cycling

Posts: 3

Tips for climbing on gravel

A few days ago I posted a video by Gravel Cyclist and my own little tip for descending on gravel. Well today GCN published a video about climbing on gravel with the absolute cyclecross legend Jeremy Powers.

Personally, I think the tip regarding proper gearing choice is the most helpful. I wouldn't be able to climb a lot of the local paths with gearing as high as Powers's in the video.
Too high a lowest gear equals too much torque on the tyre equals a bigger chance of the back wheel losing traction and spinning out under the rider. The more loose/wet the ground, the more crucial it is not to lose traction in order to maintain a consistent cadence and conserve momentum while going uphill.

My local forests feature many a nice climb with gradients between 9%–20%. I run a 2× setup with 36/46 chainrings up front and an 11-speed 11–40 cassette in the back. This gives me a nice easy smallest gear with a gear ratio of 0.9 which has helped me get up all but the steepest inclinces on loose forest ground with my 700×40c tyres.

Tips for descending on gravel

This popped up in my YouTube feed earlier today and I found it quite useful. I'd add one tip of my own: gloves.

Whether it's descending on a hot day where your palms are already sweaty and you're sliding around on your drop bars or a hard ascent in the rain, having good and tight-fitting cycling gloves that wick away moisture and help you grip your bars confidently, is going to be useful.

I slipped off the drops and the hoods of my gravel bike more than once on a fast and tricky descent and it's luck that I didn't crash hard at times. Gloves made all the difference for me.

One important thing to look out for when buying gloves is that they don't have seams in places that will cause pressure spots or chafing when using drop bars. Many gloves are made with mountain biking and flat bars in mind. Try them on, hop on a drop bar bike, and get into the various positions you're riding in most frequently.

Bike re-build project, part 3

The bike is done and I‘m very happy with the way it turned out.

Part 1: intial thoughts and considerations
Part 2: ordering components, beginning assembly, a few discoveries

For comparison‘s sake, this is what the bike looked like as a CX/gravel bike, before I bought my Litespeed T5 Gravel frame set, and this is what it looks like now.

CX bike after a very muddy and fun ride

Finished CX bike to city bike conversion

I have to give a big „Thank you!“ to the folks at Fahrrad Heidemann for being so quick with fitting the DUB PressFit bottom bracket, shortening the brake hoses, and bleeding the brakes. These were three tasks that I wouldn‘t have been able to accomplish without buying a lot more equipment, which would‘ve increased the overall cost of the project. Not to mention the fact that I‘m not experienced in doing these things (yet).

The remaining build-up was pretty standard and enjoyable.

The Continental tyres were very cooperative and easy to fit with inner tubes. I also have to give it to Shimano with their Center Lock system: both disc brake rotors and the cassette were easily mounted and everything fits precisely.
Just like on my other bike, I applied Flectr 360 rim reflectors. I find them to be very effective, highly visible, and they look very good on the DT Swiss rims.
I‘ve had the fenders for quite some time but rarely used them while using the bike off road because they reduced the tyre clearance. They are a pair of SKS fenders that have been custom fitted by the fine folks at Fahrrad Heidemann in early 2018.

DT Swiss rim, Continental tyres, Flectr reflector

The cockpit setup was a bit fiddly, because the SRAM shifter and the Shimano XT brake levers aren‘t exactly meant to live next to each other and finding the right order, position, and angle took some time. I also found that while I enjoy using this Canyon MTB handlebar, it‘s wiiide, so wide in fact that I shortened it from 720 mm to 680 mm after a first test ride revealed that I felt too spread out and bent over.
I opted for Ergon MTB grips that sadly might be replaced with a different model because the ridges in the grips dig into my palms too much right now. I suspect that the grips are meant to be used with gloves but I‘m not going to do that with this bike.
There wasn‘t even a question which bike bell to use. I bought another Spurcycle Bell. These are very loud, sound great, are well made and robust, and user-servicable.

Front of the bicycle and the cockpit

The Spurcycle Bell in all its glory

Saddle setup was fine but I‘m not entirely sure this new Ergon SM Comp MTB saddle is all their advertising promises. We‘ll see. My butt has gotten so used to my Fabric Scoop Pro Shallow perch, maybe it just needs time to accept the Ergon and the more upright sitting position.

Ergon SM Comp saddle

My Abus Bordo lock now has a permanent spot on the seat tube of the bike and I hope that it‘s going to continue to offer enough protection when I have to leave the bike alone in places.
There are few bottle cages that fit a Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle properly (especially not Klean Kanteen‘s own offering) but the Iris King Cage seems to do the trick. The bottle sits in there securely even over rougher terrain and without rattling. There‘s a matter of the bottle being scratched up but personally, I don‘t mind.

Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus and Klean Kanteen Reflect in an Iris King Cage

Last but not least, I‘m very happy that the chainline worked out, using the full SRAM NX Eagle groupset on my CX bicycle frame set. I‘ve documented everything in detail in English here and in German here.
In short, SRAM dissuades customers from using their MTB groupsets on anything but MTBs, recommending their road bike- and gravel-specific components instead. Nowhere did I find any hint that with the right spacer rings everything would work out just fine.

Even the 32-tooth chainring up front, which I feared might be overkill combined with the 11–50-tooth cassette, was a good choice. In the 32+50 gearing it provides a ratio of 0.64 allowing me to almost effortlessly get up the hills we have here. Well now, that‘s a lie: pedaling uphill on an 18% incline is still a pain but much less so than with the lowest gear ratio of 0.9 on my gravel bike.

The bike has also already proven to fulfil its second purpose: being a shopping bike.
I did two weekly shopping trips with it already and even going up a hill and some short but steep inclines with a trailer filled with a week‘s worth of groceries and some beer was much less daunting/taxing/sweaty than expected.

All in all, this project seems to have been a success and I now have two really great and versatile bicycles at my disposal. I‘m particularly happy about this because I was also told in no uncertain terms by my partner that n+1 = s-1 = 2 in my case, so this is where it‘s at. 😉