In racing, bikes are just tools. Grant it, required tools, but tools none-the-less. I race mountain bikes, primarily in long races, and that requires very specific training. Typically, my seasons involve lots of big rides that last 4+ hours and sometimes I’ll do those off the mountain bike for some variety. Maybe it’s a group ride or one that only involves pavement, so I’ll bring out the road bike to get those miles in.
Last year I sold off my high end, super light, road racer bike in exchange for what I call The Gerat, or The Tool. I built a bike that met my specific needs for the type of riding that I do. After riding it for a year, I can say with much confidence, it is one awesome bike. Definitely one of my favorite road bikes ever. Here’s what I did.
Frame: I wanted to stick with carbon to keep the weight and vibrations to a minimum. I also wanted disc brakes, thru axles and clearance for bigger tires. So I found an open mold carbon cyclocross bike with discs and started there.
Brakes: I had two choices here, cable actuated or hydraulic. Hydraulic brakes are superior in their feel and stopping power, but the systems are expensive, heavy and require bleeding to maintain (a task I hate). Looking for an alternate, I stumbled on the TRP HY/RD brakes, which have a small master cyclinder on the brake caliper itself, that is cable actuated. Perfect! (These brakes are fantastic by the way, highly recommend them).
Wheels: With a 15mm and 12x142mm wheel spacing, it made perfect sense just to use an extra pair of mountain bike wheels I had laying around. I mounted up some 160mm discs and stopping has never been so great. One finger braking at 40mph is no problem. Raining? No big deal. Huge mountain descent? Not a problem. Plus the mountain wheels are super stiff because they are way overkill for the road, meaning that taking this bike offroad isn’t a concern. Sometimes I throw on bigger tires and do some dirt and trails. The wheels eat it up.
Touch points: I used pretty standard road gear for a saddle, seatpost and stem, but the bar was carefully picked. I like riding with my hands on the tops of the bar; afterall, I am a mountain biker, so that feels like home. But many road bars have rounded bars which is great, but not the most comfortable in the world. Switching back and forth between mountain and road also left me feeling a bit uneasy with the narrow width of road bars at first. It always feels a bit weird for the first 20 minutes. With all that in mind, I settled on the 3T Ergonova, and I bought the widest one I could find at 46mm. With a flat upper and wide overall position, this bar is amazing.
Group: This was maybe the most out there part of the build. I have loved SRAM’s double tap tech and hood shape for years. So I wanted to stick with that, but I also love the simplicity of my mountain bike gearing which is 1x11. A few months before this build, SRAM announced a cyclocross group that was 1x specific, similar to their XX1 mountain group. That definitely peaked my interest (they even announced a road 1x group mid 2015 too, but after I had this built unfortunately). So I looked into what the gearing would look like if I went 1x for this bike. How would it feel to ride 1x on the road? What would I miss?
I settled on a 44t front ring, as that seemed optimal for my climbing needs, while not leaving me too spun out at higher speeds (which I rarely hit around Baltimore). I opted for a 11-32 cassette as SRAM hadn’t yet released their 11 speed 11-36 cassette (which I would have preferred. So ultimately, I ended up with a top end (44/11) ability of 38 mph at 120rpm (which is about as fast as I’ll pedal before just tucking), and a low end of 44/32 which is the equivalent of a 39/28. Not bad!
Given that I’m not racing road anymore, the cadence jumps don’t bother me as much as they may have previously. And really, when I hit a climb before, I would quickly change to my little ring anyway, which would give me a 1x10 experience with slightly smaller jumps in gearing. I wasn’t one to go back and forth on the big ring to find the perfect cadence. I will say that I miss the 39/32 I had before. That was pretty awesome range for climbing the super steep stuff at an optimal cadence. But really, I could get the exact gearing back if I went to the 11-36 cassette, but I just haven’t seen the need yet.
All in all, the bike build suits me perfectly. It has worked flawlessly, needed 0 maintenance, and I’ve never flatted on it (wider rim profile helps?). For those of you who want a do it all bike, I would definitely recommend the 1x and CX frame ideas. I’ve loved it.