DarKris
I've been mulling over this for a while now and I wanted to get some opinions on this topic before I stress myself any further. I was looking into getting a gravel bike that COULD be raced, however racing would not be it's primary function. There were three things I wanted to consider:

1: There are numerous gravel race bikes that are steel framed with a carbon fork, but few that have steel forks. I've been pretty jaded when it comes to carbon-anything on my bike, and I started looking to steel for ease of mind. That said I have not seen many individuals racing with an all-steel bike so I wonder how practical it would be. 

2: Now say I find an all-steel bike, many of these bikes fall under touring/bikepacking categories in terms of their geometry with super long wheelbases/chainstays, sometimes huge head-tubes or low trail front ends for front racks, and low BB drops (I run 650b tires so that matters). I much prefer bikes with shorter chainstays and wheelbases (420-35/1020-1040), higher BB drops (60-65), and head-tubes with higher trails (70-72 degrees, 60-70mm trail).

3: I have an all-steel gravel bike with geometry that I want, but it uses quick release hubs. My current bike uses QR and my main issues come when I'm sprinting and the disc rotor rubs against the brake pads, and whenever I remove the wheels and put them back they rub the pads requiring even more adjustment every time I remove them. If switching to thru-axles don't alleviate these issues then I guess this is the one thing that I can compromise on.

TL-DR Because I rambled: 1) Can a Steel Frame+Fork be viable for gravel racing. 2) Are there bikes with geo balanced for speed/responsiveness and comfort/stability (and 700c/650b). 3) Will thru-axles stop my disc rotors from rubbing my brake pads when sprinting or when replacing the wheel?

One final note: I don't want a super-light race bike, but I don't want a slow/heavy touring rig either. I'd be super content with a bike hovering around 20lbs, however anything higher and I would be a bit more hesitant.

EDIT: Well I fixed the brake rubbing while sprinting issue, but I believe the latter issue still stands.
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chas

I like your geometry (although your trail seems high.  Road bikes are about 55-57mm.  gravel may get to be 65, hybrid and mountain in the mid 70’s

 

It sounds like you may want a cross bike?  That seems to hit your targets pretty well. 60 seems a little high for BB drop, as most road / cross bikes seem to be around 70 (gravel can get much lower, some cross bikes are higher).

I’m wondering about your disk question too.  If you used one of those conversion kits to replace the QR with those bolt on adapters, would that work?  It doesn’t change the size or thickness, but should ensure as solid a mount as possible with the hardware.  I put an insane amount of torque through my track bike when sprinting, and those bolt on wheels seem to be solid (but that bike has NO brakes, lol).

Example conversion:  http://tinyurl.com/y929qrkz

 

I also like the OPEN Unbeaten Path, as that seems to meet your targets, and allow a huge range in tire size (meeting your 650b requiremens)

 

Personally, I just run a cross bike, and I’m happy with the agility it gives me over a gravel type bike.

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DarKris
The Open UP is full carbon. Definitely staying away from that.

Like I said if there's a Cross bike (I know a few) that can fit 650b Road Plus tires, and if I don't need thru-axles to fix the disc rotor rub issues I've been having, I think I'd have a lot more options.
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knl2stl
An all steel bike and fork set up with QRs will never work.  So, you best give your current one to me.  

However, I do have a QR steel moutain bike with discs, a QR fat bike with steel fork and discs, and a QR all steel 700c bike (2014 Kona Rove) with discs.  I run my brakes with tight, small rotor to pad gaps, two sets of mechanical and one hydro.  All steel, all QR, all disc....zero rub.  (OK, the fat bike is an aluminum frame with steel fork, but it sucks so the aluminum part does not count.)

You just need to set it all up correctly, that includes knowing how to set up the brakes, and knowing what skewers to use.  Internal cams, no plastic bits, and know how to use them, the same way every time.  
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ridemagnetic
DarKris wrote:
...I've been pretty jaded when it comes to carbon-anything on my bike, and I started looking to steel for ease of mind...


