epzamora
I've posted this at another forum, so m apologies for those that see this twice.

I switched tires on my aluminum framed 2009 Gary Fisher Wingra hybrid to 37c Riddlers and put on a Surly Moloko bar, and rode an organized gravel ride a few months ago. I had fun. But it's not quite what i want for this style of riding.

I rejuvenated my 1983 Bianchi Campione D'Italia with 28c tires and wider 44cm bars. Being on drop bars is cool. Love the speed of a road bike. My lower back wasn't so happy. Gotta get back into shape. Core?

I have a Norco Fluid 2 HT, plus-sized tires, SRAM 1x NX drivetrain, hydraulic brakes, dropper post. Fun going on trails! Being a club racing roadie from the 80s (I'm 51), i still struggle in my mind with Shimano. The seeming monopoly they have had for decades, but then I've always been a bit of a contrarian. I was surprised and happy with the shifting of SRAM.

Now back to gravel...

I've made friends with a new shop in town, and they carry Norco (plus Niner and Scott). They have a 2018 Norco Search XR steel framed/carbon fork bike in the shop. I'm seriously considering this bike. LOVE the color. love option for 700c (default) or 650b (optional wheelset in the future). Love mounts on the fork. 5 water bottles in all. I can live with the Shimano 105, but wasn't too impressed with the feel. (btw, this was my first experience with the "new" style shifter/brake levers (brifters?). funny. i had to stop on my test ride and google how to upshift... biggest drawback is the mechanical disc brakes. Coming from the Fluid mtb's hydros, they felt meh. Much better than the Bianchi's Modolos of course lol This bike is 2x 11-speed.

Norco: https://www.norco.com/bikes/road/adventure/search-xr-steel/search-xrs-105/

Now I see Kona has the aluminum framed/carbon fork 2019 model Rove NRB, in almost the same color. LOVE the skinwall tires. This bike's wheels are the opposite of the Norco. Comes with 650b wheels, with option for 700c (i THINK). This is a 1x 11-speed drive with SRAM Apex. Nobody in town has the bike. The sole Kona dealer is a shop seemingly on its last legs, not a vibrant part of the local cycling community, and very very limited stock when i was there last year. I may be heading to a metro area this weekend which should have a shop with a Rove in stock, though not sure if the new 2019 models are available yet.

KONA BIKES | ROAD | ROVE | Rove NRB

Although both bikes should support the other wheelset 700c/650b, funds may be limited that any purchase of a second set may be delayed by a year. or next spring. So it's also a case of which wheel set would i want to start off with first.

The bad part in common with both bikes... both have mechanical disc brakes. GAH. Both TRP Spyre C 160mm discs. It appears i'm JUST at the point where the next bike up would have hydros (but i don't care for the colors of either brands next model up). I've read some online reviews of the TRP HY/RD system. Not sure if i would want to go that route in the future.

I've also flirted in my mind with the Salsa offerings Warbird/cutthroat/journeyman/Vaya. Diamondback's Haanjo series has caught my attention. Niner has their new RLT, but i'm reserving that purchase for my riding buddy. The Raleighs have piqued me too.

In the end, i would probably do 50% paved/50% dirt/forest road/light gravel roads around defunct gravel pits along our river. A buddy does light bike packing. I might try to tag along some day (I do regular hiking/UL backpacking). I want drop bar positioning, but more relaxed and stable than my vintage 80s road bike.

Being friends with the Norco's bike shop owner, i keep asking him if it's still available. two prospective buyers last week dropped the ball or passed on it, so it's still there. I may be able to get some of the price shaved off since 2019s should be arriving soon, this bike has been there for quite some time (he rides one too) but that's not certain. Though i HAVE brought two buddies in and they bought bikes from him [smile5]. I plan to go test ride it again.

i'm almost tearing my hair out over this conundrum. locally available Norco steel, vs out of town new Kona AL which may not even be available yet, so no chance of test riding. another plus for the Norco, i have an eTen dropper post in my stash that i could use. The Kona is the wrong size.

My apologies for the long-windedness of this post, but it's reflective of my thought pattern right now. I hope most of you can relate 😉  any helpful suggestions or thoughts? thanks!

the two main considerations. Norco on top, Kona below

KonaVsNorco.jpg 

- eric
Quote 0 0
ljsmith
I would not be so concerned with the mechanical discs.  I have used hydros and mechanical on gravel bikes, and to be honest there is very little difference, mainly because you don't use them as much as you would on a mountain bike.  Then main reason road brakes always seem less powerful than MTB is mainly because of leverage.  Unless you are in the drops and pulling the very bottom portion of the lever, you aren't going to get the best stopping power.  Braking from the hoods is not going to be great whether hydros or mechanical. Out of the two bikes you listed I would take the Norco.  I will not ride a rigid aluminum bike anymore.  People can say what they want about "modern" aluminum riding so much better, but it still is just too damn stiff and as I am getting older my back can't take the punishment dealt out by an aluminum frame.  Wheel size is really going to come down to what your terrain is like.  The rougher it is, the more you will want the larger tires of 650b.  I am a big believer in dual wheel size gravel bikes, because it makes it so much easier to set up the bike for whatever you might be riding.  
Quote 0 0
epzamora
ljsmith wrote:
I would not be so concerned with the mechanical discs. 


