Built for the love of gravel

Earlier in August, Kristin and her girlfriends ventured to Vermont to ride Rooted Vermont‘s “Little Sip” Course – nearly 48 miles of pristine gravel with 4,000 feet of climbing. Taking on this challenge was notable, in part, because until recently she would have told you that she didn’t really “get” the appeal of long gravel rides.

She credits her newfound love of gravel to the bike I custom-built her during the pandemic.

As many people know I love putting together custom bikes. The process of searching and selecting each part and designing how they will go together is as enjoyable as the build. Some bikes come together with careful planning and precision of each component, while others happen more organically through parts that are around, fall into your lap, or during Covid – you can just get at all. 

Kristin’s new build happened by total circumstance with the pieces came together to make a wonderful and unique gravel bike. While she had a very nice cyclocross bike, the Focus was geared and designed for racing and she never enjoyed riding for longer distances.

Kristin racing on her Focus cyclocross bike.
Photo credit: Katie Busick Photography

Her new gravel bike started to take shape when a crucial piece fell into our lap – a Lauf Grit fork a friend traded in to offset the cost of a custom fat bike build. As I have a Lauf for on my fat bike, I believed the unique leaf spring design, which provides 30mm of travel would address one of Kristin’s complaints about her current bike by providing responsive and supple movement over rough surfaces.

While the finishes didn’t match, we planned to put the fork on her cyclocross bike until I realized SCOTT had a few leftover Addict CX frames available. Although branded as for cyclocross, the CX frame geometry is much more suited to gravel riding – in fact, this same frame design has since been rebranded as the Addict Gravel. The frame’s matte black, gray, and orange graphic perfectly complimented the Lauf fork’s matte finish.

Due to the lack of available parts, I went shopping through our garage and basement looking to cannibalize bikes we no longer used for parts. Through my digging, I found a set of SRAM Force hydraulic shifters and brakes and a Force 1 rear derailleur. With the parts I had, and knowing Kristin’s riding style, I decided on a 1x drivetrain.

A set of DT Swiss R23 wheels that had seen years of cyclocross racing abuse were collecting dust with one bent rim but also gorgeous polished silver hubs just waiting for a second life. We cleaned up the hubs, swapping in a XD freehub body, and I rebuilt the wheels using HED Belgium G rims, resulting in a beautiful 1490 gram gravel wheelset. I’ve been using Continental TerraSpeed 40mm tires on my gravel bike with great results, they roll insanely fast on dirt roads and pavement and have proven very tough, so I put the same on hers. I also paired a new SRAM Force 1x crank with a 10-42 cassette.

Having put wide flared 24-degree bars from Whiskey Components and my own gravel bike, and loving them, we used the same bar on her bike. The super-wide drops provide massive stability when going down rough terrain. Kristin added some “flair” with Frida handlebar tape from Cycology.

She also found a rare-ish Fizik Luce woman’s saddle in matte grey, orange, and black that matched perfectly, and came in the original packaging from a used gear shop. While Kristin “gets along well” with many saddles, it was still a risk to move from her normal saddle preference, but she thought it was worth it just for the aesthetics.

Final accessories in preparation for Rooted included a large fat bike saddlebag from Lezyne, a new handlebar bag from MoosePacks, and a Fizik Saddle Mount for her GoPro.

From her first ride, Kristin felt comfortable on her new gravel bike. But the real test was going to be Rooted – the longest ride and most climbing she and “Persephone” would attempt. After 5 hours in the saddle, some of it in the pouring rain, Kristin didn’t just feel comfortable – she had learned to love gravel.

Her rear-mounted GoPro perfectly captured the conditions, and our friend Alex.
Feeling good after taking a “Little Sip” of Vermont gravel.

 

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