Miss Grape Moon Handlebar Bag

Miss Grape gives you the moon

18 months or so ago the only handle bar bag you’d see on a bike was a carradice saddle bag converted to bar use and was paired with panniers and racks on a classic touring bike. Then with the advent of the popularity of gravel bikes a few companies sprung up around the world making short run bespoke bags specially designed for carrying enough kit for a day out in your local area. The type of ride you only need a packable jacket, multi tool, spare tube and some sandwiches. these bags are perfect for that on their own, cutting down on stuff jammed into pockets or strapped to the frame. Fast forward to now and companies are mass producing these “burrito” bags and they are available at a much more favourable price point. But has this meant sacrificing the usability and watered down the ideas seen in the original bags?

The Bag quite simply is a cylinder with a zip across the front, four attachment points, two of velcro and two with the same style of fixings seen on the Node top tube bag with a stabilising strap that goes around the frame head tube and it is also made of the same weather resistant material as the Node. On each end of the bag is a mesh elasticated pocket for stashing stuff you need to get to while riding along. Although the main zip is purposeful enough to enable opening while moving too. Inside the bag is a plastic stiffener that helps keep the bags shape and structure.

straps, fixings and end pockets

In use the bag fits easily to the bike and is stable when riding. I got a packable waterproof jacket, inner tube, tubeless repair kit, my phone, keys and a go-pro and mini tripod in the bag and there was still room for more. The end mesh pocket was used to stash a face covering. The inner stiffener meant that heavy items didn’t deform the shape and make the bag sag. this same stiffener also meant that anything like a bunch of keys if not wrapped in say a buff would rattle constantly and was very annoying! wrapped up safely and this was cured. The bag straps fitted either side of the stem on my bike but they aren’t adjustable for width if you have narrow bars or a lot of bar furniture. loading the bag up with heavier things ( i may have visited the beer shop for some take away cans) made no difference to the stability and the extra mass on the bars didn’t affect the handling of the bike.

weather proof Moon with a reflective panel

The bag is good, it’s the right size for day trips and looks and feels like it would last a long time and still look good due to the material it’s made from. if the inner plastic stiffener was covered in a soft material to stop rattles and the straps could be adjusted for width it would be pretty much perfect and a great way to get into the bar bag scene.

more info can be found on the Miss Grape Insta page or the official webpage

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

How probably the least gravel friendly bike I own showed it’s all about the ride, not the bike

and that i need to work on my titles

The last snow we had locally was in 2017, three years into owning a fat bike and it was brilliant, the culmination of all that promise of how good a fat bike could be. I’d ridden on normal trails in both summer and winter and yes it was great but it wasn’t snow, the reason fat bikes came about really. But as the snow melted so did my enthusiasm for fat biking. i’d done snow so nothing else was going to compare. I’ll admit i put the fat bike away in the loft at the beginning of spring due to lack of space for other bikes and although I made sure everything was good to go on it so i could drag it out and ride it after setting up the tyres I pretty much forgot about it apart from the annual Global Fat Bike Day which is always on the first Saturday in December (until Gomez says’s it ain’t). On this day I travel down to the surrey Hills where some great friends organise a ride that I haven’t missed since its inception.

2017 vintage snowmageddon

Fast forward to 2020 and through the UKgravelCO network I met a couple of riders and during a gravel ride conversation, undoubtedly over a socially distanced (I can’t wait to be able to stop saying or writing that) cake or coffee talk turned to other bikes we owned. It turned out we all owned fat bikes and the subject of Global Fat Bike day 2020 came up. Travelling down south in lockdown wasn’t sensible so we decided a group of us would ride and go for a brew up in the woods. So I climbed up into the loft and got the fatty down. A quick gear check and topping up with sealant and she was ready. A couple of test rides followed and made me realise that fat bike riding is a lot harder than gravel bike riding, there’s a little more resistance rolling those wheels along after the grav machine. It made me feel like I was going backwards fitness wise. I began to regret getting it back out until this Christmas break.

The snow came down quickly and we managed to get around 3 inches of the white stuff in just a few short hours. The fat bike was probably the safest bike to ride in the conditions so I headed out into the whiteness. As I was riding along deliberately pedaling into the thickest patches of snow, sliding on the hidden soft mud underneath I got into the groove where you are just thinking about staying upright and trying to maintain as much momentum as possible to get up the next slippery climb and staying off the brakes as long as you can to avoid locking the wheels and loosing control. I stopped for a breather (riding in virgin snow is hard work!) and realised this is what I’ve been missing these last few months. After this hellish year and less opportunities to get out and do long rides I’ve found myself getting stressed about not doing as many miles as last year or four years ago and looking back on my mileage for that particular time of year and how i’d need to do “X” amount of miles to make up for it. I’d find myself thinking “if i don’t do 30+ miles it’s not worth riding” and be disappointed if I only had time for 15 miles and pushing my limits on the next ride to make up for it. It’s amazing how you can get into a rut about things, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s channeling the stresses of every day life into their hobbies and sports. Standing there at the top of the hill watching people sledging an laughing it made me realise it doesn’t matter how long the ride is or if the average speed is lower or if you “only” ridden on a cycle path the thing is that its the riding that is the important part.

In fact getting back on the fat bike has reinforced my mantra of No Rules Just Ride, it doesn’t matter what you ride, drop bar, flat bar, thin tyre or fat, just ride. that’s why any bike or rider is welcome on a UKgravelco ride.

Fast forward to 2020

I rode 8 miles on the fat bike in the snow and it was 8 miles of just riding along. It doesn’t matter how far you ride or if the route is epic or just round the block of your housing estate. The most important part is that you are out on your bike enjoying the freedom because you want to, not because you think you ought to.

The fat bike, probably the most inappropriate bike for riding gravel but the best bike for making you realise it’s all about the ride, not the destination or the bike.

As we near the end of 2020 Let’s hope that longer rides and rides with friends old and new can happen again but if that doesn’t happen I’m going to do my best to enjoy it no matter what and no matter which bike it’s on.

#NORULESJUSTRIDE

Miss Grape Node Top Tube Bag

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new post…on a top tube bag!

Miss Grape are an Italian company from near Venice and have been making bike packing bags since 2014, although the company have been going since 2005. The UK arm of Miss Grape sent me a range of their bags to try out, the first being the Node top tube bag.

The Node, weighing in at 125g is a robust looking bag made from a nylon polyester mix with a water repellent polyurethane resin coating. this means the bag will shrug off a shower but if using in torrential rain a dry bag for the contents is advisable. A rather hefty looking weather resistant zip opens to reveal a lightly padded interior with a velcro centre parting that can be pulled apart to allow full length storage. On the outside two mesh pockets give quick access storage. Underneath the bag the base is a very shiny looking surface which turns out to be very grippy and stops the bag moving from side to side, A velcro strap at the rear of the bag wraps around the top tube and a neat strap and clasp with a rubber band to tidy the strap goes around your steerer. this has 3 height positions to swap depending on your steerer spacer configuration.

big enough for a sarnie, side pockets for essentials and interior adjustable divider

Using the Node I strapped on the node and used it for the small bit of commuting and local weekend rides. with the interior velcro divider open it easily fir my Pixel 3 phone, a container of hand sanitiser, a face mask (don’t you just love 2020?) a spare buff and house keys. On other rides I also put a gopro and mini tripod inside. The bag is quite tall ( 12cm) and so as with most other top tube bags careful packing is needed to stop the bag leaning over. Pack sensibly and there’s no movement. The rear strap wrapping around the frame is long enough to accommodate the largest diameter top tube. My frame has quite a thin steel tube so there was a lot of surplus strap that did catch my leg. If the pack didn’t have to be returned after the test I’d have trimmed this to fit and so this won’t be an issue for purchasers. The zip is easy to open and close with one hand while on the move so snacking without stopping is easy (pre cut your pork pie if not a fan of energy bars) and the bag will take a sandwich easily. It’ll also take a spare tube, multitool and tubeless repair kit for those minimal summer rides.

The Miss Grape Node top tube bag is a great bit of kit and will take a surprising amount of stuff and could be an important part of your bike packing or everyday it. the only things i’d like to see is maybe a media port to run a power pack through to or from a dynamo/computer etc and if the dotted surface of the material was reflective if would make for effective side on visiblity at night.

It’s definitely one to consider unless you run your stem slammed when it might be a bit too tall and the steerer mount might be difficult. Pair it with Miss Grape’s frame, seat post and barrel handlebar bags and it could be a perfect matching combo……good job tests on those very bags will be published here soon!

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integration station with Miss Grape

more info can be found on the Miss Grape Insta page or the official webpage

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.

Spatzwear GRAVLR overshoes


The search for comfortable feet in winter

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there’s no way you’ll forget the name of the GRAVLR overshoe

I suffer with cold feet in winter, fellow sufferers will know how bone gnawingly awful it is to have feet so cold you lose the feeling in them and it actually feels like you are pedaling with ice blocks surrounding your feet. Cold feet sufferers will also know how annoying it is when a person who has all year round warm feet tells you to “put a thicker sock on”. Buying bigger sized shoes to put more sock layers on doesn’t work either as usually the cleat is then in the wrong position even at it’s extreme adjustment, I’ve tried it I know. I’ve also tried kitchen foil, plastic bags, pop socks and those chemical hand warmers you can get for feet, all to no avail. Once the temperature dips below 5 degrees I know I’ve got around 10-20 miles before it’s so miserable I head for home. The pain however doesn’t stop there as once back in the warm the blood gradually being allowed back into the capillaries of the feet brings intense pain and a lengthy wait until your feet are defrosted enough to stand in a hot shower without screaming.

So the Spatz GRAVLR has a big task to overcome. I admit I didn’t mention this when I contacted Tom at Spatz to see If I could get a pair to try. The overshoes have been ridden in conditions around 1 degree to 12 degrees over numerous rides. They been ridden in rain, drizzle, frost and through all manor of gloopy wet muddy trails that my local area can provide. So how did they do?

The GRAVLRs are made from “aero armour” which is a very stretchy smooth surfaced material which is reassuringly thick but not at all heavy. They have kevlar reinforcement to stop abrasions on the toe and ankle and this really works, there have been no tears or marks even though they’ve been through some tough conditions. They have a sort of quilted panel on the inside next to your shin to keep the warm blood flowing down to the toes. The side zip is robust and is glove friendly with a velcro flap to keep it neat. Underneath the foot area there is more kevlar reinforcement on the velcro flaps.



The Ride I got a tip from Tom about putting on the overshoes, “set the Achilles heel first, then pull the toe over” which was top advice. The overshoes are designed to be fitted so It does take a couple of tries and practice to perfect the process, but once worn in it became easier to do. To do an effective test I wore standard socks and a pair of shimano XC5 shoes.

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Once on the overshoes were pretty much unnoticeable as the fit was tight but not constrictive. Once the velcro under the shoe was set it never moved, even after some walking (into a bakery or two and up and down grass and mud slopes) Clipping in and out was unaffected and the overshoes didn’t need any readjustment during any of the rides.

Did I get Cold feet? On rides between 5-10 degrees I could have ridden on for as long as my energy could last, my feet were extremely comfortable in feel and temperature. On the coldest ride which was around 1 degree where in my normal set up I’d have been suffering after around 10 miles The GRAVLRs kept my feet comfortable for longer, In fact I could still wiggle my toes and had feeling in them after around 30 miles, they were cold but this is a massive improvement to how my feet normally feel. This is a complete win for me! In all temperatures and some really gritty wet conditions my feet stayed dry. The construction of the overshoes keeps the wind chill and damp at bay and together with that panel on the shin this the secret of their success.

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If you don’t suffer with cold feet I think you will find the GRAVLRs an excellent way to allow you to ride into deep winter with warm, dry comfortable feet. If you do suffer then these overshoes are an excellent part of your arsenal to keep going for longer in deep winter weather.

