Veloforma's Velominati Graveur in the Seattle Strade Biache.

On Rule #12: Graveur Robber

On Rule #12: Graveur Robber

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I find it interesting to observe the chasm between parties engaged in a conversation, particularly in response to questions being asked. I’m thinking, at present, of the question, “How many bikes do you have?” My feelings in response are nothing short of complex and maybe a bit confused; reservation that I feel I should have a more well-rounded stable, love as I picture each machine, longing as I immediately then also imagine riding it, some regret at the realization that I’m not riding it at that moment, and a touch of consternation as to whether I should include in my count the partially-built machines hanging in the basement. Their feeling, in contrast, is composed of one-dimensional and unveiled shock.

Several years ago, the VMH and I got lost while out Mountain biking north of Cle Elum and spent the better part of four hours riding our mountain bikes on gravel roads. It was one of the best days we’ve had on a bike, and as a result I’ve been increasingly obsessed with the notion of hitting the gravel mountain roads in the North Cascades on a bike tuned for gravé. These small roads liter the mountainsides and offer access to parts of the world where a road bike can’t go, but provide a range that would be untenable on fat-tired bikes.

A Graveur differs from a road bike in the sense that it has cantilever brakes and wide tires. It differs from a Cyclocross bike in the sense that the rider’s position is tuned to fast riding over relatively smooth terrain. A friend who I met at the Portland Cogal turned me onto a small Portland frame builder, Veloforma. Apart from building fantastic frames and having a great reputation locally, the owner is similarly obsessed with fast gravel riding as he lives in the boonies beyond the reaches of asphalt. A few chats with him and his infectious passion for his bikes, and I was sold completely. It goes without mention that I couldn’t resist the option to have the frame painted in Velominati colors.

I placed the order for a Veloforma Team CCX in November and immediately set about collecting the bits I would need to build it. A few weeks later, the owner sent me a mockup of the proposed paint scheme. It immediately became my desktop wallpaper and hardly a day has passed since then that I haven’t contemplated at length the various flavors of Awesome that were sure to pass beneath the tires of this machine as we explore the bounties of the Cascades. The VMH obviously also required a Graveur and her will was quickly done.

For those of you wondering how I’m preparing for my Hour Ride this weekend, it includes generous amounts of “natural interval training” on the CCX Graveur in the local park. There is zero flex in the tapered steer tube (my first), and VF’s proprietary BB66 bottom bracket is absurdly stiff; I can’t flex this thing for shit, which means more of my V winds up on the road instead of in the tubes where it does nothing productive. And paired to the Café Roubaix Arenbergs with Dugast 32m file tread tires, I practically need to tie it down to keep it from floating off.

As far as specs go, I’m riding the XL with a 14cm 17 degree stem, which gives me precisely the same position as on my road bikes. The fi'zi:k Cyrano Carbon seat pin holds up a custom black and orange Arione CX. I went with a 50T outer ring (it’s only a BIG RING when its over 52T) paired to a 38T inner ring on a 130BCD spider. The 50T will get more use than would a 53T given the increased drag, and the 38T shortens the gear just enough to keep the legs turning over on long gravé climbs. For CX racing, I’ll glue on some nobbies, go to a 10 degree stem to lift the bars up a touch, and drop the outer ring to a 44T or 42T.

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// Cyclocross // La Vie Velominatus // Le Graveur // Look Pro // Technology // The Bikes

  1. @VeloVita

    @patrasananias

    Cool bike, like the colours. Weirdly, (as I just read this piece today) this is what BikeSnobNYC has to say today (tues, july 30) of “gravel bikes”….kinda agree with him, I have to say.

