Lynskey GR250: Checkpoint “Plan B”

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Lynskey GR250: Checkpoint “Plan B”- by Grannygear

Editor’s note: Grannygear, our SoCal friend and editor over at TwentynineInches.com, is also a back road, gravel riding fan. He has written reviews for us previously and here we share his latest project- A titanium framed gravel road rig from Lynskey. His introduction to this bike can be found by clicking the link HERE  and his first Checkpoint post is HERE.

Lynskey GR250

Grannygear’s Lynskey GR250 shod with WTB Horizon 650B X 47mm tires

Lynskey GR250

Panaracer Gravel King 700 X 40 (L) and the 650B Nano (R)

Plan B- What Are The Options? One of the things that attracted me to the Lynskey GR250 was the ability to run up to a 2.1″ 650B/27.5″ tire. So while the aluminum Gen2 Warbird I had would handle a 42X700c tire, which was as big as I would ever want to run in that wheel size for that kind of bike, it would not work with the smaller wheel and bigger tire combo. The widest part of the 650b tire would interfere with the shaped chain stay on the Warbird. Basically the 650b set up ended up ‘out of the pocket’ so to speak. I figured with the GR250 I could run a 27.5 XC type MTB tire for days where the trail conditions would be rough and loose. How often would that be?

I had no idea but honestly the dirt roads here in the local forest are hardly ever maintained. And some big routes like the Oregon Outback tend to reward higher flotation than a 38c-40c tire provides. But I had only a notion of how it would feel to ride the bike so shod. The other 650B option I had in mind was the unique WTB Horizon 47c tire, dubbed “Road Plus”. When I first saw that I thought “Well that is different, but who wants it? What is it for? What does it fit?”. I remember talking to one industry person who sneered and rolled their eyes at the notion of Road Plus.
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Well now we have lots of adventure/gravel bikes and many of them will run this wheel and tire combo. Want to hit some long pavement miles on your gravel bike? Want high volume and low pressures for comfort? TaaDaah! Road Plus. I saw it as a tire for light road touring more than anything. Like Frisco to LA with minimal panniers or soft bags. Smooth and fast, yet poofy and comfy. Right or wrong? Dunno, but I wanted to find out. After all those Rando folks have been on 650b semi slicks for some time now….they might just know something.
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Lynskey GR250

Panaracer Gravel King (L) and the 650B Horizon 47 (R)

Now then I had some concerns as to bottom bracket height. The GR250 has 75mms of bottom bracket drop and that is really good for stability on loose surfaces at speed , but not so good if you are inching that bottom bracket closer to the ground with smaller wheels. Pedal strikes coming to a corner near you? Also I needed to build some 650B wheels. How and what to use?


Time For Some New Wheels: For the wheels I wanted a rim that was decently light as I did not expect to be doing anything too daring on this bike. It did not need to be super wide either, not with the tires I would be running. Tubeless was a must of course. Carbon was not really something I thought that important. There are some nice, light aluminum rims out there and I did not need or even want the wheels to be super stiff. I also wanted them to work well with the Horizon TCS tires. Some rims do not do well with TCS as they will not mount up…too tight a fit. So it seemed to make sense to use WTB rims as well. I chose the KOMi23s  in a 32 hole drilling (only choice there is).  The KOMs are what I would call out as an XC (or gravel bike) rim, where the Asym rims from WTB are a bit more robust but likely overkill for this build. A 23mm internal width is about right.
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A claimed weight of 420g is not bad at all for the i23 and I had them built with a very simple butted spoke…nothing too spindly. The hubs were a puzzler. In the end I went with a set of American Classic hubs as they are light, quiet, and very fast rolling. I like them best for road or gravel bike apps as they are just a bit slow engaging for a trail bike. However I recently purchased a set of White Industries hubs for my wife’s new 650B road bike (on 42c tires) and if I had seen those first I might have been swayed. Just beautiful! And RED! Swoon.
Lynskey GR250

WTB i23 rim

The wheels built up at 884g/754g for the F/R. 1638g total. That is not bad at all for 32 spokes and brass nips. I taped them with Gorilla Tape (WTB does have their own tape but they forgot to send some) and I used WTB branded stems.