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the Spatzwear website says “these revolutionary knee length overshoes will transform your wet/cold riding experience” and riding along cocooned in these neoprene long length overshoes I’d pretty much agree.

for more info see Spatzwear.com

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.

Redshift ShockStop SeatPost

Redshift shock post in ideal conditions to test weather proofness

In an ideal world suspension seatposts are designed to take the sting out of surfaces allowing the rider to be less fatigued and so ride further and longer. They should be simple to adjust, be reliable, be a reasonable weight and hardest of all maybe, they should look good (or not too weird). So can the Redshift Shock Post achieve all these?

Suspension seatposts are a curious thing. They are made to isolate the rider from the surface the bike is rolling over. However they are not a rear suspension system like those found on mountain bikes. So if you are expecting trail bike plushness and inches of travel you’ll be disappointed.

The Post is aluminium with an offset parallelogram design. the saddle clamp is a two bolt one and enables easy micro adjustments of the saddle angle and position. The adjustment to the amount of travel the post has and the “plushness” is found inside the main shaft of the post. There, a preload screw in cap hides the space where one or two springs (depending on your riding weight) sit. The parallelogram has a very neat cover that is magnetic and this protects the mechanism and the seat clamp adjustment bolts from rear wheel spray. The post is 27.2mm in diameter, shims are available when you buy to fit any size frame. Suspension travel is 35mm.

neat cover protects from the elements and is magnetic!

Set Up is very easy but does take some trial and error and a few test rides to get spot on. Get yourself kitted up in your normal riding gear and start by following the rider weight guide in the comprehensive instructions that come in the box. There are two springs that come with the post, one is already installed and depending on your weight you might need to add the smaller spring too. this fits inside the larger one on the inside of the post shaft, preload is adjusted by a screw in cap at the bottom of the post

I set the preload to “2” then went for a short test ride, finding the post a little too soft for my liking I then turned the cap to “4” another short test and I turned it to “3” which seemed to suit me the best given my weight and how I wanted the post to feel. I like quite a firm ride so the post doesn’t bottom out on anything but a big impact and there is no noticeable bounce when pedaling on a smooth surface. It’s worth while taking some time setting the post up properly but the actual adjustments are quick and easy. Saddle fitting was equally easy, the magnetic cap pulls aside and the bolts are accessible with a standard Hex key and they haven’t come loose or needed adjustment during the length of the test period over a variety of surfaces.

The Ride The first ride after the couple of set up rides was completely in the dark due to the time of year and work commitments so I really didn’t want to be tweaking any of the post adjustments by torch light So i rode it as i had initially set it up. Anyone who knows me will tell you I can set the saddle position and post height to exactly how i usually have it and within one mile of the first ride I’ll have moved it at least twice to get the right feel! This time I raised the post a few millimeters to get that ” just right” feeling. This is a good example of why a few short test rides are needed before any long rides are undertaken especially on group rides as the people you are riding with won’t want to keep stopping for micro adjustments.

With the post raised I rode on for around 15 miles on a mix of road and off road light trails. the post showed no side to side movement or rattles and the vertical movement was smooth. i knew straight away that I’d set the preload too soft as the post bottomed out on larger bumps.

The next ride was in daylight and on much bumpier terrain and in the meantime I’d added one full turn on the preload. The post sat at the top quarter of it’s movement and this was my sweet spot. it wouldn’t bottom out except on the harshest of hits, those that I deliberately sat down for to test the post, normally I’d have been standing up for those anyway. The post action was smooth and there was no discernable bobbing up and down while pedaling. Over a few 30+ mile rides I actually forgot it was a suspension seat post so good was the experience.

I do suffer with lower back pain and after a 20+ mile ride my back tends to stiffen up especially in cold weather and i have to start on the bike stretches to help cope with it. I can report though that this was much reduced using the shock post. Tested back to back with a standard rigid post on the bike on consecutive days over similar distances my back was a lot more flexible and less painful using the Redshift post.

The only issue I had with he post wasn’t the fault of the post at all. The magnetic cover moves downwards as the post compresses to cover the pivots at all points of the travel but when I’d set the post too soft I was using a band on rear light around the post. As the post reached full travel the end of the magnetic cover would touch the mode button on the light and change the settings of the flash mode! It took me a while to work out what was happening while riding in the dark. Setting the compression preload correctly stopped this and it hasn’t happened since.

Does the Redshift shock post take the sting out of rough surfaces? Yes, my back issues seemed much improved using the shockpost compared to a standard post

Simple to adjust? yes, just screw in or out the preload cap to adjust, no bolts to undo and no special tools needed.

Reliable? yes, no play has been felt or seen over the duration of the test, the action is still smooth and silent. The magnetic cap keeps rear wheel spray out of the mechanism and the saddle clamp has not moved since i set it.

Weight the post with the second smaller spring weighs 559g

looks good (or not weird) the post is actually very low profile compared to other shock posts on the market. The engineering that has gone into the design is clever and the mechanism is compact. It takes a second glance to realise that it is actually a suspension post, so yes I think it passes the looks test.

A Redshift Suspension Shock Post will let you ride further for longer, is easy to set up and look after. It doesn’t have a massive weight penalty and would suit any rider. It shouldn’t be confined to just gravel bikes either. A bike packing hardtail MTB would benefit from this post too and fitting a rear bag to the post should be easy. The action is subtle enough (if that’s the way you set it) or you can set it to get more bounce. that’s all down to personal preference.

The post has stayed on my bike since the initial test rides when I could have easily gone back to my favourite rigid post and that is I think that decision is all you need to know.

more details on the shock post can be found here Redshift Shockpost or the Redshift instagram page has more pictures

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad.

Stohk

the original

If you regularly read these pages you’ll know i love to showcase new and up and coming companies or people who are at the heart of gravel bikes or “real” cycling in general. STOHK are something different, they don’t build frames or make bike packing paraphernalia but they do ride bikes and more importantly they brew beer and their first batch, XPA 001 sold out quickly. Lots of people brew beer I hear you say but these guys are coming from a different direction and I noticed them because of the inspirational pictures and quotes on their instagram page. Inspiring people to ride is what UKgravelCO is all about too so I had to drop them a DM and see what it was all about. Gareth from STOHK was kind enough to answer my questions….

inspiring everyone (not just cyclists BTW!)

What’s the story behind Stohk, isn’t it a risk starting a hospitality related business right now?

Ha! Yes when you put it like that I guess so!! But then I don’t think we’d think of ourselves as a hospitality related business as such. More of an outdoor company that happens to be starting out making great beer.

The idea behind Stohk is something I’ve been thinking about for a fair time (but that’s a story for another day). Somewhere in between lockdown’s and long rides we just actually started throwing the conversation around the idea out there a bit more. And it just seemed to be more relevant than ever.

If this year has had any positive impacts on people it seems to be this increased energy to getting outdoors. That social distancing does not equal social isolation. That locked down doesn’t have to mean locked in. 

There’s four of us over here at Stohk. A mix of long time friends and two brothers. We all share a love of the outdoors. Bikes. Big hills. Trail running. The ocean. All that stuff. And we really really know and love beer.  

Equally for us, as much as the outdoor adventures themselves we just  really love those moments when you hang out afterwards and shoot the shit with your mates. 

That’s where we united around the idea of Stohk. 

I’m sure your readers will know too that even the longest, toughest days out there can make for the best stories later. I think that for us, getting the most from an adventure or two and then celebrating the good times that come from them…well those moments and those stories are pretty special. 

That’s where we’re starting out from. It’s definitely super early days. We’d probably still call ourselves pre-launch at the moment. But we’re pretty excited about the amazing response we’ve had so far and can’t wait to see if people like what we’ve got planned. 

Gareth and Aled from STOHK

I think I can guess but why “Stohk”?

Yes Stohk is the international phonetic alphabet (IPA) spelling of stoke…so I guess there’s a little tongue in cheek play on words in there somewhere. We’re not here to take ourselves too seriously!

But we connect to and are in search of that euphoria, that happy exhaustion that you feel when you’ve just finished up after an epic day on the mountain or the trail. That moment where all the highs and lows of the day transition to become the stories of the day. And one word defines that feeling better than any other – stoke! 

It’s definitely that feeling that inspired our little brand and it’s name. 

With the current trend for micro breweries what makes Stohk stand out?

Fundamentally we don’t really think of ourselves as a brewery. More of an independent outdoor adventure brand. Yes we’re only just starting out, working out our route if you like. But we’d love to navigate a path towards being a brand that embraces people who are passionate about an outdoor lifestyle.

Beer as our first product might seem a bit strange in that context I know. But epic days outside deserve epic beer. 100% factual insight! Like many great things…beer just tastes better outdoors! 

I’ve been working in the modern beer space for a while. In recent years as MD at amazing businesses like BrewDog and then Curious Brewing. 

With Stohk though we’re brewing, field testing and developing a beer, Stohk XPA, with the single goal of it tasting unbelievably great outside. 

Whether that’s after your first ride out on gravel, your first century, or when you and your pals are midway through taking on the badger divide…plotting your plans for the transcontinental…

We’re really focussed on it being a beer that we want to pass the ‘another one of those please’ test. Because we know that in these moments the storytelling has only just started and that the moment needs to live on. If we can play a small part in these moments with you we think that would be pretty cool..

Is the Tallboy your design & is it bottle cage compatible?

Ha! We’d love to claim the glory of the TallBoy but no…

A Tall Boy is basically a nickname for a big can of beer! We’ve just explored the market out there to find one that is made to last a lifetime and to seriously level up your perceived radness in the eyes of all your friends.

Given we aim to be an outdoor company. Not a beer company. Thinking about the environmental impact of what we do is really important to us. We’re working towards the longer term mission of ‘leave no trace’. 

If we were just another craft brewer we’d just find a beer glass to stick our logo on (albeit we don’t have a logo yet!!) for people to drink our Stohk XPA from. It’d get put to the back of a cupboard. Smashed. Something else bought in its place. 

But we wanted something that we could take with us outdoors and that was good enough for a lifetime of adventures and stories. Whether that’s to hold your end of adventure beer or your wild camping breakfast pre-ride coffee.  

That’s why we chose to team up with the ace folk at MiiR in making the Stohk TallBoy. MiiR make amazing stainless steel drinking vessels and they set aside a portion of their revenue to fund positive impact environmental projects. So they were a really cool partner for us to work with on making the TallBoy.

I know I know it’s just a steel cup! 

Nah! It’s definitely much more than that. 

We’re super excited about it. It’s a UK first of it’s kind and there’s only a very limited number of them available. And we’re making them exclusively available to members of our Stohk First Round Club. We want to say thanks to those people who are supporting us at this early stage in our ride and for letting us play a small part in their adventures out there. For those lucky few who join the ride with us now we’re promising to fill your TallBoy with our XPA whenever we see you. On us. For free. Forever. 

Sign up at www.outsiders-wanted.cc/stohk before the 9th December and we’ll send you all of the details.

And yes it is 100% bottle cage compatible! 

the Tallboy

Traditional bitter or fruity fashion beer?

I’m going to stay clear of venturing into too much beery language here. The other guys rip me for it when I do!

But also because we’re not trying to be the hottest new craft brewery out there. We’re not going to be brewing 47 different beers a year. We’re not trying to brew the highest rated NEIPA on ratebeer. There’s plenty of really amazing brewers out there doing that incredibly well and kudos to them.

But we do know what we’re doing.

And right now that is putting our experience and passion into just trying to brew the perfect beer for you as you regale about your latest epic day outdoors.

It doesn’t have to be defined by being a lager. Or an IPA. Or whatever. But it does very simply have to be of the highest quality. No compromise. It exists for that magic moment after an epic day outside. It’s there to be earned – rewarding and elevating the day and celebrating the stories that come from it. That’s the test it has to stand up to.

Faster in Flannel

If everything goes to plan, what will Stohk be like in 5 years?

