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.
Lynskey GR250: Getting Rolling- by Grannygear
When I built up a Salsa Warbird (Gen 2, aluminum version) I was not sure, being as I live in the land of no-gravel, if a dedicated gravel race bike would be worth having in Southern California. It would turn out to be one of the best bike purchases I have ever made and I reviewed it here for Guitar Ted.
I quickly became enamored by the wide range of riding I could do on that bike. I have raced it in Idaho on genuine gravel roads, bike packed on S24O outings over forgotten byways in SO Cal, and taken it on vacations as a one-bike solution where I knew I could ride anything from pure road to dirt, at least as long as that dirt was decently packed and organized. I have grabbed it for post-rain rides on local bike paths where the big tires provided grace over junk and debris. I took it on mixed surface rides, rides that I would not enjoy on a pure road bike or a pure MTB. It’s an amazing conveyance and I would really miss having this in my quiver.
But as good as it is, there were a couple of things I wanted to improve upon. The Warbird is advertised by Salsa as being made for “Gravel Racing/Fireroad Riding/Road Riding” and I think they hit that plumb dead center. But that means it has nothing in the way of rack braze-ons, etc. That makes sense, given the intent of the bike. I was looking to do some more road/adventure based rides that might be nice with the addition of a rear rack. For instance, road touring with some light dirt road connectors mixed in. So somewhere in between the typical all-soft bag approach of bikepacking and the low-rider, big pannier road-centered set up is what I was thinking.
Another thing that happened as of late in this Gravel/Adventure bike genre is the ability of some newer models to run 650b wheels and tires. I would not mind at all to have the option of running a 650bx47mm such as the WTB Horizon tire in Road Plus. I see that tire option as a killer app for days where the pavement is more the norm then dirt is, yet if the pavement stops, you are not stopped as well. That poofy slick should be faster rolling over pavement than any 700c tire that would approach that amount of tire volume. And in a few cases, some Gravel/Adventure bikes will let you run up to a 2.0-2.1 27.5″ MTB tire which would provide some increased flotation and grip if you expect the road/trail surface to be total crap.
The Warbird frame I have tops out at a 700x42c tire + a bit of mud room, and the way the chain stays are shaped, it is very unlikely that they would allow a 47mm wide 650b tire in there and certainly no more than that.
The other thing that had me thinking about a different frame was, at least in my opinion, the overly stiff front end that I blame mostly on the Warbird’s fork although the aluminum frame might be a co-conspirator. I applaud the overall ride and poise of the aluminum Warbird. It is snappy and solid, and the Class 5 VRS rear end is very comfy. But that front end is just brusque. I can put all my weight on the bars, bounce a bit, and not see the fork tips even twitch. Ouch. A 40c tire at 35-40psi helps a lot, but for the choppy, rutted dirt roads we have here, it could be a bit better.
Honestly, after my success with a new custom steel road build, I was thinking steel. I did not want to go across Africa on this thing, so a heavy steel frame and solid fork (RE: Surly) would be a buzz kill, but a nice, hand made steel frame with a carbon fork to keep it sporty would be sweet.
Then a while ago I was talking to Lynskey, the Ti folks from Tennessee, and they mentioned they had a new gravel bike coming out based on their very successful R240 road frame with its slightly shaped tube set. The Lynskey GR250 would be an adventure based frame, good for a wide range of applications I had in mind, would take 650b tires up to 2.1″ as well as 700x45c. Well then, this is interesting. It also had a bit more bottom bracket drop over the Warbird…75mm as opposed to 70mm…and a bit slacker head tube angle by 1°, that being 71°, not 72°. The frame had a slightly shorter seat tube length and increased angle but the effective top tube was about the same so they were close enough to where a size large GR250 would be right in my wheelhouse, getting me a Stack and Reach that was very close to the 58cm Warbird.
From the Lynskey website: https://lynskeyperformance.com/road/touring-commuting/gr-250/
“A frame that leads to freedom. The GR 250 allows you the freedom to roam almost anywhere without adhering to the rules of traditional cycling categories. With adventure oriented geometry, and loads of tire clearance, this model blurs all the lines, conquering any manner rough roads, gravel and mixed surfaces. The GR250 features a 1 ¾” bi-axially ovallized downtube rounding out a butted, 3AL-2.5V aerospace grade titanium tubeset. Added to an adventure geometry that is designed for the rider to be in the cockpit rather than on the bike, and clearance for700c x max 45 or 650b x max 2.1″ tires, this model is capable of taking riders over any variety of terrain in all-day comfort.
