Bama Time! Thoughts on trikes and a FrankenSurly

And now, for your amusement, our roving sentinel of sanity ponders life, tricycle love, and a Surly you’ll never be able to buy. -Ed.
By Chris “Bama” Milucky

The steel-ular seat of my tricycle always felt cold under my jorts-clad butt cheeks. I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was at 6 or maybe 7, and not because I had a development issue, but because I had an issue with development. I didn’t feel the need to learn how to ride a bike. I was happily hunkered down on the trike.
I remember rolling the rubber-wound wheel on that red and white wonderfully rickety rust wagon all the way down the crummy concrete driveway of my sweet Alabama home. It was pretty scary and in all the right ways. I’d pedal around and watch the humid summer sun heat my skin even under the shadows of the oaks, melting my mind smoothly into a self-reflecting syrup. Why would anyone walk away from the working wheels of three-dom and pick up a bike with their delicate KneeCaptains locked in the shackles, cranium cheering for Skid Row!? I was beyond content on that tricycle– I was transcendental.
Eventually, parental guidance intervened and my folks brought home a two-wheeler for me. With training wheels a’ gunnel, I guess it was a 4wheeler. Either way, I still got around, and my little sister got her turn on the Radio Flyer, aka, MINE, specifically, “that’s still MINE!”
Just as on the trike, I mapped my bike rides in meditation, never in miles or blocks from the house. I never counted cross streets or corridors in a quest to chart my progress. I rode the bicycle to relieve the rope-knots wrestling my mind, and when I found that inner peace, when wonder had replaced reason, that’s when I could hear the woodpeckers, smell the freshly cut grass, and let the crawdads hold me captive until the cloudy moonlight cadence of cicadas went off like a metronome perfectly timed to the flicker of fireflies who’s green heinie’s glowed almost bright enough to illuminate the red Kool-aide stains on my t-shirt.
Now an adult, I still don’t track my rides in minutes or miles, or even in days, or years. I remember my saddle time by life chapters and colored feelings. I can remember the distinct dirt smell of 18 Road in Fruita when I was 18 and had violent sideburns, just as well I can remember the soft spongy moss on Mt Hood the year my Mom died, or odd sandy rocks on Long Island singletrack I discovered while on tour with Santa Cruz Bicycles. I have no idea how many times I rode my bike last week. Or where I went, what I did, or who I saw.

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This particular bike used to be a Surly Straggler, size medium, fitting 27.5″ rotate-ers, but things have changed. The frame was given to me by a friend and came with a super custom headtube which looks to be wire-welded by a sophomore student at the Voc/Tech school. Not bad, but not good. I’m guessing it’s about 70 degrees, because I endo’ed pretty easily on a stack of logs, kinda like you would have done on a late 90s Trek with bar-ends and canti brakes. I’m not complaining; I’m just telling you how it is. It’s not a super slack mountain bike angle, but it is trusty enough to try some things your friends would wanna watch.
The fork is a fine specimen as well. She came with a through-axle that was about two inches too long and cost me a box of Dremmel wheels to make fit. The fork is definitely steel and lots of it, too. Weight? I’m gonna say 1.8lbs, with Price Is Right rules where if you guess too high, you’re out. It’s good, though. I like the fork. Maybe Surly made it, maybe not. Don’t know. Who knows? Who cares? I spray-painted it pink.
Without a spec sheet, I had a hellacious time connecting the fork to the frame, and none of the five friendly bike shops in beautiful Boulder, Colorado had what I called for, so I phoned up to Cane Creek in North Cackalacky. There was a little bit of a language barrier– not at all because of a drawl– I was on the line with an engineer who wanted measurements and all I had was a handful of adjectives like, “One and one eighth-ish”. Patience prevailed, and they sold me the right size headset on the first try. Slick!
The bottom bracket shell measured 68mm, so “if” I had any old bike stuff in the basement, I’d be set to jet. I did not. I don’t even have a basement. I did find a new 73mm crankset and guessed that two, drive side 2.5mm spacers would make for a decent chain line. I don’t know if yinzers know anything about chain lines and bb spacing but it used to be a hot topic and getting it right was something to be proud of: I feel good about myself. Ask me about it sometime, but don’t nerd out on numbers too hard, yah feel me? Don’t chill my mellow.
The wheelset is also wacky. Not a lot of 650b stuff out there, and even less carries a Derby-rating. I needed a 15mm front // 135mm QR rear. Flotsam and jetsam all the way, and completely cutting Craigslist out of the question. ‘Spent a solid Saturday morning making moves, wheelin’, and dealin’, but things came together, and this SRAM hodgepodge seems sturdy and pretty fast. My favorite luddite gave me a thumbs down on the 24 spoke-count, but I don’t think it’ll ever take a truing wrench. I think it’ll last forever. Don’t tell the anyone at SRAM I said this, but when it comes to rim jobs, I like the way they move.
All of the tire reviews for gravel tires said Brand Y, Model Z was really nice. It’s not very helpful to have everything rated 4/5 stars. I just guessed on these 47c WTB Byways. I’d used 38c Surly Knards on a previous 650b Straggler, and they didn’t have quite enough Rambo to get me through an impromptu trail-ride; I knew I wanted a little more under the hood. The 47c Byways seemed like something that’d look good under the fenders of a 4wd Eagle sedan, but you don’t know until you try. At 45psi, they do the job on both pavement and singletrack. 30 pounds is risky, and 60 would work if you’re paranoid. Personally, I like to party. At 45 pounds, I’m pretty sure I can do what I want and with an attitude like that, you know I deserve a fist full of black eyes, so bring it.
The Byways corner much better than the cyclocross tires of yesteryear. They’re pretty light. They pumped up (tubeless style) with a floor pump, and I haven’t popped one yet. Gonna white-out the name and Sharpie “MYWAYS” on the sidewall.
I wish I could be more specific than that, but I really only notice when things suck, and these shoes fit.. yeah, ferries wear boots, and ya gotta believe me.
The brakes brake, the shifter shifts, and a Brooks sits atop the whole lot, proudly saluting any weather, whether or not I come here or go there.
Done with the digits, so how’s she ride? Sunday driver, 100%. Way too nice to take out for a night on the town, but perfect for the morning after when wooly boogers are stuck to my lip and I can’t shake the cobwebs.
Even though 2wheelers are good for my emotions and psycho-health, it can be difficult for me to saddle up and get out for for a spin, but this bike, which I’m now calling the Millennial Falcoon, is inspirational. She makes me wonder where different roads go. This bike hits me like a fresh pad of paper and a perfectly sharpened #2 Ticonderoga pencil. I feel excited to get out and do my mental exercises. It coasts down hills quietly, and she goes up pavement pretty well, too. She’s slower than a Cat 4 training ride, but nothing goes that fast. I dunno what drugs they’re getting away with on the Tour these days, but Category 4 might as well be referred to as the Fully Unlimted Nitromethane Class, or FUNC for short, but hey– the hyperdrive on the Millennial Falcoon is permanently out of order. Sorry. She’s not stabled and fed for racing. But we all know Joe Walsh’s Maserati never went 185. Don’t chew worry, this machine’s plenty fast. She has enough ammo to nuke anything you got: collarbones, arm rods, knuckleheads alike. Show her a dirt road, and she’ll put bugs in your teeth. She’s about the same speed on dirt roads as on pavement, which is pretty and amazing (pretty amazing). This bike has what it takes to find the magicalators and mysterious abandonment, and as far as I know, that was the whole point of the original mountain bike: you supply the fitness and skills, and the bike is simply an instrument. Your feelings are the notes. Your life is the song.
I realize this review is sort of for something you can’t buy, but reviews are really only a wayside story from a sideways school. You gotta do a lap on the menu. You have to have your own experiences before you can pick your fav. Here’s my suggestion: try a bunch of hobbies until you find one you like. Enjoy the feeling of not knowing what you’re doing, because you can only learn once, and after you know what you’re doing, you’ll never know anything else. Also: Kiss with your eyes open.
The Falcoon has a good vibe. She feels good in my hands– through my palm-sweat, I can imagine what the ground feels like, almost like wearing flip-flops in the desert sand. Nomesane? It’s like, I can step on Lego’s without crying, but I’ll know if I bump a snake. That’s a good quality for a head-trip. You wanna be aware of your surroundings but not feel threatened by them.  I’d say this bike is more than adequate, it’s thorough (Thoreau?).