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com.au/2013_07_01_archive.html

    There is never any justification for NOT buying another bike. It runs completely counter to Rule #12. Of course you need a gravel bike! That said, he totally has a point as to what constitutes a gravel bike. Any bike with enough clearance for wide tires can work. Bikes like the Salsa Warbird and the like are essentially American-style cyclocross bikes with more BB drop and slightly longer wheelbases for stability (and disc brakes). That doesn’t mean you can’t ride your Ridley X-Night on gravel though (except that you won’t have water bottle mounts). My gravel bike pulls double duty as my cross bike even though it weighs a fucking ton (metric of course) – I just lose the bottle cages and put on some Grifos. Its definitely better on gravel or dirt roads as opposed to a tight cross course though.

    Aw, BikeSnob is a hater because something cool is coming out of the Midwest. I agree that having a gravel bike AND a cross bike is a little silly, and it was pretty hilarious to read two separate article saying opposite things about what an ideal gravel bike is within a week or so. Go out and race, if you want something different, go build it.  There are plenty of people who do what @Frank is doing, build up a road bike with clearance, there are people who ride touring rigs complete with fenders, monstercross, fatbikes, American- and European-style cross bikes, tandems, etc. Plus, Rule #12.  I like having a quick-handling cross bike for rough b-roads, and the tandem kills the smoother stuff.  There are always guys on the side of the road digging mud out of repurposed roadies, and the really aggressive position (see @Frank’s) will ya over 100-200 miles racing.

  2. @Nate

    The tubular becomes more supple with age not harder.That’s the whole point of ageing them.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DKfz0tkYin4&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DDKfz0tkYin4

  3. @G’rilla

    IIRC Francois ages the rubber for at least a year before a tire is made out of it so your set is very good.A piece of advice-since I can see u’re becoming a pretty serious cat when it comes to cx so try getting tubulars a year ahead of the season.So now you should get tubulars for next year.Good luck with races.

  4. @Balexander

    There are always guys on the side of the road digging mud out of repurposed roadies, and the really aggressive position (see @Frank’s) will ya over 100-200 miles racing.

    My favorite thing in the world is people who ascertain the aggressiveness of a rider’s position by looking at the bike only, not having seen the rider on the bike.

    Did 14 hours on the Graveur a week ago, no worries.

    @TommyTubolare

    @G’rilla

    IIRC Francois ages the rubber for at least a year before a tire is made out of it so your set is very good.A piece of advice-since I can see u’re becoming a pretty serious cat when it comes to cx so try getting tubulars a year ahead of the season.So now you should get tubulars for next year.Good luck with races.

    I’ve got my eyes on a set of their Sprint tires in 34. Loving the wideness and the relative smooth tread.

    http://www.fmbtires.com/fmb_cotton_Sprint.htm

  5. @frank Nice! The owner of my LBS sets up his gravel rig (including GW tandem rig) the same way, and I roll my eyes at him every time I see the ridiculously long stems he digs out.  Don’t take it personally. My roadie is set up similarly, but the CX/gravel rig has a high headtube that precludes too much drop, so it might just be jealousy on my part that your Graveur is so amazingly well-suited.

  6. @Balexander

    I always like someone who can take a sharp remark strongly. But please stop talking about tandems. I’m super cereal.

    But maybe that’s my jealousy analog to your bar drop jealousy speaking, seeing as riding a tandem with me and the VMH would be instant separation.

    Seriously, though, a Graveur should be tuned to your normal road position, whatever that is, and not a CX position; that’s the only real difference between a Graveur and CX rig. Tire clearance, width etc are all secondary factors.

    For what its worth, I’ll switch from my 17 degree stem to a 10 degree when I race it offroad (although I’ve been perfectly happy riding it on my usual CX route as-is, but I’d like to be able to unweight the front tire just a bit more for CX.)

  7. @TommyTubolare Whether they get a bit harder or more supple, they do get more puncture resistant, no?

  8. @frank I’ve probably missed this…but what pedals are you running on your gravel bikes?

  9. @frank

    As luck would have it, I just found the article in the random posts referred to here that started me on the path of a Graveur.

    http://www.velominati.com/mountain-biking/middle-fork-taneum-river/

    @TommyTubolare

    Here you can see the cable config a bit better.