The first set of 650B tires I set up were the WTB 2.1 Nanos. The ‘Race’ version, oddly enough, does not come in TCS (tubeless version). in fact I don’t see a tubeless version at all in 650B…only in 700c/29″. So I set them up with tubes. How odd to have to do that. How do those tube things work again? The Nanos were chosen just because they looked like a minimally knobbed fast rolling tire, what with that center ridge. WTB calls out the weight as 660g for the ones I have. I never weighed them as that was not really what I was chasing here.
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Lynskey GR250Mounting them on the i23s gave me a tire just under 2.1″ wide where the 700x40C Gravel King SKs were 1.6-ish inches wide. The width difference was not immediately striking, but the height difference was. The 650B combo just looked like a smaller diameter, which of course it is. The end result was a 1/2″ smaller diameter and a bottom bracket that was 1/4″ closer to the ground (static). What also was striking was how much more sidewall I had with the Nanos. The Gravel Kings in the 40C size have a 1.5″ height above the rim. The Nanos were 2″ tall above the rim AND wider so that is some extra tire volume there, even when you consider the larger diameter of the 700 c tire. I had about 8mms between the rear tire and the chain stays with the Gravel King 40C tires. With the Nanos I was right at 7mms each side. Not bad.
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Now For Some Riding: The first ride on the Nanos was a recovery ride on the local bike path. Following a hard day of climbing on our road bikes in the front range of Santa Barbara, CA., I was ready for an easy spin. Well the Nanos were slow for sure, that center row of tread not withstanding. I swear I could tell the bike was lower to the ground with this 650B deal. Could I really? Not sure. I am pretty perceptive that way, and it felt like the bike was smaller…not in overall fit, but in ‘rolling presence’ if you follow me.
Lynskey GR250

The GR250 set up with 650B Nanoraptors

Handling was just a bit odd as well…slower to turn off center, but pretty quick to accelerate on rises in the path. Looked burly too. Bring on the curb hopping! The next day JeffJ and I planned a night time gravel bike ride up into a local canyon, part of which is an OHV area. I had the Nano equipped Lynskey GR250 and he had his Specialized AWOL running some 2.1 Renegades.
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Now we have been getting more rain here in So Cal than we’ve had for years (even recent past years combined) so dirt conditions are wet and rutted with exposed rocks as surface soil has been heading towards the Pacific Ocean at a good clip. The ride began with some dicey stream crossings in sand and mud that the Nanos churned through really well. Even with their moderate knobbie-ness, they still have more drive forward in muck than most any gravel bike tire would. The paved ascent towards the dirt showed a bike that, despite not having a really fast and light rolling tire on it, would pick up speed with a few pedal strokes and really scoot. Dirt patches in the road and unsettled rocks that had come off the hillside were just a light dalliance for the 2.1 Nanos. Boom baby! But when I hit the real dirt is when the experience knob got turned to ‘amazing’.
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Over ruts pressed deeply into the dirt by Jeeps and trucks…through mushy rivulets of water in every low spot…up climbs of exposed rocks and more ruts…the GR250 with those 650B wheels and Nanos at around 26 psi just flew up them like it did not care. Man, those small wheels and tires really shot up the steep rollers that make up that road. Very fast. I was running less PSI (mid 20s) than I had expected, but perhaps it was the tubes in there as I found that 30PSI was very firm to the thumb, feeling more like 40 pounds of air pressure to me. In any case, it rocked my world that night and bulletproof was the way I was feeling. JeffJ was feeling soggy as he found the limits of his left shoe’s water fastness with an untimely dab in one stream crossing.
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Would I do this wheel/tire set up again for a day in the dirt? Sure, but that depends. The 700c wheels with a poofy 40C tire at 35psi are actually pretty good. I could have ridden them on this night ride and been OK, although I would have missed the bigger knobs of the Nano and its bigger tire volume for the ruts and rocks. Likely I would have been less carefree in my line choice if I was on the 700x40s. Now if I were riding my GR250 on rough trails all the time…or on single tracks maybe? Then I would think really hard about going 650B x 2.1 full time. Maybe some WTB 2.0 Rangers in the TCS casing? Getting a 700c tire that big in volume and width could be ponderous and slow to accelerate and most bikes on the market would not fit that anyway. One bike that has always caught my eye is the Salsa Cutthroat. Although I could not pin it down as to just why I liked it, it always captured my imagination. Based on this experience, I now think it would be a swell bike to own, and if I could keep the 29″ wheels light and run something like this Nano on it, wow! That just might be an amazing bike. As it is, the Lynskey GR250 gained some cred with me and I now knew that the 650B option had merit.

