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Casati Laser gravel bike conversion
I'm in the process of converting an early 2000s Casati Laser steel road bike into...not quite a full-on-gravel bike, but with wider tires and lower gears that gravel riding tends to require.


The first step was to fit Hutchinson Sector 28s to Velocity Spartacus wheels. I found, to my pleasant surprise, that this worked. It really was a surprise because the Hutchinson Sectors - designed for Paris-Roubaix and which can be run tubeless or with tubes (my setup) - measure a generous 28mm across.


I'm also replacing the stem to one that is a little longer (130mm) and with a slight rise (6 degrees), and also to bars with a shallower drop to suit my ageing back. The stem and a new chain are being shipped to me.


Meantime, last night's time suck was removing the 50/34 chainrings to clean them up, and to address two of the chainring bolts that "bottomed out" and would not tighten fully. This resulted in slightly out-of-true chainrings and an annoying click under load. I bought some FSA chainring bolts that use Torx heads on both the bolts and nuts to hopefully avoid what plagued me up to now - bolts that wouldn't fully tighten, but which also wouldn't loosen easily because the two-spronged chainring nut spanner wouldn't grip the nut completely, and when it did it would slip and round off the notch. Two glasses of beer, some prodigious cussing and a truckload of frustration later, they finally came loose thanks to some Channel-Lock pliers.


I also found some brand new Campagnolo Centaur brakes, dual-pivot front and rear, on closeout. I'm replacing the Centaur Skeleton brakes I had on there previously with these new calipers. Nothing really wrong with the Centaur Skeletons, except that they use a single-pivot rear brake. There's not a big mechanical or functional difference, but with taking the wheels off with the wide Huntchinson Sectors, the rear brake can get bumped out of alignment easily, and you need a 14mm spanner to center the single-pivot rear brake. The dual-pivots center easily just with your hand. (Yes, I know I would avoid this situation with disc brakes!)

So if you're looking for a deal on some slightly used Centaur Skeleton brakes, let me know! I'll update everyone on the bike's progress.
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Well the bike is complete, and I did a ride this weekend on mixed terrain leaving right out my front door. My "driveway" is more like a double track path, and in its current state with a massive rut down the middle caused by rainwater improperly draining, barely passable by our 4WD Subarus and more suited to a Land Rover! So any bike that I use to negotiate it must have low gearing (the grade hits 15% on gravel for a short distance!) and wider tires for traction and sure footing going down the same hill coming back home.

The Casati, of course, is a road racing thoroughbred through and through. But by adding a compact crankset and the Hutchinson Sector 28c tires, I've got a machine that can eat up miles on pavement and not choke on those gravel stretches that I like to include on my rides, as well as my own driveway.


If I were building a bike for a true "gravel grinder" event like the D2R2 gravel event in Massachusetts, I'd create a bike with more tire clearance, possibly even lower gearing than my 34x30 low gear on this bike, and disc brakes. I rode the D2R2 several years ago and used my cyclocross bike, which was perfect with its 700x35c Ritchey Speedmax tires.

But this bike reminds me of a truly classic road bike in many ways, the kind that used to handle gravel roads in European stage racing (there used to be a lot in the 1950s-1970s, before gravel's recent re-introduction as a trend), and of course Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and any of the cobbled classics before teams started using special bikes.

My goal is to ride the Paris-Roubaix sportive before I get too long in the tooth, and this is the bike I will do it on!
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