Man that’s a pretty exciting question. 

Right now we’re really just doing something we love. 

But I guess we’ve got some sort of noble ambition to find the ways and means to spend more time doing the things we want to spend more time doing. 

And we’ve some exciting ideas beyond beer about how we might bring that to life. 

There’s a quote we love from Jack O’Neill the founder of the iconic surf brand…

”I’m just a surfer who wanted to build something that would allow me to surf longer”

We’re building Stohk for everyone who absolutely LOVES the outdoors and the adventures they find themselves in there. Just like we do.

So if we’re out there. Face first, 100%, all in. Spending time with like minded folk. Sharing moments and stories after an epic day outside. Making a positive impact. Well that would seem a pretty fun place to be in 5 years time.

What would you like to say to anyone reading this?

Chase the moments that last a lifetime*

See you out there.

Gareth, Matt, Aled and Michael.

*It’s rule No.1 of Stohk. If you’ve not seen them yet, the rules, then head over to our instagram @stohkofficial. That’s where we’re mostly hanging out at the moment.

https://www.instagram.com/stohkofficial

www.outsiders-wanted.cc/stohk

www.stohk.co 

sage advice

Many thanks to Gareth for this and It’ll be really interesting to see what comes from the STOHK team. I think the fact that the beer is just the tip of the iceberg of what the guys have in mind for the future has intrigued me even more and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Remember to sign up to their mailing list and order the 002 batch asap before it sells out (link above)

Obviously you should drink responsibly and have your beer apre ride

Wide rim v gravel tyre

Wilderness trail bikes Resolute 700×42 on 35mm mtb rim

Experimenting with wide rims and gravel tyres. 700×42 resolute on a 35mm rim.
Actually doesn’t look too bad.
The real reason is the only spare wheels I have are for an MTB and I was hoping the sidewalks didn’t stick out further than the tread! Which they don’t & the tread still has a round profile so the knobbles still work. Too narrow a tire on a too wide rim causes flattening of the tread which is horrible when leaning over in corners & the exposed sidewall is vulnerable to sharp bits of trail

Redshift Shock Stem

The guys at Redshift Sports out of Philadelphia USA got in touch with me to see if I’d like to try their shock stem and shock seat post after seeing my review of the Kinekt stem and post, In that review (see here) I said that although the stem and post worked flawlessly they were probably suited to more recreational bikes than a gravel bike. So I was skeptical the Redshift could bring anything different to the table but also intrigued to see what the most well known stem and post in the market performed.

The Stem, First impressions count and on first view the stem just looks like an ordinary stem, this is a massive plus point for me. The stem has a 4 bolt face plate making handlebar installation a breeze, the picture above shows the stem with the redshift integrated Garmin computer mount, this is sold separately. the 90mm stem weighs 256g 100, 110 and 120mm lengths are also available (and now a 80mm) there is also a 30 degree 100mm version too. Up to 20mm of travel can be achieved using the right rate of elastomer.

The suspension part of the stem is very simple, as all the best ideas seem to be. It has a hinge bolt at the steerer tube end and inside are two elastomers and a slider to secure then inside, seen below. 5 elastomers of various hardness (two already in the stem) come in the box

I started off with the stock elastomers as they were shipped to get a baseline on how they felt, you get softer and harder elastomers in the box and as there are two in the stem it’s easy to mix them to get the feel and the amount of movement you want. There’s a guide to rider weight and which elastomers to use and helpfully they come colour coded too. It’s important to remember to weigh yourself with riding kit on and not just your weight when you step out of the shower. The instructions also say to fit harder elastomers if you know your riding terrain is especially bumpy or you like a stiffer ride.

After a short ride I knew that I’d prefer a stiffer set up as the stem was easily using up all its travel. It’s very easy to swap the elastomers, you don’t even have to take the stem off the bike, the face plate does need to be removed though. The instructions are detailed and clear but having a torque wrench is desirable to seat the elastomers in the stem as per factory recommendations.

The Ride I had to fit the stem in the most elevated position to counteract the fact that this was a 90mm stem, i usually run an 80mm one (at the time the stem arrived Redshift had not yet released an 80mm version, this is now available) so It wasn’t optimal but the effect of the shock stem could be felt straight away. Roads around my home area are frankly atrocious and broken tarmac and raised and dipped drain covers on the way to off road routes was the perfect start to see how the stem performed. It definitely took the edge off the road chatter. Stand up out of the saddle and you can detect movement if you deliberately bounce up and down but climbing on the drops didn’t elicit any annoying “bob”. The stem had no twisting movement and I had none of the “is the front wheel loose” issues I’ve had with other suspension stems

off road the stem really works to iron out the roots and stones, it’s not a suspension fork and doesn’t set out to be one but it’ll take out some of the battering your hands and arms get which is transferred to your shoulders and neck and so reduces fatigue over long distances, in fact it’s perfect for autumn as you can’t see what is hidden under the leaves and the stem gives you an extra bit of confidence to pedal through sections. I set the stem quite hard but you can set it softer to give more cushioning but the off shoot of this is more movement when pedalling on smoother surfaces, but that is the beauty of all the different elastomer durometers, you can set it to exactly how you like it.

The stem is around £149 so by no means a cheap option, there are some deals around at the moment, including from Redshift themselves if you are quick Redshiftsports.com

Would I use the Redshift shock stem on my bike? after 4 weeks of riding with the stem I really like the way it works and my initial skepticism was been smoothed away (see what i did there?) and if this was the 80mm version I’d keep it on the bike all year round 100%

If you want a suspension stem that really works, can reduce fatigue and looks like a normal stem unless you look really hard then the Redshift shock stem is the one to go for

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

Shadow Stand

Now you see it……usually you don’t

do you know how hard it is to photograph something clear!?

In this age of social media, selfies and inspirational pictures on the internet everyone is taking pictures of their bike and posting them online. To make the picture stand out from the rest it’s good to make it look as professional as possible. A picture of your bike leaning against a gate or a wall can be very artistic and sometimes just the bike lying on the ground can be atmospheric but to make it look professional with the bike standing up, seemingly on it’s own is hard to do.

You can use a stick and wedge it in the frame somewhere but then that is visible in the picture or restricts the angle of the shot. you can get a friend to hold the bike until the last second before releasing it while you take the shot before the bike falls over. For studio shots wires can be used then photoshopped out afterwards, but that’s a lot of faff so what’s the solution?

I was contacted by Shadow Stands after commenting on one of their Instagram posts @shadowstands020 and they sent me two of the stands, one standard size and one a little longer to cope with the higher bottom bracket height of a gravel bike.

The stand consists of a triangle of plastic with a notch to put the pedal spindle into at one end and a serrated end at the other for gripping the ground and simply that’s it. you lean the bike on it and it stands up on it’s own and is almost completely invisible.

It looks like the bike is defying gravity and makes picture taking of a stand alone bike a breeze.

on stage

so, will this improve your riding style? not really. Will it enable you to out climb all your riding partners? definitely not. Will it make your bike pictures look 100% better and make them literally stand out amongst all the others? I’d say yes. Just don’t drop it in a pile of leaves because you’ll spend 15 minutes looking for it like i did!

outstanding in the woods

you can get custom engraving and stands that fit under the bottom bracket shell too. the stand and all packaging is recyclable. you can find more information on ShadowStand’s website here ShadowStand.com

Fustle release LTD edition Model

fustle bikes causeway GR1 Di2 LTD Edition gravel bike

I recently reviewed Fustle’s Causeway GR1 gravel bike and really rated it (so much so I put my hand in my pocket and bought a frameset myself) and at that time there were only the three colours avaliable, Red, Green and Blue but Fustle have just released a limited edition Gun metal colour which perfectly compliments the colour of the GRX groupset. this bike comes with the Di2 groupset so electronic shifting too.

more details here

Kinekt Suspension Stem

90mm 7 degree rise option

Those of us of a certain age can remember a time when off road bicycles came with a rigid fork, stem and seat post and the only suspension was your arms and legs. Then came a revolution of suspension ideas, some innovative and useful and some just downright awful. But at the beginning of this revolution a few companies began to produce stems that suspended the rider via the handlebar from the chatter of the ground. they weren’t in anyway a 170mm suspension fork but they could enable you to barrel down a rock strewn or wash board trail without losing vision as the rigid fork shook you to bits. they were simple and worked and were only superseded by the plushness of a suspension fork.

Todays typical gravel bike has a rigid fork (yes there are a few exceptions from Fox and Cannondale etc) and the sort of rides we take those rigid forks on are much the same as we took and take a mountain bike on, albeit in my case a lot slower speed. So the time of the suspension stem might be about to shine again.

The stem has a very similar way of operating as the Kinekt 2.1 seatpost i tested recently and is a parallelogram design with a standard steerer clamp and a double face plate fastening making it very easy to swop on and off the bike and adjust. Similar to the seatpost it comes with a range of springs to suit the rider weight or riding style. it is suggested that if you ride more technical trails then fitting the medium spring would be a good place to start. swapping the springs is easy, there are very good instructional videos on the Kinekt website to guide you. One tip I would give is to keep the tiny grub screw that you have to remove very safe, I had visions of spending an hour or two trying to find it if it had rolled off the workshop counter, thankfully this didn’t happen but it is tiny and easy to lose. the stem is very well made from top quality materials and looks like it would stand a lot of abuse. It weighs 468g which is quite a lot more than the stem i usually run, is this increase in weight worth it?

The Ride, I fitted the medium spring as suggested and found i could easily move the stem just by pushing down on the bars so i took a short ride up and down the road outside my house and I could bottom out the stem easily. This wouldn’t work for me on the usual off road routes I ride. So i fitted the hardest spring in the box (you get three grades with the stem) which seemed a lot better and went for a proper ride

The test period was over around 2.5 weeks and i tried to ride all the trails I would have taken my normal stem on, this included technical forest trails, pure gravel tracks and at least one nearly 75% tarmac ride and a couple of off road night rides. The stem worked flawlessly and definitely damped out some of the roughness of the terrain. I do think though that an even harder spring would have worked better for me, the stem moved on the mildest of terrain, which it is supposed to do but i needed it to work on the harder hits and by the time those started the stem had already used up all of it’s travel and it bottomed out. Out of the saddle efforts on climbs did cause the stem to bob a little, again i think my weight and riding style could have benefitted from a harder rate spring. There was no visible side to side twist to the stem, a testament to its construction and I was definitely less beaten up at the end of a rough ride, my shoulders and neck ache after 40+ miles usually and this was markedly improved. There is a period of getting used to the feeling of the stem moving and at the beginning I will admit to stopping and checking that the front wheel bolt through axle wasn’t loose (it wasn’t!) but once i got used to that feeling I just rode the bike as normal.

the stem in action

As you can see from the video the stem managed to keep the camera quite still along a little descent and a gravel bridleway. Over a long distance on varied terrain i can see the benefit of a suspended stem. Long distance off road touring would be an ideal application. Bike packing too but you would have to carefully choose the spring rate to compensate if you load up your bars with luggage

Conclusions This stem is a quality made item, construction and materials are first rate and it looks like it would stand the test of time. It is however quite weighty compared to a non suspended stem and also costs £169 in the UK. It works perfectly and isolates the rider from a lot of the gravel chatter and rooty trails we get here, but finding the best spring for your riding style is paramount. it’s not a substitute for a suspension fork, you will still have to pick a line and find the smoothest path as normal but at the end of the ride you will feel less beaten up and fatigued and that means you can ride further and for longer.

