Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017; Gear Review

Coming up over the top of a hill at GW2017: Image by Kyle Hansen
The 2017 Gravel Worlds attempt ended at Mile 116 after my intestinal tract/stomach decided it wasn't going to allow anything to pass. Ya know? "You shall not pass!!" Ha ha! Yeah........


The ride did not suffer from any of my other choices though. I thought I would comment a bit on how my choices stood the test here in case anyone was wondering about what I used. So, a brief comment or three regarding some of the highlights. I will not say anything about the Tamland, because that bike is well documented here and the reasons why it works are discussed in other posts.

Suspended Bits: I guess the big thing here for me was my experience from 2016's successful Gravel Worlds ride.  The Body Float seat post did wonders to smooth out that famous washboard that the gravel roads around Lincoln are known for. This year I added the Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem as another weapon against those washboard sections. It worked great. I had a super smooth experience. One example....

Early on when it was still dark and I could not discern where the washboard was, I steered into a section of it on a fast downhill. My calf muscles were shaking violently, but the rest of my body, being shielded by the suspended contact points, was calm. That was all the proof I needed that the idea to use the stem and seat post was justified.

One negative aspect- The frequency at which I had to absorb energy with my neck was changed from the higher frequency rattling to a much lower one. The bobbing of the stem was barely noticeable, but that motion caused my upper shoulders and the base of my neck to have to try and keep my head level through those oscillations. Think how a bobble head toy works. Anyway, that resulted in a post event soreness in the upper back/neck area that was pretty painful. Something to consider for later.

Another image of me captured by Kyle Hansen
Ritchey VentureMax Bar: This was a risk, but after a couple of test rides and a successful tweak, that bar made sense to me. I gave it a pretty glowing review on, so I won't get into details here. I will say that the Bio-bend bit wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That was a big surprise.

The VentureMax was designed by someone, or group of folks, that "gets it" when it comes to flared drop bars. The brake lever must be reachable from the drop position, and Ritchey got that right. The drop is shallow, again, spot on. The radius of the drop is also spot on. Every critical dimension was nailed in this design. The flare and sweep things are an area, in my opinion, where there is some latitude in choices. The only way that I think the VentureMax could be improved upon is if Ritchey would go with a 31.8mm diameter across the entire bar top, ala the Luxy Bar and the new Thompson flared  drop bar. Otherwise, two thumbs up here.

Saddle: I waffled between going with the WTB Pure V or a Brooks Cambium. I really like both saddles, but in the end I opted for the Pure V. No regrets and I don't remember hating on the saddle at any point during my 11 plus hours of ride time. That may be a factor that was influenced to a great degree by the Body Float post though. I have to try that Brooks saddle out on a long, multi-hour ride to compare. Like a century ride at the least.

Me again! Image by Luke Meduna
Resolute Tires: I just posted up a review on these at as well, so again- I won't go on and on here about them. I will add that the sandier, deeper gravel at Gravel Worlds was no match for these tires. They cut right through and held a line very well.

The tires are some of the best you can get for any gravel I've tried them on so far. They aren't coming off these wheels anytime soon, I'll say that much.

Wearables: I wore the Riding Gravel kit made by Podiumwear. I used my Bontrager base layer under the jersey and I was very comfortable throughout the event. I never got overheated, despite what the guy at the Casey's thought in Bennet. I was pretty happy with the performance of the pad as well. Long wool socks made of a thinner wool and the always reliable Shimano 3 strap mtb shoes were on the feet. On the head I had my cycling hat I got at the 1996 Chequamegon 40 and my Bontrager helmet with Spy Optic amber lensed glasses. No issues whatsoever with anything I wore.

Conclusions: So, all the gear worked well. The nutrition was good, it just wasn't getting through. I have a plan to try for that in training for my next big event. More on that later. If I get that squared away, I think I'll be good to go. Questions or comments? Hit the comments section and I'll gladly answer those.


Zed F. said...

Is it time to revisit your old post on flared bars? It seams like there are a lot more being offered now. Or are there too many to cover now?

Guitar Ted said...

@Jim Mearkle- There may be too many to cover each individually. Many brands have their own "in house" flared drops, which has upped the number of flared drops available significantly. It also must be noted that none of those brands are designing those bars. They are most likely from an Asian catalog and it is entirely possible that many of the "house brand" flared drops are actually all the same thing, or virtually so. Hard to keep track of that, hard to prove that, but highly likely.