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Bama’s Bio: Hi, I’m Bama. I believe that bicycles, motorcycles, and guitars are only instruments; emotions are the notes; and life is the song.



You found the best fundraiser in 2018. The Gravel Experience Raffle.  

All things gravel, all things awesome! All proceeds from this raffle will go directly to World Bicycle Relief, People for Bikes, The International Scholastic Cycling Association (Idaho Chapter), and Club Ride’s local trail association The Wood River Bicycle Coalition.

One lucky winner will win a custom built Why Cycles titanium R+ gravel bike, accessories, and the ride of a lifetime through Idaho.  The total for the prize pack is over $7,200!!

The prize pack includes the following:

  • Why Cycles Titanium R+ frame (size to be determined by winner)- $2,149
  • Industry Nine AR25 TRAs Wheelset (700c)- $1,320
  • ENVE Carbon Cross fork- $542
  • SRAM Force Groupo- $1,550
  • Maxxis Rambler 40c tires- $100
  • Ergon SRX3 Saddle- $80
  • Blackburn Outpost bags and light kit- $490
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 ultralight tent- $350
  • Club Ride kit of choice (Jersey, short, liner, flannel)- $350
  • Rebecca’s Private Idaho (2 passes) for 2019- $300

Donnelly Cycling expands 650b range of gravel tires

Donnelly, formerly known as Clement, is rolling out its 650b range. Building off its popular X’PLOR series, Donnelly has begun releasing several sizes and treads to accommodate the growing demand for the alternative gravel wheel size.

The X’PLOR Strada USH is a 650b x 42 available in a 60 tpi wire and folding bead; and tubeless ready. The Strada USH is both an adventure and all-commuter tread, a combination of the road Strada LGG and the X’PLOR series commuter and gravel tire, the USH. The Strada USH combines a fast rolling center track and scaled up herringbone tread for traction in the turns. The 650b x 42 tubeless ready retails for $67.00 and is equivalent to a 700c x 23 in diameter. Donnelly also offers this tire in a 650b x 50 size.

Donnelly X'PLOR Strada USH 650bx50

Donnelly X’PLOR Strada USH 650bx50

The X’PLOR MSO 650b x 36 is also available now, and in the pipeline and soon to follow is its big brother the X’PLOR MSO 650b x 50, a tire that is equivalent to a 700c x 32 tire in diameter. Both of these models retail for $67.00 and both are tubeless ready.

According to Donnelly, “The X’PLOR MSO tread is a serious adventure tire that was designed from the ground-up for multiple conditions and is a distinct Donnelly tread pattern of both polygonal and hexagonal shapes, smooth-rolling center knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs for cornering control. The soft rubber compound for extra grip and shock absorption combined with the tightly packed center knobs and aggressive shoulder lugs provides great traction and durability.

Though the X’PLOR MSO has been a go-to tire for hardcore endurance gravel racers it is also the perfect tread over pavement. Riders opting to use their 27.5 mountain bike for commuting or urban riding sessions may well find this to be the perfect companion for getting from A to B with a bit more speed, style and finesse.”

“With the growth of the gravel category comes an increased need for additional sizes for both our OE customers and for the aftermarket,” said Donn Kellogg. “We’ve developed this 650b range in reaction to the market’s demand for more universal platforms. Several brands have created models where one can use a 700c wheel for faster, less aggressive road riding, where a 650b wheel and larger volume tire can be used for exploring off the beaten path.”

Donnelly XPLOR MSO 650bx42

Donnelly X’PLOR MSO 650bx42

Also in stock is a 650b x 33 MXP, a tread that was originally developed specifically for cyclocross but is also ready and able to tackle loose dirt, sand and moderate mud, hard pack and pavement – just the conditions you might find cruising out of town to a spring adventure ride.

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Donnelly MXP 650bx33

Find out more at


Sea Otter Classic 2017: Fairdale Bikes

The Sea Otter Classic is a huge bike festival held every year in Monterey, California. This year, there were over 400 brands represented in the expo, and while many of them were well-known giants in the bike industry, there were also plenty of the little guys, the family operations and brand new startups. At events like this, I’ve started making it a point to visit some of the lesser-known companies, because they’re often doing some pretty cool stuff. One of these brands was Fairdale Bikes, out of Austin, Texas.

The first thing that caught my eye as I walked by the Fairdale Bikes booth was the cardboard cutout of a rabbit that was strategically placed on a BMX cruiser.


Then I noticed all the cool bikes.

Fairdale specializes in making “simple and reliable bicycles to complement the styles of riding that we love to do because we want to be able to share the joy of a simple ride with you.”

Those styles of riding include long road rides, commuting, touring or just cruising around town. Right now, Fairdale offers nine different bikes, from the aforementioned BMX cruiser to a road bike to several different around-town bikes. At Sea Otter, they were also showing off a brand new gravel bike prototype called the Rockitship. The Rockitship can accommodate 40c tires and includes rack and fender mounts.



The Weekender is a commuter and light touring rig, available with either drop, flat or the Fairdale Archer bars. It’s equipped with a SRAM 9-speed drivetrain, 700c Continental Town Ride tires (or 27.5 inch on small and extra small frames) and Avid brakes built around a chromoly frame with rack and fender mounts.


The Taj is an “adult-sized” BMX bike that can shred some sick jumps but is also comfortable enough to ride around town. It’s designed to be durable and fun, with a steel frame, singlespeed drivetrain and 26 x 2.2 inch tires.


Focused more on ride quality over speed and racing, the Goodship is a steel road bike that’s designed to be ridden often and far. It features an ENVE carbon fork, Shimano Ultegra groupset, FSA components and Continental 25 mm tires.

The Fairdale crew all seemed like super chill, great people, and they even convinced me to walk away with one of their cool water bottles (not an easy feat when I already have too many bottles and limited room in my luggage).

Keep Reading: Check out our review of the Fairdale Flyer to get more of an idea of what this brand is all about. Stay tuned for more Sea Otter coverage this week!



Riding Gravel Before Gravel Bikes: L’Eroica Lands in Paso Robles, California

Words by Jeffrey Stern, photos courtesy of Eroica California

Passing over rolling hill after rolling hill, surrounded by lush vineyards and old barns with signing birds, wispy clouds and blue skies you’d think you were in the famed Tuscan region of Italy. But no, you’re actually right here in the lower 48, the Central Coast of California to be exact.

Instead of riding a state of the art, carbon fiber aero road bike, you’re aboard the first real road bike you ever owned. A vintage steel road bicycle made by Raleigh, adorning the original head badge indicating the bike’s birthplace of Nottingham, England; not some far away, oversees factory.

In a typical sea of sameness, Erocia California stands out from the crowd. It oozes passion and fascination for technology of the past that still exhibits relevance today. Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful and being surrounded by a bicycles 30, 40 or even 50 years old creates an aura unreplicable at most gran fondos and gravel grinders around the country.


In the heart of Paso Robles, California, the third annual Eroica California drums to it’s own beat. It’s far from a race. Offerings include a ‘concours d’elegance’ of the vintage bicycle kind, a festival of passionate bike owners showcasing their steeds as well as four different route options from short (40 miles) to heroic (127 miles).

Rest stops aren’t the fill-your-bottles and stuff-your-pockets kind, but rather take a seat, crack open a cold one and kick your feet up to share some laughs with new and old friends alike.

