Gravel ride on December 21, 2014.
Gravel ride on December 21, 2014.

gravel bikes (9)


Another Round Of Changes

SRAM XPLR Rival, Force and Red AXS derailleurs

Just about when the pandemic started, our two cats were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. The disease was already advanced in one of the two girls. She lived longer than the vets had given her but passed away two years ago. Her sister, now 19 years old, is hanging in there. She is only still around because we are doing everything to give her the best quality of life for the time she still wants to soldier on. Care-taking, whether it is for an elderly parent, a disabled child, or in our case, aging cats with a progressing chronic disease, requires a big part of one’s time. My riding has dropped from a peak of 8’700 km in 2018 to 3’000 km last year. Because of that, a couple of my bikes have not put on more miles. Since I had to be at home a lot for caretaking, I had time to take care of my dormant bike fleet. I replaced and updated components, instead of riding and replacing my bikes as I normally would.

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New Wheels For My Marin Gestalt X12

Marin Gestalt X12 on new wheels

Huh? Another set of hoops? Didn't the bike already get new ones in November? Yes, but they didn't work well with the tires I wanted to use on the MGX12. So, I spent a week testing between the holidays and concluded that I needed to build a new set of wheels with Light Bicycle AR25 low-profile rims. The new wheels:

  • Light Bicycle AR25 rims, paintless UD carbon, 28H, drain holes, laser engraving
  • Light Bicycle 25mm rim tape
  • Sapim CX-Ray spokes
  • Red aluminum nipples
  • Red tubeless valves
  • Hope Pro 5 Centerlock front hub, 28H, 100x12mm, red
  • Hope Pro 5 Centerlock rear hub, 28H, 142x12mm, XDR, red
  • Hope Centerlock lockrings, red
  • Bucklos RT-MT760 Centerlock rotors, 160mm
  • SRAM XPLR XG-1251 cassette, 10-44T
  • René Herse Antelope Hill 700C x 55 TC tires, standard casing, tan sidewalls
  • Orange Seal regular sealant
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 Dream Bike Or One That Does The Job

The top of the Romontberg.

When I first got into cycling in the mid-80s, entry-, mid-level, and high-end bikes were not tremendously far apart. Mountain bikes had no suspension, and frames were made from steel or aluminum. Groupsets were the primary difference between bikes. An entry-level bike had Shimano LX, a mid-level bike was equipped with DX, and a top-of-the-line bike came with XT. I started on an entry-level bike, moved to a mid-level Specialized Stumpjumper, and soon rode a World-Cup-level Muddy Fox with a full Shimano XT groupset. Even seat posts were part of such groupsets back then. XT came with a nice black steel seat post. You read that right: a seat post made out of steel. A few years later, I spent a small fortune owning a Merlin Titanium with XTR derailleurs and many boutique components. For much of my cycling career, I bought or built nice bikes that cost a lot. They were never outrageously expensive, but more than I needed.

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Wheel And Tire Testing

Climbing the Romontberg.

In November, I got a new wheelset for my Marin Gestalt X12. Before that, it was using seven-year-old Nox Composites Citico wheels with Chris King R45D hubs. The new wheels had Hope Pro5 Centerlock hubs, Light Bicycle WG44 rims, and René Herse Antelope Hill tires. I enjoy climbing on my bikes and also like to descend. The new wheels were great for climbing, fast on flat surfaces, and smooth on gravel. However, they were not perfect for descending. Specifically, when I exceed 50 kph with head and crosswinds on open descents that are not too steep, the steering becomes wobbly and insecure.

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Marin Gestalt X12 On New Wheels

Marin Gestalt X12 with new wheels.

How wide is too wide? My wide tire journey for road cycling started on Compass Barlow Pass (700x38) tires back in 2016. WTB Horizon (650x47) followed in 2018. When I put 650B wheels on my Nordest Albarda, René Herse Switchback Hill (650x48) and Panaracer GravelKing (650x48, 52mm actual) tires took me a big step further on that journey. My Marin Gestalt X12 started rolling on René Herse Snoqualmie Pass (700x44) tubeless “shoes.” This bike has room for much more, so much, in fact, that 44mm looks skinny.

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