A couple weeks ago I wasn’t even sure I would be riding my bike this week, but here I am about to toe the line at Unbound. People refer to this race as the “Superbowl of Gravel” and I couldn’t be more excited to see what it is all about. So, kudos to you for reading my blog, now you get the insider specs on my equipment choices for this week leading into the race!
Bike: Ventum GS1
I’ve affectionately named my bike “Lady Lilac”, and you can see from my photos that she is a beaut! The GS1 has a longer top tube, which I have come to love as I have experienced that it allows me to stretch out over the bike and more confidently shift my weight. I notice this the most on descents when I get my booty back and I have room to shift my weight over rough terrain. This will be to my advantage on those washed out descents come Saturday! I also love the D shaped seat post, no more saddle shifting or trying to eyeball to see if the seat is straight.
Overall, this bike is fast, responsive and it handles well.
Pictured on my bike are the Vision Metron wheels, but I will actually race on the FSA KForce AGX wheelset. Sometimes you want a deeper dish wheel, but I think for this race I will prefer the narrower AGX profile. I think this wheel will handle the Flint Hills gravel well and if there are strong cross winds or mud build up, this will be a better option. But, like I said, this may be a gametime decision once I see more of the course first hand with the rain projected this week. I can’t emphasize the value of a good set of wheels, this is just as important as what bike you ride. I will also plan to have a second tire option mounted for checkpoint swap if needed.
Metron 4D Flat M.A.S. Handlebar + Aero Extensions
I love this handlebar. I’ve come to really prefer the flat top handlebars because the look is sleek, it’s more aero, and I find it’s more comfortable to rest my hands on during a long training ride or race. I don’t think I can go back to round tops anymore.
The version I will be running also has integrated aero bar attachments, which makes taking my aerobars on and off a breeze. These also have channels/openings for internal cable routing for the ultimate sleek design.
Metron ACR Stem
I’ve got my drivetrain set up with SRAM Red Electronic groupset. I’ve got additional shifting capacity in my aerobars and my drops,gotta be ready for a sprint :)
I will be running a SRAM Red Dub 2x (48/35)
On the topic of drivetrain, I almost always run Smoove lube but I may transition to a wet lube after I see conditions. This is why it is smart to bring 2 chains with you, one with my wax based lube and one stripped ready to transition to wet lube if needed.
For tires - my only advice here is to make sure you have sidewall protection out there on the Flint Hills gravel! And check that pressure digitally with SKS airchecker. But seriously, if you are reading this, you are probably a gravel cyclist. Know your damn pressure before EVERY ride. This is the way. Go buy a digital gauge right meow.
Voler has done such an incredible job with our kits this year. This brand is truly engaged with the gravel community and consistently takes feedback from riders and adapts their products. I have a plethora of options including their versasuit, velocity suit, or I may go with a classic kit so I can rock their Cache bibs with the side pocket storage. That comes in handy on the long days! Highly recommend this brand and they are also 100% American, meaning they do not outsource overseas.
I will plan to ride with the Abus Aventor helmet, but if it’s cooler on race day, I may transition to my Abus Gamechanger helmet. The Aventor is better on hot days due to more vents, but surprisingly I’ve found the Gamechanger to be very breathable for an aero helmet. Highly recommend it. Abus definitely has done a great job and they’re by far the most comfortable and stylish helmets I’ve ridden with.
I’ve always been a believer of “hydration in bottle, food in pocket” approach, which is why I will do the Osmo for hydration, including their preload prior to race. For food, I will do spring gels, and of course endless gummy bears, homemade rice cakes and fig bars! I’m sure I will have some PB&J and other real food at the checkpoints to grab and go.
My favorite flavor of Osmo that I plan to use is the Blueberry Pomegranate: https://osmonutrition.com/product/active-hydration-tub/
My go to Spring gel is “awesome sauce”, which is more carb focused and it tastes amazing even on the 10th hour. https://myspringenergy.com/collections/spring-energy-products/products/copy-of-awesome-sauce-vegan
So there you have it! All the specs for those who are into the details. As a new rider, I often feel overwhelmed with everything but I think I have made a lot of progress this last year due to the help of my sponsors, teammates and my amazing local support at home. When I started racing last year I never thought I’d be writing about how a bike felt responsive or how a handlebar feels different - but here I am. The equipment does make a difference, especially across a 200+ mile gravel race!
BUT….even with all of that, I still want to emphasize that it will ALWAYS be the engine that counts. Meaning, if you don’t have access to certain equipment at this time, don’t underestimate your own ability. It’s your own engine that drives the bike…never forget that. When I first started cycling, I rode an aluminum bike from the 80’s, an 8 speed for crying out loud! I hauled that thing up and down a mountain to Everest IRL on this. I never thought about how much it weighed (it was heavy). Instead, I was just thankful to be riding. I still have that bike mounted on my trainer too and it gets some serious miles in my Michigan winters. So even if I share all the fancy specs of the equipment, I want every rider reading this to never forget the most important piece of equipment will be your own human horsepower, don’t forget it!