I’ve been riding and racing a Crux on gravel for several years but am looking for something that can accept up to 2” wide tires for the sandy conditions we often have here in West Michigan. I know of the Salsa Cutthroat but was considering modifying or building up a 29er MTB with drop bars. Anyone have experience, recommended, pictures, build specs, etc. that they are willing to share?
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Usually the tricky part is finding a 29er with a short enough top tube to get a good position. There have been a couple of niche frames that could work in the past (Singular Peregrine for instance), but with the interest in bikepacking there's probably more new bikes that fit what you're looking for than old ones. 

The other thing with converting a 29er is that the bottom bracket will be higher than it needs to be. It's not a real problem if everything else fits though. If you're looking at a disc frame you could go to smaller rim sizes for your "sand surfer".

One other thing working in your favor now is that you can get tall/short LD style stems like the Velo Orange Cigne.
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RAB wrote:
I know of the Salsa Cutthroat but was considering modifying or building up a 29er MTB with drop bars. Anyone have experience, recommended, pictures, build specs, etc. that they are willing to share?

100% agreed on the top tube comment. Mountain Bikes designed for flat bars have much longer top tubes than bikes designed for drop bars. 

The reason being is that the hoods put you roughly 3 inches ahead of the stem bar bore. You typically spend a lot of time riding on the hoods, thus the TT needs to be short enough in order to not make you stretched out too much. 

Think about it a typical 56cm drop bar bike usually has an effective TT length of around 560mm. Compare this to a 19" XC hardtail and you'll find something in the neighborhood of 620mm.

That's a 60mm difference, so if you put drop bars on that XC hardtail your cockpit combination will grow an equal amount, and 60mm in cockpit combination is a lot. 

You can remedy some of this by running an extremely short stem, but it may not handle great if go this route.

Guy that does a little of everything at Noble Bikes


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Otso Warakin and their new one would both work, but it might be best to just go 650b on something. 29x2 on road bikes makes them tall and they feel funny on tight turns.

Most of my riding is done in straight lines though so I do it anyway.
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FWIW, the Cutthroat ain't a bad bike at all and may be the easier option.... I was pleasantly surprised when I first threw a leg over mine this spring!
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FWIW: don't hesitate and give it try.  I used cheap parts I had laying around and converted a Surly karate monkey into a monstercross/gravel all around rough terrain beast.  Its true, it feels tall and different on tight turns but on roads, its just fine.  Overall, its a great alternate for winter time riding, and the gearing is very lean and slow for good cold temps spinning.  as long as you have reasoned expectations, the ride will flow.
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On my conversion I had to stay with a traditional (narrowish) road bar because the reach was already maxed out, even with a short high-rise stem (60mm x 35 degree). No room for adjustment nor option to run wider flared bars. Also handles sort of like a MTB if you cut the flat bar down to 420mm. Goes straight pretty damn good, turning takes some getting used to, at best.

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Thanks for all the good input, guys!
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Dan Reese
Another option, that I use, is a Jones bar on a mountain bike. As many or more hand positions as drop bars and it puts you in a similar position.
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I don’t know if you frequent MTBR, but there is a long “monster cross” thread there, with all sorts of different set ups etc. I have a Cutthroat and really like it - around m the gravel is pretty deep and coarse, so the bigger tires are welcome. And to be honest, in races I’ve done I don’t feel I’m in that much of a disadvantage, especially in longer races (where you definitely feel a bit fresher with th extra cushioning provided by the tires.
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