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I must admit, I wasn’t one of the ‘early adopters’ when it comes to gravel. I joined the hype beginning of 2023 so I am not an expert, not even close. Some insights of a beginner.

How I chose my bike?

I ride a Kona Rove LTD. My budget was limited so my dream bikes Cinelli Nemo Tig, Standert Treibwerk and the Curve Kevin of Steel were no option. Besides budget, I had a few criteria. One, it had to be steel. No rational reason there, just love the look of the thin tubes and the minimalist frame. But otherwise, I had no idea. Not knowing a whole lot about the technical side of bikes, I read “The All-Road Bike Revolution”, tipped by a MTB / bike-packing experienced colleague. Jan Heine went into extreme detail – and maybe not all super scientifically-based – so I skipped a few parts but it gave me a good idea of what I wanted.

What I wanted

Firstly, 650B wheels

Wider tyres do not necessarily mean more rolling resistance
And really, all I want from a gravel bike is it to be stable and reliable, rather than fast.
No foot overlap
And it looks really good!

2x group set

I am all for the minimalist look of a 1x set. But the wide range of gears that comes with a 2x set was most important to me. Gravel sections in Flanders are short and interconnected with a lot of road. On the one hand, I wanted to be able to go fast on the road and, on the other, not to be falling over on steep climbs.

Carbon fork

I had a hard time letting go of the idea that I wanted a steel fork. I am all for the vintage look. But my bike shop convinced me otherwise. I wouldn’t be bike-packing for thousands of kilometers, nor would I be riding in rough off-road conditions. So I’d be better off with a carbon fork, being lighter, more flexible and thus, easier to steer.

My gravel experience

I’v been Komooting my way through Southern France, graveled in Mallorca (on a rental J. Guillem – love!), and participated in the Houffagravel and Smugglers Path French Borders. Conclusion: I love my bike. When hiking my bike, I do often wonder why I persisted on wanting a heavier steel bike. Also when ploughing my way through the mud during the Houffagravel, I wondered several times why I was doing what I was doing. When stuck in a mud trail, I couldn’t really lift my bike out of it. But hey, this had probably/definitely mostly to do with lacking technique. Other times, when going down on roads covered with big loose stones and rocks, I am happy not having to worry about damaging my carbon frame. Very happy with my carbon fork though, I realize now that a lighter carbon fork does give me huge benefits in steering my way up and down -not always very ridable- paths. Big thank you to Ben from Steershop for the great advice.

What’s next?

I hope to plan some Plug Plug rides in winter (once it stops raining) and spring.