The lovely thing about gravel and adventure riding and events is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to setting the bike up for a long day or two in the saddle. At the Jeroboam Italian gravel race last the weekend (ride report coming soon) I shot some of the varied bikes and setups being rolled out for the start of the ride through some of the most stunning landscape, from mountain peaks to remote forests and vineyards.
It's the brand new Cannondale Topstone Carbon, and it's decked out with all the bags and two bottles.
Bright orange Specialized Diverge (the original one, not the one with the Future Shock) with a cluster of bags around the stem and handlebar.
Specialized was a reasonably common site at the event. Here's the steel-framed Sequoia with a saddlebag and bottle bag on the top tube. What's in the flask I wonder?
Titici is an Italian brand and the Flexy here (yes that is the actual model name) has a very flat profile top tube designed to flex and provide comfort.
Torpoada is another rare Italian brand and this is its Zenith, a full carbon fibre gravel bike. Liking the camo paint job! This rider was opting for a very minimal (brave) setup with just a small saddle pack.
The rider of this Open Wi.De wasn't taken any chances, with a full frame pack from Apidura, a large Lezyne pump, tool keg, two bottles and a snack pack on the handlebar. Interesting tyre choice, choosing mountain bike rubber. Most riders opted for skinnier gravel tyres up to about 45mm.
This Exploro belongs to a 3T employee and it's a pretty trick build with the full carbon spoked rear wheel from German carbon specialist Bike Ahead.
It's the Biturbo RS model in 650b size. A pair weighs just 1,209g but costs €3,399. They are quite stiff apparently, hence why he was just using the rear wheel and opted for a regular spoked front wheel for a bit more forgiveness on the rough tracks.
I spotted two Canyon bikes, a Grail with the hover handlebar but it moved before I could snap it, but this Inflite carbon 'cross bike was stationary long enough to have a gander. Cyclocross bikes are obvious candidates for gravel events, and you see lots of UK gravel events, but there weren't that many at the Jeroboam solely because they limit how wide a tyre you can run.
3T produced some specially painted Exploros at the recent Eurobike show, and here's one of them kitted up for action. It's equipped with Miss Grape bags, on the handlebar, top tube and seat post. Just the one bottle though.
Another 3T Exploro (there were a lot of them) but this one grabbed my attention because of that top tube bag.
It's not one I've come across before or even one of this type. Think of all the snacks you could fit in there! Though I'd worry about rubbing knees on the sides.
This rider opted for a small saddle pack and a handlebar bag, with a tool keg on the down tube which appears precariously close to the front tyre, and a single water bottle. The bike is a Salsa Warbird with a 2x groupset.
The handlebar bag in question is a Miss Grape/PEdAL ED design.
This is the splendid Open Upper painted by Italian artist Cento Canesio that we first saw at Eurobike a few years ago. The slick tyres would have been nice on the road climbs of the Jeroboam, but the gravel tracks might have been spicy.
A Cannondale SuperX cyclocross race bike is surprisingly versatile. It's equipped with a 2x drivetrain and a saddle pack and top tube package combo.
Italian brand Wilier has added gravel bikes to its range with this is the Jareen. Steel frame, carbon fork and this bike is sporting a frame and seat pack. Navigation was vital with the Jeroboam, the course was not marked, so each rider needed a method of following the route. A lot of riders opted for mobile phones mounted to the handlebars, as pictured above.
Turn up to a gravel race on an Enve-equipped Niner carbon gravel bike and heads are going to be turned.
If comfort is a factor, suspension is the way to go. The latest Specialized Diverge packs a 20mm spring below the stem. Judging by the size of the seat pack this rider was well prepared for a long day in the saddle.
It wasn't all drop bar bikes. A lot of local riders were riding mountain bikes, suggesting they knew something I didn't about the route... This was a pretty cool titanium frame rocking a Cannondale Lefty suspension fork.
But check the saddle on this bike. No thanks!
The rider of this 3T Exploro was going light on luggage, with just an inner tube taped to the top tube.
Not the case here, this Specialized Sequoia was loaded up with twin top tube bags, two bottles and tool keg...
.... And a Garmin device with a mount for a smartphone. Not taking any chances at all.
And this was my bike. The recently announced new SRAM Eagle/Force specced 3T Exploro. I went with an Ornot handlebar bag for all my snacks and a Castelli saddlebag for all my tools. I elected for a single bottle and used the spare cage for storing my Gore Shakedry jacket after the chilly morning turned to a warm day.
Navigation was via a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, the battery easily lasting the route, and a GoPro capturing all the action.
I was also riding Pirelli's new gravel tyres. First ride on those soon.
This is a serious off-road setup? It's an Evil mountain bike underneath the custom paint and bikepacking bags.
Lastly, there was one fat bike with a Lauf. The rider not only made it round but was faster than a load of gravel bikes, proving that at the end of the day, it's all about the rider and legs.
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