I am Alex from France but I currently live in Munich, Germany, for my Ph.D in Materials Science for Aerospace. I am 24 years old and started cycling "seriously" (i.e. more than only for commuting) 3 years ago when I had an ACL injury. It helped me a lot to recover. I was doing only road bike. During this time, I also learned a lot on bikes as I was a member of an association that was recycling old bikes and from it putting new bikes on wheels to sell it for a bargain in order to help people who wants to commute by bike in my hometown (Lyon, France) and I was also working a little bit on mines. That's it for the background.
Now the project. This is a long post, but I like to give a lot of details and I am keen on asking questions to fill my curiosity and my willingness to learn. I tried to divide in parts my post, and to make it the easiest to read possible.
Why ? I am interested in building a gravel as around my place and the south of Munich until Austria in general there are a lot of tracks I'd like to discover. Moreover, I work 20 km away from my place which takes me 55 minutes by public transportation, 20 by car but I avoid using it to reduce my carbon footprint (this is something I do care). Commuting to work is also one motivation. On my way, I have to cross 10 km of forest, with unpaved path so this is another reason why I want to get a gravel bike.
Here is the interesting part I guess. This goes as well with the budget. I am quite short on budget as I recently got a car, the cost of life in Munich is quite high and I am also the kind of guy that like to get serious into something before getting the best gears and stuff. Obviously, cycling is more related to the material you have than other disciplines and it is always good to have a very good bike as it is something you cherish, but I am not yet there financially speaking. I would say that my budget is a low 1000€, but I already have helmet, cycling shoes, clothes for cycling so 1000€ dedicated only to the bike. I stared around to evaluate what is the market today, and the cheapest bikes from brands (Specialized, Trek, Canyon, etc.) are too expensive and also sometimes use low-end groupsets which is something I would like to avoid.
From your point of view, what is the lowest group you would use on a gravel bike ? I only have experience with Shimano, and would like not to go below 105 (not over neither) but maybe I am wrong and the Tiagra could work well)
For the frame, in my price range only 2 options are available : either Aluminum or Steel (including CrMo, etc.) I do not know if you guys know Decathlon, but they released 2 gravel bikes based on a road frame they have for 1000€ :
The 2 gravels are 1000€ whereas the road one is 850€. I was thinking that apart from the groupsets, the wheels will one day be changed so why not taking the 150€ "discount" and keep this money for future buy like a proper handlebar and wheels for gravel and in the meantime only putting gravel tyres. I like these bikes because they are ok from the groupsets POV (even though I have no idea what the SRAM Apex is equivalent to as it is the lowest end from SRAM), frames are under warranty for your whole life, and Decathlon has a good quality of frame usually. What I doubt is the maximum tyre you can use are 36 mm which might be small for some cases even though I am not planning to use my gravel on super uneven path so this might be sufficient. And the last point is I am not building my own bike, at least for the first months. afterwards I'll for sure bring some upgrades/updates to it.
Before I jump to the second option, what are your thoughts about that ?
The second plan is to buy parts and build the bike myself selecting the components I want. I have read that this does not get cheaper as bike sellers have discount by buying in big quantities form the components suppliers. But it can get cheaper is you plan to replace some components from a bike you buy. Anyway. For this part, I tried to look around what are the frames made in France or Germany (I like to support local business even though I know the tubes does not always come from the region). With my budget I cannot buy a custom frame but a standard one is possible. Something like this at 600€ for frame + fork in CrMo Steel. Or from the well known Bombtrack, the Arise which stands in the same range of prices (~600€ frame + fork). Do you guys have any recommendations ? I did not find a lot of others, it is quite hard I guess.
For the rest, I think the groupset will be link to the question I raised previously, the handlebar, wheels and tyres will also come while discussing the project with you. I hope you guys will like to give me some help to get my first gravel .
Once again, sorry for the long post and the possible English mistakes.