    I just saw this now, and maybe you don’t care, or like it that way, but those brakes come with a 120 degree noodle for when you’re running DS cable to NDS noodle.

  10. @Nate

    Yes although there’s no science to back it up really.Just personal experience.

    If you are to install a 3 year old tire and ride over a large glass it will simply puncture so some automatically assume that ageing was a nonsense however I noticed that aged tubulars suffer much less from little cuts and nicks simply because small flints,stones or gravel do not stick  to aged rubber in the same way as to the ‘fresh’one.

    Unless it’s something large-broken glass for example-most punctures in bicycle tires are created  by small, sharp objects that stick to the outer tread and then get pushed in, till they reach the inner tube so If I can prevent it a bit more by ageing why not.

    Current tubular production leaves you with only few brands worth ageing anyway so not many bothers any more.

  11. @Weldertron

    Say wha? Mine didn’t come with another noodle, and I don’t see one mentioned on the spec sheet online (http://www.trpbrakes.com/category.php?productid=1120&catid=185).

    The braking is fine (though tough to get adjusted initially) and the cable curves are nice and round – but I’d love to know more about this mystery noodle, especially if there’s more magic to be found in the performance of the brakes or their adjustability.

  12. I guess they don’t offer them anymore, and mine are long gone to a friend. Seems they only offered them for a short while (I got the 8.4s the week they were released)

    I’ve only found a tiny picture of them to. 

  13. Tomorrow at 10am the early season hopes of hundreds of Seattle-area cyclocrossers will be crushed when I show up on the course.

    I would be glad to provide that same service to Frank if he can get out of bed by then.

  14. @G’rilla

    Tomorrow at 10am the early season hopes of hundreds of Seattle-area cyclocrossers will be crushed when I show up on the course.

    I would be glad to provide that same service to Frank if he can get out of bed by then.

    We started yesterday. Actually last weekend. I’m guessing that Seattlites rolled down to PDX to see how you set up a course. If you and @Frank have enough V, maybe you’ll actually come down fro a Cross Crusade race this year.

  15. @G’rilla

    Tomorrow at 10am the early season hopes of hundreds of Seattle-area cyclocrossers will be crushed when I show up on the course.

    Poor bastards.

    Note to others:  a wide slection of barely-used cross bikes should appear on Seattle Craigslist this week.

  16. @frank See, when I think “gravel bike”, I think DK200 or Gravel Worlds, where the road is freakin’ crazy, and I want to have as much bunny-hopping, line changing, fishtailing ability as possible.  I’m with that interview with Dan Hughes: the best gravel rig is a CX rig.  For some of the lighter stuff that might sneak into a road ride, 23s on A23s on the road bike are perfectly good enough.

    Obviously, none of that mess matters on the Burley express train. :)

  17. @frank

    You could also try flexible brake noodle.Jagwire has them for example.

  18. @TommyTubolare

    @frank

    You could also try flexible brake noodle.Jagwire has them for example.

    http://jagwire.com/products/v/Linear-Pull_Noodles_Boots

  19. @RedRanger

    Hey.Cazzo.Grazie mille.Perfect link.

  20. Glad this thread is still open.  Been thinking of a gravel bike for some time.  Planning out budgets now.  So my question is if I can get away with 35-40mm cross tires (clinchers) on Open Pro rims (which I already have) or if I’m going to have to go with a new wheelset. Intended terrain is more fire road than gravel road.  Thoughts?

  21. @scaler911

    @G’rilla

    Tomorrow at 10am the early season hopes of hundreds of Seattle-area cyclocrossers will be crushed when I show up on the course.

    I would be glad to provide that same service to Frank if he can get out of bed by then.

    We started yesterday. Actually last weekend. I’m guessing that Seattlites rolled down to PDX to see how you set up a course. If you and @Frank have enough V, maybe you’ll actually come down fro a Cross Crusade race this year.

