I have been thinking about the "perfect" gravel bike lately. My Karate Monkey is nice in that the large tires allow me to float over a lot of things that I've seen people with cross bikes have some difficulty with. However, on a long ride, the straight bars don't really help with the comfort, like the drop bars on my LHT. Putting something like On-One's Midge or a Titec H-Bar on the KM means that it's going to not be that great for XC racing. I have noticed some people putting larger tires on the LHT for a "monster cross" type approach. Some tires fit well, and others have clearance issues. My LHT is really set up for touring with the fenders and the racks, so removing all of that once or twice per month for a gravel grinder is a lot of work. I'm also not that happy with the brakes on the LHT, and disks are not really an option. So we're back to the cross bike again. Decent tire clearance, but not as much as the KM. I might have something good coming with the Salsa Fargo:
Disk brakes: check
big tire capable: check (up to 2.3" possibly)
drop bars: check
full rack mounts: check
water bottle holders: SIX
This is an adventuring bike in the same spirit as Thorn's eXp and Sherpa or one of the Kogi-Miyata adventuring bikes, but built around a 700c wheel. The full bike is spec'd pretty nicely, and it will also be available as a frame only for build up. I haven't ridden a sloping top tube bike before and I'm curious if there's any difference in feel vs a standard horizontal tube. I can see running the Fargo with either drops or an H-bar and just setting out for a really long day of riding back roads and single track. With a skinnier set of tires (38mm), it may make a reasonable road touring bike too. Looks like I'm going to have some thinking to do in the next few months. Not completely sure that I would give my Long Haul Trucker up for the Fargo, but the braking on my LHT is currently one of its weakest points.