Project All Road: New Life For an Old Gravel Bike- Part 2

Project All Road: New Life For an Old Gravel Bike- Part 2 – by Grannygear

Editor’s Note: This concludes Grannygear’s look into the revival of an old gravel bike. See Part 1 here if you missed that.

A Salsa Cycles Warbird gravel bike against a red wooden wall. All Road
Grannygear’s Salsa Cycles Warbird

Off the garage hook and onto the road: The build of Project All Road and new life for a Salsa Warbird

The Salsa Warbird frame of this era, done in aluminum, was billed as a gravel racing bike. The Warbird is still a current option from Salsa, but now is only sold in carbon. It was actually a very refined frame. Salsa put some time into the shaping and butting and what-not of the tubing. I remember it having a snappy response and a decently compliant back end but a stiff front end. The fork was pretty unyielding. “Gravel Tuned” must mean something different than I think it does.

It was only really good for up to a 40mm tire and while that is not bad, it is less than great for fitting a plump 42c WTB Resolute. But for All-Road use, that tire limitation is a moot point. I will run 30C road tires most all the time and if I want to go to something more burly, I have a few 35mm-ish, fast gravel tires around. My fav is the 36mm WTB Vulpine if I will see much dirt. And that stiffer front end of the Warbird is less of a liability on the road than off and might even be a plus (up to a point, anyway).

The rest of the bike’s geometry is very close to the Lynskey but is 5mm shorter on the chain stays with less bottom bracket drop at 70MM. That should give me a bit more forward eagerness when I stand and pedal with spirit, although it will be nuanced. Stack and reach are about the same. The seat tube angle is slacker by a degree. 

I remember when this Warbird was my only gravel bike. It was very nice to ride and I recall thinking that it would make a quite decent road bike as long as you were not trying to crush the CAT 1 crowd. So, in general terms, I expected it would fall into the realm of a modern endurance road bike with a bit longer back end (5 to 10mm).

I did think quite a bit regarding the gearing. I could go many ways with what I had in the house. If I ever upgrade this road group, I would look at the SRAM eTap AXS Rival/Force. But that is for another time. My immediate goal was to run lower gearing for any days where I would be living La Vida Loca with the gravel tires on it. 

Option 1: Maybe a 46/30 crank set.  But a 46T big ring would not be quite tall enough for the 90% road bias. Yes, I would not spin that out very often, but I would spend a lot of time way down the cassette on the smaller cogs and I am not a fan of that. Even though a 46/11 is the same gear inches as…say a 50/13 (just to pick a gear out of my hat), I feel that bigger chain rings and cogs are more efficient. If you have pedaled a 10T rear cog, you know what I mean. Pretty rumbly. And that 30T small ring is just too small for a road bike (for me). 
Option 2: I could have run a 48/32 crank setup from Praxis. That is not a bad idea. A 32 is still kind of a small ring for road use in my opinion but it’s better than a 30T. However I don’t know of anyone else that makes that 48/32 setup. I would be a bit locked in.
Option 3: A bigger cassette? The Force 22 rear derailleur will only handle so much cog size and chain slack. I could use an 11-36 cassette from SRAM. It shifts it, but it is not all that smooth. And I am not sure I really need that low a gear for this bike.
Option 4: A standard road compact crank of 50/34 paired with an 11-32 rear cassette for the Boyd carbons and the 30mm road tires. For the ‘Gravel Light’ wheels option, I could run the Easton EA90 SLs with something like a 35mm minimally treaded tire  I have a few of those in the box-o-tires. I could use a Shimano 11-34 cassette. That would give me a 1:1 which is pretty low for a road bike and would let me survive a moderate adventure ride in the dirt.

Option number 4 is what I decided to do. It’s as I said…a compromise. So for the build parts, here is we have from bottom to top:

Close up shot of a bottom bracket junction. All Road
  • Wheels and tires: Boyd 36 carbons (these could easily be a gravel wheel too) with Schwalbe Pro One 30mm tires tubeless. I run from 55-60 psi. Wow. Just saw that the new suggested retail for those tires is 90 bucks each. If you can get them. Ouch! But they have been a really good tire for the Missus and I. As I said, for the adventure side of things, I would use the Easton EA90 SLs I have with a light and fast gravel tire. The rims seem hopelessly out of step width wise (19mm internal) but frankly I have never noticed, something that does not surprise me much, and I would only have a max 35-36mm wide tire on there anyway.
  • SRAM Force 22 2×11 hydro mechanical. 160mm rotors.  I would like to upgrade to eTap some day, but not this year. In any case I like Double Tap although I do miss Shimano brakes. I tried running a 140mm rear rotor on the Force group and that was scary. As I mentioned, I did have to buy some post mount Force brake calipers (HRD compatible) and swap out the flat mounts I had with the Ritchey frameset. 
  • Enduro Bearing Torqtite BB86 bottom bracket with stainless steel bearings. Man this thing is smoooooth for days. It also was easy to install and it actually threads together into itself so that the bearing alignment stays perfect, something that is not always so with press fit BB shells and separate cups. It’s likely the last BB I will need for this set-up. Enduro Bearing can also do this in the XD15 series of ceramic bearings. It’s a compelling combo. Enduro Bearing recently launched their direct to consumer website and are a good source of information and, of course, quality bearings.
  • Pedals are the Wahoo/Speedplay pedals. These are the basic cro-mo steel spindle versions which actually were heavier than the Time pedals they replaced. I have enjoyed using these. The double sided entry and smooth float are quite nice once you get used to them. They are purely a roadie deal though. Walking in the sand or loose dirt in these cleats is NOT a good idea. They catch and hold grit and make clipping in a chore. Mud would be stupid bad. Honestly, if I thought I was doing a legit gravel day on this bike I would swap pedals.
  • I use a wax based chainlube with secret sauce in there by He has a new 2 step treatment that I need to check out, but I use the 53/11 formula for now. My shiny cassette is legendary. Runnin’ clean!
  • I just installed the Ergon CF Allroad Carbon seat post in the setback version. Guitar Ted rolled that out details wise (linky) so I am going to see how it feels. I replaced my Ti Lynskey post with this so it will be an interesting comparison.
  • The Ritchey WCS Skyline saddle has been a real win for me. I have had this on a road bike for about the last two seasons of riding. It replaced my Specialized Roman Evo Expert Gel in a 150mm width. That saddle for me was the best I had used even though I do not normally ride a saddle that wide. The narrower 143mm version was too slim and too firm for me. But the gel seems to break down over time, creating hot spots. When I rode a Ritchey Skyline saddle on a test bike I was impressed enough to request one for my own use. I has been a 100 mile saddle for sure. It has long rails, so it allows for good fore-aft movement on the seat post clamp. As well, it’s only slightly curved so you can micro-adjust your butt position instead of being locked into one spot. It’s a peach!
  • I have used Lizard Skins bar tape for several years now and it’s treated me very well. The grip seems about right, it’s easy to install (and remove and reinstall) and in the 3.2mm thick version version, is nicely padded for road buzz. The bright orange will not stay very bright for long, but I like it anyway. It now comes with screw-in bar plugs which should prevent me losing them all the time (although one side stripped out when I installed it, so maybe not).  It is cut long enough to allow for a figure 8 wrap which is really nice.
  • The stem is out of my box-o-stems and is an old 90mm Syncros, but it is cool looking. If I decide that the front end is too harsh I would add a Redshift ShockStop Pro stem. It would be a 1/4 pound weight hit, so we shall see. The ShockStop stem is a truly refined and core item to have for any gravel bike. Not sure if I will need one here though.
  • I do use one of two bar mounted ‘burrito bags’ that we highlighted earlier this year The Astral bag and the Lead Out smaller bag
Detail of the front handle bar bag on a bicycle All Road

That is about it. The cages are off the shelf stuff from Bontrager and since the Warbird has a third bottle mount on the downtube underside, I can carry quite a bit of water; four bottles easily (one in the bar bag). The Wahoo Element Bolt just works and works. Take THAT, Garmin!

Is it any good?
Now. How has it worked out? Well, I am very pleased. I have ridden it perhaps several times now as of this writing, likely a total of 300 miles and about 14,000+ feet of climbing. The first ride I set 6 PR’s, all uphill. The biggest day has been 75 miles and 7000’ of climbing. 

A bicycle leaning against a structure in a rural setting All Road

I can feel, or at least I think I can feel, the extra length in the chain stays when I get out of the saddle and get on it. Like the dog is wagging a longer tail. I am not sure that I am actually much slower. Likely not. And the Warbird has a very smart forward surge when you give it some gas. It scoots. I attribute that mostly to the quite nice Boyd carbon wheels, but the bottom end of the Warbird frame seems stout enough.

It does take more effort to get it to turn in at speed on a winding road, but you adjust to that soon enough. It is nicely composed at 40mph on bad roads. I’ll accept the compromise, but I do miss that more precise, quick to turn, handling of an agile road machine.

It does not ride quite as well as the Ritchey Road Logic Disc but I am not that surprised. On the flip side, it also feels more lively. Overall, the ride is quite acceptable and I would say comparable to a modern carbon road bike of its type.
It also looks really good too, at least I think so. Not stodgy or oddly tall like some endurance road bikes. I care about the ‘look’ of a bike. It’s the Italian in me. She is Bellissima! 

Detail showing Ergon seat post All Road

So is this the last road bike I will ever buy? I doubt it. I would like to try high end Ti some day, but it is just not a financial priority and I am not convinced it’s worth the cost. I would likely roll back to carbon, but I have only a few ideas of which one. The Giant Defy would be very high on my list.

What would I change? I would not mind if the chain stays were 10mm shorter and the BB drop was a few mms more. Do that and make it out of carbon and you get a Salsa Warroad. It would be interesting to compare. And I would very much like to try the electronic stuff from SRAM for the road. Perhaps next year. 

For now, it’s a fun bike and summer in So Cal means a lot of trips to road ride the coastal areas and escape the heat. And that means lots of saddle time on the new whip. I also have an 80 mile loop that would be perfect for the Warbird with the gravel wheels on it. But that might have to wait until cooler weather. Summer is here.

Maybe some day there will be road bike number 10. Maybe I will keep searching for ’THE ONE!’ bike. Maybe. Red pill or blue? Just don’t tell my wife I said that. She already thinks I’m crazy.


Author: Grannygear

Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for in his spare time.

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2 thoughts on “Project All Road: New Life For an Old Gravel Bike- Part 2

  1. Good call on the compact road cranks. You can get pretty much any rings from 34T to 53T from a variety of manufacturers.

  2. Cervelo Aspero
    Cannondale Supersix EVO
    Best gravel bikes with that sprightly road bike acceleration, IMO. Aspero is a bit stiff though… and a pretty low stack.

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