You're going to have to explain that one a bit further because today's carbon, especially forks, are nothing like they were in the past. And your desired weight of 20ish lbs for a complete is gonna be pretty damn hard to come by with a steel fork and aluminum rimmed wheels.

I think you're too focused on weight. I know some Rando guys that jump in fast group rides and races with their 23lb steel bikes and 32h low pro wheels and rip our legs off. It's quite hilarious.

It's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
A great set of wheels will make an average frame ride better. It doesn't work the other way around.  ~ridemagnetic
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drwelby
For that combo you're going to have to custom. You might find some older 853 or Ox Plat team cross frames that are at least steel and with 65mm drop, but they won't have the tire clearance, or disk mounts, and definitely not through axles. The Gunnar with the Paragon Polydrops is probably the closest you can get, and I'm not sure it has the tire clearance. They might be able to do a semi-custom for you and tweak the chainstay crimps.
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DarKris
ridemagnetic wrote:


You're going to have to explain that one a bit further because today's carbon, especially forks, are nothing like they were in the past. And your desired weight of 20ish lbs for a complete is gonna be pretty damn hard to come by with a steel fork and aluminum rimmed wheels.

I think you're too focused on weight. I know some Rando guys that jump in fast group rides and races with their 1990 something 23lb steel bikes and 32h low pro wheels and rip our legs off. It's quite hilarious.

It's not the arrow, it's the Indian.     


1. I had two carbon forks/alloy steerer. The first one had a cosmetic chip on the fork blade which made me paranoid, the other had a crack on the post mount (don't know where it came from) so it was unusable after that. My other thing which is more of a personal problem: I ride my bike like a drop bar MTB and generally put it through more stress than a typical road/gravel bike.

2. I realized 20lbs would be a stretch. I really meant sub-25lbs, basically I didn't know what to expect in terms of weight. I'll be honest I weigh ~350lb last time I checked & going down so I guess bike weight shouldn't be a priority, but I was more looking towards the future when I'm not <300lbs (also why I'm avoiding carbon).
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thepointchris
Talk to Cameron Falconer - he's a specialist in Steel Off-Road rigs.
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barturtle
Van Dessel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is available with thru axles. Other than chainstays being a touch longer than your spec, it's about right where you are looking geometry wise.

Can it get there weight wise? With a high end build, 25lbs could happen. Maybe. Mine is a touring build 36H wheels (Dyads with Shimano hubs, dynohub up front), 3x touring triple, cable discs, lights, fenders, etc. A CX crankset, hydro discs, lighter tubeless wheels with lighter hubs, yeah. it could probably get there.
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drwelby
Niner RLT Steel, sell the fork and have Waltworks build you a steel replacement?
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Budgielord
2018 Kona Rove St is all steel, thru axle front and rear, and come in a frame set option (at least in Canada) so that you can build as you please. BB drop is a bit more than you are looking for (72), but meets the rest of the requirements.

I have the original titanium rove, built with a carbon fork and ultegra group set that weighs just above 20lbs with no real weight weenie parts. I am sure you can get close to that with the steel frame a curated parts selection. I have raced the rove in some local spring classics (most gravel back roads) and it has performed admirably.

