Remember those magnesium-tubed frame that was all the buzz at (really) the last InterBike and subsequently NAHBS with the Weis Manufacturing trackie?
VASST is now bringing a whole lineup of bikes using the same Allite Super Magnesium tubing that is said to be 50% lighter than titanium and 20 times more shock-absorbing than aluminum. It’s also recyclable.
From the $800 20″ Y/1 for your kids to the $2,500 A/1 Gravel in either 700c or 650b wheels, they are definitely a decent alternative to the usual carbon and steel bikes. More on Vaast.
Easton has been quietly adding their part into the ever-growing gravel scene as of late, and now, they are adding two new sets of carbon hoops designed specifically for the unique junction between road and dirt: The EC90 and EC70 AX.
The two new wheelsets follow Easton’s existing nomenclature: E for Easton, C for Carbon, 90 for the top of the line stuff, 70 for the more budget-conscious, and now, AX for gravel.
Both optimized for gravel tires 35mm and up, both the Centerlock only EC90 and EC70 AX feature tubeless-ready carbon rims with 24mm internal depth and low 21mm rim height .
The 1,470g, $1,549.99 flagship EC90 wheels have a wider 31mm external rim width, 24 Sapim straight pull double-butted spokes, and Easton’s very own 60-point, six degree Vault hubs.
Meanwhile, the EC70 is a tad heavier at 1,515 grams but with a wallet-friendlier price tag of $1199.99. Compared to the EC90, the EC70 has a slightly narrower 28mm external width rim, four more spokes per wheel and uses the firm’s X5 hubsets. These race-proven wheels are available today.
They’re never ones to rush a product to the market but instead they take time perfecting their offerings. It’s about time that Continental makes their gravel tire official. Here’s the all-new, handmade in Germany, TERRA Trail and TERRA Speed.
Tubeless ready, available in both 650b and 700c with two tread patterns from the more robust Trail (650x40b (440g) and 700x40c (460g)), and the faster Speed (650x35b (390g), 650x40b (400g), 700x35c (400g) and 700x40c (420g)). There’s also a choice of black or cream sidewalls. Available today.
OPEN’s new WI.D.E gravel steed is getting all the buzz at the moment but the company’s forerunning U.P. is still one heck of a bike to reckon with.
The OPEN x ENVE collaboration started about a year ago with its first limited edition that drew its palette from the mountains around Moab in Southern Utah. Now the two firms are back at it again bringing yet another limited edition U.P., nicknamed the “winter edition” to pay homage to the Swiss Alps where the OPEN was born.
Only 60 are available now for $3790 USD/EUR. You’ll get a frame, fork, headset, ENVE G-Series components (bar, stem, seat post), seat tube collar, front & rear Carbon-Ti thru-axle, 2 derailleur hangers, 1 front derailleur mount, 3 MultiStops (2x, 1x, Di2), chainstay cable exit, BB guide, cable liners, noise-reduction foam sleeves, and of course, a manual.
Improved comfort seems to be a reoccurring theme for the recent crop of gravel bikes, and the latest redesigned Vault from the Tempe, Arizona-based Pivot Cycle aims to make those rough rides better with its tunable ISO FLEX technology that uses a rubberized sleeve to isolate vibration from the seat post.
Don’t fret because you can still run a dropper in there. 1x/2x friendly with space for crank arm-based power meters, clearance for 700x45C and 650b x 2.0″ tires in a lightweight carbon chassis utilizing their cutting-edge hollow-core molding technology.
Welp, we are also having a rough time choosing between the slate blue and the sandstorm paint job. Available today.
First came the G23 and G27 wheels for the gravel-oriented. Now ENVE is upping the ante further with the new G-series handlebar and fork designed to meet the unique demands of off-road drop bar riding.
The new $550, 520-gram flat-mount compatible fork comes with a 50mm rake and a massive 50mm (😍) tire clearance. The 12mm thru-axle fork is also fender compatible, of course.
As for the bar, besides the 80mm reach and 120mm drop, the G-series bar has a 12mm outward flare at the drops for extra stability, plus a wider clamp area to accommodate accessories such as lights… or controversial items *cough* aero extensions. The $350, electronic-shifting friendly bar is available for $350 in four sizes ranging from 42-48cm, weighing 246-281 grams depending on size. Both the fork and handlebar are available now.
