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Over the past few years, we have seen a massive surge in gravel riding. You can ride for miles on them and still get to bomb some epic downhills with speed and confidence. Our friend Larry decided to go all in and build himself up a complete custom bike. Read on to hear how he spec'd his bike and how it performed out on the trails!
Gravel biking interests for me began with bike packing and wanting a rig that more fit the needs of exploring some of the forest and fire roads of California. It also allowed an alternative and challenging look at the usual singletrack from my daily rides in SoCal. I knew I wanted something rugged and up to the challenges of backcountry riding as well as something that was compliant enough to enjoy riding for long distances on the broken and unmaintained fire roads.
Titanium made sense and I started my build with a LiteSpeed Gravel frame. Following suit, all other parts were chosen with the same requirements for ruggedness. Beginning with the cockpit I choose a Zipp Service Course SL 70mm stem and Salsa Cowchipper 42cm wide bars. I wanted a more upright position so I choose a little shorter stem and bars with a shorter, flared drop. The drivetrain is an interesting mix of brands. I wanted the simplicity and range of a 1x MTB setup but with STI levers. I’m running Ultegra 11spd hydraulic shifters, Wolftooth Tanpan, XT 11spd derailleur, Shimano HG701 chain, and e*thirteen 9-42 cassette. Hydraulic brakes were chosen for power and modulation, Wolftooth Tanpan to convert STI shifters to work with an MTB derailleur, XT derailleur for durability and clutch, and e*thirteen cassette for range.
All of it came together for a smooth shifting set up with a huge range that has stood up to the miles, dirt, mud, and whatever else. I’m running SRAM Force cranks with a Wolftooth Elliptical 32t ring. This may feel like a small front ring at first but it allowed for a good bailout gear when loaded on steep sustained climbs and I only ever found myself spinning out downhill on the pavement. Wheels are DT Swiss 350 hubs and 27.5 XM421 rims. Again reliability and compliance were my priority and these have proved worthy. Going with 27.5 was a great call as they allow for much more comfort and control with wider Maxxis Ikon 2.2 tires. I had ridden a set of 29er Enve M50’s on the bike with 40mm tires and although the weight savings were noticeable, the comfort on long rides was lacking and the stiffness made rocky lines a little sketchy pinging off everything.
The most recent addition is a OneUp 120mm dropper and PNW drop bar lever. This ups the party mode when riding singletrack, however, it does lend itself to a bit of overconfidence when choosing lines at times!
Considering my use and how reliable it’s been I wouldn’t change much other than going for some Cane Creek eeWings to make the bike metal all the way. Riding on local singletrack always garners a couple tilted heads but it never fails to put a smile on my face.
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