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

INBIKE ANTI-THEFT BIKE LOCK

I received a message via the UKgravelCO instagram account from Jack at apexbikingaccessories.co.uk to see if I’d be able to test one of his products from the new bike accessory venture he had recently started. there are various interesting items on the site but he was keen for me to test the bike lock seen here.

seen here with carry case that can be attached to your bike

the lock is very compact compared to my usual lock, the dimensions are 12.8cm x 6cm x 2.8cm but it easily wraps around my seat tube and around a post. The lock has a black finish and feels like a quality item, it is locked and unlocked using a key, of which there are three supplied. After two weeks of using it daily to lock my bike up at work the bike remained unscathed and thankfully not stolen!

short of attacking the lock with bolt cutters or a grinder or inviting bike thieves to try and take the bike it’s hard to fully test the lock to destruction, but even the most expensive lock in the world can be beaten by someone determined enough with the right tools. The name of the game is to make the thief look at the lock and make them think it’s not worth the hassle of trying to remove it and for them to move on to easier pickings. This lock certainly looks and feels like something that a thief would think twice about.

compact design

the website describes the lock as super lightweight and it comes in at 751g which compared to some locks is light but it’s not silly lightweight rendering it easy to break.

The only thing I’d change is that to lock the lock you need the key, you can’t just snap it shut in a hurry. I usually leave my usual one unlocked for “i’m late for work” emergencies so i can lock the bike and run without fumbling for keys. However you do need to check that you have the key with you or risk locking your bike until you can get home and fetch the key!…….this is why i keep a spare key in my locker at work 😉 So they probably have the right Idea to need the key for both operations!

I must mention the delivery time, the website is up front about it and states delivery is 30-40 days, this is fairly accurate, mine took around 4 weeks to arrive. the lock is sent direct from China, of course Covid probably has a lot to do with this and hopefully will improve in time. Jack says that only half the products come from China and the rest from mainland Europe and that these usually take half the time the lock did to arrive. Apex also have just signed a deal with a large Italian brand and those products will only take 3-4 days to arrive.

Conclusion The lock is lightweight but not stupidly so, it’s well made and would make an effective deterrent to bike thieves looking for easy pickings, I’m happy to continue using it on a bike that has to be left out of sight for long periods with the caveat that the same as any lock, given enough time it can be defeated.

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

Kinekt 2.1 suspension seatpost

Velobrands.com are the new importers of the Kinetk series of suspension seatposts and stems and they very kindly sent me a seatpost and stem to test.

The post
As you can see in the picture the post consists of a parallelogram set up with a longer spring at the bottom and a smaller one inside. The saddle rails do actually look like they are on the wrong way around compared to a traditional seat post but are this way to ensure when the post compresses the saddle stays in the same plane and doesn’t move backwards or forwards excessively. Changing the distance between saddle and
bars on each compression wouldn’t be good for long term comfort. The Kinekt post overcomes this with its design. The post is constructed of aluminium, a carbon version is also available.
The saddle clamp comprises of two bolts pulling down a top piece onto a graduated rest that allows fine fore and aft tilt adjustment. Again the design of the post means when the post compresses the saddle stays exactly at the angle you set it at the beginning. Saddle adjustment angle and fore-aft adjustment can be done independently of the post.

Set up
There are very good instruction videos on the cirrus website and it’s important that you watch these as even though the post is easy to adjust it’s equally as easy to get it wrong and not get the best out of the post.
The post comes with the medium springs fitted, there are also small and large springs in the box and a guide to the idea weight of rider for each. For general riding the medium spring is recommended but as I could compress this easily with just my hands I thought I’d fit the large spring. Being not of slight build I also fit into the weight category for the large anyway. You’ll need a 4mm Allen key but you don’t need engineering skills to swap both springs just make sure you follow the instructions in the video.
Springs swapped I fitted the post to the bike and set up the saddle bearing in mind the little bit of sag that you get when sitting down. It’s best then to go for a short test ride to dial the post in. On the test ride I found there was a little pedaling induced bob so I wound in the preload to counteract this. Obviously you can set the post to react to even the smallest of bumps but I set mine to react to slightly harder hits leaving it firm for normal “just pedalling along”

The Ride
Most experienced riders have learned the “standing up and using your legs as suspension” technique early on and it’s hard to unlearn this so I found I had to concentrate to make myself sit down over roots and stones/rocks to see how the post performed. Over rough gravel and roots the post did exactly what it says on the box, soaked up the chatter and isolated me from the worst of the bumps, I could make it bottom out but it took some effort as the spring rate ramps up towards full compression. The post worked flawlessly throughout the rides I did on it, in complete silence too even when I covered it in mud flung up from the rear wheel. There isn’t much more to say really other than the post does exactly what it was designed to do. It takes some of the knocks and bumps out of the terrain and does it quietly and efficiently without any discernable side to side play.


Who would benefit from this seatpost?
There’s no getting away from two things with this component and that’s the way it looks and how much it weighs. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world and it weighs considerably more than a rigid alloy seatpost so should you part with your hard earned cash for one?
I think that racers, even endurance racers are looking for performance and as minimal weight of their bike and kit as possible, comfort comes a close second to this and you could do just as good a job of isolating the bike from the ground by standing up and those girls and guys have the stamina to do this over long distances so they are probably not going to go for this post.
Us mere mortals who get tired after long punishing rides (I know I’ve got to the end of rides where I’ve only just got the energy to turn the pedals and concentrate on steering and standing up and moving around becomes a chore) are more likely to benefit from the comfort of a seatpost to take the sting out of “long ride backache”.
Bikepackers whose bike is already laden probably wouldn’t notice the extra weight and can sit down and concentrate on route finding and staying alive!
City bikes and hybrid bikes would be perfect for this post with the state of todays roads and gravel strewn cycle paths and a hardtail e-bike would be great with this post, no worries on weight and you can just sit and spin along the trails.


Conclusion
I can’t fault the function of this seatpost, it works perfectly and is well made of quality materials, the adjustability is easy and straight forward and it is very well designed. I’d even go as far as to say looking at the build quality it’s worth the money (around £229). It will help you over rough tracks, it doesn’t bob when pedaling if set up properly and it is easy to adjust to suit your riding style. It is heavier than a normal post but the benefits of its suspension system may out weigh (yes I did that on purpose) this fact for you.
If you think you think you need a suspension seatpost I’d definitely look at the kinekt seatpost as one of the top options to consider.

90mm 7 degree rise option

Those of us of a certain age can remember a time when off road bicycles came with a rigid fork, stem and seat post and that was it. then came a revolution of suspension ideas, some innovative and useful and some just downright awful. But at the beginning of this revolution a few companies began to produce stems that suspended the rider via the handlebar from the chatter of the ground. they weren’t in anyway a 170mm suspension fork but they could enable you to barrel down a rock strewn or wash board trail without losing vision as the rigid fork shook you to bits. they were simple and worked and were only superseded by the plushness of a suspension fork.

Todays typical gravel bike has a rigid fork (yes there are a few exceptions from Fox and Cannondale etc) and the sort of rides we take those rigid forks on are much the same as we took and take a mountain bike on, albeit in my case a lot slower speed. So the time of the suspension stem might be about to shine again.

The stem has a very similar way of operating as the Kinekt 2.1 seatpost i tested recently and is a parallelogram design with a standard steerer clamp and a double face plate fastening making it very easy to swop on and off the bike and adjust. Similar to the seatpost it comes with a range of springs to suit the rider weight or riding style. it is suggested that if you ride more technical trails then fitting the medium spring would be a good place to start. swapping the springs is easy, there are very good instructional videos on the Kinekt website to guide you. One tip I would give is to keep the tiny grub screw that you have to remove very safe, I had visions of spending an hour or two trying to find it if it had rolled off the workshop counter, thankfully this didn’t happen but it is tiny and easy to lose. the stem is very well made from top quality materials and looks like it would stand a lot of abuse. It weighs 468g which is quite a lot more than the stem i usually run, is this increase in weight worth it?

The Ride, I fitted the medium spring as suggested and found i could easily move the stem just by pushing down on the bars so i took a short ride up and down the road outside my house and I could bottom out the stem easily. This wouldn’t work for me on the usual off road routes I ride. So i fitted the hardest spring in the box (you get three grades with the stem) which seemed a lot better and went for a proper ride

The test period was over around 2.5 weeks and i tried to ride all the trails I would have taken my normal stem on, this included technical forest trails, pure gravel tracks and at least one nearly 75% tarmac ride and a couple of off road night rides. The stem worked flawlessly and definitely damped out some of the roughness of the terrain. I do think though that an even harder spring would have worked better for me, the stem moved on the mildest of terrain, which it is supposed to do but i needed it to work on the harder hits and by the time those started the stem had already used up all of it’s travel and it bottomed out. Out of the saddle efforts on climbs did cause the stem to bob a little, again i think my weight and riding style could have benefitted from a harder rate spring. There was no visible side to side twist to the stem, a testament to its construction and I was definitely less beaten up at the end of a rough ride, my shoulders and neck ache after 40+ miles and this was markedly improved. There is a period of getting used to the feeling of the stem moving and at the beginning I will admit to stopping and checking that the front wheel bolt through axle wasn’t loose (it wasn’t!) but once i got used to that feeling I just rode the bike as normal.

the stem in action

As you can see from the video the stem managed to keep the camera quite still along a little descent and a gravel bridleway. Over a long distance on varied terrain i can see the benefit of a suspended stem. Long distance off road touring would be an ideal application. Bike packing too but you would have to carefully choose the spring rate to compensate if you load up your bars with luggage

Conclusions This stem is a quality made item, construction and materials are first rate and it looks like it would stand the test of time. It is however quite weighty compared to a non suspended stem and also costs £ in the UK. It works perfectly and isolates the rider from a lot of the gravel chatter and rooty trails we get here, but finding the best spring for your riding style is paramount. it’s not a substitute for a suspension fork, you will still have to pick a line and find the smoothest path as normal but at the end of the ride you will feel less beaten up and fatigued and that means you can ride further and for longer.

As with all my tests, this is an impartial and real world review. I’m not sponsored and I’m just an average rider like most of the cyclists out there. I do inform anyone who sends me things to test that It will be an honest review good or bad

My Bike and me – Claire

Next in our series of meet the rider is Claire Sharpe, Claire has only just started riding gravel but is no stranger to adrenalin fueled sports being an expert roller skater, check out the link at the end to Claire’s instagram account for some great video of her in 8 wheeled action.

Why that bike?  I’ve got a Pinnacle Arkose D1, now affectionately known as Ruby. My bike choice was all dictated by how much I could afford to spend. Ruby was the best I could get with the money I had…and I spent more than I planned. I got a bit of advice from my now boyfriend, ummed and ahhh-ed and took the plunge. Now I’m learning about my bike and building up knowledge so I can decide what to modify based on what I need rather than being completely clueless! I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought Ruby was a bit of a looker as well.


What does gravel riding mean to you? I only got my bike at the tail end of July and had very limited cycling experience beforehand. I commuted on a road bike and previously had a hybrid when I lived on a boat to handle all the towpath I was riding on. But, I knew I enjoyed cycling. Having a gravel bike has opened things way up, I now spot overgrown bridleways out the corner of my eye as I’m going along which I never did before. It’s really freeing to think I can get on my bike and head out almost anywhere and the only the limit is what my legs will put up with. The views are amazing and the rides are fun. I love going down hills fast, either on skates or skiing, this is another way to feed that hunger as well. So I guess gravel riding is my way to get outside, appreciate nature, stay fit, have a laugh and escape.


Where & when was your favourite or best remembered( good or bad) gravel ride ever? I have a very limited bank to draw from for this! That being said, my first ever group ride with the Bristol Gravel Group gang will always be the best. I turned up on a drizzly Wednesday evening with no idea what to expect. I’d never been on a group ride and had zero off-road experience, it was just me, my bike and a keenness to find out where I could go on it in Bristol. I got the warmest welcome from the guys and they really put me through my paces but in a way that let me know what was coming. We got covered in mud, went down some seriously slippy descents and had a drink after. It was that night I knew I was hooked and it wasn’t just the adrenaline and views, it was because I was really lucky to have stumbled across such a great group of people. I haven’t missed a Wednesday night ride since and have even signed up for the Devon Grit 70k so they really did get me hook, line and sinker.