    “We”? Do you have a CXing mouse in your pocket? Or is @mouse in your pocket?

    You talk awful tough for a guy with no CX bike.

  22. @TommyTubolare

    @RedRanger

    great stuff guys. In fact, I bet the noodles on the trps are just Jags. I’ll check out that 135deg before I recable next weekend.

  23. @Skip

    Glad this thread is still open. Been thinking of a gravel bike for some time. Planning out budgets now. So my question is if I can get away with 35-40mm cross tires (clinchers) on Open Pro rims (which I already have) or if I’m going to have to go with a new wheelset. Intended terrain is more fire road than gravel road. Thoughts?

    I had 35mm CX tires on Open Pros on the original Nederaap build – no worries. 40mm seems wide, but probably would also work.

  24. @frank

    @scaler911

    @G’rilla

    Tomorrow at 10am the early season hopes of hundreds of Seattle-area cyclocrossers will be crushed when I show up on the course.

    I would be glad to provide that same service to Frank if he can get out of bed by then.

    We started yesterday. Actually last weekend. I’m guessing that Seattlites rolled down to PDX to see how you set up a course. If you and @Frank have enough V, maybe you’ll actually come down fro a Cross Crusade race this year.

    “We”? Do you have a CXing mouse in your pocket? Or is @mouse in your pocket?

    You talk awful tough for a guy with no CX bike.

    True, I don’t have a ‘cross rig as of yet (it’s in the works). That said it’s easy to talk tough when you guys don’t actually race ‘cross up there. Real ‘cross happens in 3 places: Belgium, Portland and Louisville Ky.

  25. It looks like the Dutch Monkey Oranje livery is growing in popularity off the tarmac.

    Photo from velonews (Interbike).  This is not my bike.

  26. @JCM

    That is a beauty.

    There’s a new site cropping up called UltraCX, with a pretty cool video

  27. The original graveur?  What a badass.

  28. @Nate

    The original Graveur? What a badass.

    Yup, Johnny T. Absolutely. Total stud, and so fucking cool he put Campa brake levers on that thing because everyone knows those old Campa brake levers are the sexiest shit ever.

  29. So after a few days of recon and trying different options, I strung together a great 5km loop in Woodland Park (only about 100m from my house) of a combination of dirt/gravel road, single track, and what amounts to strade bianche which is this crazy white gravel they put on some of the paths in the park. Funny how it takes a bit to pull a loop together but I wanted to maximize length while keeping it interesting and minimizing double-backs etc. The crux is that the last leg ends with a BMX pump track (that’s fun with 4m of seatpost) and a 1km climb consisting of rooted single track, a long drag, then a patch of deep sand, some tarmac, and then strade bianche, single track, and more strade bianche. At the end of the loop, your heart is beating out of your eyeballs.

    Its magnificent.

    Funny how even though I’ve been riding these trails for a year, its still hard to patch together a good route. And, more than that, how satisfying it is when you do!

    I can do V of these loops and basically have double vision in an hour and change.

    I turned on the MapMyRide app on my phone just to log the distance…if you cursor over the route you can see how it loops together.

    http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/388140741

  30. @frank Looks awesome but I can’t help but think you’re missing out by not including the skate park.

  31. @frank nice frank, looks a blast.  how awesome it is to have it so close to home, too…

  32. @frank

    @G’rilla

    whats the pros and cons of the different brake systems ie canti, disc and so on?

  33. @RedRanger Canti brakes provide a lot of brake pad movement which means you can run them further out from the rim for better mud clearance. Downside: They take a lot of fiddling and don’t stop very well. They require a stiff fork or they will shudder when the fork flexes, thus reducing the tension on the cable and reducing stopping power.

    The modern v-brake stops very well, but with less pad to rim clearance than a canti brake. In my experience, they still work very well in a lot of mud and are the best overall brake for all conditions, easy maintenance, choice of pads, and compatibility with road wheels.

