“Adventure bike” is a term you have likely heard in recent months or years. What does the word conjure up for you? Its likely that the word doesn’t illicit thoughts of riding on asphalt. At least if you are pretty similar to most riders I know. Asphalt riding can lead to some pretty spectacular places where adventure can happen, but actual adventure, at least for most, tends to happen when we leave the asphalt and start heading off into the unknown.
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My Adventure Bike Background
12 years ago, I wanted a road bike that I could train on, with the sole purpose of getting stronger cycling fitness that would allow me to ride faster and farther on my mountain bike rides. I purchased a Specialized Tricross the first year they were available. It was an aluminum framed cyclocross bike with 700x32c tires and cantilever rim brakes. My intention was to train on roads with little to no traffic and connect to them via tame trails or dirt roads. I found myself actually enjoying road riding and the adventure came when I connected the roads via the dirt sections. Unfortunately, the Tricross was not very forgiving, nor inspiring when off the pavement. I was very pleased when returning to the pavement from the “adventurous” sections. Eventually, I found myself using the Tricross less and less on dirt because of this. I became a little less than thrilled with the Tricross as a road bike since it was not very aerodynamic nor lightweight, nor as fast rolling as a proper road bike. While I considered changing the 32c tires out for narrower 25c proper road tires, I decided to sell the bike instead.
Plus Bikes vs Road Bikes
If you have followed RideAlongside.com for any length of time, you know that we are very much interested in Plus Bikes. Both 27.5+ and 29+ tires and mountain bikes that fit these tires have piqued our interest over the last 3+ years. We have done our best to provide our findings with our readers through lists and spreadsheets in the Plus Bikes List and the Plus Bike Data. We have discussed our views on Plus Bike Philosophy, and reviewed lots of Plus Bike Gear along the way. This has been great for mountain biking, adding volume and width to tires for more control, comfort, and traction has helped many riders go faster, farther, and longer while exploring places they hadn’t on rides before plus bikes.
For road bikes, the gravel, all-road, cyclocross, and dirt drop niches have quickly seemed to fill in the spaces on the periphery of each category during recent years. The niche bike frames are no longer in distinct categories, but rather blurred together along a spectrum of bike geometry and tire clearance options. We are seeing this in the mountain bike world too, but not as quickly as the road bike world (it should be noted that road bike and mountain bike distinctions are blurred now as well). This blurriness between distinct genres of bikes can drive a person nuts if they like to have distinct lines between data and nomenclature to differentiate and aid discussion. I think its a great thing however. We can choose tires along a broad spectrum, no matter whether we steer them via drop bars or flat handlebars. I am seeing tires now between 23mm and 5 inches (126mm) wide on rim choices that mirror that range. Granted, there are not yet tires of every tread pattern in 1mm incremental increases along that entire range, but the choices we have today are growing quicker than I had imagined.
Scott Holland’s Marin Gestalt
We spoke with Scott about his Marin Pine Mountain 2, a trail bike, 27.5+ hardtail, almost two years ago. This year he was looking to get an efficient road bike that he could take on the dirt and still feel very confident and comfortable. He decided to pull the trigger on the Marin Gestalt 2. He wanted to have a road bike that could keep up on group road rides, cover lots of ground quickly, and still allow his mountain biking tendencies to lead him down unexplored sections of dirt.
The Marin Gestalt 2 Gravel Bike – 2017
Marin’s description of their Gestalt:
“Road riding is changing. In fact, these days it’s more like “road” riding, since so many riders are choosing to ride dropbar bikes on what could only loosely be called a road. While you can (and many have) certainly use an old school road bike for this…why would you want to when there’s a bike like the Marin Gestalt 2.
The Gestalt 2 is part of a new breed of road bikes, called gravel bikes or adventure bikes, which expand on the idea of what a road bike can do. The Gestalt 2 is built around a durable, lightweight and adventure-ready Series 3 6061 aluminum alloy frame and carbon fork with a rugged aluminum steerer, relieved headtube and BB. The gravel-oriented geometry gives the bike plenty of compliance for comfort over even the roughest of roads and gravel tracks. Front and rear fender mounts ensure that even when it’s muddy, you’ll be able to stay (mostly) clean and dry, and rack mounts make it an excellent choice for light touring or bike packing.
When riding gravel, having a wide gear range is essential. That’s why the Gestalt 2 comes equipped with a SRAM Rival 1×10-speed drivetrain that features a massive 11-42T cassette and 42T single chainring that gives you gearing for any obstacle you might encounter, while simplifying the drivetrain to make shifting easier. Road focused mechanical disc brakes are reliable on and off road, and have great stopping power. The Gestalt 2 rolls on a set of rugged Marin tubeless ready aluminum double wall rims, wrapped up in Schwalbe’s incredible G-One Performance 700x30mm tires with Kevlar puncture protection belt.”
