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Q:

The Best Gravel Bikes: Salsa 2013 Warbird Ti

I’d like to do more biking on dirt roads in the countryside, but my road bike just can’t hack it. I’ve been hearing about new “gravel” bikes. What’s the deal?

Warbird Ti.     Photo: Courtesy of Salsa Cycles

A:In general, bikes come in a bewildering number of varieties, from “credit-card touring” models to “dirt jumpers.” Now, there’s a clear need for a category called “gravel racer.” The $3,899 titanium Warbird Ti is the ultimate machine for gravel competitions, a growing trend in cycling that includes races like the 102-mile Heck of the North in Minnesota and the 200-mile Dirty Kanza in Kansas. The sport is simple and compelling—you cover long distances over muddy, dirt roads as quick as you can to win.

The Bird’s made from titanium, a light material with superior stiffness, comfort, and strength for its weight. Its streamlined frame sheds mud easily, and its disc brakes hold fast in any weather conditions. The frame places the rider in an aggressive position, like a cyclo-cross rider, except that unlike cyclo-cross, the cables run under the top tube of the frame (where a cyclo-cross rider would lift up the bike). Compared with some of Salsa’s other gravel bikes, the Warbird can only handle smaller tires (38 millimeters wide) and doesn’t have the same comforts needed for adventure, like multiple eyelets to hang bags, racks, and fenders. (For touring and exploring on dirt roads, check out Salsa’s Vaya line.)

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