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Michael Stenning’s gravel build on a budget, using a gifted frame, began with a nice, new paint job, and a bit of a plan - all in part one. Here’s part two, in which our hero gets serious, with one hand holding a mug and the other clamped on his wallet.

OK, so with the frameset freshly painted and cocooned in bubble wrap …time for a big mug of diesel strength coffee and some pen and paper planning: working through suitable components I already had and carefully researching those I didn’t.



This is a drop bar, pared to the essentials mixed terrain “speed wagon” capable of inducing big grins, whether I was blasting along a dirt road/trail, or cruising along asphalt.

The emphasis was upon using what I already had; but think carefully selection not bodge box lash up. Sure, there were going to be a few minor compromises, but    everything had to make it stop, go, and handle in excellent proportion. New parts could be bought, provided monies were recouped by selling unwanted stuff.


Brifters, dual control, sti, shifter, gravl, build budget, bicycle, bike

I had a 10 speed Microshift Centos group, barely used and hibernating in the spares drawer. Loosely on par with 105 but priced to compete with Shimano’s lowlier siblings, this comprised of brifters and front and rear mech. I also had a Sun Race driven crankset and external cup bottom bracket.


Trying to get (not to mention keeping) inter-species components playing nicely is a chore and never completely fulfilling. A 1x10 setup seemed the obvious route, avoiding compatibility hassles with road brifters, and mtb front mech.


Afterall, I’d need to acquire a top pull mtb model and, unless I was going for a monster cassette, the crankset’s bigger ring would’ve resulted in unnecessarily steep gearing. More significantly, road cranksets and mountain bike framesets are mutually incompatible.

The simplest, most cost effective solution, was to sell the Driven crankset and buy something like Shimano Zee. A 36 Tooth, 170mm unit, complete with bottom bracket was bought for £68. The Zee’s wider ring would also moot potential chain derailment hassles.

Shimano, crankset
Zee crankset

I sold this Shimano Tiagra unit, along with the Sun Race and made a modest, although useful profit. 

Minor Compromises

Coupled with a 10 speed 13-27 cassette, wouldn’t offer the same range as the latest generation of gravel machines. However, it’s still a decent spread of gears, catering for most scenarios and I didn’t want a rear mech, running ruinously close to terra-firma. Besides, better to use the entire block than hauling around unnecessary grams.


Mix ’n’ Match


Continuing this theme, back in the late 80’s and early 90s, there was an (unsurprisingly) short-lived trend for running road mechs, on triple mtb setups.

Riders quickly reverted, once they began snapping expensive mechs. However, my planned 13-28, single ring setup, should greatly reduce the likelihood of problems, let alone gut-wrenching self-destruction.


Shimano cassette gravel build on a budget seven day cyclist

Cassettes and chains tend to lead short lives. This is particularly true of 10/11speed setups, especially given the four seasons, mixed terrain duties designated. After a bit of trawling, I managed to find this Tiagra for £19. Monies recouped via some online auction selling, as per my self-imposed stipulation.


A new, old stock, KMC chain was the obvious, final piece of the transmission puzzle. Even if the gold finish wasn’t my first choice, it’s a consumable, likely to be retired within 1,000miles.

Wheels & Tyres

The frame’s massive clearances and 700c compatibility were two major plusses. I decided to plough monies recouped from selling unwanted kit, into a reliable, although inexpensive cyclo cross wheelset. However, discs being the norm, finding something suitable was proving trickier and pricier, than first envisaged. 

I was looking for a 32-hole, two cross build with Mavic hoops and Tiagra grade hubs. Hardly exotic and the hubs benefit from being stripped and repacked using high quality polymer grease. However, spares are plentiful, and servicing is straightforward. In any case, I’m not prone to destroying wheels.

Halo rim wheel build gravel on a budget
Shutter Speed Hub dynamo spd whel build gavel on a budgt

Despite my best efforts to remain “on script”; this Halo/Shutter Precision SL9 dynohub wheel belonged up front. Though the hub was designed with centre-locked discs in mind, the machined sidewalls meant easy porting between fixed gear winter/trainer and gravel build. 

Exposure Revo front light

It also ensured I could port my Univega’s Exposure Revo MK1 dynamo lamp over for nocturnal speedwork, assuming I didn’t want to plump for my Moon Meteor Storm Pro  or similarly powerful, rechargeable unit.

We like tubeless/ready setups here, at Seven Day Cyclist.

Gravel on a budget tyres

That said; for now, these 38mm Specialized Crossroads seem perfect for general, mixed terrain duties and, when winter really bites, I’ll switch to 42mm Continental Nordic Spikes. 

Disc brake rotors for gravel on a budget build

Make it Stop!

Though discs have become pretty much the default, and have so much in their favour, Lee Cooper, frame and bike builder of Dunchurch, agreed with my decision to leave the frameset stock, rather than adding mounts. The humble cantilever is a superlight and, when correctly honed, a super-effectivesetup.

Centre pull brakes

These Genetic CX fitted the bill nicely. As did these Jagwire Pro Road Brake kit cables.

Contact Points 

Thankfully, the seat tube measured 27.2, a definite boon, meaning I was spoilt for choice on the post front.


After some deliberation, I decided the Cane Creek Thudbuster ST  perfect. I was spoilt for choice, where saddles were concerned. This BBB was also ported over from my fixed gear winter/trainer.

BBB saddle

Threaded, 1 inch steerers have been pretty much the preserve of classic builds for the past fifteen years or so. I wasn’t going to be chopping in a perfectly good fork for that matter, but I was going the modern “oversized” bar route and wanted a suitably compatible stem.

Ahead converters enjoy a slightly dubious repute, especially for seizing. However, I had one doing something close to nothing. Religious twice-yearly stripping and re-greasing, with a stout synthetic blend, should render this academic.

Bars gravel build ona  budget

This shot peened, dun finished outland stem, though hardly exotic was reliable, the quill to Ahead adaptor permitted some height adjustment and these big, swoopy WTB drops fitted the design brief and dun aesthetic handsomely. I’d run these for several years, on my Univega, so knew they’d cut muster on the trails.


I default to dual sided models per se, due to their convenience. Recessed cleats ensure effortless pottering about off the bike and the mud shedding prowess is another obvious draw for any machine that ventures beyond asphalt. 

Pedals gravel build on  budget

I had a couple of dual-sided SPD patterns at my disposal, indeed an elusive, silver pair of Shimano M545. To the rescue came these original Shimano SPD from 1990. A little heavier than subsequent generations and their homages.

They also clog quicker when conditions get really boggy. Nonetheless, the bearings were still buttery smooth, cleats are readily and cheaply available black compliments the colour scheme. Decision made.

Right that just leaves a rear wheel and bar tape. Going to clear some more space, then I’ll be back for Part Three - The Big Build.

Part One of Gravel on a Dustbowl Budget




Ryton On Dunsmore

Coventry  CV8 3FH


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