Original Equipment Specs:
- Bottom Bracket: External sealed cartridge bearing
- Brakes: Tektro Spyre-C Road Mechanical Disc, 160mm rotors front/rear
- Cassette: Sunrace 10-speed, 11-42T
- Chain: KMC X10
- Crankset: Forged Alloy 1×10, Hollow CrMo Spindle, Narrow-Wide 42T chainring
- Fork: Carbon w/ alloy steerer, Post mount disc
- Frame: 6061 Aluminum, Relieved head tube and bottom bracket, Internal cable routing, Post mount disc specific, Forged dropouts
- Front Derailleur: None
- Grips/Tape: Marin Shock Absorbing Microfiber Tape
- Handlebar: Marin Compact, 12-degree flared drop, Flat top
- Headset: FSA No.8B
- Levers: SRAM Apex
- Pedals: Commute Platform
- Rack Mounts: Front and rear
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM GX 10-speed
- Saddle: Marin Beyond Road Concept
- Seatpost: Marin Alloy
- Shifters: SRAM Apex 1×10-speed
- Stem: Marin 3D Forged alloy
- Tires: Schwalbe G-One Performance, 700×30, Folding bead, Kevlar puncture protection
- Rims: Marin aluminum double wall, 19mm inner, 24mm height, Disc specific, Tubeless ready;
- Hubs: Forged aluminum alloy, 6-bolt disc, 32H;
- Spokes: 14g black stainless steel
Although the Marin Gestalt came out of the box ready for real road riding and some dirt riding, Scott found that it wasn’t quite as ready to tackle the amount of dirt riding he was wanting.
While Scott decided on some minor fitting adjustments, as expected, he also opted for some drivetrain component swaps to make it more trail and steep climb friendly as well.
Scott wanted a little more comfort and a little more confidence off road without compromising too much in efficiency on the road. He decided to decrease the diameter of his rims and increase the width of his road tires. He upgraded to “Road Plus”.
‘Road Plus’ Introduction
WTB recently introduced their line of Road Plus tires with the mantra, “Explore the Road Less Traveled”. This immediately reminded me of what I was trying to do with the Tricross from 12 years ago. That is precisely what I had in mind. How would this approach differ to what I had experienced?
Intended to fit in “normal” road bikes.
Intended to run tubeless.
Supple high-volume comfort to smooth out rougher terrain.
Smooth centerline to keep up speed/performance on smooth terrain.
Larger contact patch and side tread inspire confidence on dirt corners.
Road Plus Vs 700c. Image courtesy of WTB
WTB description of ‘Road Plus’:
“WTB Road Plus tires bring supple plus-size traction and smooth riding characteristics beyond where the pavement ends. Each of our Road Plus models pair a smooth centerline to various levels of outer tread/knobs, providing different degrees of resilience and cornering traction to suit specific usages. High-volume road provides deceivingly svelte performance on pavement, with resiliency that isn’t shaken by chasing confidants down dusty dirt roads. Sneak it into a cross bike, fit it into a road frame, the overall diameter stays the same as a 700 x 30mm road tire. Ride it on tarmac, take it to the dirt as well. Creating a new riding experience, regardless of where your exploits lead you.”
“Road Plus retains the same geometry as existing endurance road bikes but adds a high volume, tubeless 650b wheel and tire in place of a 700c. With 650b x 47c Road Plus TCS tires having the same overall wheel diameter as a 700 x 30c tire, it only requires a little more chainstay clearance than a traditional road tire. Pair it to a Ci24 Carbon or KOM i23/i25 650b TCS rim and you have a light, high volume, fast rolling setup without going back to the drawing board for frame design. Visit our Road Plus Fit Chart at wtb.com/pages/road-plus to ensure compatibility with your current frame.”
Road Plus Experience
Scott and I chat about his review of the Marin Gestalt and the Road Plus experience in the video below. I threw a leg over it right before we shot the video. The Highland Valley Trail, where we shot the video is in Escondido, CA. It has some nice, twisting, buffed out hardpack singletrack with occasional rock sections that I know well. I have only ridden mountain bikes on this trail and thought that I could easily get the slick Road Plus tires to slide out on the loose over hardpack turns. I was very surprised when I kept pushing it hard while leaning over, the tires rarely faltered, slipped, or slid. I came off the singletrack onto the gravel road where I was sure that I could get it sliding at 15 to 20 miles an hour into a tight leaning turn. It was honestly pretty difficult, even in the looser sections. When I tried to turn in the low point of the gravel road, a sandy section grabbed hold of the wheel and made the turn tough. Otherwise, traction was very good. Comfort and compliance was pretty remarkable on the trail and the gravel road washboard sections, though not as good as a mountain bike. You still get rattled a little on the more chattery sections, but nothing like a 25, 28, or even 30mm tire. The beauty of these Road Plus tires fitting in many existing, unmodified road bike frames means that road riders with disc brakes can purchase a second set of wheels for the paths less traveled, or even hit some singletrack with increased confidence and comfort. Then they can quickly swap out the wheels for their regularly scheduled road rides on the 700c narrow tires again.