The Chainlink

Looking to purchase my first nice bike, I've most of my life but have always picked up bikes from the garbage, garage sales, police auctions, or the Swap-o-rama in Alsip.

I've never bought one new or spent over $180 on a bike before, but now is the time. I will ride the majority of the time on the road while doing the occasional bike packing/gravel rides. 

My budget is $1000 and I have been looking at gravel bikes from Fuji's, Salsa, and Jamis ....

Any help would be appreciated. 

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These are the two in my experience and lower than your price point or just a tad bit more.

Check out Journeyman from Salsa. I've ridden the higher end model and loved the way it rides.

The only differences would be just the components. But the Claris will get you through some gravel rides and definitely with camping. You can always upgrade the components later, piece-by-piece.

The only things I don't like about this bike are the axles. Front and back are still using Quick Release.

If you're willing to spend an extra $200 - get better components, thru-axles (front and back), carbon forks, and a lot lighter (3 lbs goes a long way on your legs), I'd recommend Trek Checkpoint AL-3.

I just bought a 2019 version of the Checkpoint last month and I tell you, I love this bike. Very versatile - I can put on slim tires and be able to keep up with the roadies. Keep the knobby tires on and I'm tackling some light gravels. Switch it to 700x45 and I'd take it camping or get 700x45 knobbier and tackle on bigger gravels. Enough eyelets for rear rack, at least 3 bottle mounts (4 if you're taller than 5'8").

Some shops are having a sale ($1,099) on new Checkpoints, like this one:

Let us know what you end up with. Let me know if you have any questions.

This was extremely helpful, thank you. I am going to look at the Trek Checkpoint and also the deals at Kozy's (I'm 5'8). Thanks again. 

I did look at the Renegade and was close to pulling the trigger on this bike, but since it's got a weird geometry for such a versatile bike, and no one local had it so I can see how it rides, I skipped it.

As for Fuji, I only have experience with their cross bike back in 2009 (which I still have and is now permanently set up on the trainer) - so I can't say too much about it.

If you do decide on getting the Renegade, DM me and I'll tell you which shop to go to to get the best deal for it. Like I said, I was really close to buying one and the shop's price was about $200 cheaper than any other shops.

Justwill has made solid recommendations.

I would second his inclination toward a bike with thru-axles, as opposed to quick-releases, as they make a significant difference with disc brakes.

The Trek Checkpoint he references does seem like a good deal. My only knock against that is stated "massive" tire clearance of 35mm.  My recommendation is to look for clearances of 42-45mm, especially if you plan to run fenders.  Especially at this price point, tire volume will make the greatest difference in ride comfort. 

Are you short?  Kozy's has some great deals right now on small size bikes from 2018/2019.  My friend just bought a 2018 Specialized Sequoia for $974 which is really solid for the money.

Spec-wise, at the $1K mark, you're looking at Shimano Claris 8-speed or Sora 9-speed (assuming you're looking at drop bar bikes).  My friend's Sequoia came with Sora 9-speed and I think it looks/performs better than the 9 speed Ultegra I had on a road bike last decade.  Some drop bar bikes also save some money and put it elsewhere in the bike by using bar-con shifters, see Kona Sutra. There are also solid choices in the flat-bar touring segment around $1k.  Consider the Surly Bridge Club.

Either way, since this is your first nice bike, I would recommend not rushing into it.  Test ride as many bikes as you can to get a feel for what geometry feels right for you, and the flat bar/drop bar conundrum.  It may go without saying but you'll get more bike for your money if you buy last years stock rather than current.  A bike that went for $1300-$1400 a year or two ago should be within your $1K budget now, assuming you can find it and in your size.  Good luck!

Very helpful. I am going to take my time and test ride as many bikes as I can. Thanks again!

This isn't new of course, and since Kona Sutra was mentioned elsewhere here, if the shoe fits this a good FYI:

I have 700x38, currently for my gravel ride this weekend, on my Checkpoint and seems like I have more room to spare. I'm not a fan of bigger tires, but with the wheels I have on, they measure 40mm wide.

And this is from their spec:

Max tire size 38c Bontrager tires (with at least 4mm of clearance to frame)


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