Just a year ago on these actual pages I was lamenting my desire to build the perfect bike for Grinduro and while standing at the lunch stop in Taylorsville, California at this years Grinduro it is clear I was not the only one.
The biggest change at this gravel/adventure/road/everything ride/race/ramble in the Gold Country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, actually north of Chico, was the number of bicycles built specifically for conditions experienced in these them-there hills.
There were “gravel” bicycles from the big players, including Trek, Cannondale, Felt, Open, Specialized and Giant. There were custom builders also weighing in on the genre, including bicycle from Caletti, Rock Lobster, SyCip, Speedvagen, Blue Collar Bicycle and many more.
The wheelbases are long, the tires are big, and I mean really big, brakes, for the most part, are disk and rear cogs are massive.
Last year it was surprising to see someone aboard a properly and purposely built gravel bike, but this year it was more odd to find someone riding a full-suspension mountain bike or a cyclocross bike. They were there, but their herd is getting much thinner and thinner.
And this is where the story really begins.
The procurement of a proper whip.
Since my day job includes riding Pinarellos, it only seemed wise to start there. And I was lucky enough to land a “demo” Pinarello GAN GRS Disk from the lovely crew at Pinarello USA.
After a couple of shakeout rides, I decided I was going to need to swap a couple of items in order to feel more confident in my second attempt at this ridiculous, yet rewarding, shindig.
So I ordered myself the biggest cassette Shimano will let you pair with their Ultegra 2x setup, an 11×34. This would enable me to get a 34-34 as my easiest gear. A crucial situation.
I then set about testing the premise this bicycle was going to make my day in the mountains as pleasant as humanly possible.
This Pinarello rips on the descents, is admirably fast and functional on the road and handled the singletrack with aplomb.
If I had my druthers, I would probably have put on even bigger rubber and more gears, but all things considered, I was superstoked.
Fast forward to the night before Grinduro and I’m sitting in my room at the straight-from-an-80s-movie Ranchito Motel in lovely Quincy, California, sipping a beer, watching Ted stuff his jersey pockets with maple syrup and brushing my teeth at an actual sink.
If you remember correctly, my whippy fast and delightful unprepared companion from last year’s Grinduro, Ted King, and I slept in a tent at the fairgrounds and thoroughly froze our asses off. So in a moment of pure wonder, we decided to get a couple of hotel rooms, with hot running water and a lock on the door. And other than marrying my wife and moving to California, this will stand as one of the greatest decision I have ever made.
In the great battle of tent vs. motel, motel wins hands down. At least in regards to fairground camping.
Anyway, I am pulling together my kit and essentials for the next day, while one of my riding companions in the room next door is dialing in his very own Pinarello gravel bike. He was complaining of a noise in the seatpost, so he was adding a touch of lube and double checking the seat binder bolt.
And then I hear it.
That gut-wrenching sound.
The sound of someone’s day going horribly wrong.
The sound of a broken seatpost bolt reverberating through the innards of a carbon fiber frame.
The sound of Grinduro heartbreak.
Ok, so here’s the thing. I’m not really a nice guy.
But I was born in the midwest and with that comes certain obligations.
And so when push-came-to-shove, I gave up my seatpost bolt so my traveling companion, dare I say, my friend, could ride this event for the very first time.
So having cannibalized my beautiful steed, and in the process ending my chances of glory, off to bed I went.
So instead of kitting up the next morning, I pull on some jeans and spend the next day hopscotching all over the course, cleaning rider’s filthy sunglasses, shouting support and eavesdropping on riders.
There were distinctly three categories of riders on the road.
First, those looking for glory.
Second, those claiming they were just here to enjoy themselves.
Finally, those who were just hoping to survive. With the course being 60 plus miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, no matter your fitness it is a legitimately difficult day in the saddle.
As luck (and hard work) would have it my roommate, the rider formerly known as the King of Gravel, Ted King, took first place overall.
This changed our post ride party into a fest and made it a whole lot more fun: the band sounded sweeter, the beer tasted better and the pork rinds were all the more delicious.
The one thing I think we can all count is there will be a Grinduro next, there will be more and more race specific gear and race tactics will play a bigger and bigger part in the outcome of the podium.