Worth a look before going custom.
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Cmtgravel
Check out Masi CXGR Supremo. Steel frame, carbon fork, hydraulic discs, thru axles, and just north of 2 grand. I ride the lower level CXGR, and its prob the most stable frame ive ever ridden. I'm around 210 lbs, hard on equipment, and i swear by my Masi. Its heavy, but im sure the higher level Supremo runs a little lighter. And for heavier guys like us, strong, stable,reliable beats out lightweight everytime.
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GrvlRob
Check out the Specialized Sequoia, steel frame and carbon fork on the higher end models, steel fork on lower level model. 12 mm through axles front & rear, 105 level hydro disk brakes are perfect. This is truly an awesome riding bike I was very surprised when I test rode it for the first time...I own the mid level Elite model and really like it. I'm at 215 and have absolutely no worries with the carbon fork. 👍
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Adam V
Im running a Gunnar Hyper xx , with a  carbon fork, though I think they offer a TA steel fork as well.  The geometry is more new school cross, so fairly steep HT angle, lowish BB (70MM drop)  turns well and handles  well quick but I don't think darty and descends nicely also, though I suspect it might be a slightly better gravel/road bike with a slight bit more BBdrop(custom geometry is available for about a extra $300 and probably some extra wait time) I'm running mine with rival hydro/but Force crank with WI/Belgiium + rims with the whiskey #9 fork specialized roaibax 32MM tires and fenders as a great rain/gravel bike, weighs under 20# with XTR pedals but before putting on the fenders, using 700c wheels.  I think Gunnar says it has clearance for a 700x45 tires, and I think that would fit.  The shop I had order/build mine has made several demo bikes with 650b wheels and a 105 hydro build that they sell for around $3,500  nice build, but with the steel fork, and fairly generic cockpit and descent but not light wheels, it isn't going to be very light.  My build was about or a little more than 1K more than their 105 demo build.  
     I did took the fenders off and swapped out the tires for some clement MSO 36MM tubeless tires and did the big Winthrop Gran fondo recently.  I wasn't in shape to try to race it this year, but it rode will and survived 90 miles and 11k of climbing and some serious descents.  I did have to boot and tube the front tire after a sidewall hole on a sharp rocky descent, but I wasn't the only one fixing a flat, even setup tubeless..
     I think gravel cyclist did a nice bike profile on a Gunnar set up similar to mine in the last 1-2 years.
     I think sticking to canti or mini V brakes on a steel gravel bike is a nice idea as well,for gravel racing, at least if most of your riding is in dry weather, saves a bunch of weight, especially if you want to go with a steel fork.  If I didn't live in such a wet area(western WA) I likely would have just stuck with a steel rim brake bike for gravel riding and racing.
Adam
     
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razorimages
It's not  really what you aim for i guess, but did you consider the Cannondale Slate ? It has been used to race, and win some endurance races i believe...  I'm riding one myself, it's been great so far. Prior to the slate, i rode a Pinnacle Arkose 2, which was great, but too chaotic on fireroads.
Equiped with the right tires, the slate is very fun and fast to ride

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hipsteronabike

DarKris wrote:


I'll be honest I weigh ~350lb last time I checked & going down so I guess bike weight shouldn't be a priority

This is exactly the case. I don't know your height, but you can loose 150lbs safely, bicycle weight is not the issue here.  If you get an good quality frame with mid-tier components you may save 5lbs over something "ultra premium", but you will break that bike right now. Get the geometry and components you want, the rest will take care of itself.

There are plenty of 30 pound fat bikes riding endurance gravel events ridden by riders faster than either of us, focus on your bicycle engine first.

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sgtrobo
a 20-lb steel-framed cyclocross bike with a steel fork that still weighs <20 lbs?
good luck.  [smile]

edit - just read your update. for right now, you're looking at something like a Fargo, a Sequoia, an RLT9 Steel, etc.  I wouldn't focus on the weight of the bike, so much, and I wouldn't get wrapped around the axle about a carbon fork, they are insanely strong now. 
As far as "planning for when you're <x> weight", I'd recommend you not count that chicken until it hatches. Buy for what you're going to ride now, then reward yourself once you get down to 250 lbs (or whatever goals you have).   

You mention cyclocross geometry and you're a super clyde.  I'm a clyde (250 lbs) and the vast majority of 'us' clydes want a more relaxed bike so we can knock out more miles. Any bike with "race" geometry tends to be difficult for anyone with a belly because your knees smack your midsection with each pedal stroke (at least, mine do)

side note - concerning the rotor rub when you stand and hammer, I had a ton of problems with that on my Fargo, which had QR and a steel fork.  Ironically enough, the stiffness of a carbon fork will help alleviate that probably as much as thru axles would.  Do you, by chance, have BB7 brakes that require constant adjustment anyway?



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Smale Rider
http://www.rodeo-labs.com/flaanimal3/
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stevef
The Fat Chance Chris Cross would seem to check a lot of your boxes.  Steel fork is an option...  http://fatchance.bike/product/chris-cross/
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