Pfaff Junior of the GravelCyclist.com crew. Photo by Gravel Cyclist.

Pfaff Junior of the GravelCyclist.com team. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

This year has been the busiest on a bicycle since my early formative years, where I spent countless hours riding around aimlessly as a young lad. Not including my regular work gig, I lead a cycling-centric lifestyle which may be a little unrealistic compared to most. Almost unfettered local riding and travel to distant rides, races, events and writing for BikeRumor.com, along with running my own website which shares my passion for gravel cycling, GravelCyclist.com

Much like Zach’s reference in his wish list, living well, staying fit and crash-free is high on my wish list – ironically, I hit the deck during a night time gravel ride just last week, but I dodged a bullet on that one, and look forward to what 2017 brings!

2016 Dirty Kanza 200. Photo by Linda Guerrette.

Well into the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200. Photo by Linda Guerrette.

Experience

Dirty Kanza 200, Gravel Worlds, Bootlegger 100, Cedar Cross, Taiwan KOM Challenge and riding with Team Lampre for a stage of the Tour Down Under, were just a few of this year’s highlights. But the stand out experience for me was L’Eroica in Gaiole in Chianti, Italy. Held in the stunningly beautiful Province of Siena, Italy, Tuscany aka Toscana is like heaven on earth on a bicycle, road or gravel. Starting and finishing in the small town of Gaiole in Chianti, the 20th edition saw 7,000 cyclists ride pre-1987 bicycles over several different courses. I rode the full monty course of 209 kilometers aboard a 1987 Vitus with full Mavic groupset – my homage to former professional, Sean Kelly.

Suffering at 2016 L'Eroica.

Yours truly suffering at 2016 L’Eroica.

L’Eroica features beautiful landscapes, the famous white gravel roads of Tuscany, amazing local food and wine and cycling culture. The rest stops are laden with home made, gourmet food and nary a cell phone in sight; rather, people milled about socializing, eating and drinking. I garnered a newfound respect for the cycling champions of old – toe strap pedals were never much fun, but gearing that is less than optimal for climbing the countless steep hills along the course made me realize we are spoiled rotten nowadays by electronic shifting, 11-speed drivetrains, clipless pedals, disc brakes, lycra shorts and jerseys – and so many other improvements. Riders like Merckx and De Vlaeminck, they were the original hard men. Without sounding dramatic, L’Eroica was my best experience on a bicycle – ever.

Road / Cyclocross / Gravel Bike

Post Dirty Kanza 200. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Parlee Chebacco, post Dirty Kanza 200. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

The thing I love about gravel cycling is the pleasant lack of rules concerning bike design and regulation, especially important if you like to race. Keep gravel grass roots – run what you brung! Tyler of Bike Rumor ran the Parlee Chebacco carbon gravel bike through its paces a little earlier this year; I rode a smaller version of the same bike at Dirty Kanza 200 along with a bunch of training miles. To date, this is my favorite carbon gravel / adventure bike.

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

3T Exploro. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

However, I am very interested in checking out the 3T Exploro.

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Litespeed T5G. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Titanium is my preferred frame material for gravel; it offers reasonable weight, great ride quality over the bumpiest of roads, is corrosion resistant and can take serious abuse. I’m in the middle of a long term review on my own website of the Litespeed T5G flat mount disc brake gravel bike – the T5G has undergone some nice enhancements in the latest model, including some geometry tweaks for a longer wheelbase – very comfy – which also provides some much needed tire clearance – and the frame is hand built in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Check out this video I shot at the original Litespeed factory before they up and moved to their new HQ near downtown Chattanooga.

Road Bike

Photo by Calfee Design.

Calfee Dragonfly. Photo by Calfee Design.

My taste in road bikes hasn’t changed much in the last year – I still prefer a traditional looking frame but definitely something that stands out from the crowd. I mentioned them last year and I’ll mention them again – I simply love Calfee Design and their unique carbon lugs. Definitely not for everyone, Calfee have updated their flagship Dragonfly road frame to accommodate the latest standards – oversize headtube for tapered carbon forks, oversized downtube, options for PF30 – while retaining the lugged look. The kicker is Calfee’s 25 year frame warranty.

Photo by Fat City Cycles

Slim Chance. Photo by Fat Chance Cycles.

