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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi from the Ozarks. I just moved here last week. Semi-retired and getting back into riding. Currently I have an old GT Edge road bike that I like to ride around town. However, I live next to the Katy Trail which is a gravel trail and that's where I want to focus my riding. My GT is not prepared for that kind of road so I spent $50 on a Bianchi Forza thinking of switching out the wheels to accommodate bigger tires and have a somewhat gravel bike. Am I stupid for wanting to do this? My plan is to strip the bike, paint it celeste and update some of the components. Any thoughts or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

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Bicycle Tire Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle wheel rim Wheel
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Bicycle Tire Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle wheel rim Wheel Bicycle Tire Wheel Bicycles--Equipment and supplies Bicycle wheel
 

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Old, fat, and slow
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Road Bike Action nice.

I couldn’t find much on the Forza, (should have tried harder, perhaps) except that it seems to be a steel-framed road-racing bike.

If that is the case I would worry about tire clearance. The frame should last forever, and apparently it was introduced around 1990, so it should have 130-mm rear dropout spacing which means you can run modern drive trains (but not disc brakes---but the frame isn’t set up for that anyway.)

(That Bianchi looks like it could be 30 years old …. )

Used to be, 23-mm was considered a wide enough tire, and 25 was for posers and weaklings …. Nowadays most people start a gravel bike (and a lot of endurance bikes) at 32 mm and go on up from there.

From what I hear the Katy Way is pretty well maintained and flat, so you aren’t likely to hit massive mud, deep soft dirt, or anything else which would make really wide tires necessary.

Still …. You will probably have to replace the brakes with something with more clearance and you might not have clearance for even 28s there …. The chainstays look pretty tight to the tire already.

If I owned the Bianchi I would build it up with modern parts and make it a nice, semi-vintage steel road bike, with a comfortable enough ride and that Bianchi flair ….. but I don’t know that I would try to make it into a gravel bike. (“A good man knows his limitations,” Clint Eastwood told me one day.)

(Actually, based on those photos, I have decided to dust off my ’83 Raleigh and take it for a spin. Thanks!)

For a gravel bike I would look first off for tire clearance. Depending on what shape the trail is in, 32 on up to 50 is all reasonable. Comfort increases as width increases, and if the trail gets sloppy or rocky, or whatever, the added rubber can make or break a ride. Of course, the bigger the tire, the higher the weight and the slower the acceleration ….. nothing is free.

Next thing I would want on a gravel bike is low gears. Everything takes more energy on dirt. I don’t know the Katy Trail except by reputation, I don’t think it has many real hills …. But if you ever want to ride anywhere else, having some extra mechanical advantage could make the hills more fun.

You might also want to consider really good brakes. If you are ever doing a stream crossing or puddles or mud, or come sliding around a corner only to find you are at the top of a steep, muddy drop with a sharp turn at the bottom …..

I am not trying to be a downer. But …. Before you invest a lot on the Bianchi to make it into something it might not be able to be, maybe consider a different starting point?

COUNTERPOINT: The old Repack guys, who started U.S. mountain biking, put riser bars on their old balloon-tire Schwinns and bombed down mountainsides with nothing but coaster brakes and too much enthusiasm.

My first foray into “trail riding” (back in the day, everything was just “bike-riding” but really, not even---a bike was something you rode to places) was probably on a 3-speed Sturmey Archer-equipped Robin Hood with 1.25 tires---standard adolescent’s bicycle for the day. A friend and I wanted to check out some short-cuts, found some trails, and I loved it immediately. Back then, there weren’t “road bikes” and “trail bikes” and “mountain bikes” and “’whatever silly category to sell more bikes’ bikes.” We rode our bikes.

You can tackle the Katy Trail with anything that has two wheels and it will be a bike, and if you enjoy it you will be a happy cyclist. Game over, you win.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
You have been a humongous help with your insightful information. I so appreciate your time in directing me with my vision. I too grew up in an age that we just road our bikes (late '60's through the 70's). I've debated just updating the bike to an all 'round road bike that I could ride on the trails. You mentioned that there's no way to run disk brakes. Due to my ignorance, can you be so kind as to elaborate a little concerning the dropout spacing? I take it that there is no place to add the caliper. correct? However, if I bought wheels that had the hub to add disks but rather used rim breaks, am I still out of luck because there's no clearance?
 

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Welcome! I hope your bikes both bring you great joy. I am not a skinny tire guy and can't contribute a lot to your conversion questions, but I hope you're able to enjoy the Katy Trail however you end up getting there.
 

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Dropouts--the spacing between the inner edges of the place where you insert the axles. Bikes used to be 120 mm, then 126 (about when six rather than 5 rear cogs become the thing.) They stayed at 126 mm until the mid '80s when Shimano came out with improved drive trains--free hubs, better-shifting cassettes, and more room for more gears. All that took up 130 mm of space.

(This is all for the rear axle--fronts are pretty universally 100 mm I think. Wiser men should be consulted.)

MTB rolled around, and to accommodate a lot of gears and wider tires, dropout spacing went up to 135 mm. Disc brakes were first developed (from motorcycle and scooter parts, some say in post-war France) for off-road bikes, so disc hubs are generally 135 mm wide. (Now there are Plus hubs which I think run 142 .... all kinds of craziness. These kids .... )

When road bikes adopted discs, they used the same 135-mm hubs ... why not? Why reinvent the wheel? (Cue cheap laugh.)

So ... hubs which are constructed for the stresses of disc braking are all at least 135 mm wide.

You can "cold-set" a steel frame---there are a variety of methods, check out Sheldon Brown's site---I prefer the threaded rod and nuts and washers method, but in any case, there is only so much you can stretch a frame, and when you stretch the chain stays, you marginally shrink the wheel base, which moves the tire forward and which thus slightly limits the available tire space.

