As my devoted reader deduced months ago I have gone crazy about riding gravel. It is a mix of mountain biking, road biking, Cyclocross and backcountry solitude that I have fallen in love with. Last June I had some of my teammates along for a weekend of gravel riding and I was so impressed with the performance of their bikes that I made a big decision. I was going all in for gravel.
There just aren’t many sponsorship opportunities for exceptionally fast old men and there are absolutely none for slow old men so I had to devise a plan. In the weeks and months since that fateful weekend I have sold four bikes, multiple wheelsets, tires, chainrings, brakes and brake parts, a crankset and a tool.
Before you think the barn at Casa de Evo is vacant; I will confess I did all this only so I could purchase a disc equipped carbon Cyclocross/gravel wonderbike frame. I have taken the resulting machine out on the remote roads of the Cascades and my lofty expectations have been exceeded.
I built the wheels myself both to save a couple (hundred) dollars and so I could have tubeless wheels with good hubs for riding in harsh environs. The brakes are the TRP HyRd which come in a tad heavier than mechanical discs but are a whole lot cheaper and lighter than a full hydraulic set up. The balance of the build is pretty predictable for me including my trademark SRAM Rival crankset and Lizardskin bar tape. Why would you want anything else?
Thus far I’m running 35mm Tubeless Stan’s Ravens which continue to impress. White the tires are illegal by UCI standards, nobody is checking out on the gravel roads. They soak up the bumps and have taken a handful of hard knocks only to smile and ask if that was the worst I could find. The tires and discs allow me to be both faster and safer on loose forest service road descents. No downside here!
With my canti’s braking was a chain of sequential events that culminated in slowing down. First you pulled the levers. Then you felt the brakes squeeze the rims. Then you felt the tires fighting with the ground to slow down and finally you slowed. With the discs you squeeze the levers and you just slow down. Modulation is indeed everything they say it is.
Einmotron said it was life changing and he was right. McWoodie likened discs on a cross bike to the difference between down tube shifters and integrated shift levers. They were correct; there is a true step function improvement.
On this bike I have been able to keep up with Hottie when she is flying downhill on her mountain bike. It climbs without flexing and is ridiculously light. I set it up with two bottle cages and a saddle pack that allows for a third bottle so I can keep hydrated on long adventures far from refueling opportunities.
I am racing cross on this bike since I sold both my cross and pit bikes to pay for this. I felt self-conscience when I raced on carbon wheels, now I’m going to be THAT GUY who shows up at the back of a cross race with a carbon bike worthy of Sven Nys..
Since I bought the bike for the gravel I will just smile and shrug off the dirty looks I get at the Cyclocross races. Since I get to race in a new category with fewer folks in it, I am hoping traffic won’t be as much of an issue this season.
The frame is flat black and I ran with the stealth theme and have black hubs, rims and spokes. Black cables and bar tape add to the Darth Vader appearance. It isn’t exactly a Hello Kitty look. If it weren’t for the discs I think I could disappear at night.
On the gravel roads the bike is stable and goes where you tell it to. The tires, wheels and frame work together to soak up a range of lumps and bumps. When climbing the machine reveals both its light weight and stiff bottom bracket. The bars don’t quite jump out of your hands when you accelerate, but it launches forward more than I was used to.
The stability on rough descents is ridiculous. I need only watch and avoid the most vicious rocks. When washboard can’t be avoided the Boone carries me through with minimal abuse.
I was reluctant to expose the Boone to potential abuse on the cross course but after the first race it was apparent this machine was built to inflict pain on those around me. On some courses the frame makes little difference. On courses covered with small bumps such as potholes or grass clumps low tire pressure can only go so far. The Boone not only smoothed out the ride, but kept the tread in contact so I could corner securely while others bounced around.
I’ve never been the guy on the bike that gives him an advantage. So far I like being that guy.