As the Christmas season approaches, the days leading to the 25th of December can be a busy time for everyone. Many relish time spent with family, friends and taking in the holiday season. December also marks the time when consumers run around in-person or online, frantically searching for unique gifts. In the case of BikeRumor readers and editors, it may be the time of year to buy MORE bicycles and parts than usual. The N+1 equation for bicycles may apply here.
As Zach mentioned in his list, some of these items are beyond the realm of reasonable gifts, but all can be considered products I’ve seen, touched, ridden or owned.
2015 has been a busy year. In between my regular gig and writing for BikeRumor, I run GravelCyclist.com, a site that documents the gravel cycling experience. Early in 2015, I headed to Australia to explore the dirt and gravel roads around my hometown of Adelaide, and catch the sights, sounds and tech goodies associated with the Tour Down Under. Later in the US of A, I continued exploring dirt and gravel roads near and far, checking off some amazing events in the process. Midwest USA is gravel mecca to some, but New England (D2R2) and states such as West Virginia (Hilly Billy Roubaix), North Carolina (Pisgah Monster Cross) and Florida (Spaghetti 100), feature some amazing roads and terrain, some of which is better traversed with a > 40mm gravel tire. In some of these situations, bring on the Monster Cross bikes!
ROAD / GRAVEL / CYCLOCROSS BIKE
With plenty of manufacturers hopping aboard the gravel / adventure bike bandwagon, there are a lot of great machines to choose from. Having the right tool for the job is instilled by most mechanics and carpenters, and the same applies to gravel cycling. Some riding areas are suitable for what I consider a “regular duty” gravel bike, fitted with 700c x 40mm tires. As alluded to earlier, there are the more technically challenging areas with gnarly, fist-sized gravel, heavily rutted roads or lengthy mountain descents. To me, these are the domain of the Monster Cross bike, a bike that isn’t mainstream – yet.
One standout bike is the custom Monster Cross creation pictured above by Quiring Cycles of Freesoil, Michigan. With the ability to fit tires in the 700c / 29’er wheel size, ranging from 40mm to 2.1″ wide, utilizing a road crankset / bottom bracket and geometry optimized for a stable and predictable ride, this stainless steel rig – or titanium – your decision – is my choice for the perfect do-it-all bike.
For a “regular duty” gravel bike, I recommend the Titanium Foundry Overland (top left) the Steel Grava Bikes Revenuer and the Carbon Salsa Warbird (bottom left). For gravel travel, the Ritchey Breakaway Cross is a personal favorite, saving its owner huge money on airline baggage fees.
On the pavement, I enjoy riding unique road bicycles that stand out from the norm. While its lugged carbon tubes may appear dated to some, I love the traditional look and excellent ride quality of the Calfee Dragonfly. For something less traditional with integrated everything, Look’s latest creation, the 795 Aerolight.
If I feel the call of titanium, I like the Foundry Chilkoot (top right), a sharp looking and riding bike that accepts 28mm+ tires. Or, for the titanium / carbon connoisseur with patience for the wait list and the extra dollars, Firefly Bicycles Ti-Carbon. Finally, my steel rig of choice is the gorgeous Colnago Master (bottom right) a re-issue of the originals. The Master’s artistic paint and excessive chrome are not for everyone, but the look and ride quality of those star-shaped tubes is truly special.
I seldom ride a mountain bike – this is an area best left to experts such as BikeRumor’s Tyler or Zach – or any other BikeRumor editor. Instead, I tip toe through the woods on a rigid cyclocross or gravel bike, mostly fumbling about the place and walking more than I ride. If I had to choose a mountain bike, it would need to fill my desire for a traditional look, and definitely be on the retro side. If you’ve paid attention, you will have noticed the rebirth of Fat Chance Cycles – a 2015 Yo Eddy 27.5″ in Team Purple would fit the bill nicely.
The look of a more traditional bicycle does not apply to one of my component preferences. Ever since electronic shifting first appeared with Mavic’s Zap system, I’ve been all about push-button shifting. When I snapped photos and later video at the 2015 Tour Down Under of pre-production versions of the SRAM Red eTAP wireless group, I had to have it. The rumors of the system being slow to shift are unfounded – it is on par with current electronic drivetrains on the market, but without the wires. Tyler has eTap on his list – and like him, if I have to explain why I need / want / desire the system, well…
Continuing my trend of a traditional look, combined with reliability, serviceability and non-proprietary parts, I’ve ridden countless miles on pavement, gravel and sludge on several of American Classic’s wheelsets with zero problems – Race 29’er Tubeless (gravel), Argent Road Tubeless (gravel / pavement) and the venerable Hurricane Tubeless (gravel / pavement).
These wheels wouldn’t be complete without nice tires and sealant to compliment them. For gravel, Maxxis has the all-new Rambler and Re-Fuse tires, 40mm wide and tubeless ready. On the pavement, Schwalbe has some killer options, including their new Pro One tire. To help seal and protect these tires from punctures, Orange Seal offers a new endurance formula, which lasts longer inside the tire before drying up.
Abbey Bike Tools Crombie Tool – Dual Sided – is the perfect cassette removal tool, with a SRAM / Shimano remover on one side, and Campagnolo on the other. The tool’s design allows the quick release to stay in place – no more lost springs! Complimenting the Crombie is the Whip-It chain tool (generation 1 pictured).
This jacket has saved me from suffering miserably in cold rain, while retaining the svelte look of a quality, well-fitted jersey – no flappy rain jackets! It is used by professional cyclists world-wide, who frequently black out its branding with a Sharpie pen – the Castelli Gabba. Available in more colors than ever, rainwater just glides off while you remain toasty warm inside. The Gabba jacket is well-complimented by Castelli’s Nanoflex bib shorts, knickers and tights, all known for their water shedding properties.
I’ve been abusing a pair of Gaerne’s G.Kobra MTB shoes (left) for two years in two continents, and across thousands of miles of gravel and sludge roads. They haven’t missed a beat. Equally as good are Gaerne’s Carbon G.Chrono shoes, the road-going equivalent. Since my time on these shoes began, Gaerne have released two new models – Carbon G.Stilo (Road) and Carbon G.Sincro (MTB / Gravel) – pictured on the right.
THREE SMALL THINGS
The humble bottle cage is always overlooked, until your bottle is ejected. King Cage of Durango, Colorado have been around a long time, and their USA made Titanium bottle cage is simply the best. It won’t mark or eject your bottles, and tips the scales at 28 grams. King Cage has many other neat and affordable products which are definitely worth checking out.
Lindarets Wolftooth Road Link is possibly the simplest gadget of all, and one that adds massive flexibility to your road or gravel bike drivetrain. Simply put, it allows the use of wide-range cassettes with Shimano 10 and 11 speed road drivetrains. At $US 21.95 shipped, it is a total bargain.
Velo StayTop Kit protects your frame’s chainstay and cable rub points. At around $US 8 – $9, it is cheap protection for your $4,000 frame. Available most anywhere a dealer has an account with Quality Bicycle Products (in the USA).
Enjoy your holiday season, ride often!
Photos and article by Gravel Cyclist.
Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.