On top of that, the brake calipers have to be attached to the frame, and if the frame was not designed for the extra stresses at the dropouts, it might weaken the frame. Probably you could weld a reinforcing plate and tap it to mount discs ... I can't but others could if they so chose. Not thinking it is worth it but what do I know? (Don't answer that .... )

Also, the majority of your braking comes up front, and while I am too lazy to go out and measure any of my disc bikes, I assume there is added hub width there too, because there is a brake disc and it needs to clear the fork blades. Again, the forks won't be designed for all the force of braking to be effected at the very end of the fork, so your fork would possibly flex dangerously.

Also, if the fork or chain- or seat stays tapered too much they would hit the disc.

You can lace a rim-brake rim to a disc hub .... not sure why you would. You don't have to install a disc.

Rim brake rims have a machined brake track, a section of the rim which is parallel and flat and smooth where the brake pads grab. Disc rims would not have this, so rim brakes wouldn't grab and you wouldn't stop. A rim brake rim on a disc hub would work fine if it fit the fork.

Therein lies the rub (literally.) The disc hubs wouldn't fit 130/100 mm dropouts. You would need to cold-set the rear triangle and buy a new fork (you can certainly buy a disc-specific fork) and then you would just have to work out rear caliper mounting---or if you were using rim brakes, just slap the wheel into place.

f you have already bought a set of disc-ready hubs or wheels .... I'd save them. They really wont fit well with anything more than about 15 years old and really wouldn't offer any benefits.

With the Bianchi---find the widest tire which will squeeze between the chain stays and ride it where you want. I think converting it to disc would cost four time what you probably paid for the bike ... but it Is an option.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Welcome! I hope your bikes both bring you great joy. I am not a skinny tire guy and can't contribute a lot to your conversion questions, but I hope you're able to enjoy the Katy Trail however you end up getting there.
Thank you for the warm welcome. I plan on enjoying it as soon as I can get this stupid seat post out of the down tube. It hasn't seen the light of day I'm sure for over 30 years.
 

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Spin Spin Spin
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I live near Katy, TX and there are trails around and someone on here gifted me a Katy Trails red white and black water bottle that would go good on your red bike. It appeared unused and brand new when I got it. I would be willing to pay it forward since you actually live there. I haven't even used it to drink from since I roll with camelbak no matter which bike....also, I bought a gravel bike that has taken over all road bike duties in my world. it is more comfortable and capable on multiple surfaces than my road bike. Hopefully yours can clear some 700c x 37 tires or at least some 35s. I run wtb all terrain 37s on mine and love them. That way you could hit up that gravel in your area.
pay.................

Cloud Sky Plant Triangle Font

this bottle......pm your shipping info if you want it
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I live near Katy, TX and there are trails around and someone on here gifted me a Katy Trails red white and black water bottle that would go good on your red bike. It appeared unused and brand new when I got it. I would be willing to pay it forward since you actually live there. I haven't even used it to drink from since I roll with camelbak no matter which bike....also, I bought a gravel bike that has taken over all road bike duties in my world. it is more comfortable and capable on multiple surfaces than my road bike. Hopefully yours can clear some 700c x 37 tires or at least some 35s. I run wtb all terrain 37s on mine and love them. That way you could hit up that gravel in your area.
pay.................

View attachment 53258
this bottle......pm your shipping info if you want it
I too have a Camel Back and love the insulation - nothing like a cold drink when you're super hot and thirsty. I appreciate the offer. I just moved to the area and in the process got rid of 3 dumpsters worth of stuff. I can't bring in another item into our new home for fear of opening that door that was so hard to close. It's crazy how much one can accumulate in a lifetime. Again, thank you for the kind offer.
 

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Spin Spin Spin
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and more room to store them......
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The good part of buying smaller things is you can buy more of them .... ummm, right?

Is that how it works?
Well, to a certain point. The problem is they find themselves in storage boxes which become a bigger problem. Seriously though, I got divorced moved out but had to clean out all my junk (lots and lots of car parts from building old cars from the 30's 40's and 50's). Tons of old tube radios, old tools etc. It was 3 large dumpsters worth of junk!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well, to a certain point. The problem is they find themselves in storage boxes which become a bigger problem. Seriously though, I got divorced moved out but had to clean out all my junk (lots and lots of car parts from building old cars from the 30's 40's and 50's). Tons of old tube radios, old tools etc. It was 3 large dumpsters worth of junk!
And yes, any of the old stuff that had value I either gave away to friends or sold.
 

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My home is getting like that .... "I can't throw away this lightly used 52-42-32 triple square-taper chain set ... Somebody somewhere must want it ... It has real value ..... " So it ends up in a box with old brake calipers or whatever.

I need to rent a booth at a swap me, in a fake name, pile up all my stuff ... and walk away.
 

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Deranged Touring Cyclist
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My home is getting like that .... "I can't throw away this lightly used 52-42-32 triple square-taper chain set ... Somebody somewhere must want it ... It has real value ..... " So it ends up in a box with old brake calipers or whatever.

I need to rent a booth at a swap me, in a fake name, pile up all my stuff ... and walk away.
Are there any bike co-ops in your area? My local co-op has been great for getting old but functional parts out from underfoot and into the hands of someone who can use them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Welcome to TS Stoogez. I hope your partial retirement leaves plenty of time to explore on your bikes.
Be sure to let us know about your rides.
Thank you for the warm welcome. I definitely will post as soon as get the bike built. Today I was at a high school meet and was talking to this great guy. The conversation turned to building stuff and I asked if he knew anyone with a media blaster because I want to strip the paint and repaint the bike in full celeste. He said, "well I do!" Fantastic. So now I have a place to media blast my frame for $35!!
 
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