For the event report- see here.
|The bike as it appeared after the event.|
The gearing was perfect for the 18% grades and I never felt I needed more for the down hills, some which were 30+ mph ones as it was.
Wheels are my XTR hubbed, Delgado Cross rimmed, Clement MSO shod ones that performed marvelously on the roads, which I will describe in a moment. As for anything narrower- There were some riders on cyclo cross tires, and they were having control issues in spots. I noticed that they were also being bounced around a bit more than I was as well. As for myself, I was glad the MSO tires were as voluminous as they were. I ran them at 40psi rear/38psi front, and I remember remarking to myself that they felt quite smooth most of the time. I did not have any issues with flat tires throughout the ride either.
|Strange dust patterns!|
When we weren't on gravel, we rode dirt, which was deep, fine, and loose. This was difficult with regard to the bike as it made the front tire want to wash out unless you shifted your weight back and let the front drift up and over the loose dirt, much as you would for a fat bike in loose, unpacked snow. There were very few times, (unless we were on pavement, obviously), where you didn't have to really pay attention to handling on the bike. It was one of the more difficult courses I have ever ridden in that regard. Some courses have had short sections where some of these characteristics were present, but none have had as much, nor for as many miles straight, as this one did.
|Hacked Light Set Up|
The light mounted to my front rack is an interesting hack made up from a camping light sold under the Eveready brand that was meant to be worn on the head. I took the head band off, and the light mount, which has a hinged back plate of flat, black plastic, was cut down to clip into a Cat Eye computer mount. The battery pack, which holds three double "A" sized batteries, is stowed inside the rack bag. The light head, clipped into the Cat Eye computer mount, is then mounted to a home made bar mount made from a section of fork steer tube, a star nut, and a water bottle boss bolt. (Note: The mount is detailed in this blog post here.)
This light has three modes, and is rated to run at high/100 Lumens for 30 hours. The optics are such that the light is diffused in a large, round pattern and covers from ditch to ditch in width on a gravel road. This is good for slower speeds by itself, but needs something else to compliment it with more "punch" for higher speed riding.
|Lezyne "Super Drive"|
That "punch" comes from this, the Lezyne Super Drive. I ran it in "low" mode, which was quite enough light, but most importantly, it was the setting with the longest run time. I needed it to stay lit for 4-5 hours, and it did just that without a hitch. The combination of the low mounted "flood" light and the higher mounted Lezyne gave me a great read on the road. I could easily pick out the washboard sections, whoop-de-doos, pot holes, and the good lines, (when they were there!)
I complimented this with a helmet mounted Coleman 20 dollar flashlight. I chose it for its spot beam pattern and that it throws light way down the road. It was great for reading signs, and for this ride, great at getting a read on the road way ahead when I was speeding at 30 plus miles per hour down a steep Iowa hill. By the way, I simply strapped it on with a ByeKyle Simple Strap.
Other: I used a Topeak saddle bag with all my tools and a spare tube along with some hand wipes inside it. The front bag, (Note: More on this bag at a later date), held a wind breaker, spare tube, some gels, and the aforementioned battery pack for the rack mounted light.I had an old Blackburn frame pump under the top tube for air inflation duties. Bottle cages are Velocity Bottle Traps.
What I Would Change: While the bike and set up was really great, here are a few things I have thought about- tweaks really- that I would do to make the Orange Crush even better than it is. First- the 72° head tube angle is "okay", but a slightly slacker head tube angle with a bit more of an offset fork, (which would preserve trail), would give a bit more of a comfy ride with better rough road handling. Then I would drop that bottom bracket to a more road bike-like 75-80mm. The drop out spacing should just go to 135mm. Finally, the seat tube angle probably would work a shade better at 72° for a true gravel racer/rider.
On my particular bike, I think a hub generator light would eliminate my battery limitations. A weight penalty, for sure, but well worth it for the versatility.
So that's it. Any questions? Comments? Hit me up in the comment section.