    Disc brakes stop very well and smoothly. You can use them to scrub just a bit of speed or stop all the way in a short distance. Downside: They are a precision instrument with very little clearance between pad and rotor. Any dirt or grit will make an awful noise or wear down the pad quickly. Don’t bother with mechanical disk brakes…the design is ancient and they don’t auto-adjust the pads as they wear. But finding the right combination of groupset, wheel, and frame for hydraulic disc brakes (and maintenance) is difficult right now.

  34. I want that shirt.

  35. @G’rilla Thanks for your expertise. I and agree, disc brakes can be a pain in the ass. Sounds like from a Gravel bike perspective the V brake the hands down winner. and it works well for racing CX.

    When you use your CX bike for gravel do you change any of the set up for a more road like fit?

  36. For research purposes, here is a TRP CX8.4s rim clearance at it’s maximum effective brake pull.

  37. gravel setup for tomorrow. testing some corima’s shod in a 28mm ruffy tuffy. more worried about riding on these checkerboards off-road than i am of blowing the wheel up…should be interesting!

  38. Here’s my Klein that had a rebirth as I now live in Zillertal Alps, AustriaKlein in the ALps

  39. Veloforma CX rig finished and tested over the weekend – can’t post pictures because the site still won’t let me but I’ll try.

    Suffice to say with the road tyres it’s faster that my Ridley Damocles and seems to be spectacularly good going down hill. So now I have a CX/Gravel bike that’s faster than my road bike.

    I went for SRAM’s single front ring 11 rear sprocket cassette and the gear range is the same as the Damocles (although admittedly there are bigger gaps between ratios).

    Not only is it solid to the point of feeling like it’s hewn from granite – the bike MAKES NO NOISE AT ALL (until you stop when the brakes make a noise that scares the other riders in the group).

    Want a bike that will do everything – get one of these…

  40. @the Engine Great bike…

    the photo, the pose, the anal probing by the seat – no so much.

  41. @DeKerr

    @the Engine Great bike…

    the photo, the pose, the anal probing by the seat – no so much.

    I didn’t think the picture had posted – better stuff from the HOTN to follow

  42. @the Engine

    @DeKerr

    @the Engine Great bike…

    the photo, the pose, the anal probing by the seat – no so much.

    I didn’t think the picture had posted – better stuff from the HOTN to follow

    when I saw this on FB I didnt want to comment and take the wind out your sails. fucking great bike but the photo is a bit creepy.

  43. Ivor’s tough enough to take it up the ass. He’s like the Honey Badger–he doesn’t give a shit.

    Seriously cool bike.  /greening up with envy and covetousness/

  44. @RedRanger

    @the Engine

    @DeKerr

    @the Engine Great bike…

    the photo, the pose, the anal probing by the seat – no so much.

    I didn’t think the picture had posted – better stuff from the HOTN to follow

    when I saw this on FB I didnt want to comment and take the wind out your sails. fucking great bike but the photo is a bit creepy.

    No, that picture’s a lot creepy…

  45. @the Engine Outstanding bike Ivor!  Looking forward to seeing it in person.

    I don’t know what the others are on about.  How else are you supposed to warm up the nose of your saddle?

  46. @xyxax

    @the Engine Outstanding bike Ivor! Looking forward to seeing it in person.

    I don’t know what the others are on about. How else are you supposed to warm up the nose of your saddle?

    Delta Airlines willing – putting the thing back together in ‘Murica on Thursday – this will involve carefully handled tools, Red Ranger’s workstand and blasphemy

  47. I’m registered for HOTN but work commitments will keep me in SE Wisconsin. The next week or so is going to be a bugger with all the reports of the gathering of the Velominati clan in MN. Even my back up ride in northern WI is in jeopardy. To all the guys gathering for HOTN, I’ll be there in spirit if not in body – have a great time and ride/travel safely. Next year . . . .

  48. @wiscot

    Very sorry you won’t be there. It’s been a flurry of gut-punches as several people have been forced to withdraw because of work demands.

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