Gravel cycling opens up whole new rabbit holes for the gear junkies out there. Much more so than road riding, gravel presents varied terrain and elevation profiles, so being prepared with the right bike, tire and gearing is essential. For this past edition of the Gravel MOB, we decided to build up a bike to suit our event. Featuring about 8,500 ft. of elevation gain over 60 miles, with dirt, sand, gravel and tarmac, this course requires ample gearing for the many steep pitches, and tires with enough tread for gravel descents that can still roll fast on the smoother parts.
We started with a Salsa Warbird frameset, which was designed specifically for gravel racing. This frame features a lowered bottom bracket, longer wheelbase and longer toptube for stability on rough roads and descents. For compliance over chattery gravel roads, the rear triangle features Salsa’s Class 5 Vibration Reduction System. Tall, thin seatstays flex outward to absorb impacts, while horizontally oriented chainstays help maintain lateral stiffness. Both stays lack any bridges, allowing the entire length of each tube to flex more.
For the drivetrain, we chose SRAM’s Force eTap AXS group. One of our favorite things about the new AXS components is the larger gear range, which is only made larger by cross compatibility with other AXS components. We substituted in an X01 EAGLE AXS rear derailleur to run a 10t-50t cassette—about 5,000 feet of the climbing comes in one ascent, with some steep pitches thrown in, so you need all the gears you can get.
Completing the drivetrain is an Easton EA90 crank with a 42t 1x chainring. We’re fans of the CINCH system on these cranks which makes swapping chainrings a breeze.
Easton also was our choice for wheels. As gravel specific hoops with a 25mm internal rim width, the EA90 AX wheels are a solid tradeoff between price and weight. Plus, they feature Easton’s excellent Vault hubs that engage quickly for rapid acceleration, and durable bearings.
We then mounted 38c Panaracer Gravelking EXT tires. The Gravel MOB is doable with lower volume tires, but the miles of gravel descending, which only increased in this past edition, had us reaching for something a little wider and with enough tread to make the downhill part fun. The tread is tightly packed in the center, though, making them faster rolling over the many smooth parts of the day. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a gum sidewall.
We rounded out the build with an Easton EC70 seatpost, EA70 stem and EC70 AX handlebars, which feature flared drops for more stability while descending. A Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM provides maps with color coded turn by turn directions. The navigation features aren’t as necessary on a day like this when the course is marked out, but it’s nice to be able see how much farther is left in the day. And the larger 2.7″ display is easily readable in direct sunlight and makes vital data a quick glance away.
And this is the end result.
The Gravel MOB wouldn’t be possible without the support of our generous sponsors. A big thank you to Easton, Wahoo, Salsa, Panaracer, Pactimo, Pinarello, Floyd’s of Leadville, GU and GoPro.