Short Term Review: Trek Crockett 5 Disc as a gravel bike.
When I purchased this bike, I had to ask myself why I would want to expand my horizon as a cyclist at the age of seventy. Couldn't I just do a few more casual rides, even a few more long rides, and then without any fanfare move on to a three wheeler? Oh, hell no! If one is not learning something new, one is simply repeating those things which are already known.
I have played with riding gravel roads in the past, in fact, growing up in the midwest, if you left town you were likely to end up on a gravel road. I've slept on gravel roads. However, the new cycling phenomena of riding the knarliest roads around is something all together different. And after 30 years of road riding, in order to keep some spice in my riding, gravel riding was a natural extension.
My first experiment was getting bigger tires on a road bike. This works just fine, except when it doesn't, and there are so many advantages that a "designed" gravel bike can bring. We'll look at some of those later.
One of the obstacles to gravel riding in the Eugene area is the lack of gravel roads. I'm sure car drivers would say that's a good thing, and having grown up driving in the mid-west, I agree. But for gravel riding, it's a little of a hardship to ride 30 miles just to find a gravel "section" or two, when in the mid-west there is just so much to ride.
However, there are areas in Oregon, mostly to the east that do have a lot of gravel, and I discovered a couple of gravel grinders (bike rides/races) that appeal to me. I decided that I would make a bike change, and do a couple of them this spring and summer. How many times can you do the Oregon Gran Fondo before you tire of it?
I had done my research over the past year or so, and when I went looking it really boiled down to three bikes. One, the Specialized Sequoia, which is more of an "adventure" bike, eliminated itself eventually as it weighs more in the 25 lb. range. Even with big gears, I couldn't see myself managing that without some sort of injury. The other two were the Specialized Diverge. which is light-weight and carbon, though one should consider that even an expensive carbon gravel bike is still going to aproach 18 lbs. Considering that my road bike, a carbon Trek Emonda is in the 15 lb. range, I was concerned about adding weight. The other option was a Trek Crockett disc brake bike, which is an aluminum frame with disc brakes and probably in the 20 lb. range, though selling for $1899 was easily the best bargain of the bunch.
What actually made up my mind was a very gradual change that has happened over the past few years at my local bike shop. This is an influx of younger mechanics whose riding focus comes more from mountain biking and adventure rather than road racing. Over the years I have had my differences with these road racer types, having found many of them to be arrogant, and "know more than you do." Somehow at 70, and with all the miles I have done, while mostly on the road, it seems that I now fit closer to the younger guy category. Plus, over those years, it seems that those racer types really don't know more than I do. It has become pretty clear that when I now go into a bike shop, I know just what I want.
So around Christmas time, I made the decision to buy the Crockett, walked into the shop, and said I want that, and I want a 38 tooth chain ring (it is what is called a 1x or one by, meaning only one change ring in front), and a 42 cassette in the back. We did discuss what tires to put on it, and I decided to go with Schwalbe G one at 40 mm wide. Now you are probably asking: "Why such a big gear?" With the additional weight, I knew I would need it to get up some of the stiff hills in the area, and the 38-11 is enough gear to maintain an adequate pace on the flat.
So I have had the bike for more than a month. I have done a 50 miler on it, and found some good gravel to the west of town. With the 40 mm tires gravel is not a problem. The problem remains getting up a steep climb with loose gravel. None the less, with time I have improved on this bike. The extra weight has acted, it seems, as a kind of weight lifting effect. I am putting out some of the best power numbers I have seen in years. The bike is comfortable, a concern after past experiences on aluminum, the gearing, while there are some wide gaps that caused concern at first, has proven more than adequate. While slower, I am able to climb the same hills as on the road bike, and on the flat the weight is not that much of an obstacle.
I like this bike. My wife says it is a "pretty" bike. In its own way it is equal to the Emonda. And while I would rate it highly-I still find myself choosing the Emonda when the weather is nice (the Crockett is doubling as a rain bike), 4 stars out of a 5 star system; there are a few problems. First off, a 20 lb. bike is going to be an issue, especially at my age. I am concerned that I will take just way too long on a long gravel ride. In August I am looking at 120 miles in Prineville on some roads that will require this bike. I am not sure how long it will take. The second issue is shifting. The 1x drivetrain is a SRAM product the second tier Rival. All shifting takes place using the right hand lever, the small lever, unlike Shimano which I have used exclusively in the past. While it did not take long to get used to it, it remains, at times, a little awkward and rough I suppose that a third problem, potentially, is that the Crockett was designed as a cyclocross bike, and while distinctions have blurred across the entire road bike genre, it remains to be seen how the bike handles (and my body) on a long gravel ride. It has already been an adjustment. I have had some niggling leg pain from riding gears that are just not "quite right."
Just the same, as I said, I like the bike. It is an improvement over the Trek Pilot that I rode for many years, an old friend. I am excited about new adventure, seeing a different part of the state, and a different perspective on "road" riding. See you on the road.