The feelings Eroica California invokes resonate with all the participants for various reasons, but for former professional Andy Hampsten, they are truly special, “I can reason that the terrain and scrub growing out of the limestone hills reminds me of some of the best places I have visited. I am taken back to Tuscany and Southern France when I ride near Peachy Canyon, and I am reminded of it every time I drink wines from Villa Creek Winery that the Eroica loop passes. It’s a magical spot to ride in and eat from.”


It’s as much about the bikes, festival and food as it is about doing good for the surrounding communities. The event raises money for the Bike SLO County, helping create safe bike routes and spreading cycling passion and maintenance knowledge, as well as the Hospice of San Luis Obispo County offering counseling and support for those in need.

What’s more is that similar events take place all around the world throughout the year. From Italy to Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain and even in Uruguay, the revival of vintage steel road bikes is strong. Riding dirt and gravel roads is nothing to the owners of these bikes, they’ve been doing it long before it was the cool thing to do. Now they have a platform to share in their passion with like minded cyclists who travel the globe to attend these one of kind bike festivals.

Eroica California takes place this weekend in Paso Robles, California and the next one is scheduled for April 30 in Buonconvento, Tuscany.



Gravel Grinding Essentials: An Open Mind and Good Beer

Words by Jeffrey Stern

No longer a fad, but a full blown discipline covering a wide range of mixed surfaces such as dirt, sand, pothole-littered pavement, grass and of course, gravel. Events are springing up across the country featuring long courses, winding through relatively untraveled roads in the most remote corners of states. Gravel grinding, as it’s affectionately being called, is the new king.

Roadie and mountain pros dabble in these events for fitness, good cash purses and let’s be honest, because they’re interesting and fun in a completely different way. Sanctioned, underground or anywhere in between, these events are helping all types of riders push the boundaries of their skills and equipment, and are driving new innovative technologies developed specifically for this type of riding. It’s new, fresh and different, but still on the thing we love most: two wheels.

We sat down with a couple gravel pros to get their feelings on skills required, easy changes to turn your current road bike into a gravel-grinder and more. Ryan Steers of the Giant Co-Factory Offroad team gravitates towards these events and has utilized his technical mountain bike skills and endurance to find success, most recently taking third at what many consider to be the king of all gravel events—the 225km with 13k feet of climbing Cervélo Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego, California last spring.

Photo courtesy of the Belgian Waffle Ride

Photo courtesy of the Belgian Waffle Ride

He offered a few tips to increase the comfort of your gravel rig, “I’ve been running Schwalbe Pro One tubeless 28s for several thousand miles and have yet to have a puncture that a little sealant won’t fill. I think tubeless tries are the biggest asset on the dirt. You can run a lower pressure and not worry about pinching on a sharp rock. Get rid of that paper thin bar tape and swap it for something with more cushion. Your hands will thank you.”

After getting your bike set up to join one of these mixed-surface adventures or venture off on your own, preparing mentally for the new challenges is nearly as important. Scott Lundy of Thousand Oaks, California and Serious Cycling took second place at BWR just ahead of Steers and had this to say: “There’s some uncertainty in leaving the pavement behind, but we’re riding mixed surfaces to make our events more entertaining and to introduce some variety we wouldn’t otherwise have had. The best attitude is to keep it positive! With few exceptions, we’re doing this as a hobby and as something we enjoy, so we have fun with it.”

Lundy echoes a vibe we’ve often felt at events like these across the country. Yes, riders are there to compete and push themselves, but the general aura of the event is enjoying the suffering and celebrating with new and old friends alike once out of the saddle.

Steers also reminds us to keep cool even when the surface changes. “There are the riders who hit the dirt, freak out, and slow down to a dead crawl because they don’t know what to do. It takes a lot of practice to figure out how your bike is going to handle on a different surface. When you ride a road bike in sand the laws of physics go right out the window and unless you have a point of reference it’s a weird feeling. Keep your distance around the other riders and stay in your comfort zone. Keep your cool. If you ride with controlled confidence, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.”

The best tip we’ve ever received is to let go and let it flow—allowing your bike to float over the loose surfaces is key. It’s very difficult to steer in the deep stuff, so it’s best to keep your weight back, a loose grip on the bars and your eyes up and looking ahead. Guide your front wheel through the gravel or sand; don’t force it.

The Crusher in Tusher. Photo by Rob Evans.

The Crusher in Tusher. Photo by Rob Evans.

Ultimately, experimenting with new challenges and pushing the limits of your skills to further your cycling experience is something everyone should experience, no matter their level. It’s event’s like the BWR, the Crusher in Tushar and countless Roubaix-styled weekends that are captivating the current North American cycling scene.

“These events are blazing a different trail than conventional road racing. The serious and official have been replaced by something unexpected, possibly altogether wacky, but it’s all part of the adventure,” Lundy said.

The gravel scene is a huge part of spreading the passion for all things two-wheels in one dynamic package. And let’s not forget all the beer and amazing eats at the after party. There’s something to be said for the social environment and camaraderie among competitors that these events bring to the table, creating the complete cycling event in one package.


Review: Marin Four Corners

Marin Four Corners-2

Tester: Emily Walley
Price: $1,100
Weight: 26.9 pounds
Sizes: S (tested), M, L, XL

This year is Marin Bikes’ 30th anniversary, and it marks the introduction of an all-new “utilitour” model, the Four Corners. The neutral gray steel frame gives the bike a timeless look, while disc brakes, wide tire clearance and an upright riding position keep pace with cyclists’ expectations for adventure touring and bikepacking.

Marin Four Corners-3

What piqued my interest in this bike was its Gemini, do-it-all attitude packaged at an approachable price point. The Four Corners is equipped with a Shimano Sora 50/39/30 crank and 12-36 cassette, wide Schwalbe Silento 700×40 tires and the stopping power of Promax Render 160 mm disc brakes. The bike’s tour-ready spec is rounded out with mounts for racks front and rear, fenders and three water bottles.

Marin also offers the upgraded Four Corners Elite model with a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes for $2,300.

Marin Four Corners-5

The Four Corners was designed with a long top tube—21.8 inches on the small—but also a long stem offering ample room for adjustment. An upright riding position is facilitated by a tall head tube, and the Marin bars have a 20-degree flare to the drop, which allows for a natural hand position that opens up your core. This had me in the drops more than usual, and I’ll struggle to return to a bar without flare.

Marin Four Corners-1

On a weekend tour I split my gear between a front rack, frame pack and seat bag. It can be a struggle to fit standard-sized frame packs on small-sized frames, but the long top tube opens up the interior space, expanding storage options for shorter folks. The tires are a good middle-of-the-road rubber, offering adequate rolling speed on hard roads and off-road traction. Best of all they’re stout, making them a good fit in any terrain where you’re susceptible to punctures.

Marin Four Corners-4

While the stock tires were capable on smooth sections of singletrack and confident when loaded down with touring gear, there’s ample clearance for swapping to larger tires: up to 700×45 with fenders or 29×2.1 without.

The bike remained poised across varying terrain, its balance un-phased by rutted dirt roads and chunky railroad ballast, proving competent to carry the weight for an extended tour. I found the gear range to be ample for touring Pennsylvania’s rolling hills, but an easier gear may be advantageous on an extended tour with sustained climbs.

Marin Four Corners-6

For days between 45 and 85 miles, the WTB Volt Sport saddle was comfortable and supportive, even on long sections of rail trail. “The Four Corners was designed for the rider who is looking for a versatile, modern take on a touring bike,” said Chris Holmes, brand director for Marin Bikes. “[It’s] one that is equally at home with a weekday commute as it is on a week-long adventure.”

For the city dweller, it fills the niche for everyday commuting needs, and for the adventure seeker, the large tire clearance and touring capability encourages exploring on gravel and dirt. As cyclists, what tales would we have to share if everything went as planned? The Marin Four Corners is ready for a change of route and a story to tell.