If you could ride one place you’ve never been where would it be? That’s pretty much everywhere for me! I really want to get up to Scotland, I love it there anyway but I really want to experience it on my bike. The King Alfred’s Way has just been released, so that! Wales is on my doorstep and also amazing. I have a few ideas for some bike packing before winter really hits and after that, I think the world is my oyster! After organising a Bristol area women’s ride and sharing it in a few groups, I’ve had messages from people who wish they lived closer…so maybe I could go ride with some of them in their neck of the woods? That would be amazing. If you want to do that, hit me up! I used to work for a coffee roastery and would like to do a South West coffee tour at some point. There are some really amazing coffee shops dotted around in awesome locations. Something to plan for next Spring, I’ll have the best route down by then.


How would you improve the gravel scene in your area? Hopefully, I’m already on it. I am co-leading a Women’s Gravel Ride on 2nd September to try and recruit more women out on our rides. I can’t wait to share it with as many people as possible! The Women’s rides will be a monthly fixture and the ‘Bristol Gravel Group rides and routes’ Facebook group is steadily growing with a lovely bunch of people. Once we are able to, it would be great to put on a larger event where everyone can meet at the same time and recruit even more riders! I just really adore gravel riding and want to share that stoke with as many people as possible. I think having an emphasis on social, no-drop rides will open it up to more people. We’ve got a really solid core of welcoming people who just want to share their love for it too. If you’re Bristol way, ride with us!

Thanks Claire, I’m certainly with you about going to other places and experiencing how the riding differs in different parts of the country, maybe we should start a trail sharing/exchange scheme? it’s great to see gravel through the eyes of someone just starting out but it’s pretty much the same for those with more experience, we still ride along noticing bridleways and wondering where they go and having mini adventures riding into the unknown.

Good luck with the Women’s rides, it’s such a shame that more women aren’t into cycling I’m really keen to get involved in trying to inspire more female riders to try gravel out.

check out Claire’s instagram account here @clairesharpe

My bike and me -Olly

The UKgravelcollective has always been about ordinary riders doing what they like best, riding bikes. There are lots of features on the web about sponsored riders riding the latest bikes in exotic locations but the great majority of the people who contribute pictures and comments to our instagram page and facebook group are those who only have time to dash out after work in all weathers to ride or who’s epic adventure has to be planned meticulously in advance to fit around family life. So to champion these riders I thought a series about the readers and contributors to this community would be a cool thing to do. I asked via instagram if there were any volunteers for this and here is one of the first to respond. I hope to publish more during the coming weeks.

First up is Olly

Why that bike? Because of the bikes I own, this is the bike that works best on gravel! It started as a cyclocross build project so the tyre clearance is up to about 35mm, easily enough for gravel and it can deal with some singletrack too. It’s also my ‘deepest winter’ bike and my year round commuter. I built the steel frame myself, and it’s pretty cool to ride a bike you built. 


What does gravel riding mean to you? To me it means riding your bike wherever you want to. Despite what the industry tells you, you probably already have a bike suitable for gravel rides. You can buy a special new steed for your gravel adventures, indeed there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but most bikes are well capable. I see it as a return to bike riding of olden times, when all bike riding was gravel riding! Those bikes were all-purpose machines, not finely honed for specific terrain like they are today. I think gravel bikes are an updated nod to that early philosophy of a bike that will go where you point it, no matter what the surface is like.
It’s also is a very welcome blurring of the lines between the cycling cliques like ‘roadies’ and ‘mtb’ etc. There’s a little stuffiness in some parts of the cycling world and I think it’s important to remember we all just like riding bikes! 


where & when was your favourite or best remembered ( good or bad) gravel ride ever? I grew up in rural Norfolk and my paper round took in lots of gravel tracks up to farms and the like. They were always my favourite part of the round, traffic free and more interesting than village streets. I had a knackered early 90s mountain bike – well maintained these make excellent gravel bikes and are cheap to acquire!


If you could ride one place you’ve never been where would it be? The Alps feels like the ‘Wembley’ of cycling and I’ve never been riding there so something out there. Colle delle Finestre perhaps. Part paved, part gravel climb where Chris Froome effectively won the Giro d’Italia from nowhere in 2018. As inspiring a bike race as I’ve ever seen and would love to give it a go. 


How would you improve the gravel scene in your area? I think there is room for a clubs running more gravel rides, or even a specific gravel club perhaps. I think this will come as people get to know their local routes better. It can be a bit of a struggle finding routes to take in lots of gravel but with more people getting into it that will improve over time. 

Thanks for going first Olly and we echo your thoughts on any bike can be a gravel bike. you don’t need a specific bike to have fun.

Olly has his own interesting website, give it a look over at Steel Rouleur

Fustle Causeway GR1 Review

FYI: This is a completely unbiased review, Fustle Bikes did not pay for this but they were kind enough to let me ride this bike for over a week and paid the postage to get it delivered to me.

Back in the winter of 2020 just before the world fell over due to Covid 19 I did a brief interview Alistair Beckett from Fustle bikes about the launch of his new bike BIKE LAUNCH and i was very excited when it was suggested I could borrow one of the bikes for review. Fast forward 5 months and due to viruses, lockdowns and new normal work life it has taken until now to throw a leg over this bike.

The bike has been sent to a few bike journalists and as such the paint isn’t in show room condition but this is better for me because I didn’t have to be precious about it and could treat it like I would my own bike.

THE FRAME & FORK

The heart of every bike is it’s frame. The bits you attach to it, the saddle, bars, gears and wheels etc are important but really are consumables in the long run. The frame usually sees lots of component upgrades or changes over it’s life but the way it handles and to a certain point looks is the most important part.

Coming from an MTB back round I love the aesthetics of a sloping top tube frame and from the first time Giant introduced their compact geometry road bikes I always wanted a compact frame over a traditional more horizontal top tube one. The GR1 frame is very compact, you could easily mistake it for a Cross Country MTB. The shape of the frame also gives a very small rear triangle. Looking at it and knowing that this is made from aluminium you would expect the ride to be very harsh and direct. However this must have been thought of during the design process because over washboard trails and brick strewn tracks I didn’t feel like I was getting battered. this doesn’t mean it has a rear end like a wet noodle though, dance on the pedals and you get the impression all your effort is moving the bike forward while maintaining traction.

Fustle causeway gravel bike

One of the comments I’ve had via the UKgravelCO social media channels are that the compact frame doesn’t give a big enough space to run a frame bag and bottles for mini adventures, bike packing or touring but as you can see a medium full length bag and two bottle fit easily.

The head tube is tapered, there is internal cabling throughout for gears and brakes and also includes stealth routing for a dropper post (more on this later). The bottom bracket is press fit and despite the bad press these get I found now noise or play with it throughout the test which took it through dusty trails and up to the bottom bracket puddles. The paint seems hard wearing despite the best efforts of careless industry journos and though I’m not usually a fan of blue I could certainly live with the colour and the graphics. There are rack mounts, three sets of bottle cage mounts, a boss for a removable rear stay bridge to fit full mudguards and bosses to fit “bento box” style top tube bag. the frame has a 142mm x 12mm bolt through axle and is flat mount disc brake compatible.

The fork is full carbon with 3 mounts per side for mounting guards, “anything” cages or more bottles. It has a 100mm x 12 bolt through axle.

the frame and fork will take 700×50 or 650×2.2 tyres if you are not running mudguards.

gravel bike in typical wyre forest pose

THE KIT

The bike can be specified with various levels of Shimano’s GRX components and there are plenty of reviews of this groupset already so I won’t go into details but suffice to say I think this is currently the best cable operated gear and hydraulic brake groupset for gravel riding on the market today. the bike came with a 1 x set up of 42T chainring and 11-42 cassette. you can spec a 2 x groupset on the build page of the Fustle website and the frame is full compatible with two chain rings at the front. The wheel set was a DT GR1600 and they look fab and were light! The bar and stem are from the Pro Discover range on this bike but you can choose from lots of different bars when you order so it’d be unfair to go into too much detail here. they were comfy with a decent amount of flare at the drops. The saddle was a WTB volt, which despite me having trouble with saddles apart from a Charge “Spoon” i found comfortable even after riding 100k on it. It was quite grippy though and moving about on it off road resulted in me adjusting my baggies as the saddle gripped them enough to start pulling my shorts down! at least of a wet muddy ride you’ll not lose contact with the saddle.

DROPPER POST ON A GRAVEL BIKE?

Short answer? _ yes please! long answer- I’ve used a dropper post on MTBs from the early days when you could only get a “gravity dropper” and now wouldn’t be without one for technical riding but I’ve never had one fitted to my gravel bike, on occasion though I’ve wished for one to magically appear between my legs! The post is operated very neatly by using the redundant left hand lever (run 2 x and you’ll need a bar mounted dropper lever) and a slight push inwards releases the post to allow you to push it down with your back side, then another flick of the lever to raise it back up automatically. I found i only needed to move with around 50mm downward, even though it has 120mm of travel to gain a mass of confidence, a lower centre of gravity and a control level up there with an MTB. the only draw back I found was accidentally pushing the lever in when braking down hill and raising the post! It didn’t take long to remember not to do this though and wasn’t a problem after the first few descents.

local trails gravel bike fun

The biggest benefit was on long washed out rutted bridleway down hills where with the saddle out of the way I could throw the bike around in and out of the ruts and over the loose stones using the old fashioned “suspension legs” without fear of my shorts hooking up with the saddle. The sloping top tube and the added crotch clearance also helps.

THE RIDE

on the road – another comment I got from the UKgravelCO facebook page was “i bet with that head angle it’s boring on the road” so I was interested to see how it did handle, after all it does have a 69 degree head angle and a long top tube (geometry here), which is more MTB numbers than road lets be honest. on a 100k ride of which 70% was on tarmac and the rest off road i found that the combination of long top tube and short stem (for a road bike) combined with the head angle surprisingly kept the steering lively without being skittish. Not at all the ponderous slow turning ride I feared. It isn’t lightening fast but it isn’t boring and if you want a crit bike then this isn’t the bike for you, if you want something that’ll eat up the miles but let you carve some hairpins on this may well be it. The bonus of the GR1 for me was that it is so much lighter than my steel framed bike. Over a long distance the heavier bike takes it’s toll pedaling up hills and although the GR1 is undoubtedly stiffer than a steel bike the fact that i wasn’t hauling that weight around more than made up for it.

thumbs up on the road even on a gravel bike #dangerpanda

OFF ROAD

The riding around UKgravelCO HQ isn’t the lake district or particularly hilly, it’s rolling and most bridleways and tracks are only accessible using tarmac roads, what you’d say a gravel bike was made for but there is also a network of natural trails that we also ride gravel bikes on, not enduro MTB level but fun for us mere mortals and we chuck ourselves down these with giggles and seat of the pants (for a rigid forked, non dropper bike) riding. The GR1 laps up this type of riding.

this is one of the trails I took this bike on and many more like it during the test period. Slipping off the road, across the dusty surfaced car park, through the trees into “hidden trail” now over grown and living up to it’s name the entrance is a nettle and bramble barrier. Once through and into the trees the forest carpet of old pine needles and leaf litter crackles under the tyres. Duck down under the low hanging bow and plunge into “Bono” so named because it’s “close to the edge” (of the road). Follow the winding descent over large exposed roots, attempt a scandi-flick to get around the tight left hander. quick check for traffic and then shoot across the road and down the series of uneven poorly spaced wooden steps on the other side and then let the brakes off gathering speed quickly downhill into “the Tankslapper”. safe at this time of year but in anything but summer it ends in an unavoidable patch of mud that you need to engage all your skills to stay upright in as you reach maximum velocity. if you survive that the rest of the bridleway is a fast, loose stone, rutted test of nerve as you seek to carry speed and choose the best line possible. finally the track ends at a steep tarmac road which is taken in full aero tuck because at the bottom is the farm cafe and last one there buys the cake!

