For anyone that even follows the slightest bit of cycling media, it’s impossible to ignore all the talk of “gravel bikes”. Actually defining them is tricky, as they mean different things to different people. But tend to be an off-road drop-bar bike, that has more clearance, and in some cases more eyelets for panniers, etc than a traditional cyclocross bike. And for those of us in Ireland, there aren’t really any gravel roads, so if you’re being pedantic the term “all-road” might be better, but who cares?

Of course, in the search for N+1 given that I already have road bikes for suitable for trips to the Alps, and road-touring a gravel bike to allow a bit more off-road exploring would seem like a good fit. When I heard someone describe the whole gravel bike thing as just being “a 90’s MTB with drop-bars” I put 2 and 2 together (in this case my old rigid ATB that I got when I was 12 and a box of spare road parts) and came up with the idea to build a gravel bike.

Falcon Fat Track ATB

The bike that was going to act as the basis for the project was I bike I got when I in my early teens, an 18-speed “Falcon Fat Track ATB”, although to be honest, it was an all-terrain bike in-name-only (also, I have NO idea what the story with that saddle is!).

The bike was used primarily every summer for about 10 years but left a lot outside. Given I grew up in a small town on the West coast of Ireland it was subject to a lot of salt air and rain it’s safe to say the bike was fairly neglected. Eventually, it was just thrown into a shed then for another 15 or so years.

Rust on the top tube

Spare Parts

A key driving part in the project was the fact that I had a box of spare parts from when I had the Dolan converted from a Tiagra 4500 triple to Tiagra 4700 compact.

Parts included:

  • Triple crankset 50/39/30
  • 11-25 cassette
  • 9 speed rear mech
  • Left & right STI levels
  • Threaded bottom bracket

One thing that I didn’t have was a working front mech, as the spring had gone on it, so straight-away I decided to go with a 1x drivetrain.

I also had other spares such as saddles, bar tape, tubes, 105 pedals etc, so definitely had a good starting point but would need to research other parts.

Design Decisions

First thing I needed to figure out was could I fit a 9-speed cassette on the 6-speed rear wheel that came with the bike. After a bit of googling I found out that a 6, 7 or 8-speed cassette would work, but a 9-speed would require a new hub, therefore new wheels.

Next up was the cockpit. While I would have been happy with going with a flat-bar for the bike, given the amount of rust, plus the fact that there were only 2 bolts on the faceplate I just didn’t trust, so knew straight away that I would need a new cockpit setup.

Rusty Stem of death

Again, this would require different shifters, but given the cost of 9-speed flat-bar shifters versus the savings from already having the STI shifters, I decided it was cheaper to just convert to drop-bar, again keeping in with most gravel bikes.

In the next post, I’ll cover off stripping down the bike for painting.

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