First Impression: Kona Wheelhouse and Sutra LTD

Kona is pretty well known as a mountain bike brand, but it also has plenty of road-going products with finger-in-your-eye mountain bike attitude. While many companies start with road racing bikes and then branch out into adventure, travel and commuting, Kona focuses solely on the kind of bikes you’d expect to see in Bicycle Times.

Each year Kona hosts its dealers and some of us media slime for an event called the Kona Ride. It’s a chance to get hands-on with the new models and hobnob with the Kona employees. Nearly the entire company joins in and it’s fun to match some faces with the bikes named after them. Traditionally held at the brand’s US office in Bellingham, Washington, this year they invaded our neighbors to the north and hosted it in Squamish, British Columbia.

2017 kona ride 1

If you’ve heard of it but you’re not familiar, Squamish is sort of halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, the mountain bike/ski mecca and host of the 2000 Winter Olympics. Squamish used to be the place where you stopped for gas and a pee on your way north, but in the last few years the city has seen a huge surge in popularity thanks to dual booms of interest and investment in outdoor recreation, namely cycling, rock climbing and whitewater.

I was fortunate enough to have a few days to explore town and sample Kona’s latest bikes. A friend and I grabbed two from the demo fleet and set out to get lost.

2017 kona ride 3

First up is the Wheelhouse. A new model for 2017, it starts with the same Reynolds 853 steel frame as the Roadhouse model introduced last year but does away with some of the frills to hit a lower price point, in this case $1,600. Built with a 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and a wide gear range, it’s the perfect do-it-all road bike.

2017 kona ride 4

Disc brakes and 30 mm Schwalbe tires give it great stopping power and a smooth ride, especially when combined with quality steel. Kona says it will fit a 28 mm tire with fenders and maybe a 32 mm without, which is exactly what we like to see in a road bike. And a threaded bottom bracket! Rejoice! 

2017 kona ride 7 2017 kona ride 6

The Roadhouse model ($3,799) remains for 2017 and gets an even higher end spec: Shimano Ultegra 11-speed with hydraulic brakes, Mavic wheels and a very cool frame that has been welded AND brazed, then clear coated.


Halfway through our ride we stopped at Fergie’s, a Squamish institution if there ever was one. It’s an indoor and outdoor cafe open for breakfast and lunch. The property also boasts 12 riverside cabins and a whitewater guiding service, so you’ll have plenty to do before and after you fuel up with some amazing Eggs Benny.

2017 kona ride 2

After lunch my friend and I traded bikes and I hopped aboard the new Sutra LTD ($2,000). Introduced last year, it gets an update for 2017 in the form of even more tire clearance. Officially it will fit a 29×2.1 tire, but you might even fit a little more.

2017 kona ride 8

It ships with the new 45 mm WTB Riddler gravel/adventure tires that can be painlessly converted to tubeless with the WTB Frequency Team i23 rims. Despite the quick release axles at both ends, these are straight-up mountain bike wheels and can handle whatever punishment you want to throw at them.

Compared to the Wheelhouse, the Sutra LTD feels like a much bigger bike. It has a less aggressive position and the flared handlebars are nice and wide. It’s not too burly for road use though, as the tires don’t have that annoying vibration that many treaded tires have on pavement. While we only got to explore some gravel alleys, Kona approves of, no actually encourages, you getting it dirty on some singletrack.

2017 kona ride 9

The steel frame has mounts for up to five bottle cages so stay thirsty, my friends. It’s built with a SRAM Rival 1×11 drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. It’s also available as a frame and fork for $550.


While the Sutra LTD takes care of the bikepacking and gravel market its sibling, the Sutra model ($1,400), gets the more traditional road touring treatment with a 3×9 drivetrain, bar end shifters, rear rack, fenders, Brooks saddle and some beautiful, sparkly root beer paint.

Other highlights

We didn’t get to sample any of these new bikes, but there’s a lot to like about the 2017 lineup. You can also read my ride impressions of the Big Honzo DL in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag.


Jake the Snake: The Jake line of cyclocross bikes gets a few tweaks, and the cantilever brakes are gone for good. The cyclocross/gravel crossover Private Jake model would be my choice.


Esatto: A disc brake road bike for adventure seekers, not skinny pants racers. It’s available in aluminum, carbon and Ti.


Rove: Perfect for commuting, light touring or all around adventures that don’t require tires as big as the Sutra LTD. The Rove is available in aluminum, steel and Ti versions. Read my review of the Rove here.


Unit: Historically a steel, singlespeed 29er, the Unit goes 27plus for 2017, though it keeps the traditional 100/135 mm quick release sliding dropouts. It also gets a whole host of braze-ons so you can build it up for any kind of adventure. It’s also available as a frameset for $525.


Ute: Kona still makes the Ute.



First Impression: Lauf Grit fork

I think it’s safe to say the Lauf fork design has become iconic. Now in its third gestation, the leaf spring suspension design has expanded to cover nearly every type of off-road bicycle.

lauf-grit-first-impression-5 lauf-grit-first-impression-2

After an original model was designed for mountain bikes dubbed Trail Racer, Lauf expanded into fat bikes with the Carbonara. Now it’s gone a bit skinnier with the Grit fork for gravel and adventure bikes.

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If you’re familiar with the design, there isn’t actually much new here. It is essentially a scaled-down and re-tuned version of the Icelandic brand’s other forks. In this case, the 12 fiberglass springs provide 30 mm of travel and are actually stiffer than the other models. These aren’t fiberglass like a boat; they are extremely strong composite materials that give just the right amount of flex.


After a few rides on the Grit I’d have to say it is the most transparent of the three variations I’ve sampled. The original mountain bike version took some re-calibrating of your brain, while the fat bike version is more subdued. This gravel version is almost hard to notice until you start getting into the rough stuff.


It can fit a 700 x 42 tire or a 27.5 x 2.1. Pictured below is a 35 mm tire for some sense of scale. In keeping with the ever-evolving “standards,” it will be available with either a 15 mm or 12 mm thru axle when it goes on sale in August. (Also worth admitting is that my brake housing is too short. Swapping in the Lauf required a longer cable and housing so I cheated and skipped one of the routing points.)


We’ll be putting it through its paces this summer and following up with a long-term review in an upcoming issue. Why not subscribe now and help support your independent cycling media?



First Ride: New Gravel and Adventure Tires from Maxxis

Words and photos: Emily Walley and Justin Steiner

Gravel and adventure riding are all the rage right now and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. As a result, tire manufacturers continue to bring new products to market in order to meet the diverse needs of these disciplines.

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In early April, Maxxis invited us to Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-A-Way near Ellijay, Georgia, in order to sample some of the new tires it has launched within the last year across the road, adventure and mountain bike lines.

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For all that Mulberry Gap offers for mountain biking, the area’s mixed-surface riding shouldn’t be overlooked. Bikepackers frequently stay over at the Get-A-Way on their travels and, after riding and driving Ellijay’s winding roads, we can certainly see the appeal. The surrounding gravel roads have minimal traffic, rolling hills flanked with farmland, some big climbs and noteworthy views.

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While mountain biking was a big focus of the Maxxis Summit weekend, the company also shared its newest gravel adventure tire options, the Rambler and the Re-Fuse. We rode the Pivot Cycles Vault with the Rambler in the front and Re-Fuse in the rear.


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Aptly named, the Rambler is Maxxis’ first gravel-specific tire. It’s currently available in 700 x 40c. Both the 60 tpi casing with SilkShield bead-to-bead protection and the 120 tpi model with EXO sidewall protection offer tubeless-ready construction. Weights check in at 420 grams for the 60 tpi casing and 375 grams for the 120 tpi version. Both casing options will retail for $64. Word is that a 38c version of this tire is in the works for bikes that don’t have quite enough clearance for the 40c version.

The Rambler’s closely-spaced center knobs roll and grip well in dry gravel conditions. We rode the 120 tpi casing and on the front of the Vault and found it to be very supple compared to the 60 tpi Re-Fuse on the back.