I’ve never felt as confident on a gravel bike, the dropper post came into it’s own on this type of trail. The GR1 felt sure footed and never out of of it’s depth, the combination of long dropped top tube, short stem and a wider bar than I’m used to made riding on the drops an engaging experience.

front end

the GR1 is fully capable of riding fully loaded the length of the country, it could do this with ease. you could bolt a rack on the back and commute to work on it, it’s manners in traffic would be impeccable. Hopping kerbs to avoid those close passes would be a breeze. long distance off road, sedate or fast off road or even just tarmac this bike would bring a smile to your face. But dip it’s front tyre into something challenging and it comes alive, carving turns, descents and technical trails. this bike would be a hoot at blue MTB trail centres and even some reds. Anything you can do on a XC mountain bike this bike would have a go at.

WHO IS THIS BIKE FOR?

If you come from an MTB back round this bike will feel instantly familiar to you. It won’t feel totally alien like riding a road bike straight after a riser bar bike would. you can throw it around and it’ll come back for more.

If you have only ever ridden a road bike so far you’ll love the way the GR1 has get up and go on tarmac but will look after you as you begin your off road bike journey, it’ll help you build confidence quickly.

it’s the perfect MTBers road bike and the perfect road riders off road bike

any direction, any time

CONCLUSION

If there is any such thing as an all rounder the Fustle Causeway GR1 will happily sit at the top of the pile. Fun in the woods, engaging on the road. it’ll go as fast as you dare or it’ll be happy to just ponder along…… but like a young puppy it’ll keep looking at you waiting for you to throw the ball and let the fun begin.

for more details and pricing see the Fustle bikes website ridefustle.com

big thanks also to Sandy at the Trailhead

private parking spot

Morvelo Overland Shorts, Selector V Elemental

I’m a huge fan of baggy shorts for gravel riding, coming from a predominantly MTB riding back round I’ve never been totally commited to the full lycra look. I’ll concede that for pure road riding that the wind cheating and muscle supporting advantages of lycra hit the spot. Having said this I will not go on any decent length of ride without a lycra bib short on. I just choose to wear a baggy short over the top. I do this for the extra protection the shorts afford for the abrasive nature and tumbles and falls that off road riding brings. I also do it because (i think) it looks good!

First of all let me say that Morvelo have had no influence in this review and that I used my own pocket money to buy these two pairs of shorts. the second pair were purchased after my experience of wearing the first along with the fact that they were on special offer on Wiggle!

Both pairs of shorts have been worn for around two months over approximately 500 miles in weather ranging from 5 to 30 degrees, sunshine, rain, hail and in plenty of mud and dusty conditions.

Selector

The selector shorts are described as “stretch combined with the lightweight BlueSign-accredited fabric means the Selectors offer unparalleled freedom of movement. Packing down small, and with their discreet design and DWR treated fabric”

First off, this statement is 100% true, I’ve not worn a pair of shorts this stretchy other than full lycra shorts. It’s like some sort of wonder material and it also feels great to the touch, a sort of silky, satiny material that instantly felt great to wear. The short is very light weight and i hesitate to write a cliché but they really do feel like they are not there! the list price is £90 but i managed to get them for less than £70 in a sale

Fit

They work well with lycra underneath but because of the amount of stretch they do fit to your form. These are no MTB massive baggy which means no flappage at speed but they do feel different if you are used to a traditional baggy short. the length is spot on for me, with a standard length bib short underneath the leg length easily covers the end of the bib so there’s no embarrassing lycra poking out. your knee will stay exposed though so your cycling tan can still happen. there are no belt loops but there are internal adjusters to micro adjust the fit. I usually wear a 34 and the size 34 fit perfectly. there are two zipped side pocket and one rear pocket.

Durability

The DWR coating is effective for rain showers but as you’d expect they will wet out in a deluge but the usual trail spray from the front and rear wheels is shrugged off, but if it’s wet out and you don’t want a wet crack fit a mudguard. The first two weeks of ownership coincided with the Spring heatwave and with temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius and despite them being listed as breathable i did feel over heated in them but i think this would have happened in any short. The short material, being so lightweight does give the impression that it’s not going to be able to take the general wear and tear of gravel riding. But to date after a couple of months of use this has proved unfounded. My local trails are strewn with brambles and nettles and the ground is a mix of clay, gravel and sand so quite abrasive.

Selector For

  • superb fit
  • lightweight material
  • spot on length

Against

  • price, although if you shop around you can get them for less

Elemental

The elemental shorts are described as “A short where simplicity is paramount. Once you hit the trails, the freedom of movement offered by the quick drying four-way-stretch fabric makes it a short perfectly suited to road cycling, mountain biking and gravel rides”

Again this is pretty much spot on but they are a very different short to the Selector. I bought these at the full price of £45 on the back of how good the Selector short was, after all everyone needs two pairs of shorts for when the other pair is in the wash. the material is more satin-y and does have a little rustle to it, they are again lightweight and pretty much fit and forget.

Fit

The Elemental shorts also have stretch built in but not as much as the selector so although not in the MTB baggy league they do flap more but it’s not at all noticeable unless you are going really fast or there’s a gale blowing. They are not as fitted as the Selector short which may suit someone used to wearing MTB shorts better than the more fitted Selector. The length again leaves them just above the knee when riding. the shorts have belt loops and to date I’ve been wearing them without a belt but because of the less stretch they do ride down a little when standing up pedaling. there are two unzipped side pockets. These shorts size up differently despite the size guide being the same and my usual size of 34″ (L) was too small and so I returned the pair and exchanged for an XL which fit much better. The Selector short adjusters are in no way maxed out so it might be wise to size up from your normal fit with the Elemental shorts. The return and exchange procedure was slick and quick despite the corona virus limitations.

Durability

The Elemental short does not come with a DWR coating but they do dry quickly, they are not advertised as being made of a breathable material but the extra bagginess over the other shorts makes them feel airy and I’ve never felt over heated in them. I’ve ridden these shorts on my gravel bike and MTB and they have taken a few scrapes and knocks without any damage and given the relative price compared to the Selectors I’m not so scared about plunging into thorn strewn tracks and trails in these

Elemental For

  • fit and length
  • price
  • they look like normal shorts. wearable anywhere, ride or post ride

Against

  • not as stretchy so you might need a belt, but loops are provided

Conclusion

the Selector and Elemental shorts are both great items, they are both great to ride in, comfort wise the Selector edge it slightly in a baggy, close to lycra level of comfort. This doesn’t take anything away from the Elemental shorts though, they are comfy too but in a different way. You could wear both pairs to the pub but the selector wouldn’t look out of place in a swanky wine bar whereas the Elemental would fit in at real ale festival without a second glance.

I’d recommend both shorts, if you can “stretch” to the price go for the Selector short and you won’t be disappointed. If you are on a budget or want a second pair of shorts to throw in a frame bag for touring or bike packing (the elemental will pack down smaller) go for the Elemental. either way both shorts are worth spending your cash on.

Shimano Deore CS-M5100 cassette

11 of your finest speeds

With the current war of ratios that is going on between Shimano and Sram over who can shoe horn the biggest sprocket onto their 12 speed cassettes ,at time of writing, Sram has gone one better with 52T over Shimano who introduced 51T just to outdo Srams 50T from a while ago…phew! it was refreshing to see that there are options further down the price scale that don’t need a specific freehub to work. Shimano 12sp needs their propitiatory “Micro Spline” freehub and in turn to run Sram big cassettes in most cases you need their “XD” driver.

However if you haven’t invested in the 12sp technology yet and are still running 11 speed then there is now a very good alternative from Shimano. The Deore M5100 cassette which happily fits straight on to the standard Shimano freehub that everyone running the big “S’s” gears already has. Before this new cassette the biggest sprocket on a 11sp Shimano cassette was 46T which is a very low gear indeed and originally ideally suited to a mountain bike. It does suffer though from a hug gap between the penultimate sprocket and that 46t, namely 37t-46t. I ran this cassette through the winter months on my gravel bike on a set of 650b wheels with much knobblier tyres than those I use in the drier months as my local terrain is very muddy and clay rich so i need all the traction i can get for the seated climbing necessitated to stop the wheel from spinning out. The gap was very annoying and when I needed a slightly lower gear than the 37t to stop stalling (I’m no climbing super hero as you can tell) the big jump to 46t was too great and I ended up loosing balance as my legs spun wildly.

The solution pt1

to over come this i butchered a 11-42t cassette, removing the 15t sprocket and adding a very second hand expander sprocket which used to be all the rage before huge cassettes but seem rare these days. This sprocket had 45 teeth so making the final jump between cogs 42-45t which was much better and this is what i ended up running for most of the damp months. Unfortunately the horrible gritty/grinding local conditions all but destroyed the cassette and chain (ok, i should have checked the chain wear more regularly) so knowing that the new Deore cassette was imminent I nursed that chain and cassette for as long as possible until my local bike shop called to say the new cassette had arrived!

The Solution pt2

The Deore M5100 has a ratio of 11-13-15-18-21-24-28-33-39-45-51T and those last 3 sprockets are very evenly spread so even tough the gaps are bigger than at the other end of the cassette the transition is easier to keep a good cadence on and aids balance and traction as your legs aren’t all over the place when concentrating on traction and line choice. The smaller sprockets are much closer in range and this is a good thing as on a gravel bike this is where you will mostly be sat. Small ration changes enabling smooth pedaling and letting you carry your speed on tarmac and less technical off road sections. the new cassette was 70g heavier than my modified 11-45 extended cassette)

Lucky?

M5100 in action

When I came to fit the cassette I was expecting to have a fight to get it to work, probably requiring a rear hanger extender/road link but i thought i’d try it out first anyway. I did fit a complete 116 link chain ( the old one was left this long too to accommodate the 11-45/46T) , set the clutch to on and with trepidation cycled through the gears. As you can see from the video, I was lucky and it worked straight away without any modification. I didn’t even have to adjust the “B” screw it was fine on the setting from the previous cassette. Please note if you try this your set up may be different! it’s not my fault if you damage anything!

So there it is, as mountain bike cassette on a gravel bike. the rest of the gearing is all GRX 810 with a 1 x 40 chainring. the 51t sprocket gives very very very low gearing and other than deliberately trying it out when riding I doubt if I’ll ever use it on this bike. the next sprocket down tends to be my extreme sit and spin gear. However for a heavily laden touring or bike packing bike that has done away with the fuss of a double (or triple) chainset this could just be what you are after at the end of a long day with that last long steep incline to grind up.

The cassette has now done a couple of hundred miles around my local area and is so far trouble free so I’m in no hurry to swap it for something less silly. in fact i’m going to get one for my mountain bike as the cost of the cassette is much less than the cost of upgrading to 12 speed to get that extra gearing and who needs that extra one tooth (sram)?

Elan Valley Explorer

I’ve been wanting to explore the Elan valley since I got a gravel bike and when we had a mini summer in the middle of February I knew I had to get over there to take advantage of it.



it also took me 5 minutes to be able to walk properly


I’m still suffering from a tibial band injury that i picked up last December riding in Scotland. luckily it doesn’t hurt at all when pedaling but does become very sore afterwards even with the recommended stretching exercises. It also plays up if i sit in the same position for a long period of time. It takes over two hours to drive to the start point of today’s ride from home and so when I pulled up in Ryhayader not only was it a struggle to get out of the van it also took me 5 minutes to be able to walk properly.

After getting my leg moving and unloading the bike I was ready to go. Ryhayader is right at the end of the Elan Valley so it was a very short ride through the town centre to the start of the trail. I had loaded the route onto my Garmin but the route is very well signed posted so unless you intend to veer of the route you won’t need a map. within minutes the first iew of the Valley appeared and well, it was pretty breath taking.

