baron
Hey all! Long time lurker, needing some sage advice. For gravel purposes, I currently ride a Nashbar Cyclocross 105. I figure that it is based, more or less, on a CAADX of 2014 vintage or so. At the time, it was a heck of a lot of bike for the money, Stans Iron Cross wheelset, almost a complete 105 groupset, carbon fork (which has been replaced with a Whiskey no 9 fork). They didn't have a 58, so I bought a 56, with most of what I was reading at the time saying to go smaller anyway (I planned to ride actual cyclocross, but it never panned out). Here I am 4000 miles, several road and gravel centuries, a few actual races, and numerous group rides later. It's been a good bike, really. I had a fit done and it was indeed too small, so a bigger stem and some other adjustments helped, but now I've got a bug to get a new bike. A fever really. Maybe it will pass, but right now, I've invested way too many hours looking at bikes. I've gotten the idea that "steel is real" and "titanium is for life" in my head. I've been looking very hard at:
https://www.rodeo-labs.com/flaanimal4/ with a GRX 810 build. Kinda looks amazing. 
I've also looked SO hard at this (it's the Torrey's Gravel Cross, it won't link to the exact bike)
https://www.deanbikes.com/specials it's a little small for me, really, but when I look at the geo on it in a visual tool, it lines right up with the bigger sized Flaanimal (and a number of other bikes I've been looking at)
That said, my LBS guy is a long time MTB'er and has been riding carbon for ages. He swears that carbon is much stronger than most people think (I have a carbon road bike and I'm always worried it's gonna fall over and crack...), so I've been looking there too. Lots of good deals to be had, like a Devinci Hatchet, Ribble CGR SL, etc. I've even thought about going bonkers with a Salsa Cutthroat, though I don't have time to bike pack, it seems like it would be killer in the LR100 or the DK200 if the lottery works in my favor this year. 

Anyway, all that said, I've been scratching my head how so many variations in geo can basically equal the same bike once you visualize them. I'm sure they all ride different, which is tough to buy something without riding. Uniqueness does come into play here too, I am a little vain, unfortunately, about being on the same bike as someone else. So, if anyone has anything to say about any of these bikes, that would be amazing! Otherwise, thanks for reading my rant!! 🙂
Quote 0 0
SWGraveler
First and foremost, don't worry about well made carbon being fragile; it isn't. If you think carbon is weak, you probably shouldn't fly on a commercial airliner.. Think about it; a woven material can be so strong as the various layers in various directions just yield strength and durability. Please note, I say this assuming you are considering first quality brands that stand behind their frames..

That said, I have a steel road bike that I have had for almost 10 years and I love the way it rides. I also have a carbon road bike and I love it as well. My gravel is an Allied All-Road which is carbon. I have been riding, mostly road, for 30+ years and have had a lot of bikes and will say that above all things, fit is by far the most critical thing. Yes, you can feel some differences between bikes but unless you ride 2 bikes with everything, especially wheels, exactly the same and ride them back/back, it is really hard to compare them. Typically, while you may feel some differences, a mile or two in you will feel fine on whatever.  However, if the fit is not right, you will not be happy, especially with the duration of typical gravel rides.. Frame geo can be tough to sort as their isn't a standard of any sort. One brand's 52 may be similar to a 54 by another. I have found the easiest way to cull is to look at effective top tube and the head tube as reach and drop are where comfort resides..

Happy to help; I was a full time fitter for 10 years so pm me if you would like to discuss specifics...
Quote 1 0
Jeremy
I can’t speak for the others, but I’ve had my Flaanimal 4.1 for just under a year now, and I love it. It kinda makes me feel like I can go anywhere, but is much faster feeling than my old cross bike, and more comfortable. The increased comfort may be a big part of why it feels faster.

Beyond the bike, Rodeo Labs itself is a great company run by some awesome people. They’re all much faster than I am, but have always made me feel welcome on rides. DEFC1688-8BDD-428E-9BB7-60C818ED2025.jpeg 
Quote 0 0
baron
I've messaged back and forth with Rodeo a few times and I really like them. Super helpful folks. You have the carbon wheels too? What do you think about them?
Quote 0 0
ridemagnetic
Yes, I too would like to know if you have the carbon wheels as well, and what you think about them! ðŸ˜‰ ðŸ˜†
A great set of wheels will make an average frame ride better. It doesn't work the other way around.  ~ridemagnetic
Quote 0 0
baron
Ohh, the elusive Magnetic Wheel Company! I went to your site to get some more info, but it went to an error page. Those wheels look great, btw. I
I’m now looking at a Kona Libre too. So many gravel choices.
Quote 1 0
ridemagnetic
Well thanks, baron. We spent a lot of time designing and testing those Rodeo 2.0 wheels and I think they turned out great too! And you're right, my site came down as the biz morphed from being solely a custom builder to building mostly for Rodeo. I may fire up the site again in 2020 for kind of like a limited run format of certain combinations because I do go through a lot of wheels still other than Rodeo.    

Kona Libre is a good looking bike, but I think the Traildonkey is a better buy simply for the multitude of spec you can have them built with. There might be a little bias there but since the Kona only comes complete with mediocre to average aluminum wheels that alone would be a deal breaker for me if I was in the market. See my motto belowˇ
A great set of wheels will make an average frame ride better. It doesn't work the other way around.  ~ridemagnetic
Quote 0 0
baron
I 100% agree that the Trail Donkey is the real way to go. Amazing bike! My wallet doesn't agree. It's nearly an extra 2k (before taxes, etc so maybe less) than a Libre. You are right in that wheelset is very lacking.

If you need an ambassador for your wheels, and I do go with the Libre, I’m all ears. We have a lot of well off gravel riders here and a lack of big wheel selection in this market...

I am interested in the bitex hubs and how much customization y'all did with them.
Quote 0 0