Steel is real as they say and I deeply regret ever selling my original Fat Chance Cycles Slim Chance. But, the brand has been reborn and the Slim Chance is back! Not for everyone, I love the colors on offer, especially the fade options.

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Enigma Bikes Exemplar. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Enigma Bikes aren’t well known in the USA, yet. The company had several bikes on display at 2016 Interbike that I was drooling over. The 6/4 painted Ti Exemplar pictured above likely won’t appeal to the raw Ti crowd, but everything about this bike was simply stunning. Derailleurs, crank and shifter blades received the custom bespoke paint treatment as well.

The gorgeous Enigma Ecroix steel CX / gravel bike. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

The gorgeous Enigma Ecroix steel CX / gravel bike. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

I hope Enigma appear at the next edition of the NAHBS show.

Mountain Bike

Photo by Michael Allen.

Fat Chance Yo Eddy. Photo by Michael Allen.

I ride mountain bikes all the ti… hardly ever actually. My skills aren’t so great so I stick to gravel and road. But, I love the retro look and it’s another Fat Chance bike for me, this time the Yo Eddy. I’ve been a long time admirer of these bikes; thus, a Yo Eddy, but with the latest refinements such as oversized headtube, thru-axles front and rear… and an XTR Di2 2X groupset.

Components

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

FSA WE. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Campagnolo, Shimano, SRAM all have electronic gear shifting systems of some kind in production. I made the switch to electronic several years ago, and are stoked to see FSA as the latest player to enter the market with their WE system. While we have yet to see it enter the marketplace, the system has been spotted on various Euro pro bikes recently; suffice to say, I am looking forward to getting some time on this system. Finally, SRAM finally has hydro Etap in production, along with a Wifli version of the rear derailleur – this would be an amazing system on one’s gravel bike, although a clutched Etap derailleur would be icing on the cake… and repositioning the front derailleur battery for better tire clearance on a gravel bike.

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Lauf Grit Fork. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

I’ve begun racking up review miles on Lauf’s Grit fork, paired to a Parlee Chebacco gravel bike. This variant of the fork is designed for use on gravel. People are either going to love or hate this one, as it’s look is certainly unconventional. A short travel carbon leaf spring suspension fork design with only 30mm of travel, the Lauf Grit fork promises to take the edge off washboarded gravel roads (ugh), pot holes, etc. Review coming early in 2017!

Gear

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Bont Vaypor G. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Bont Cycling shoes released many new goodies at 2016 Interbike, including a “gravel” version of their Vaypor S shoe – which is probably quite at home on a mountain bike as well. Touting a stiff carbon sole that wraps upward into the heel cup, the leather upper is stiffer and more durable, too. Still unavailable to the public, I’d like a pair when they’re available, but probably not in white.

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

White Industries VBC crankset. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

The venerable White Industries VBC crankset received a big update this year, going to a much larger 30mm axle. This crankset features a removable spider offering virtually unlimited options for chainring sizes – currently being tested on my own website, I ran the 46 / 30 combination at the recent Taiwan KOM Challenge – the 30T small ring saved my day – and legs – when the mountain became seriously steep in the final 10 kilometers.

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Praxis Zayante M30 crankset. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Another option worthy of consideration is the Praxis Zayante M30. Another crank featuring an oversized 30mm axle, I am running the 48 / 32 configuration through its paces right now, paired to the company’s English thread, external cup bottom bracket. Still under review, the Zayante is looking good as an affordable option for those who desire slightly lower gears, but without breaking the bank.

Two Small Things

Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Fix It Sticks. Photo by GravelCyclist.com

Fix It Sticks – “The ingenious innovation that started a revolution in bicycle multi-tools.” These just got better with the option for an uber cheap $6 bike mounting bracket. The bracket mounts beneath any standard water bottle cage and holds two Fix It Sticks, at a cost of only 14 grams. Fix It Sticks also have a new tire lever add-on for their Replaceable edition.

Photo by Buck!t

Buck!t wallet, belt and wrist belt. Photo by Buck!t

Buck!t bicycle tyre (tire) belts – but not only belts – watch bands, wallets, wrist belts and earrings. These make for the perfect gift for the ciclista in your life.

Enjoy your Holiday break and Ride Often!


Article by Gravel Cyclist. Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.

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