Summer in February

I’d left home early to avoid traffic and it also worked in my favour on the outward leg of the route as I had the place pretty much to myself. There aren’t many better things than to stand looking at that view with the only sound heard being a distant bird and the lapping of the water.

The route starts off on surprisingly rolling tarmac which takes you off the busy A road out of town, it probably would be faster on the road as there are a few gates to negotiate but the inconvenience is worth not sharing the road with a logging lorry or a holiday maker taking more notice of the view than how they are driving. the tarmac path passes the Elan valley Hotel and then the Visitor centre and then the tarmac turns much more interesting for a gravel bike. As it follows the banks of reservoirs the path becomes muddy, rooty and rutted in places. I stopped here for a drink and to reflect that the water in my flask probably came from this very lake as it was originally built and flooded to feed the thirsty folk and industry of Birmingham.

The trail wound on along side the water until it came to the part where the route starts to climb up a steep loose surfaced bank through a wooded area. Well usually it does, this time there was a orange barrier with a sign saying a short area of the route was closed due to a landslide. So a complete loop wasn’t possible. I did however decide I’d ride up the either side of the blockage to get as close to a loop as possible. I’d also comment at this point that the best was to do the route is to avoid this climb and do the loop backwards. this means the climb is on a very quiet road with awesome views and gentle gradients but means the second part of the route is all off road and all downhill on some very cool gravel tracks that take a bit of concentration!

The blockage was a rock slide and although it was only about 5ft across it was clearly dangerous and closing the trail was the only option.

On the return leg it was clear that this is a very popular place to visit as it was much busier. But in the usual way of things the busiest place was near the visitor centre and its cafe. It seems visitors to Wales do the same as visitors to forest centres etc with cafes, they turn up, look at the view from the car park, buy a coffee and then get back in their car, not many seem to venture far from the “honey pot” even on the warmest February day for years. Such is modern life.

The potential to explore the area is immense with lots of bridleways and quiet lanes to check out. I did just over 25 miles in fantastic weather. But This was still February and as the day went on and the shadows got longer the temperature fall was dramatic and it was wise to stick to routes that were sign posted or known as sunset is early and it wouldn’t be a good idea to get lost without adequate clothing or lights. i’ll comeback later in the year and do some more exploring.

A great ride to experience, nothing too strenuous but with potential for a much bigger, more technical and physical ride in the future

Never Underestimate the power of a pedal

I’m sat here in glorious sunshine “enjoying” the second week of my Government directed isolation. This is due to my partner displaying symptoms of Covid-19. Luckily she only has mild symptoms, although I’m sure she’d say that the painful persistant cough and fatigue from just walking around is bad enough thank you very much. Here in the UK if you live with someone with symptoms you have to isolate yourself from the outside world for 14 days from the onset of the symptoms. the sufferer on the other hand can emerge after seven days if symptoms are gone.

my last ride before isolation

So I’m now starting day 8 of total lockdown and this means it’s 8 days since I last got out for a ride on a bike. Somehow this might not have been so bad if it was winter and the weather was bad and the trails were their usual claggy mess. However, that’s not the case. It’s one of the best spring periods in the UK we’ve experienced in a long time. The sun has shone for the last three weeks, the trails are actually dusty, the blossom is on the trees and the brambles and stinging nettles haven’t grown enough across the routes to rip your skin and clothing to bits.

I shouldn’t moan, so far i have no symptoms myself, the incubation period being 2-14 days (so there’s still time!) and I know there are thousands of people suffering out there but sat here on my own with plenty of time to think It’s hard not to feel sorry for myself. I’ve even resorted to digging my road bike out of the loft to use on my ancient turbo trainer. I tried it once for a 10 mile “ride” and found it so boring. my turbo is so unsophisticated it won’t connect to Zwift or any of the other platforms so I can’t even jump on that band wagon. Smart trainers are also impossible to buy as they have been panic purchased to toilet roll levels!

the thought of pedalling down a twisty, sinewy dusty stretch of singletrack is now giving me major withdrawal symptoms. Being the Admin on @ukgravelco instagram channel and Facebook doesn’t help either. Seeing happy faces on sunny rides, riders dancing up climbs, owning descents and clean shiny bikes is like some sort of masochistic BDSM torture. all my social media is directed to this type of picture or the type of person who rides this sort of terrain. But like most addictions, even though I can’t get my fix I also can’t look away.

My other passion is for guitars but even having more time to play is not cutting it. Dream bike speccing such as a Fustle Causeway is like self flagellation and I’ve not even chosen a high end build!

The Garden session, download not available thankfully!

It’s strange and at the same time amazing how much joy that mix of metal tubes, plastic and rubber gives you and you don’t realise this until it’s taken away. I guess it’s all about freedom really and the ability to go where you want, with who you want, when you want.

Which also brings me to the other thing the bike brings you and that is camaraderie . I enjoy a solo ride, you don’t have to take into account other peoples fitness (both higher and lower) or technical ability and please yourself if you stop of not. But, the best thing about experiences is sharing them with others, that high five or fist bump at the end of a sweet section of trail. yes I’m in my 50s and i still do this, but usually without and grace or coordination. i draw the line at using the word “stocked” though!. the mutual grin and giggles when you’ve all survived or cleared a difficult downhill or climb is one not to be missed. type 2 fun situations are less joyful in the pub afterwards if you are the only one telling the tale and there’s been no shared suffering. Bottom line is I miss riding with my mates.

So this has all been quite a depressing read I guess. That’s because I’m sat in my own bubble of misery but the only way out of this is to think ahead. the trails and routes will still be out there at the end of this pandemic (because even though I’ll be released next week social distancing rules will still apply and it’ll be local solo rides until further notice). My bike with be the cleanest with the most up to date service schedule it’s had since i built it and although my fitness will have suffered I can’t ride with anyone else and show myself up until i build those legs back up!

look what boredom made me do!

So if I can survive this symptom free the future is bright, it’s just a bit further over the horizon than usual, but at least that means the ride to get to it will last longer and rides that are longer are good!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my Girlfriend who despite having to endure this horrible virus put up with my miserable face, my moping around and general glass half empty demeanor over something as ridiculous as not riding a bicycle for a few days, she’s a true inspiration. Having to isolate from her in the same house and sleep in separate rooms was the hardest thing ever!

the long suffering OH

As well as planning dream bike builds I’ve been compiling a must ride when this is all over list so I’ll be asking for local knowledge in the future so start sorting out all the sweet routes for me!

Causeway Gravel bike

Causeway Gravel Bike

UK gravel Collective is really excited to be involved with the launch of a brand new Gravel bike in the shape of Fustle’s Causeway.

I’ve been following the company’s progress via their Instagram channel and got in touch with Alistair Becket who is designer and owner of the new brand. After a long chat on the phone where I realised his vision of the perfect Gravel Bike was exactly what I’d been looking for for myself. A bike designed for actual gravel riding rather than based on a road bike or cyclocross bike with a bit of extra clearance thrown in. I really wanted to get involved with the launch as his enthusiasm and passion came across strongly and at the same time he seemed like a really cool guy.

Alistair is the guy behind Reburn design and has products for Nukeproof, Forbidden Bike Company, Privateer Bikes and others from his base in Northern Ireland. This location in itself means the bike will be designed with the conditions we get here in the UK in mind, no Californian tyre clearance here!

Alistair’s design idea is for a “competitive off road bike design to produce a chassis that offers every rider a more stable and confidence inspiring ride while retaining the nimble and efficient nature of a drop bar bike. With each frame designed to accommodate stem length from 60mm – 80mm, you can now pair a short stem with a longer wheelbase chassis for extra stability without compromising on your riding position and fit.

geometry and fit guide can be found here

I’m really hoping to be able to get a test ride on a causeway (especially the red one as that colour looks awesome!) and let you guys know if Alistairs design is as good as i think it will be.

here’s a few questions for Alistair on his vision for the Causeway bike and Fustle…

Tell us about Fustle bikes

FUSTLE is a small, rider owned brand that provides a simple, no fuss way to custom build your new bike, and utilises it’s unique position to develop innovative chassis kits, free from the constraints of it’s large commercial competitors.

What does this mean? You get the bike that you want, just the way you want it, without the baggage.

Our mission is to develop Bikes that utilise forward thinking technology to provide confidence inspiring stability and handling as well as functionality and versatility.

Located on the coastline just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, our development and testing is heavily influenced by the local terrain which shapes both the way we ride, and how we design our products.  Paired with our background and experience in MTB development, our products deliver functionality and versatility led by off-road influenced technology.

Using our online custom bike builder, we empower our customers to build a specification to suit their needs and preferences, specific to their local terrain and riding style.

Starting out with our Causeway GR1 gravel bike, we will continue to develop into different disciplines and expand our range of Chassis Kits as we see the opportunities develop.

why not spec all the bikes the same and save a lot of hassle?

Born out of frustration and despair at the monotonous model year cycle that constrains the entire cycle industry, I always felt strongly that I should hand over these critical choices to the customer who was buying their bike. After all, it’s their bike, so why should I be the one to choose how it gets built? It turns out, not too many bike brands are built to deliver this.

Selecting final specifications is usually the job of a product manager, and therefore their own riding style and preferences can heavily influence the end product. That can be a really good thing in a lot of ways if they truly understand their customer… but everyone is different, and most want different things from their bike and the experience that they seek to have on each ride.

What choices do potential customers have over say, buying an off the peg bike?

Our custom bike builder offers each customer a choice on virtually every part of the bike build, from handlebar width and flare, to tyre tread and size, without the hassle of selling off your old parts when you find the specific part that you wanted to suit your local terrain or preference.

How is your bike different to the others?

Having spent the last 20 years riding mountain bikes, the time pressures of becoming a parent led me into the world of gravel bikes where their versatility really stirred my interest as I could enjoy riding off road without the hassle of packing up to drive to the mountains for my fix of off road excitement.

When I first started looking at Gravel bikes in more detail, the options were really quite limited based on what I really wanted from a do it all drop bar bike.

It quickly became clear that what was out there tended to be more influenced by the road market than the off road market, which led me to start piecing together what today we call ‘The Causeway GR1’

Launching a bike in the middle of a pandemic is brave!

This isn’t quite how I pictured our launch when I started with the idea of a simple gravel bike over 2 years ago. We are living in a world of change right now, and following the traditional route of visiting a handful of selected journalists with a van full of test bikes to tell our story simply isn’t an option in today’s world as we all battle against this Coronavirus.

Having started so long ago with the development, it’s taken almost 24 months of preparation, testing, supplier meetings and all of the pieces of the puzzle that go into the launch of a new product to get this far.
Our first production run is now finished and Chassis’ kits are on the sea, headed for Belfast port and due at the end of April.

This week we are switching on our website and opening our virtual doors for business, with our first batch of assembly slots already booked up by some loyal and enthusiastic customers who were given the chance to test out our custom bike builder functionality on the website ahead of time.

So what do your customers get?

The Causeway GR1 is our first Chassis Kit that has been under development for approximately 24 months at time of launch.

An aluminium Gravel/Adventure frame with full carbon fork, it is targeted at riders looking for a drop bar bike with MTB pedigree.

It features;

  • 6061 Aluminium frame, (tested to ISO 4210 MTB Certification)
  • Full UD Carbon Fork and Steerer
  • 12x142mm and 12x100mm axle spacing
  • Dropped Top Tube for dropper-post compatibility
  • Internal Cable routing and dropper post routing
  • 31.6mm Seat post diameter
  • Tyre clearance for 700x50mm (650x 2.1”)
  • Longer front centre frames for use with shorter stem

Available in 3 Sizes

  • (XS/SM coming september 2020)
  • SM/MD
  • MD/LG
  • LG/XL

Available in 3 Colours

  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue
one of the many options
  • Frame and Fork
  • Seatpost and Stem (to offer customer a choice of rider fit)
  • Headset, Axles, Chainstay Protection, accessories

Chassis kit from £849.99, Complete Bikes starting at £1999.99

We are continually working with different component suppliers to introduce some additional options that suit the needs of our customers. If you can’t find the part that you really want, get in touch and we will do our best to source it for you.