All told, the Rambler looks to be a good option for light and fast adventure as well as gravel racing. Just pick the model that offers the protection needed for your use and terrain and roll happily.


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Maxxis has offered the Re-Fuse in traditional road sizes (23, 25, and 28 mm widths) for some time now, but has expanded the popular tire into more adventurous sizes. For 2016 the Re-Fuse will be available in 700 x 32c, 700 x 40c and the “new” 27.5 x 2.0 inch road plus sizes, which is really just the old 650b standard. What’s old is new again.

Like the road sizes, the 60 tpi casing utilizes MaxShield technology, which is the SilkWorm bead-to-bead protection teamed with a Kevlar composite layer under the tread area for the ultimate protection. Unlike the road sizes, all three of these tires are tubeless ready.

Weights are 610 grams for the 27.5 x 2.0 inch model ($50), 390 grams for the 32c version ($64) and 520 grams for the 40c Re-Fuse ($64).

On the rear end of the Vault the Re-Fuse felt sturdy. Certainly much stiffer than the 120 tpi Rambler on the front. Though it wasn’t as supple, this extra stoutness was confidence inspiring bombing down dirt roads with chunky gravel at high speeds not having to worry about flatting.

Traction was great on hard-packed dirt, but, as expected, the diamond-shaped file tread doesn’t have a lot of bite on loose surfaces.

Maxxis describes the Re-Fuse as a training tire, but it would also serve you well as all-around road tire.



Lauf launches new gravel version of leaf spring suspension fork

After we rode the radical Cannondale Slate with its high-tech suspension fork, and got down and dirty with the Lauf leaf spring suspension fork on a fat bike, it only seemed like a matter of time before the two concepts came together.

Adventure riding is all about taking your bike places that you didn’t think it would go and having the freedom to explore. A suspension fork lets you push just that extra little bit harder and rip down that fire road or pothole street without worrying about every little bump.


Lauf has embraced that concept with its new Grit suspension fork for gravel and adventure bikes. Designed much like the brand’s mountain bike and fat bike forks, it uses a dozen glass fiber leaf springs to provide 30 mm of travel—just enough to take the edge off without changing the nature of the handling.


It’s available with either a 15 mm thru axle or the new 12 mm road standard, and can fit up to a 700×42 tire or 27.5 x 2.1. The 409 mm axle-to-crown and 47 mm offset pair with a tiny amount of sag to create a geometry that closely matches that of a traditional cyclocross or gravel fork. At 900 grams there is a small weight penalty over a standard fork, but being able to rip any descent should more than make up for it.


We have a Lauf Grit on the way and we’ll be putting it through its paces so keep an eye out for more. Consumer deliveries should begin in August and it will retail for $790.




New 700c tires from WTB are ready for adventure

Hot on the heels of its 650b Road Plus announcement, WTB says it will expand its line of 700c tires for all kinds of roads.

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The new Exposure tire with its new, multilayer casing brings WTB’s excellent TCS tubeless technology to a road size. Available in 30c with a slick tread or 34c with cornering knobs, it’s ideal for road bikes that aren’t afraid to get a little dirty. WTB claims a weight of 345 grams or 370 grams. It will retail for $80.

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If your idea of a “road” is something most folks would be afraid to drive on, the new Riddler tires take the tread pattern that first debuted on WTB’s 27.5 mountain bike tires and applies it to 700c. The idea is that the closely spaced center knobs roll as quickly as a file tread, but the full-sized cornering knobs still offer all the bit of a mountain bike tire. It will be available in 37c and 45c with the TCS Light casing for $55 and in a big 29×2.25 version for $68. It looks like a great choice for gravel racing and bikepacking.



Rawland unveils two new adventure bikes

Rawland Cycles has been filling a niche in the bike industry for a decade now as a small brand that produces versatile models that don’t fit neatly into any particular category. “There’s this awesome new zone where I think the fun is,” said Rawland’s Creative Director and VP, Jeremy Spencer. If your idea of fun is getting off the beaten path, you’re probably going to like its newest models.

On Saturday it unveiled them both with a party at Portland’s Velo Cult bike shop. The new Ravn is built for what Rawland calls “All Road Enduro” with *gasp* 26-inch wheels. The Ulv is ready for the backcountry with 27plus wheels and tires. Both models use drop bars and can accommodate a range of wheel and tire sizes.


The Ravn, above, indeed uses 26-inch wheels with Panaracer Driver Pro tires and will fit a 650b x 42 tire with fenders. While it is optimized for those sizes, Rawland says, it can also fit up to 650b x 58 or 700c x 42 tires.


The Ulv, above, has even more clearance for a 27plus tire (in this case a Panracer Fat-B-Nimble on WTB’s massive Scraper rims) or even a 29-inch mountain bike tire. It also has additional braze-ons for bikepacking gear.

Both frames are built from custom-drawn and double butted 4130 steel tubes with thru-axles at both ends. The Ravn has a 142×12 axle while the Ulv is 148×12 Boost. Those rear dropouts are replaceable as well, so quick release or singlespeed options might be in the cards.

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The key to both models is the low trail geometry, Spencer said. By lowering the trail the bike becomes much more stable with a load on the front end. Rawland said it wants riders to be comfortable on epic long rides and not have to use super-wide handlebars to maintain control.

“That’s what we love: fat tires and drop bars,” Spencer said.

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In addition to the bikes are the brand’s own line of stems, seatposts and handlebars. The handlebar design takes cues from the classic Nitto designs, Spencer said, with a slight backsweep and very flat ramps and drops. Those parts, along with hubs, the rando rack pictured here and an upcoming porteur rack will be available separately in Rawland’s online store soon.

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Other nice touches include routing for dynamo hub wiring (not included) inside the fork.

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The bikes will be available around April for $2,999. Framesets may or may not be available separately in the future, Spencer said.

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Update: 4.11.2016

Rawland sent us updated geometry numbers:




Test Ride Report: Cannondale Slate

Photos by Jesse Carmondy and the author


It was a pretty difficult prototype to disguise. When former professional racer Tim Johnson started ripping around on a modified Cannondale affixed with a Lefty suspension fork a few years ago it attracted quite a bit of attention. Would he race cyclocross on it? Was it even allowed? Was it just an experiment?


The concept isn’t new, of course. In the mid-1990s, RockShox debuted the Paris-Roubaix fork for road bikes and it carried its riders to the top step in the eponymous race three years in a row. While it seemed like a wave of the future, its popularity faded as quickly as it raced over the cobbles. In the early 2000s, Cannondale had a series of cyclocross bikes built with the brand’s distinctive HeadShok. The 2003 lineup saw both a HeadShok version and a disc-brake model—models that would then roll right into the history books. Lightweight carbon fiber dominated bicycle development for the next decade instead of suspension and braking technologies.


But the wheel keeps spinning and earlier this year Cannondale elicited a collective “what the…?” with the introduction of the Slate, a 650b road bike with an all-new version of the Lefty fork. While it may seem outrageous, if any brand was going to build such a bike it would be Cannondale, as the company has never shied away from some creative ideas in the course of its 35-year history.

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As riders have continued to push the envelope of what is considered rideable on a “road” bike, Cannondale embraced the opportunity to create a bike that was overwhelmingly specific in its design purpose. It’s also likely to appeal to the rider who wants one bike that can do a little bit of everything and look like nothing else.


Everything about the Slate’s design began with the fork, in this case a completely new version of the Lefty chassis designed specifically for this model. Dubbed the Oliver, it has 30 mm of travel and a carbon case that keeps the weight at a reasonable 1,100 grams.

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Attached to the Oliver is a 6069-alloy aluminum frame with several design cues from other Cannondale models. The seatstays and chainstays are radically shaped to allow for vertical flex, similar to the SAVE design used on other Cannondale models. There are fender eyelets at the rear dropouts, and two eyelets near where a seatstay bridge would normally be. Cannondale said it is working on a fender set designed specifically for the bike that will mount there.


