If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it - If something is reasonably successful or effective, there is no need to change it. German speakers would say “Bewährtes soll man nicht verändern.” When it comes to cycling, most of us often stick to that. We ride something, like it, and we’re therefore rarely willing to change it. I have for a long time ridden the same type of road bike. There were incremental changes such as more gears and lighter and more aero frames, but in the grand scheme of things, these improvements weren’t all that world-shattering. That changed with my first Volagi Viaje. I started exploring things outside what is considered a “road bike.”
Without fixation on grams and watts and without having to worry about keeping up in a group ride, my view on the “ideal” road bike has evolved. Today, I take a different approach to cycling and say “If it ain’t broke, break it.” The Volagi Viajes and the Nordest Albarda were mostly about discovering wider tires and smaller wheels. I went from 28mm to 38mm and landed at 48mm wide tires. To fit this tire width and to keep the bikes lively and agile, I swapped 700C wheels for 650B. The Nordest was a first sniff at a slacker frame geometry in combination with a lower bottom bracket. The Marin Gestalt X12 however, allowed me to throw everything I know overboard. It’s a gravel bike, unlike any other gravel bike I’ve ridden. It has a geometry that heavily borrows from a modern mountain bike. Its head tube angle is slacker than any of my mountain bikes. It has a long reach, a short stem, and a long wheelbase. I also set it up with a wider handlebar than what I’ve ridden up to now.
Road.cc recently ran a feature on the rising cost of cycling. An S-Works Tarmac SL7 or a Trek Madone SLR 9 can cost you upwards of CHF 15’000.00. On the gravel side of things, you have the S-Works Diverge STR with an SRAM Red/XX1 mullet setup setting you back CHF 10’000.00. As a young whippersnapper, I would have lusted over these financially out-of-reach bikes. Now in my mid-fifties, such outrageously expensive bikes no longer spark my interest. Could I afford one? Yeah, I could! Would I? No, that money is better invested in my retirement account. Cycling is more fun on equipment far cheaper than that. I would even argue that if you sell one of your kidneys for a high-end bike, you will never be honest with yourself about the quality of the bike. It will be the best bike you have owned, even if it causes you back pain and rides terribly. If an inexpensive bike turns out to be a poor fit, you will have no problem admitting it to yourself or your riding buddies.
The good news is that there are still companies out there that try to package fun into affordability. They do so without silly technical gimmicks or claimed aerodynamic improvements but with simple bikes that try nothing more than put a smile on a rider’s face. And when I’m on a bike that’s what truly counts, not grams and watts. One such company is Marin. As someone who got into mountain biking in the mid-eighties, Marin is a familiar name. The company has its roots in that era, and its bikes were quite popular at the time. To be honest, Marin sort of disappeared off my radar screen. One recent day, while googling for gravel bikes with slacker head tube angles, I came across Marin’s 2023 Gestalt X10. I loved it at first sight. The frame geometry, the tube shapes, the tire clearance, the colors, and particularly the price. Browsing their whole catalog of bike offerings, I discovered that that’s what they do nowadays - affordable and attractive no-nonsense bikes for cyclists who cannot throw the entirety of their disposable incomes at their hobby.
The Gestalt X10 can be purchased for CHF 1'629.00. At that price, it comes with mechanical disc brakes by Tektro, a MicroSHIFT Advent X 10-speed derailleur, and an aluminum handlebar, seat post, and rims. It’s not a bike that would catch anyone’s interest in Switzerland because none of the components say Shimano or SRAM. And without an additional zero to its price tag, it’s a cheap man’s bike in this nation anyway. In fact, when I contacted the bike shop about it, they said they wouldn’t stock it because of the mechanical disc brakes. Swiss cyclists apparently only want hydraulic brakes. While I prefer hydraulic disc brakes for the hilly Jura, I had two bikes with TRP Spyre brakes. On flat terrain, they performed just fine. The independent pad adjustment and the simple fact that you can maintain everything with a few Allen keys instead of a bleed kit still make such brakes a valid option. It’s a bit under-geared for me with a 42T chainring and an 11-51T SunRace cassette. I pulled off all the original components, which I’m keeping for the day I want to sell the bike. Instead of the OEM parts, I tuned it up with the components listed below. All in all, I spent CHF 3’200.00 to build the X10 into an X12. At the moment the X12 is set up with a 7-year-old Nox Composites Citico wheelset. I will be ordering a pair of Light Bicycle WG44 rims in August to have them laced up to Hope Pro 5 hubs in early October. A new bike deserves a new pair of wheels.
|First Ride||July 27th, 2023|
|Bike Weight||8.9 kg|
|Frame Color||Blue / grey|
|Frame||Marin||Series 3 Beyond Road|
|Stem||Syntace||Flatforce TwinFix Torx 44mm|
|Headset||FSA||Orbit IS, tapered|
|Handlebar||Easton||EC70 AX Carbon|
|Seatpost||Easton||EC90 ISA Carbon|
|Saddle||Prologo||Dimension AGX Nack|
|Brake Rotors||Jagwire||Pro LR2, 160mm|
|Brakes||SRAM||Rival eTap AXS|
|Brake Levers||SRAM||Rival eTap AXS|
|Derailleur||SRAM||Rival XPLR eTap AXS|
|Cassette||SRAM||Rival XPLR, XG-1251, 10-44T|
|Chainring||Wolf Tooth||Drop Stop, 42T|
|Bottom Bracket||RWC||External BB30|
|Pedals||Crank Brothers||Eggbeater 3|
|Tires||René Herse||Snoqualmie Pass TC|