And just when I think I have my “which whip?” issues all ironed out, it turns out Ted King, won Grinduro aboard Cannondale’s new mountain bike, The F-Si. I mean come on, what the what? And we’re pretty sure women’s winner, Lindsay Dwyer, was aboard her Trek mountain bike. Let the search and handwringing continue.
Cannondale dropped a new line of aluminum-framed bikes for the gravel/adventure crowd today. While the bikes, named Topstone, look great as one would expect from the storied Connecticut firm, the biggest selling point of the new lineup is perhaps its budget-friendly price.
With three models to choose from starting at $1,000 with Shimano Sora to the top of the line, $2,000 iteration with Sram Apex 1 hydraulic disc brakes and a dropper post, expect these to fly off the shelves… Oh and they’re available now.
We’re big fans of FiftyOne. They make custom frames and have a reputation for creating bespoke carbon beauties in Dublin, Ireland. In the past, we’ve drooled over their Conor McGregor bike, complete with 24-carat gold leaf. And we’ve chatted with the company’s founder Aidan Duff. So when news of this limited-edition gravel grinder came from Eurobike, we had to share.
Their latest project takes its name from Alphonse Steinès, the Luxembourgish journalist who served as assistant director to Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France. Steinès’ was mad about mountains, and felt that to really test the riders, the Tour had to ditch its mainly flat parcours in favour of something a lot more hilly.
“Very good road”
After some early success in the foothills of the Alps, Desgrange allowed his deputy to get creative, and so in 1910 he set off to the French Pyrenees. While trying to cross the Tourmalet in heavy snow, his car ended up in a ditch and he only narrowly avoided a frosty death thanks to a late-night rescue party. Undeterred, he sent an enthusiastic, and somewhat dishonest, telegram from the hospital: “Crossed Tourmalet. Very good road. Perfectly feasible.” The rest is history.
The bike has that quote emblazoned on the top tube, with some poetry on the down tube for good measure. And unlike their thoroughbred race bikes, this steed is ready to get rough on even the grizzliest of back roads. It’s a disc-brake frame with clearance for 43mm tires.
The wider clearances on a lot of gravel bikes means that you can’t always fit a standard road crank, but the Steinès will take a 52-tooth chainring. 1x might be a great option for a lot of riders, but it’s nice to have the 2x versatility on offer because it makes this a capable road machine too.
It’s a collaboration with Enve, to celebrate the company’s hot new G23 wheelset. They also make the tubing. If all that isn’t desirable enough, only 10 will be made – to the owner’s spec, obviously. We’ve started saving.
It seems there’s a new gravel bike launch every week this year, but the Canyon Grail launched today made me do a double take to make sure it’s not some early April’s fools joke.
While the frame is unmistakably Canyon with numerous design cues found on other Canyons, it’s the integrated handlebar, named the Hover Bar that’s getting all the buzz. At first glance, the bar looks like a drop bar frankensteined to a double car spoiler. But according to Canyon, as radical and bold as it looks, the Hover Bar provides for better comfort and control.
The addition of a lower bar which connects to the stem reminds me a whole lot of the engine bay strut bar in my car. Canyon engineers were able to selectively stiffen up the front end near the 7.5° flared ergonomic D-shaped drops while tuning the top bar (where your hands will go) for comfort as it goes uninterrupted from end to end with a bit of a wing shape in the middle. Despite its magically floating in midair look, the top bar is situated at about the same spot where an ordinary handlebar would be located. The lower bar will most likely open up more hand positions too.
But enough about the Hover Bar. The rest of the carbon frame is totally new too. Compared to their road counterparts, the Grail employs a longer wheelbase to go along with a 72.5° headtube plus room to run up to 42c tires. With the medium SLX frame tipping the scale at a claimed 830 grams and 1,040 grams for the lower-priced SL, it’s no slouch either.
Seven complete models in seven sizes, including two women’s specific models will be offered ranging from $2,299 to $4,899. The flagship Grail CF SLX will also available as a frameset for $2,499. The higher-end models will come with Canyon’s own proven VCLS 2.0 split carbon seatpost that uses a leaf spring design to soak up vibrations and bumps.
Interestingly enough, Canyon has decided to spec all models with 2x drivetrains to avoid large gear jumps and is partnering with fellow German firm Topeak to make custom bags for those who like to go bike camping. We can’t wait to try one out.