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 gravÃ©. 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 CafÃ© 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 gravÃ© 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.