While some Cannondale models use a smaller 25.4 mm seatpost for even more comfort, the Slate has a 27.2 mm post and can be outfitted with one of the few dropper posts on the market with internal cable routing available in that size.


There are three models of the Slate for 2016, and each of them ships with the Oliver fork, hydraulic brakes, Panaracer/Cannondale tires and Cannondale SI cranks. The frame is also identical on all three, with a 142×12 thru-axle and BB30 crankset. Cannondale is sticking with that design despite its less-than-stellar reputation, and mine creaked throughout my test ride.

2016 Slate lineup


Slate Force CX1, SRAM 1×11 drivetrain, SRAM Force CX1 brakes, $4,260


Slate Ultegra, Shimano 2×11 drivetrain, Shimano R685 brakes, $3,520


Slate 105, Shimano 2×11 drivetrain, Shimano R505 brakes, $2,980

While the frame and fork are designed to take the edge of the ride, Cannondale didn’t want to sacrifice performance, so its geometry falls in between that of its EVO race bikes and Synapse endurance road bikes. Because the outside circumference of the 650x42c tires is the same as a 700x23c tire, the chainstays can remain road-bike short at 405 mm. The front-center, however, is pushed out a bit compared to many road bikes for stability when traction is limited. A long reach, short chainstays, suspension fork and dropper post? Are you sure you aren’t reading Dirt Rag magazine right now?


Alright, so enough of the Powerpoint presentation, how does it ride? Well… it rides like a bike. Cannondale tuned quite a bit of low-speed compression damping into the Oliver so it operates with virtually no sag and doesn’t start bouncing around when you ride out of the saddle. If you do want to firm things up, a simple button at the top of the Oliver engages a virtual lock-out that will still open up into the travel if you hit a bump hard enough. Pressing the outer portion of the dial, which also controls rebound damping, will release the button. For idiots like me, they’ve labeled them “Press to climb” and “Press to descend.”


I was looking for the button marked “Press for larger lungs” as I joined a group of journalists and Tim Johnson for a test ride out into the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu, California. On the smooth shoulder of the Pacific Coast Highway and into the hills, the Slate feels likes just another road bike, albeit an especially comfortable one thanks to the fat tires. Made by Panaracer for Cannondale, they weigh just 300 grams each and are extremely supple at 40 to 45 psi.

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From road to off-road

The SRAM Force 1x drivetrain offered more than enough gearing to get up and down the mountains, and if you spend much time on mountain bikes you’ll feel right at home with just one shifter. The hydraulic brakes are more than powerful enough to slow things down and while the hoods look a bit crazy, they are quite comfortable in your hands.

The singletrack is where I was really looking forward to pushing the Slate. If you’ve ridden a CX bike a bit off-road you know the most difficult part is holding onto the handlebars. The Oliver fork makes a huge difference in keeping the sharp shuddering to a minimum and greatly lessens the hand strength needed to keep steering. Make no mistake: this is no mountain bike, but over the long haul I know it will be much more comfortable with the suspension fork.


It felt great when moving forward but things got a bit hairy under braking or hard turning on the trail. For a bike with such an “all-purpose” attitude, the slick tires had a few of us scratching our heads. A file tread or cyclocross-type tread would be a great upgrade if you plan on riding dirty.

Someone I overheard described the Slate as an “N+3” bike for riders who want a very, very specific tool for a very specific job. On the other hand, it does seem to be an excellent choice as an all-rounder. Either way, it’s a creative venture to think so far outside the box, something Cannondale has never shied away from.

Watch for a long-term review of the Slate in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it.

See it in action


Shop Window: Sage Cycles unveils new Barlow titanium adventure bike


Last fall I met up with David Rosen of Sage Cycles to get the story of his new bike brand, Sage Cycles. Watching a brand take off from the ground floor is always interesting, so I was happy to see Rosen has launched a third model, the Barlow adventure bike.


Built by Lynskey Performance Designs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Sage’s specifications, the Barlow is made from 3/2.5 titanium for a lifetime of use. It has a 44 mm head tube to run a tapered steerer tube fork, an English-threaded bottom bracket (yay!) and mounts for a third water bottle cage as well as a rack and fenders.


The drive side chainstay attaches with a titanium plate for maximum stiffness and tire and chainring clearance. The dropouts are also interchangeable between quick release and 142×12 thru-axles.


The frame also uses a smart, interchangeable cable routing system Rosen designed. The removable clip holds the barrel adjusters that route the shift cables along the down tube. If the bike is outfitted with an electronic group, it can be detached for a super clean look.


Sold as a frameset (in seven available sizes) with a carbon fork and titanium seatpost, the Barlow will retail for $3,325 with complete builds available at $5,265.


Video: GT Bicycles presents ‘Waypoints’

As the “bikesploration” market really gets rolling, more people are riding bikes in more places where you wouldn’t expect. GT Bicycles has had a hit with its Grade line of “adventure road bikes,” and we’ve been sampling one for a review in the next issue of Bicycle Times. To feature its adventure-worthy bikes, GT has launched a new video series about destination-based rides called Waypoints. The first episode recounts a trek from the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia, to the Sloquet Hot Springs, 150 miles northeast of the city.


Field Tested: Jamis Renegade Elite


“Adventure” is all the rage these days, but the scope definition and scope of these adventures varies greatly from source to source. In this case, Jamis defines adventure with a heavy dose of performance and a side of versatility for their new go-anywhere, do-anything road bike.

The highly engineered Renegade joins a stable of staid and stalwart steel touring bikes in Jamis’ line of adventure bikes. Two Renegade models are available, the Elite reviewed here and a less expensive Expert for $2,399. Both models utilize carbon fiber frames, a slightly lighter high-modulus carbon for the Elite and a mid-modulus carbon for the Expert that saves dollars at the expense of a few grams.


For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the Renegade is Jamis’ approach to geometry. Jamis strives to provide consistent handling across all bike sizes, which is no short order for six different frame sizes ranging from 48 to 61. To accomplish this, Jamis produces forks with three different offset measurements and frames with three different chainstay lengths. As frame size increases, head tube angles steepen and fork offset decreases. Similarly, chainstay length grows with frame size too. This approach is admirable considering the added tooling cost of creating additional molds for two forks.

Another interesting frame feature is the 15 mm RockShox Maxle thru axle up front. The 15 mm thru axle has become standard in the mountain bike world, and is steadily working its way over to the road market due to the inherent stiffness and safety of the system. According to Jamis, the torsional stiffness of the thru axle allows them to engineer more vertical compliance into the fork.


Also noteworthy are the hidden mounts for rack and fender eyelets. These eyelets thread into the bottom of the fork leg and the end of the chainstay. Additionally, a mount on the seatstay bridge accommodates a rear rack, but your rack and fender will have to share the single seatstay mount. The chainstay-mounted brake caliper greatly simplifies mounting these accessories. Attaching a front fender isn’t quite as simple as the eyelets are a bit further forward than most. The fenders I installed required quite a bit of modification and even then weren’t quite 100 percent. Best to plan on custom fabricating a fender stay that can reach down under the brake caliper and dropout then back up to the eyelet.


I’ve been looking forward to sampling the latest crop of hydraulic disc brakes for drop bars, and dang, these Shimano units have far exceeded my expectations. The light and silky lever throw ramps up to firm lever feel that provides incredible stopping power when desired as well as the subtlest trail braking through a corner. I’m accustomed to using at least two, sometimes three fingers, when braking on modern cantilever and caliper brakes, but one finger is all that’s needed with these brakes. Every stop sign is an invitation to ride a big, long nose wheelie. I can’t say it enough, these brakes work awesome and inspire incredible confidence.


Likewise, the Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain has been flawless. Shifts are smooth, crisp and authoritative, never missing a beat. For the Renegade’s intended use, the compact 52/36 crankset and 11-28 cassette provide a reasonably wide range of gearing. There’s plenty of top-end out on the road and enough low gearing for all but steep, technical off-road climbs.