I'm not so concerned about stopping power of mechs vs hydro. Hydraulics just feel nicer 😉 

and i hear ya about getting older and our backs. Ugh. right? i imagine bigger 650b tires would offset any detriment to a stiffer (?) aluminum frame. Still, the Norco is leading in my mind right now.

Thanks!
Quote 0 0
Jim_H
I can't speak to the Kona, but i built a Search XR Steel for my girlfriend and she absolutely loves it.  I built it with some WTB 650b wheels that I pulled of of one of my bikes.  She's using Soma Randoneur 650bx42c tires on it.  I built it with Ultegra 8000 mechanical. 

I had a heck of a time finding a flat mount mechanical brake lever that would fit in the rear triangle on her 48cm frame.  TRP HyRd Flat Mount was a no go.   I ended up with some TRP Spyre SLC flat mount brakes.  They are fine.  Not quite as nice feeling as hydraulic, but they are more than powerful enough, and they were easy to set up and tune to be rub free.  
Quote 0 0
Spreader
I buy bikes based on pretty paint jobs and specs as well but I weigh my decisions very heavily on frame geo and what bike fits. How do these compare for stack/reach and what about seatpost angle? Kona sometimes has a steep post and long top tube (perfect for me). Have you had a fit or can you compare the seat/bar position of a current bike to these?
Quote 0 0
epzamora
I went with the Norco. Dashed home. installed pedals, cages, bag. Would love to get some skinwall tires on it. Maybe WTB Riddlers 45c.

SunflowerSearchX.jpg 
SearchTreadX.jpg 
Thanks for everyone's help. I had checked the geometry. Some was similar, some a bit different. I do not know how the small differences would feel on my body, and there was the huge factor of being out of shape and not used to drop bars anyway.

In the end, I just bit the bullet. The shop knocked a few hundred off (about $200 cheaper than the Kona). The mechanical brakes are feeling better the more << i >> adjust to them (i have about 30 miles on them now). The sound from the cassette, LOUD, now that's going to take some time to get used to. 😉

-eric

Quote 2 0
imwjl
Nice.

I checked out both of those, the Rove ST, a Breezer and Sutra Ltd along with revisiting Vayas. Add brief consideration for Trek Checkpoint. My surprise was how much I liked the Sutra Ltd. We already have a plastic forked Fargo. There are SO many great bikes out there.

Enjoy it in good health!
Quote 0 0
Noonievut
imwjl wrote:
Nice.

I checked out both of those, the Rove ST, a Breezer and Sutra Ltd along with revisiting Vayas. Add brief consideration for Trek Checkpoint. My surprise was how much I liked the Sutra Ltd. We already have a plastic forked Fargo. There are SO many great bikes out there.

Enjoy it in good health!


I tried a bunch of different gravel bike recently, and did like the Sutra Ltd. but I ended up with a Bombtrack Hook EXT on sale for less than the Sutra. Fit better too
Quote 1 0
GOTA
I picked up my Kona NRB DL back in early February.  Just came back from a mixed terrain ride before I wrote this and I really had an awesome time.  

It took me a while to dial it in and find a saddle and seat post I liked but now it's really great.  I'm still amazed every time I ride over a crumbled and destroyed asphalt road that this is an aluminum bike.  It's so amazingly compliant over the bumps.  You do have to lean in turns to corner properly which makes it feel more like a drop bar hardtail than endurance road bike but I got that down after all these months.  

We're living in a great time where there are many wonderful bikes available.  I made the right choice for me and I'm sure you guys will be happy with your new rides too
Quote 0 0
imwjl
epzamora wrote:
I went with the Norco. Dashed home. installed pedals, cages, bag. Would love to get some skinwall tires on it. Maybe WTB Riddlers 45c.

SunflowerSearchX.jpg 




Hi,

What frame bag is that?

Thank you.
Quote 0 0
epzamora
imwjl wrote:


Hi,

What frame bag is that?

Thank you.


It's an honest to goodness Bushwacker USA frame bag, Tahoe model. They offer several models, this one was one of the more expensive ones at just under $15. Obviously not made in the USA. There are better options out there for much more, but this works fine for me. Sides are somwwhat flimsy, without structure, but it's small enough that the attachment points keep it taut enough.

http://a.co/d/94d5NSg   Thanks for asking. 

-eric


Quote 0 0
Conan
Congratulations on your search XR! I also have one and a fluid 1 as well. Two great bikes. I love the steel frame and 40mm tires. Enjoy.
Quote 0 0
epzamora
Conan wrote:
Congratulations on your search XR! I also have one and a fluid 1 as well. Two great bikes. I love the steel frame and 40mm tires. Enjoy.


Thanks man. I had been focusing on riding pavement for the first few rides, but on my last one of 18 miles including some light gravel/dirt trail, I found these kids, and asked them to pose with the bike for a few seconds...

SearchPoses.jpg 
Quote 1 0
Conan
Great pic! I love those tires on the dirt/gravel. Comfortable.
Quote 0 0