Last Saturday, gravel cycling enthusiasts from around the world got together, including WorldTour pros such as Connor Swift and Tiffany Cromwell, to race at the Gralloch. The race - organised by Red On Events - attracted gravel racers of all levels riding on the same 113km course - and some of the bikes on show were absolutely stellar. We managed to get up close and personal with a few of the best.
Sam Andrews - Titici Relli
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews- hero 2, by Suvi loponen
Sam Andrews has been quickly making himself a name in the gravel scene this year, placing very well at both the Sea Otter and Traka 360. At the Gralloch, he placed 11th in his age category, easily qualifying for the October Gravel World Champs.
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews-fork, by Suvi loponen
Andrews’ Titici race bike is quite a beautiful creation and one that you don’t see often in the UK. Andrews said the hand-painted Relli frame has taken six months to finish, and the beautiful purple with a silvery frosted effect is the work of Tony Spray, whose name can be found near the bottom bracket.
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews-top tube, by Suvi loponen
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews-detail, by Suvi loponen
Titici frames are known for their Arch Absorber Technology (the thin bend on the seat tube) and PAT (plate absorber technology). The very flat-shaped tube shape helps absorb vibrations - and definitely creates a unique look. Andrews’ top tube has ‘Titici’ embossed on it as a neat additional detail.
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews- drivetrain, by Suvi loponen
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews- rear, by Suvi loponen
Andrews' Relli is rolling on Hunt Limitless wheels, wrapped in IRC Double Cross 42mm gravel tyres with 27PSI at the front, and 29PSI at the rear. Shifting is handled by “cheap and cheerful” Sram Rival AXS, with 42t chainring and 10-42 cassette.
2023 Gralloch - Sam Andrews-cockpit, by Suvi loponen
Lastly, the finishing kit: saddle is SQ Labs and the cockpit is all Deda.
Katherine Sheridan - Lauf Seigla Ultimate
2023 Gralloch - Katherine Sheridan hero 2, by Suvi loponen
Katherine Sheridan is a gravel racer racing for Mazda Lauf Factory Racing, and she placed sixth in the women’s race. Her electric blue Lauf Seigla is definitely an eye-catcher, and the closer you get the more impressed you’ll likely be.
2023 Gralloch - Katherine Sheridan-HED wheel, by Suvi loponen
Sheridan jokingly told me she has started timing bike shops for the time it takes for them to notice the bike is running Sram Red AXS - simply because there is so much else going on with the bike as well. And she is not wrong.
2023 Gralloch - Katherine Sheridan- industry 9 hub, by Suvi loponen
The first feature that the eye is drawn to on this bike is Lauf’s Grit fork which offers 30mm of suspension in a very innovative way. The bike is rolling on HED wheels, and the Industry Nine hubs are laced onto the rims with super light Berd spokes that are made of poly fibre (yes, they really look like shoe laces…).
2023 Gralloch - Katherine Sheridan-Berd spokes, by Suvi loponen
Tyres are Rene Herse Manastash Ridge in 44mm width and set up tubeless with about 30PSI at the front, and 33PSI at the back.
2023 Gralloch - Katherine Sheridan-pedal, by Suvi loponen
If the bike itself would not be enough of an eye-catcher, Sheridan has colour matched the hubs, the Xpedo pedals and some of the Berd spokes with her orange gloves. That is not all the orange, though, as inside the tyres is Orange Seal sealant and Sheridan’s helmet also features an orange accent.
Ellen McDermott - Trek Checkpoint SL 6 AXS
2023 Gralloch - Ellen McDermott hero 2, by Suvi loponen
McDermott finished just behind Sheridan in the women’s overall race and second in her age category, and the Team Boompods rider seemed to be still absolutely buzzing after a hard day out on the bike.
2023 Gralloch - Ellen McDermott-storage, by Suvi loponen
“I am a nutritionist so I was really on top of my nutrition and fuelling. I actually drank 3.5 litres, so I think I was outfuelling some people,” McDermott laughingly told me, also praising her bike setup for the racing success. “I got dropped a couple of times, and dropped my chain, but other people were having mechanicals as well. Maybe they were running too high pressure!”
2023 Gralloch - Ellen McDermott- Trek Checkpoint frame, by Suvi loponen
The Trek Checkpoint SL 6 AXS is McDermott’s first ever gravel bike, and she was quick to point out her love for the bike’s IsoSpeed shock-absorbing technology and the frame’s integrated storage on the downtube. Inside the little compartment, McDermott had placed inner tubes, freeing up space in her pockets.
2023 Gralloch - Ellen McDermott- Drivetrain, by Suvi loponen
The Trek is equipped with Sram Rival AXS groupset and rolling on Bontrager Paradigm wheels wrapped in Bontrager GR1 Team Issue tyres in 40mm width and set up tubeless. I chatted with McDermott about tyre pressure quite a bit - she said she was definitely more confident on the descents because of her chosen pressure - and she revealed the magic numbers were 27PSI at the front, and 31PSI at the rear.
2023 Gralloch - Ellen McDermott ISM saddle, by Suvi loponen
The finishing kit on the bike consists of Bontrager cockpit and a typically TT-associated ISM PN1.1 saddle that McDermott says is her firm favourite.
Some of the other snaps
2023 Gralloch - Random bikes-1.jpg, by Suvi loponen
With over 800 riders at present, Gatehouse of Fleet was buzzing with riders and their cool bikes. I didn't manage to catch quite all of the riders, so here are a wee bunch of photos of bikes, and some interesting - or questionable - features.
2023 Gralloch - Random bikes.jpg, by Suvi loponen
The race day was not windy, so quite a few people were racing with rather deep gravel wheels.
2023 Gralloch - Random bikes-5.jpg, by Suvi loponen
2023 Gralloch - Random bikes-4.jpg, by Suvi loponen
Electrical tape was in high demand for the riders strapping on gels and CO2 canisters to their bikes, but when the punctures just keep giving, you might need that tape for something else, too... Just see on the above Trek's wheel.
2023 Gralloch - Random bikes-3.jpg, by Suvi loponen
Is this the most detailed race number attachment (the ends are trimmed and all)...
2023 Gralloch - Random bikes-2.jpg, by Suvi loponen
And to finish off, a little pile of bikes. It's not often in the UK that you get to see as many premium gravel bikes, and the Gralloch is definitely the place to be if you enjoy seeing some of the nicest-looking builds, and fast riders.
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