I have had an idea I need to put in to motion to demonstrate the flared drop bar differences and features. I need to get on that. It will be a video format and then I'll likely update the page here with that and some commentary.

Unknown said...

My Ritchey Evomax bars are 31.8 across the length of the top. Not sure why that didn't carry over to the Venturemax, because it's dope.

The Evomax are like a stiffer Cowbell, for comparison.

tntmoriv said...

GT, any ride "ending" prematurely at mile 116 is still an awesome day on the bike. Heat, hills, gravel, and a bad gut are all factors and I just want to say good job on a ride that is certainly nothing to sneeze at! You have this man's respect and congrats on a ride well-done! Have a great rest if the summer!

Guitar Ted said...

@Todd Tillinger- Thank you. I appreciate that comment very much.

Greg said...

GT, I also just wanted to say regardless of your outcome, great ride and effort! Can you recommend where I can go for some good information on cycling nutrition information? I would also be interested to hear more about what caused your digestive dilemma (if not too personal). I realize everyone is very different, but being fairly new to long gravel rides, I would be genuinely interested.

Guitar Ted said...

@Greg D: Thank you for the comments.

Nutrition- Well, again, without being too graphic, I didn't have a bowel movement the morning of the event and- for me- that usually spells trouble later in the day when my body is stressed by exertion, heat, and just the general anxiety one goes through on a race day. Things stop getting processed and well, if you can't burn the energy you are putting in efficiently enough, then things get ugly.

Some folks suffer gastric distress in other forms, but essentially it all leads to a similar result. I was not the only casualty of this malady that day, by the way. Some others I know were exhibiting severe vomiting due to gastric distress issues, so it manifests in some different ways for different folks.

This is why you will find, quite literally, 100 different advice thoughts from 100 different athletes. There is no right way but what works for you. You are an individual, no one quite like you, you know. How in the world would I, who doesn't know you, advise you on a very specific-to-you journey? I don't think it is possible, nor do I want to try.

I will from time to time share what works for me, but very cautiously and with disclaimers that it may not work for anyone else. In fact, what I am doing now is a modification of some things my good friend Tony does. I cannot use his methods 100% because it doesn't work for me, but only through experimentation can I find out what does. Work for me, that is, and not for anyone else.

So, with that said and to answer your question- Go to many different folks, get a feel for the general ideas, try several to see what works and doesn't for you, and then start paring it down to a system personalized for your needs. Sometimes a coach can help guide you with this. I would recommend a cycling specific coach with knowledge based in ultras or long distance off road cycling as a start.

Good Journey!

Ben said...

Congratulations on your ride. I also had a similar setup with the Kanza - a Lauf upfront and the bodyfloat in back - and was very happy with the result. Reading your description of the redshift/bodyfloat suspension reminded me of my own experience. This was my third and best run of the event, and much of the improvement can be credited to suspension. Picking the ideal line was easier - since crossing double-track was far less daunting. Drafting was easier - the rider in front gets the best line - and those following have the benefit reduced by taking in extra odd bumps. There was much less wear-and-tear on my body. Also, I could much more easily pedal when other riders chose/needed to coast or otherwise ease-up (i.e downhill, across cattle guards, washboard, sketchier sections). The first and last were the most beneficial - the first more due to the fork and the last more due to the seat post - and probably some extra benefit from the combination of both. I also think the un-damped nature of the suspension is a benefit - on the road losing energy to a damper is more detrimental than on a mountain bike, I think - as long as the springy nature of undamping doesn't compromise ergonomics to much (which I don't think the Lauf or Bodyfloat or Redshift do). I'm looking forward to see what comes of dual-suspension in gravel. I hope Lauf can figure out how to put their leaf springs into the rear of a bike. I think it can especially help not-so-strong riders (like myself) - whose bodies have a tougher time taking all the bumps of gravel.

Tim said...

In my efforts I find it's a constant experiment. Weather factors, both heat + cold; life/work/family events leading up to the event, sleep patterns, and nutrition/hydration prior to the ride are factors which always enter into any ride. With that being said, play around with what works in general for you. I look at every ride/every event as training for life. Ultimately, I want to embrace the ride no matter what occurs.