How to go about buying a bike for hilly country lanes and sensible off-road?

steveha

Regular
Location
Stroud
I'm getting back in the saddle after about 35 years and feel that my old Mercian needs replacement!

During my twenties, (40+ years ago) I frequently rode about 50 hilly miles a day including in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Used to live in Cheltenham but moved to Stroud January 2020. Got the bike out of a (dry) back bedroom, did basic repairs so as to extend exercise range during lockdown, discovered I could still ride it and regained a lot of fitness. Found that I still enjoy riding around hilly country lanes. Typically ride for several hours 3 times a week, average about 8mph riding some hills and walking others.

What I want to do
Carry on riding around the area, probably up to 25 miles in an afternoon. Occasionally use for shopping and social journeys. Unlikely to use it for multi-day trips but wouldn’t like to rule out that out. Have never cycle camped and unlikely to start. Not really a “mountain biker” but I do enjoy “sensible” off road riding. I never enjoyed having to carry the bike

What I think I need/want
  1. Something that weighs under the 13kg of the Mercian
  2. Wheels stronger, more comfortable and grippy (especially on rough roads) than my current 27 x 1.25" "high pressures"
  3. Disk brakes. Current centre-pull brakes are scary down these hills - even when dry.
  4. Gears. Currently use 2x5 but I still hate double clangers. Wondering about 1x11 25" to 100"?
I've got a long list of other likes/wants/dislikes, etc.

I'm wondering what my best way forward is?

  • Go around local bike shops with a detailed spec. and spend an hour at each ?
  • Try for a totally made to measure bike?
  • Or buy something standard and get it modified?
Years ago, I built up bikes from scratch to my liking but things have changed too much for me to be able to do that now!

Thanks!
 

Joffey

Veteran
Location
Yorkshire
 

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
Whatever you buy, hang on to your mercian. It will surprise you what it is worth. I sold my mercian frame by itself for £50 and now regret it.
 

Cycleops

Legendary Member
Location
Accra, Ghana
A x1 gravel bike would seem to fit the bill as suggested above. There’s plenty of choice around as this configuration is popular right now. You don’t say what your budget is but there are models at most price points. You’ll have a choice of steel, aluminium or Carbon frame, you might like to consider the latter if weight is very important but make sure it will take a rack if you want to carry stuff, most will.
You may want to hang onto your Mercian if you feel nostalgic but if it no longer suits sell it to fund a better new one, as above it’ll fetch a good price.
I should find a good local bike shop and see what they can offer.

Good luck and :welcome: to the forum.
 

cougie uk

Senior Member
The bikes above are a good shout. Chunky slick tyres should help you roll nicely.

Look up how to bed in your disc brakes. A lot of people don't know this and their braking is a lot worse for it.
 

rivers

How far can I go?
Location
Bristol
I would definitely look at a gravel bike. 1x or 2x up to you and would look at tiagra as a minimum for a groupset.
 
OP
S

steveha

Regular
Location
Stroud
Whatever you buy, hang on to your mercian. It will surprise you what it is worth. I sold my mercian frame by itself for £50 and now regret it.
Thanks, I'm aware that it has value and will find it a good home :-)
 
OP
S

steveha

Regular
Location
Stroud
Thanks to everyone for their useful and encouraging responses so far! :-) I've a few more detailed questions so going to try starting some new threads on them. Thanks again!
 

DRM

Veteran
Location
West Yorks
A gravel bike will be perfect, look for something with Tiagra, it’s a fantastic group set with smooth changes, a 2x setup will be better as the steps between gears will be not too much, the only thing with 1x is the price of replacement cassettes, try to find something that will take as wider tyre as possible for off road, if you think you may also do some tarmac only rides you could buy a set of spare wheels/discs and fit slicks (30mm wide ish) and have off road tyres on the original wheels, mechanical discs are ok, mine has TRP Spyres and they work really well, hydraulic discs are better, but come at a premium, if you can run to it the Shimano GRX groupset is fantastic, but again comes at a premium, also check for mounting points on the frame for bags as in the future you may want to use it for bike packing/touring, it will make the bike a real do it all.
 

Grant Fondo

Oswalds legs look strangely human?
Location
Cheshire
A gravel bike will be perfect, look for something with Tiagra, it’s a fantastic group set with smooth changes, a 2x setup will be better as the steps between gears will be not too much, the only thing with 1x is the price of replacement cassettes, try to find something that will take as wider tyre as possible for off road, if you think you may also do some tarmac only rides you could buy a set of spare wheels/discs and fit slicks (30mm wide ish) and have off road tyres on the original wheels, mechanical discs are ok, mine has TRP Spyres and they work really well, hydraulic discs are better, but come at a premium, if you can run to it the Shimano GRX groupset is fantastic, but again comes at a premium, also check for mounting points on the frame for bags as in the future you may want to use it for bike packing/touring, it will make the bike a real do it all.
Yeah agree with all that good advice.... i was always worried the gravel bike would gather dust and i would just keep using road/MTB but quite the opposite, its now the go-to bike (Diverge Sport)
 

clockworksimon

Senior Member
Given your long list of preferences, might be worth a look at Thorn bikes as associated with St John Street Cycles. Download their mega brochure and you will find something suitable for rough stuff type riding, with less ‘sporty’ options than some of the gravel bikes available. As someone with a dodgy back, the higher front end, more relaxed options from Thorn look attractive. Myself, I repurposed my old 1990’s steel Orange MTB for gravelly and rough lane type riding. Doesn’t have discs but V brakes plenty powerful. Swapped out the suspension forks for original springy steel forks, added a riser stem and voila! Use it to combine rides with rough lanes, hills and less technical MTB rides. Worth looking beyond current bike fashions if you are fussy about your requirements.
 

DRM

Veteran
Location
West Yorks
Yeah agree with all that good advice.... i was always worried the gravel bike would gather dust and i would just keep using road/MTB but quite the opposite, its now the go-to bike (Diverge Sport)
Me too, it's been the go to bike since I got it, if I see somewhere that's a bit dodgy on the road bike, I've ridden it, it's been great for exploring and I've found paths and lanes I had no idea existed, Marin Gestalt 2 in my case
 

DRM

Veteran
Location
West Yorks
Given your long list of preferences, might be worth a look at Thorn bikes as associated with St John Street Cycles. Download their mega brochure and you will find something suitable for rough stuff type riding, with less ‘sporty’ options than some of the gravel bikes available. As someone with a dodgy back, the higher front end, more relaxed options from Thorn look attractive. Myself, I repurposed my old 1990’s steel Orange MTB for gravelly and rough lane type riding. Doesn’t have discs but V brakes plenty powerful. Swapped out the suspension forks for original springy steel forks, added a riser stem and voila! Use it to combine rides with rough lanes, hills and less technical MTB rides. Worth looking beyond current bike fashions if you are fussy about your requirements.
The vast majority of gravel bikes are nowhere near the sporty end of the spectrum, they have tall head tubes, a more relaxed geometry, with a slacker steer angle, combined with a longer wheelbase make them very comfy and suitable for long go anywhere rides
 
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