One noticeable difference between the hydraulic and cable actuated STI levers are the length of the hoods. In order to house the hydraulic master cylinder, the hood is substantially longer. This certainly isn’t a bad thing as it gives you more room to move around on the bike.

Ride quality

Right out of the gate the Renegade’s personality is best described as spirited and eager. Thanks to the bike’s svelte weight, it leaps forward when you jump on the pedals, with not a hint of flex at the bottom bracket. Just look at that burly bottom bracket junction if you have any doubts.


But, it’s not all about stiffness. Those dainty seatstays are shaped to take the edge off of impacts. Additionally, Jamis’ fork design incorporates some vertical compliance. Both of these measures were very noticeable on the road, particularly when paired with the inherent vibration damping qualities of carbon fiber. The ride is smooth and fluid, with much of the high frequency road vibration damped out. On rougher, off-road surfaces, the Renegade does an excellent job of taking the edge off of bumpy terrain.

The Renegade’s handling is equally quick thanks to pretty aggressive geometry. Fork offset varies with frame size, but the 53 mm of offset on my test bike is more than average when paired with the 71.5-degree headtube angle. This translates to a very quick-steering bike that changes direction via subtle counter-steering pressure at the bars. This quick-handling nature feels incredible when you’re on you game and really attacking, but it also commands a certain amount of attention at all times.


Of course, good tires with appropriate volume also help smooth out rough terrain. The stock 700 x 35 mm Clement X’Plor USH tires offer great comfort and versatility. These tires roll well on the road thanks to the siped center tread, and provide decent traction off-road thanks to the side knobs. All in, it’s a wonderful tire for gravel road adventuring. For rougher terrain, the Renegade will fit a 40 mm tire without fenders. It’s also worth noting the American Classic Argent wheelset is tubeless compatible.

Parting thoughts

The Renegade is a very enticing offering for those looking for an adventurous road bike that also offers a lot of versatility. It’s easy to imagine riding this bike to work during the week with a rear rack and fenders, then pulling off those bits and racing a gravel grinder on the weekend.

With a set of road tires, the Renegade does a pretty damn good impersonation of a road bike, too. I can easily see this being someone’s only road bike. With two sets of wheels you could quickly swap back and forth between hammering road group rides and weekend adventures on remote dirt roads.


Bottom line; the Renegade is no one-trick pony. There’s a lot to like about this package if you’re looking for a capable and versatile performance machine.

Vital Stats

  • Price: $4,199
  • Weight: 18.5 pounds
  • Sizes: 48, 51, 54 (tested), 56, 58, 61cm

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #34 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss an issue, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.



This Just In: Foundry Overland cyclocross bike


The Foundry Overland is a titanium bike designed with drop bars for cyclocross or gravel riding and racing, a nice alternative to all the carbon and aluminum models on the scene.

Our 58 cm sample weighs 20.3 pounds with disc brakes and without pedals. Five frame sizes all share 68 mm of bottom bracket drop for a bit more stability, while head tube angles range from 71 to 72.5 degrees. The bottom bracket shell is threaded.


Where the Overland differs from dedicated ‘gravel’ bikes is in the shorter 42.5 cm chainstays. With ‘cross racing in mind, our test sample comes with Clement 33s, but Foundry says 40s will fit fine.

The rear frame triangle has post-mounts on the seatstays, with a 142×12 mm thru-axle. The Whisky No. 9 carbon fork has a 100×15 mm thru-axle, providing a stiffer ride than a traditional 9 mm quick release.

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As you can see in the photos, old-school top-tube cable routing has been chosen, which requires a pulley mounted on a threaded seat tube boss. While the SRAM Force 22 drivetrain might look a little outdated compared to the company’s new single-chainring specific Force group. Foundry also includes internally-routed access ports in the seat and down tubes for electronic shifting.



Not in the market for a new complete bike? Foundry is offering the Overland frameset for $2,495. Need a new machine? The complete bike as pictured retails for $4,695, which includes DT Swiss R24 Centerlock tubeless-ready wheels, Zipp Service Course bars, seatpost and stem, and SRAM’s Force drivetrain with 46/36 crankset and an 11-32 cassette.

Click on the magnifying glass to enlarge images in our gallery, and stay tuned for our first ride impressions!




First Look: Open Cycles’ U.P. gravel/adventure bike


Industry veteran Gerard Vroomen made his name with the mega-successful brand Cervelo, which pushed the limit of carbon fiber technology in the road market for years. His latest venture is Open Cycles, a high-end boutique brand with tons of innovation and a minimalist aesthetic. Its first product was a superlight 29er mountain bike, but this week it unveiled its second model, the Unbeaten Path.


As riders and racers in the “gravel” or adventure market are pushing for more and more performance, the U.P. delivers with an aggressive position and low weight. It doesn’t have the top-tier carbon layup of the mountain bike, but Open points out that using only the stiffest layup in every spot would be a bad idea. The U.P. is also made in China while some of the mountain bikes are hand-made in Germany.


The most interesting feature is the generous tire clearance, which can fit not only a 700×40 tire but also a 27.5×2.1 mountain bike tire. Since the outer diameter is essentially the same between the two, only a bit more room needs to be made for the extra width. Open accomplished this by dropping the chainstay down rather than squeezing it between the tire and chairing.


Other key features include the flat faces of the down tube which allow strips of high-modulus carbon to be used, a 27.2 seat tube designed for a non-setback post, Syntace rear thru-axle, and internal cable routing for a super clean look with double or single chainring drivetrains with cables or wires.



The Unbeaten Path should go on sale this summer for $2,900 for a frame and 3T fork. As for the color options, you can actually help choose by visiting the Open Cycles website and leaving a comment. We vote for orange!



SRAM expands 1×11 drivetrain to include gravel, road, adventure and more


What would you say if someone took your favorite bike, swapped out your go-to compact gearing or reliable triple crankset, and installed a single chainring with a ginormous 11-speed cassette? Then, to pour salt into the wound, told you to climb nearly 3,000 feet of elevation on California’s central coast? On nearly 15 miles of rutted jeep trails? It happened to me and my small posse of journalists, and the results were quite impressive, as SRAM announced plans to expand its popular 1x drivetrain platform from mountain and cyclocross to include aero, criterium, gravel, adventure, urban drop bar, and fitness. 

Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

“We’re not proclaiming that 1x drivetrains will replace 2x; we’ve had huge success with 1x on the MTB and ‘cross side,” said J.P. McCarthy, SRAM’s road product manager at the recent launch in Pismo Beach, which included the introduction of Zipp’s 30 Course wide rim wheels. “Our feature focus for those categories has been on chain retention, keeping the bike clean. What we get out of 1x drivetrains on road bikes is simplifying the shifting process, and quieting the sound of it. It also features one-hand shifting.”

What is 1x (pronounced ‘one-by’)?

Defined by SRAM’s X-SYNC single chainring, which now extends its range from 38 to 54 teeth. When appropriately paired to SRAM’s wide or super-wide cassettes, and managed by SRAM’s dedicated clutch rear derailleurs, 1x ratios allow riders to push gearing comparable to that of double (2x) chainring systems. SRAM’s cassette lineup now features a 10-42*, 11-36, 11-32, and 11-30. (*requires XD driver body option)

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What’s new?

There are three elements critical to the of the 1x drivetrain: the chainring, the cassette, and the rear derailleur. SRAM is expanding nearly all of its new 1x offerings into the renamed Rival 1 and Force 1 groupsets.

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Essential to the development of 1x are the expanded chainrings options, which now extend from 38 to 54. The new configurations offer plenty of gearing for gravel and adventure riders, cyclocross racers, multisport or time trialists, as well the criterium racer and fitness fanatics. 1x provides the most secure chain and chainring interface available defined by simplicity, range and durability.