Lynskey GR250

That’s a road?!!

 

Out On The Horizon: Next up were the WTB Horizon TCS 47c slicks (or at best, semi-slicks). With a few grooves and a pinch of herringbone pattern to them, they are not a complete slick. They were installed tubeless on the i23s and that went really well using only a floor pump. A few ounces of Orange Seal Endurance formula kept them happy. I measured them at 500g each, give or take, and while that is heavy for a road tire, it is light for an MTB tire. And they look pretty substantial too, volume wise, as compared to the 700x40mm. Although looking at them I could not help but muse about this tire in a 650B x 51mm size. I also lost some more bottom bracket height as they are only 1.75″ above the rim, height wise. I had about 10mm of chain stay clearance.
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Out on the pavement, I took the bike for a quick spin down a secondary road that is used by tons of cyclists to connect northward from the main town we live next to. It has some pretty bad sections of pavement and the winter rains have not helped there at all. The Horizons just took that all in stride, turning what would have been a pretty good hit on a road bike, even one with 28s, and muting it down to a so-so thump. Nice. Running 30psi they were very smooth and comfortable. Guitar Ted had said, when he tested these, that he would tour on them in a heartbeat (or something like that). I agree. Maybe not a ‘I need a bulletproof go round the world tire‘, but surely a ‘take my gravel/adventure bike across the state‘ tire. It’s seems pretty fast, but it still is a 500g tire and is wide too, soooo….it’s only going to be what it is. However to get that level of ride comfort and security with a 700c tire, well, that would get to be a heavy tire as well.
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The next day I was invited by a friend to ride up into the local forest on a familiar route; an old scenic byway largely forgotten by time and travelers. Gated at each end, it allows for auto free use and is perfect for an all-roads type of bike. With a mix of new pavement, old pavement, and even older concrete, and with dirt sections with lots of loose rocks here and there…well, how could I resist? I expected mud and difficult conditions and I figured it would be a great test for the WTB Horizons. It was.
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Beginning in mid thirties temps, we pedaled up into the past on this sweetheart of a road. There was more silty mud and washed out soil on the road than I expected. Once or twice I was over the rim in sinking mud but there was usually pavement on the bottom if you could get to it. Ruts and water…rocks to dodge or bounce over…the GR250 just rolled it all like a boss. It took some skill to do it, but I rode everything my buddy did on his 29+ bike and as far as I could see, I did it just as easily and more so in some cases, less in others. I also gathered barely any mud where he was packed up a-plenty. The WTB Horizons seemed to be very resistant to picking up mud, likely from the lack of any knobs.
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The small to medium ruts and water channels were not even a bother on the Horizons. They rolled smoothly on the sections of good pavement and felt like a roadster in the corners. Overall speed? Hard to say. There were times they felt fast and other times where I was not so sure and since the conditions really did not allow much Strava comparing, I will leave it at this …not sure…but they certainly did not feel slow. But I don’t think I am talked out of my 700cX40s just yet as the ‘norm’. My 700c wheels are about the same weight and the Gravel King 40c tires are about the same weight as well. However for the kind of touring I am thinking about…a lightly packed bike traveling over good pavement and bad pavement and some dirt here and there…these Horizon tires are compelling.