Note: This model is designed based on a 700c x 42 or 650b x 2.1″ wheel/tire combo, which theoretically maintain the same outside diameter. Actual measurements vary greatly from one manufacturer to another. Running larger or smaller tires will affect bottom bracket height and trail.
*Build with 3T Luteus II fork for 650b x 2.1″ setup.”
MSRP $2200.00 frame only, $2890.00 with 3T Luteus II Team Stealth fork and Cane Creek headset.
I think steel is the killer app for an adventure centered bike in a not-purely-for-racing mode. Forget carbon for anything other than fast work while traveling light. Aluminum might be OK, but what you have to do to get them to ride nice is beyond what most manufacturers will bother with. Then again, Ti does have some cool things that make it very good for this type of riding. It is pretty darn hard to hurt. No bag strap will wear a hole in it and there is no paint to muss up. It won’t rust or corrode. It has the rep for riding nicely although that is not a complete given as I had found out. It can break, but usually that is from poor construction techniques rather than pedaling it to death.
It also has that cache’ of Ti, which is not a bad thing if that appeals to you. Heck, we only get one shot at things down here, so if looking at a Ti bike you own makes you smile, then why not? I was curious. Lynskey dangled a Ti carrot on the end of a stick and I bit. A GR250 was headed my way.
I also bought it with the carbon 3T Luteus II Team Stealth fork, an option in this case. You may recall the 3T Exploro, the first Gravel/Adventure bike I saw that was designed around a 700c wheel with a 650b option. It is very innovative and about the coolest thing on gravel tires. This is the fork used on that bike as I do not believe that Lynskey has any in-house forks with the right specs at this point in time.
With a 15mm TA, 50mm of offset, and external routing, the 3T Luteus II Team Stealth fork looks like it could be very good as long as it rides decently. Lynskey was pretty pleased with the ride quality during testing GR250 prototypes so we shall see. It is an expensive fork however at around $700 bucks, putting it on the top shelf price wise where the Enve Gravel Fork and carbon fender live.
Getting the Lynskey GR250 all unboxed was a treat to the eyes. Ti is very sexy looking and I had forgotten that. The plate used at the drive side chain stay/bottom bracket junction caught my eye as did the tapered head tube and sharp looking new graphics. Its a good looking frame. The fork is a bit huge in the oversize carbon way, like someone over-inflated it, but hopefully will blend well with the larger frame tubes Ti uses as compared to steel. A fork that looks graceful and integrated with a carbon frame can look horrible with a slender tubed metal bike.
The frame came with the seat collar and the fork came with a Cane Creek headset and carbon friendly compression nut/top cap.
On the scale of truth and justice, I weighed the frame with seat collar at 4lbs/8oz with the rear thru axle in place and 4lbs/5oz without it. In comparison, the Warbird frame was 3lbs/14oz with the thru axle, so I gained about a 1/2 pound in the swap.
All the parts moved over from the Warbird with ease. I did have to use a standard external bottom bracket for the threaded 68mm shell, but that was the only change. The SRAM Rival 22 drive train, with the 36/46 172.5mm crank turning a SRAM 11-36 cassette with the medium cage Rival rear derailleur has been solid and so far has given me all the gear range I have needed. The hydro brakes with 160mm rotors have been excellent as well. The Salsa bars and existing 100mm stem came over as well as the Lynskey Ti seat post with setback that I was using on the Warbird. The FSA wheels have been fast engaging and solid too, being wide enough and tough enough to allow the Panaracer Gravel King SKS in a 40mm size to poof out to near 42mms.
I noted a ton of clearance on the Lynskey GR250 with that tire/wheel combo, much more than on the Warbird.
The 3T fork has massive tire clearance too. I still have to get all the cables and hoses trimmed and the steerer tube shortened then I will shoot some images of the finished product. It’s a looker, this one. The Lynskey GR250 has more top tube drop than the Warbird does, so I have more seat post extended out of the frame. That should allow for greater flex out of the Ti post but might constrain things a bit when I run my Tangle bag on the inside of the frame. We shall see.
More to come, but initial rides have been very favorable with only one caveat which we will talk about later as well. It’s a smoothie for sure, and fast, fast, fast down open dirt roads.
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.