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. @JCM

    That is a beauty.

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

  2. The original graveur?  What a badass.

  3. @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.

  4. 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

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

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

  7. @frank

    @G’rilla

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

  8. @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.

  9. I want that shirt.

  10. @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?

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

  12. 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!

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

  14. 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…

  15. @the Engine Great bike…

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

  16. @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

  17. @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.

  18. 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/

  19. @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…

  20. @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?

  21. @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

  22. 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 . . . .

  23. @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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