The single chainring defines the 1x system with X-SYNC technology, whose tall square teeth edges engage the chain earlier and the traditional sharp and narrow tooth profile, as well as rounded chamfer edges, help manage a deflected chain. SRAM’s X-SYNC chainrings are designed for optimal chain line and frame clearance.

Rear derailleurs

SRAM’s new 1x rear derailleurs have adopted all the same technologies from MTB but in a road specific package, including the addition of a barrel adjuster.

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The new long cage version is capable of managing the chain across SRAM’s super wide 10-42 and 11-36 cassettes. Short cage (up to 28T), mid-cage (up to 36T), long-cage (up to 42T) Other technologies include:

  • X-Horizon: a rear derailleur’s ‘straight parallelogram’ design limits all movement to the horizontal axis, which makes ghost shifting nearly impossible and maintains a constant chain gap across all gears;
  • Roller Bearing Clutch: derailleur bounce and chain slap are eliminated without sacrificing precision;
  • Exact actuation: SRAM 1:1 actuation ratio (shifter cable travel/derailleur movement) helps to simplify and stabilize the uneasy act of balancing rear derailleur hanger design, tight cog spacing and exact cable tension.
  • Cagelock: wheel removal and installation—as well as chain installation—becomes faster and simpler. Just pushing the cage forward to create slack and lock it into place. We witnessed this in action when Zipp brand manager Declan Doyle got a pinch flat toward the end of our dirt ride; click the magnifying glass to enlarge photos taken by Nils Nilsen N2Photo:


The new PG and XG cassettes provide 1x riders the gearing options needed for challenging climbs, fast descents, sprints and everything in in between. SRAM‘s strong, lightweight and precise PC 1130 and 1170 chains are the perfect match for SRAM Rival 1 and SRAM Force 1.

sram_mtb_x1_cassette_l MY16_PG_1170_11-36_CS MY16_CS_XG1150_10t42t

“Last year I used Force 1 exclusively,” said reigning national cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, who spent three days riding with us in Pismo Beach. “We had zero mechanicals; I didn’t drop out of any races, never dropped a chain. I like its simplicity. Picking up and dropping the bike in a race didn’t affect the Force 1. In ‘cross the mud usually causes chainsuck; the Force 1 totally eliminated that. I used a 44T with a 11-32T cassette for most of my races, modifying my gear ratio a few times based on the course.”

Your reigning national cyclocross champion, the unflappable Jeremy Powers. Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

Your reigning national cyclocross champion, the unflappable Jeremy Powers. Photo: Nils Nilsen N2Photo

Cutting the number of gears in half means cutting some gear ratios and eliminating a range in exchange for a simpler, better-looking bike for some riders.  “Rider-to-bike interface is pretty limited to bars, saddle and pedals; the 1x drivetrain changes the way a rider interacts with his or her bike,” McCarthy added.

Here’s more from McCarthy:

“We determined that approximately 150 – 170 grams are saved with the Force 1x versus Force 22, depending on cassette choice. A real-world change might zero it out, but we know riders will ask.”


“Chain retention is a real priority; eliminating chain slap makes a better ride; simpler drivetrain with fewer parts.”



“Crit racers don’t use a small chainring anyway, so the benefits of a 1x drivetrain are most noticeable for them. The aftermarket opportunities are huge.”


“Less complication for the bike path rider or new cyclist by eliminating the front shifter.”



“The loudest request for 1x drivetrains came from product managers for adventure bikes; one less part for potential for failure.”


“We have hydraulic brakes (disc and rim) across the board for 2015.”

Name changes

What was originally referred to Force CX-1 is now Force 1; the products have always been labeled as such, but the brand mavens at SRAM pushed the CX moniker on us. With the expansion including nearly every discipline but unicycles (wouldn’t that be cool?!), the CX was retracted.

Force 1 crankset

A few changes includes adding 48- and 50-tooth chainrings in the popular 110 bolt circle diameter (BCD), and 52- and 54-tooth in 130 BCD. Force 1 cranks will have carbon arms with detachable spider, come in GXP (24 mm) and BB30 (30 mm) spindle options, while magically offering the same exact Q-Factor as Force 2x (the distance between the inner crank arms and the outside chainstay, a term coined by Rivendell Bicycle Works founder Grant Petersen when he designed and specced Bridgestones in the early 1990s; legend has it that Petersen—after creating a geometry graphic—ran out of letters to label an important and little-known spec, and chose Q for ‘quack’, because he thought of how ducks walk and the similarity to how road racers walked with clipless pedals ~ Ed.).

Force 1 chainrings

“We eliminated the mud evacuation grooves on the road rings compared to the ‘cross rings, which also allowed us to keep weight down and durability up,” McCarthy explained. “We also kept the running noise down.”

Force 1 rear derailleur

Long cage variant accepts a whopping 10-42-tooth 11-speed cassette, providing road specific actuation with barrel adjust, a clutch retention system to stop the chain from moving around and bouncing around, even on the nasty stutter bumps we experienced riding near Santa Margarita. 


“We do not have a 2x rear derailleur to accommodate up to a 36-tooth cog,” McCarthy added. “So, the SRAM PG 1170, 11-36T 11-speed cassette is specific to 1x drivetrains. Great application for gravel racing!”

According to SRAM, its XG 1180 10-42T 11-speed cassette provides the widest possible range for all applications, providing almost the same range (97 percent) as a current SRAM WiFli drivetrain (50/34 x 11-32T). “Up until recently this would require a 29er frameset; now, with the 30 Course wheels, gravel racers can benefit from this cassette,” McCarthy said. New refinements and features include:

Force 1 brake levers

Hydraulic and mechanical (with new hatch that covers shift area for better feel). 

Rival 1 crankset

Forged arm, forged removable spider; 110 BCD 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48 50T X-SYNC rings. Same exact Q-Factor as Rival 2x.

“SRAM chainrings begin as a 7 mm plate, then are machined down to the proper chainline, where the teeth are sitting over the spider for best frame clearance,” McCarthy said. “We polled our OEM customers to get it dialed in.

“Our current 11-speed chains are compatible with our 1x and 2x drivetrains,” he added. “They share the same dimensions for shifting and chainring retention; the chain plates on our shiny finished chains are so hardened for durability the chainring will wear out before the chain will.”

Early efficiency comparisons between 2x and 1x, according to an outside testing resource, have shown that a small fraction of a watt is the difference, with the 1x coming out on top.

Rival 1 rear derailleur

Material differences between Force and Rival (stainless vs. galvanized hardware); Medium and Long Cage only (no Short);

Rival 1 brake levers

Hydraulic and mechanical (with new hatch that covers shift area for better feel) like the Force. Now offered as a pair with newer ergonomics.

Rival 1 Cassette

PG 1130 11-36T 11-speed; heat-treated cogs and steel lockring. “For weight savings we riveted more than one cog (no aluminum spider),” McCarthy said. “On the SRAM XG 1150 10-42T 11-speed cassette; cogs are pinned to one another to save weight, with an aluminum big cog.”

SRAM S350-1 Crankset

“Modelled on our Apex platform, specifying almost exclusively with a pant guard for fitness and lower-priced ‘cross bikes. This will come with 38, 42 or 44-tooth rings with no mud grooves, and is slightly heavier.”

S700 11-speed Trigger shifter

Based on the SRAM MTB shifter for flat-bar Rival 1 or Force 1 rear derailleur. 

New groupset highlights:

  • Criterium: crankset, cassette, brake/shift levers, hydraulic brakes, chain;
  • Cyclocross: crankset, cassette, brake/shift levers, hydraulic brakes, chain;
  • Fitness: derailleur, cassette, chain, crankset.

Retail availability is June for the Rival 1 brake levers, disc brakes and all rear derailleurs; July for all cranksets and X-Sync road chainrings, and August for PG-1130 11-36 cassettes. Click on the magnifying glass to enlarge photos of my Salsa Warbird:


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