Lynskey GR250
Considering The Options: So what are we left with here? Good question. I think the original setup of the 700c wheels and excellent Panaracer Gravel King SKs in the 40c size is dead in the middle of these two 650b options and covers 60% to 75% (just to toss out a number range) or what the Nano and the Horizons do best. But towards the extreme ends of the range, the 650b options do it better than the Gravel Kings could: The Nanos in that wheel size instilled confidence when things got rougher and rougher and the Horizons would be a fine tire for multi day mixed road trips with a majority of that on pavement or smoother dirt or gravel.
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Options. Options are good and that was what I got when I chose a bike that could run both wheel sizes. There are always compromises. For instance the bottom bracket height is getting low with the Horizons and in dry conditions there are no side knobs at all to save you. As well, the slow pace of the Nanos on pavement was taxing. But now I am not constrained to making a 700c wheel and tire do it all for me and after what I have experienced over these four rides on 650B, that pretty much, seriously, rocks.
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NOTE: The Lynskey GR250 frame and 3T fork were purchased by Grannygear and is being reviewed/tested for RidingGravel.com. RidingGravel.com is not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum.

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11 Responses to Lynskey GR250: Checkpoint “Plan B”

  1. Greg February 23, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    Good to see a review of the Horizons. I am planning my next bike purchase and these fitting it are on the top of my list.

  2. kev February 24, 2017 at 2:23 am #

    GG, you know that Rawland Ulv can handle 29er tires, as well as b+….

  3. JClar February 24, 2017 at 10:47 am #

    Is the bike performing well? Ride quality, etc…

  4. grannygear February 24, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    @JClar…yes it is. I am very pleased with it and if I was not, I would have been tellin’ ya. . The ride quality is what I was looking for and although I miss some of the more ‘road bike’ feel of the Salsa, I think this is better all round, and even more so in the dirt. I actually am shopping for a Ti 27+ frame right now and thinking about a Ti or Ti/Carbon road frame next year. There is something to that shiny metal stuff….

    I am also thinking about going 1x at some point…like maybe with a Shimano 11-42 cassette and a 40T ring. We shall see. Will shed some top end and gain some low end. Never have been impressed with SRAM front der for road, and that is across three bikes with it over the last couple of years.

    gg

  5. JClar February 24, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

    Thanks for the comments. I’m seriously considering this bike, but they don’t offer the 3T forks anymore. They have ENVE CX forks now. I would think the ENVE fork would work as well as the 3T?

  6. grannygear February 25, 2017 at 9:06 pm #

    @JClar…I saw that. Interesting. I thought they were going to do a Lynskey branded fork. I don’t really know. Carbon lay-ups can be so different. I like the road 2.0 Enve fork I have. I just ordered an Enve Gravel fork for Mrs. Grannygear’s new bike. I think they do carbon really, really well, but a Cross forks best attribute does not have to be compliance. You know?

    I am with Guitar Ted on this point…most all G-Bikes are too stiff in the front end.

    gg

    • JClar February 27, 2017 at 10:46 am #

      I’ve wondered about the CX vs Gravel fork’s compliance. Maybe I’ll just get a Cutthroat?

  7. Eduardo February 28, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    Thanks for the report. I am seriously considering the GR250 and was waiting for your feedback. Considering this or OPEN UP. I know they are quite different.

  8. Steve March 2, 2017 at 10:28 am #

    If I bought a GR250, I’d likely equip it with a Whiskey #9 fork-it has clearance similar to the GR250 rear triangle and is available with fender mounting points. I hesitate to commit to the GR250 for two reasons. First it’s relatively slack front end makes me worry that it won’t handle well–I like a neutral handling all road bike, with trail around 60. The second reason is the frame weight you posted in your initial impressions. If it is indeed over 4 pounds, it is about a pound heavier than some titanium competitors, the Seven Evergreen SL for example.

  9. Kris March 8, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

    Since you briefly mentioned it, will we be seeing a review of the WTB Rangers? I’ve been looking for 2.0 tires to fit into my cyclocross frame and the Rangers definitely flew under the radar for me.

    • Guitar Ted March 9, 2017 at 6:56 am #

      @Kris: Speaking for Grannygear here- You can find a review on trails for the WTB Ranger here on Grannygear’s site, Twenty Nine Inches: http://twentynineinches.com/wtb-ranger-2-25-29er-first-impressions/

      I realize this isn’t “gravel specific” and may not answer your questions to your satisfaction, but it is Grannygear’s thoughts on the model, so you may be able to glean some insights from his review.

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