The options are too long to list, choice is good! more details can be found on Fustle’s website ridefustle.com

Wizard Works

Custom Framebag and Lil Presto, photo By Lucas Winzenburg

After being a Vancouver hobby that transitioned to New Zealand and now based in London, Wizard Works came to my notice as is usual these days, when looking for content for the UKgravelCO channel on instagram. I was drawn to the vast array of colours and original ideas. So i just had to contact Harry and ask what Wizard Works was all about….

Custom Bags for Quirk – Photo by Quirk Cycles

What’s your background, how did you get into making bespoke bags and products?

I have spent the best part of 10 years living around the world, working with bikes, and on various bike adventures. In 2016, living in Vancouver, Canada, I built myself a sweet Crust Romanceur with a Wald basket on the front, I really wanted a bag for it but nothing available took my fancy. So I made one myself. Fast forward to 2019, I moved back to my hometown, London, to make Wizard Works a legit business.

Why, given the amount of pre made bike bags and luggage out there did you design and manufacture your own?

It was never meant to be a business; I wanted to make something jazzy for myself, people seemed to like the style and at some point I realised this had legs. Yes, there are a lot of bags on the market these days, yet they are nearly all grey or black and in a small range of very orthodox bikepacking styles. By contrast, Wizard Works is all about the magical party vibes, no bum rockets here, just straight up disco adventure fun times.

Shazam in the New Forest by Tom Farrell

What’s the Wizard Works name all about?

Its alliterative and a little magic.

Lil Presto, photo By Lucas Winzenburg

What’s the most popular model you make and have you have any unusual requests? 

We sell a pretty good mix of everything we offer. Recently there’s been a big up-tick in custom framebag orders. Since we do repairs and take custom jobs, nothing is too weird. However, we did just do a pretty out there framebag for a Dear Susan bike: It was full magnet-in with no straps, suede, fringed and had a Dynaplug bullet belt. Pretty snazz!

Dear Susan Custom Framebag 2 – Photo By Dear Susan

What type of person is buying your stuff?


Anyone that likes a good time and has realised the joy of bringing a snack on their ride.

Web: www.wizard.works
Instagram: wizard.works

all photos by Wizard Works unless otherwise stated

London Broil Bag shop

I recently had a great chat with Ian from London Broil bag shop, a completely independent bag maker and designer from Cheltenham England. what an amazing life this guy has lived so far! here’s a few questions i ran by him and a few pictures of some of the stuff he’s made. links to London Broil website is below as well as a link to his Instagram for more pictures…

What’s your background, how did you get into making bespoke bags and products? 

I grew up in Cheltenham riding mountain bikes and BMX through the 90’s. I feel like bags have always been a part of my bike life, saddle bags and frame triangles on my early 90’s mountain bikes, backpacks full of heavy tools to bash my mid-school bmx back into working order, bike cases small enough to sneak my bike on a flight as a massage table, messenger bags for making money and hydration packs for big mountain all day adventures. I worked in Bike shops until the mid 00’s when I took a leap of faith into working as a bike courier, at first in London and later in Sydney, and San Francisco. I was between jobs in SF when a friend offered me the opportunity to come and work for his small messenger bag company called Freight baggage in North Beach. It was pretty awesome, there were four of us working in a four by five meter shop Half way up Vallejo street on telegraph hill. I started out doing basic jobs, sweeping up, cutting fabric, and emptying the bins. With great patience Travis taught me to sew, using the powerful industrial machines was like learning to drive in a F1 race car! Every bike messenger has a design in their head for the ultimate work bag, Travis had basically given me the tools to bring them to reality. I started working on designs and once i had a part time messenger job, testing them out. It was kind of like learning to build good wheels- put something together and then take it out and see if you can break it. I bought my first machine from freight and have had a sewing workshop ever since. In 2010 I scored a job working for Santa Cruz Bicycles, for a kid from the Cotswolds this was the fruition of a childhood dream so I leapt at the opportunity. I was with SCB until 2018 and the whole time I had my sewing shop on the side. I spent most of my spare time (when I wasn’t riding) working on patterns for bags to ride bikes with; if you go to the Santa Cruz factory you will see a fair number of their staff rocking my bags and hip packs. I was lucky to have time without commercial demands to really develop my skills and designs. In 2018 we decided to move home (for me) so I could work on my bags and my partner Tiffany could continue her Studies, so here we are!

Why, given the amount of pre made bike bags and luggage out there did you design and manufacture your own?

To be honest I struggled with this for a long time, I don’t want to make unnecessary products, especially when most of the fabrics are made from some form of plastic. Up until this point I have been content making products for myself and my friends and by request. Honestly I am not looking to become a “global” brand, I want to be your friendly local bag maker, everything is available fully customised and tailored to fit the bike or the rider. Every LBB product is carefully designed to avoid wear points and uses the highest quality fabrics, the bags are made to last a lifetime and we back this up with a lifetime repair warranty. 

What’s the London broil name all about?

It was a nickname bestowed on me by a (then) Portland bike messenger called C-Murder when I showed up at a courier race in Seattle in 2006. I took it as a complement, but it is also one of the cheapest cuts of steak available at an American butcher so who knows?  To broil basically means too grill at a high heat. The name made me think of London as a forge, it’s one of the worlds true metropolises attracting people at the top of their game from all over the globe, a product of the London Broil must be truly world class!

What’s the most popular model you make and have you have any unusual requests? 
My most requested item has been the zip closure backpack. About eight years ago I needed a new backpack for commuting that could carry my riding kit, lunch, and work laptop for the pedal across town to the office, pack my work clothes and laptop at the end of the day for a twenty mile mountain bike ride home on some of Santa Cruz’s burlier trails, and with enough space to grab some groceries between the trailhead and my house. The ability to strap a frame and a pair of wheels to the front of it if you need too was on the list too.What I have ended up with after 8 years of revisions is a bag that is pretty awesome for all kinds of riding and travel where you may need to carry up to 30 liters of luggage.
As for unusual requests nothing more than secret “stash” pockets, custom pannier bags for coffee delivery and custom tailored bags for really big and tall guys nothing really comes to mind, but I am always open to requests so bring it on!  

What type of person is buying your stuff?

Generally speaking, riders. Bags by riders for riders. But really just anyone looking for bags that are designed to work well and last. I am always open to custom and customisation too. If you can’t find exactly what you want out there we are always happy to work with new ideas.   

Where is the most far flung place that your products have ended up?

I have sent bags to friends in Mexico City and Australia, there are still messenger bags out there in SF, Sydney and London. I made a half frame bag for @cycling.jamie to race the trans pyrenees endurance event last year, and I have used bags i made to ride across the deserts of Nevada and Utah, and across the USA. Nothing on the moon yet.   

What don’t you offer right now that you’d like to or plan to?

I have patterns for lots of bags that I have worked out over the years, I plan to get versions of everything i have worked out up on my website in good time. I am still hammering out my hydration pack design, there are a few out there already but I am not completely happy with it yet.  

Can you tell us where you see Londonbroilbsgs in the next 5 years?

This is a really exciting question! I am hoping that we will have a cool space with windows! But seriously, I want to build the team, share and collaborate knowledge and skills and make some really cool shit! I want to be part of our rider community here in the cotswolds and the UK. We have such a cool island here, lets make it even better! I’m interested to see where the gravel (bike) path leads to and where mountain biking is going next. We will be here making bags for you to bring your sandwiches along for the ride!   


London Broil Bagshop Made by hand in Cheltenham, England

Website- www.londonbroilbagshop.com Instagram- @londonbroilbagshop

Sour Bike’s Purple Haze

brown is the colour of winners

the start of this story starts back when gravel bikes were just a twinkle in someone’s eye. Actually around 10 years ago when I bought a Cotic X cyclo cross bike. I didn’t want a cyclo cross bike but what i did want was a road capable bike with a compact frame and the Cotic had a radically sloping top tube (for the time). it also had disc brakes, a fairly relaxed geometry , again for a cross bike and it fitted me like a glove.

Cotic X

I did lots of miles commuting to work and using it as a winter bike with the usual mudguards etc but with slick tyres which made it efficient enough on tarmac but pretty useless off road, but then i had an MTB for that.

Then i started to see bikes called “gravel bikes” on the internet and races like the dirty Kanza and I though yes! i have a bike i can do that on easily. I was going to drop the road groupset with it’s double chainring, make it 1 x, add hydraulic brakes and shifters instead of the frankly useless mechanical disc brakes i’d run for the last 5 years or so and all would be great. cheap Grav Grav! However, this bike was designed around the UCi’s rules for cyclo cross and like the baddie in a cowboy movie or the wicked witch in a fairy tale the UCi rules usually ruin everyone’s fun. It was just so in the this case. at the time (and now iirc, how progressive UCi) the max tyre clearance for cyclo cross bikes was 33mm. 33mm is frankly useless for UK gravel riding. it maybe fine for Californian dust (looking at your 38mm clearance Diverge Mr Specialized) but add some traditional UK mud and grit and at best you have no traction, at worst the rocks dragged through your frame destroy the paint and the stays. Sooo long story short the Cotic had to go!

I’m not the best at making a decision, just ask everyone about my shed, nearly 12 months on in construction 😦 so it took nearly twelve months of research, of writing geometry comparison charts, agonizing over frame size and this was even before i’d considered groupsets and wheels.

Then, as happens in these situations a bike comes along at the last minute, one that i’d not heard of before, from a place I’d never even thought produced bikes and fitted the bill perfectly in seemingly every way!

Enter stage left Sour bikes a company from Dresden in Germany and their Purple Haze gravel bike.

650b boots

The purple Haze (no it’s not purple) has almost to the mm the exact same geometry as the Cotic that I got on so well with but this one will take 650 x 2.1mm or 29 (700c) x 2.0 in the frame and 29 x 2.2 in the carbon fork. the flat mount disc brakes, external cable routing, external bottom bracket, sloping top tune and the fact it was of steel construction was just the icing on the cake! it also came in a choice of colours.

The Ride

I added the frankly brilliant Shimano GRX groupset and some DT rims on hope hubs I’d built myself and from the first ride after the traditional moving of saddle height, bar height, bar roll, saddle pitch etc etc…then inevitably doing that quite a few times the bike felt like an old friend, but then as i said it was almost identical to my old bike. The addition of 42mm tyres and it’s off road manners makes the purple haze a very comfortable off roader. The feel of steel that lots of people bang on about can actually be felt, there’s definitely some sort of compliance going on vertically compared to the aluminium gravel bikes I’ve ridden.

Step on the pedals though and it’ll go forward nicely, it’s never going to compete with a carbon frame in the weight stakes but it bowls along nicely and after lengthy off road stints you don’t feel fatigued as much by the terrain as on other bikes i’ve ridden. but the extra weight certain helps on rough tracks. it doesn’t get pinged all over the place and it’s got me out of trouble a few times, especially down “MTB” trails. this thing is fun!

Conclusion

if you are looking for the lightest weight gravel bike money can buy or a full on race geometry this is not the bike for you. If you like to look at the scenery, explore unknown tracks where there’s a chance of getting out of your depth, want to load your bike up with bags and disappear into the wilderness safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to worry about the bike letting you down, if you are more about fun than staring at the backside of the rider in front then this is the bike for you.

I’ll also add the back up from the guys at Sour bikes was second to none, I asked lots of questions and despite me asking in english the replies were always quick and knowledgable. The website lets you choose the colour of the frame, whether you have a carbon or steel fork, even the colour of the head badge. the added bonus is that you can now buy a complete bike removing the agony of trying to decide the spec for yourself!

but in the end despite the choices the “autumn glow” sparkly brown paint job was enough for me to love it.