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Build your low cost gravel and commuter bike

It's the saga of Craigslist. You have a great perfect condition road bicycle to market. You ask a fair price. A few calls come in, most often the caller throws out a low ball offer, maybe 50% of asking price.

You don't need to give the bike away. You may not need the cash.

Consider re-purposing. You already own an excellent commuter and gravel bike. Think your bike is too low end, not good for the purpose?

Wrong. In most cases less expensive bikes are build with heavier parts, which means they are stronger. Heavier wheels = better ability to absorb commuter bumps and gravel roads.

A few simple modifications and you'll be rolling for transportation or logging road expeditions.

Here's my 2011 model Specialized Roubaix. I rode it for several seasons as a serious piece of road equipment. A few buyers offered up a few hundred dollars, so I went in another direction.

1) Added 700 x 28 Continental Gatorskin tires. Gatorskin tires wear like iron and you can trust them in off road conditions. Yesterday I rode the Creeper Trail from Damascus up to White Top, then descended back down. Rough, rocks, etc. I'd go wider than 28, to 32c, if I could. But most road bikes like Roubaix only have enough clearance for the 28's. It's OK, it works.

2) Add a retro over padded seat. We are no longer playing for looks. Get comfy.

3) I'm still running a 27 tooth low gear on the rear cluster. That's enough. A couple of weeks ago I dropped my rear wheel into a crash in a storm grate and smashed the rear derailleur. Note than I had it replaced with a long throw model, so I'm set for a 32 tooth low gear if I choose.

4) Note the minimalist rear pannier rack. It's made by Axiom. Mounts at the rear brake bracket and through the rear axle. This is exceptional, no old school drop out mounts needed. Any hand me down road bike can now go commuter model. I use easy on/off panniers, when I want to carry groceries, clothes, lock, etc. No need to leave anything behind.

5) Topped it off with Shimano SPD style road pedals. This allows me to utilize my mountain bike shoes and have cleat-free walking if needed.

I recently had four bikes (now I'm down to two) but I'll say I ride this Roubaix more than any other. It's solid, shifts clean and strong, and is comfortable. I'm not against the latest in gravel and cross bike models. But for my purpose, at my level of riding, no need to spend thousands. Just a few add-ons and a touch of oil makes for a perfect solution.


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