires.

The System 6 is VERY fast. But I’ve had a terrible experience with mine. I’ve had it for a year and have ridden it about 20 times. The frame creaks and no one can figure out why. And, the SRAM shifting is just bad. It sounds like a Mac truck and no one can get it to shift properly. The Trek Emonda is light, but I broke the frame on that too. The seat tube is not designed correctly. I’ve decided to move away from Trek. They have too many things that are “special” to Trek which can make them difficult to service and adjust for tall riders.

Part of the problem is I am tall and put out a lot of power and create leverage in ways these bikes are not designed to handle.

So I LOVE the 3T and Open UP. They are A+ bikes. Hope that helps.


@dfriestedt thank you! Speed is much less of a consideration for me :rofl: so one bike that can do road and gravel well (or one exceptionally well and the other decently enough), is definitely all I need.

Cool - then I recommend a 3T. Many of my friends have them. Someone did mention two things you should be aware of.

  1. There is some special “contraption” that secures the seat post. One friend lost a screw and was not able to properly secure the seat post. I don’t think that is an issue. Just something to be aware of. Don’t lose that screw.
  2. A potentially larger issue is when you remove the wheel to change the tire the derailleur comes off the bike. It does not stay secured. To me, that is an issue I would investigate more. The Open UP does not have that issue. I’m sure you can google that and find some videos on youtube.
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@dfriestedt, isn’t George Hincapie very tall, as well (or does he just look that way)? Have you checked into what he has adopted, now that he’s not having to ride what his team rides?

#2 sounds like a major design flaw - - will definitely look into THAT!!!

I found this video on GCN, if anyone else is tall. This is actually a great video for tall riders.

I have officially put down a deposit for a 3T Exploro with Shimano 105, and an extra set of wheels so I can have dedicated gravel and dedicate road (Enve 45s for the road). I am really excited about this!

Peregrine said the seat post issue was addressed for 2020 and that he thought the derailleur issue was something that he can walk me through. So in shop we will practice swapping out the wheels so I fully understand what is going on there.

Also Peregrine (in the Fulton Market area of Chicago), is now officially a 3T dealer. Since they are technically a new shop (two long time employees of the shop formerly on site), they are starting from zero in terms of the credit terms they get from the bike companies they rep so they are asking for larger deposits than you might have to cough up from another more established bike shop and making up the difference out of their own pockets, just as an FYI if anyone decides to buy a bike from them. I am all for helping them get established given how they have treated me but I thought I would mention it in case any Chicago area 360 Velo folk decide to pay them a visit.


Liz, did Adam have any advice for you on this front? I’m so sorry it’s happened to you. :disappointed_relieved:

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@adm0629 do you know the guys at Peregrine? I’m actually taking my Argon to them tomorrow for a late spring tune up since I’ve put so many miles on since the beginning of the year. The shop 4 blocks away is fine but i don’t trust him to be good about doing the right stuff with COVID - after Liz mentioned Peregrine and I found out they are an A18 dealer, seemed like a decent choice. They have been great in the email exchange to set up the appt.

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@PaleGail, I don’t know Saj but Adam is a top-notch bike fitter and fabulous person and was probably the savior of the previous bike shop. I want to say that I first visited him in 2004 for fitting a bike I didn’t purchase there and again in 2005 for a custom TT build, in 2007 for a new road bike and in 2009 for another custom TT bike, after a botched fitting at two other shops, including one that was an early Retul fitter. I never had issues with service, at all. They were just a little more out of the way for me, at the time, because their previous shop’s original location was on Irving Park Rd. Highly recommend.


Well, Jon suggested I ask for the parts I purchased and a refund of cash for the difference, which seemed incredibly obvious / amicable way to go about it once he said it (my mind was clouded with anger / annoyance over the situation so I admittedly didn’t think of this.) I ran that strategy by Adam and he thought from his perspective as a bike shop owner that it was a really good idea and the other bike shop should agree to it (or else!) and It worked! Last Sunday I retrieved a box of random bike parts that between Jon and I we will be able to use. Among that box of parts was the very power meter Adam suggested for my bike build so he will incorporate that. I also got a refund for the amount the first bike shop hadn’t yet spent and a refund for the parts that they thought they could keep and sell pretty easily. All in, I have been substantially made whole. I won’t post the name of the other shop as I don’t think anyone here would frequent them anyways. They are more geared towards the bike messenger market anyhow (oops. just gave it away LOL). @PaleGail Let us know how your visit goes!