I’ve ordered a new frame (Kinesis Tripster) for a gravel grinder / light touring bike and trying to figure out how I want to build it up. Things I want are: drop bars, STI levers, hydraulic disc brakes, a big enough gear to sit comfortably at ~ 45 km/h if I have a tailwind, and a small enough gear to twiddle up a steep hill at walking pace. Shimano seem singularly uninterested at providing such a setup as standard, and the aftermarket options are bewildering. In terms of the gearing I’m wanting, that’d be at least a 38T big ring and something equivalent to a 28x32 or 28x36 low gear. I want this bike to be capable of a light touring load (bikepacking style) but also something that feels fun to ride unloaded on a big day out with a mix of road, dirt, hills, etc.
Here are the options I’m considering but not totally happy with any of them -
Unhappy Compromise I: Classic touring setup with 9 speed triple, bar end shifters, TRP Hylex brakes. I’m sure this would work and get my ideal gearing range but I’d rather not have bar end shifters and triple shifting is a big clunkier than I’d like. Probably heavier than ideal, too. (This is what I currently have on my Vivente tourer, only with rim brakes.)
Unhappy Compromise II: Full Ultegra hydro groupset would Just Work, but wouldn’t give me the low gears I want. At best (pushing the claimed limits of the derailleur) I might be able to get an 11-36 cassette on there. I want an even lower gear than 34x36! (This is similar to what I have on my roadie, with 34x32 low gear. Definitely not low enough for touring and not really as low as I’d like for steep gravel hills, even unloaded.)
Unhappy Compromise III: The oh-so-trendy 1X. Something like 38 / 11-46 would give me the range I want, at the cost of outrageous gaps between the gears. I don’t know what I’d need to buy to make this work, but I assume it’s possible somehow? Using a Wolf Tooth pulley I could run an MTB rear derailleur with drop bar levers. Not sure what crankset I’d need to buy to get a 38T chainring. I also think it is ridiculous that I can get a more suitable gearing range with 1X than I can with 2X. (Ideally sticking with Shimano over SRAM because I don’t love SRAM’s double tap levers and also SRAM are arseholes who won’t let me buy cheap kit online. Also SRAM brakes use DOT fluid which is gross.)
Unhappy Compromise IV: I could fit flat bars or alt bars like the Jones loop, and just run an MTB double crank with standard MTB components. Despite my initial comment that I wanted drops, I’m now seriously considering this. With chunky bar end grips I’d have a few alternative hand positions for long rides. I could add clip-on aerobars to add an aerodynamic position. Flat bars are also better for bikepacking luggage, i.e. more room for hanging tent and sleeping bag under the bars. Might require an outrageously long stem to get the reach I want, since the Tripster frame is designed for drops. Might also suck a bit for on-road riding which I think would be at least 50% of what I’d do.
At the moment options III and IV look the most promising. Any opinions? What kind of crank would I need to run 1X? Are there any other options I’ve missed (e.g. can I use an MTB crankset with a road front derailleur, or a mountain front derailleur with STI levers)? Tell me how to spend my money please!