A Very Enduro Answer to the Gravel Grinding Question Yet to be Asked

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Author: Brandon Wade

In the name of all that is enduro, I first ask you to put aside your IPA fellow reader.  If you can, go ahead and stop oogling your bike and postulating where the next session is going to go down.  Nobody is calling anyone a jerry here, it’s just the truth that the group chat won’t miss you all that much in the next five minutes!  If you’re able, my fearless comrade of the chunder–I’d love to tow you into this new creation of mine.  Like a fine Chis King hub, this recently built-up but longtime owned Gary Fisher just sweetens with the time and the miles that I rack up on its 6160 Aluminum Genesis 2 frame. I can’t help but feel like I’m onto something here…its true I’ve got a fish on the line and woah nelly it’s a whopper: A 2010 Mountain Bicycles Wahoo 26” hardtail.

It’s okay, I promise- keep reading.  Yes, a keen reader would be able to identify that fateful year as the very last production year of Mountain Bicycles before Mr.Fisher (a forefather to our sport and certainly in no need of an introduction from this humble shrednovice) to Trek…then came a few trips around the sun alongside the oddly upmarket “Gary Fisher Collection by Trek,” and in 2018 there’s still Fisher influence, however the main idea is that it’s a dead brand.  Flatline, kaput, came up short on the double; Now its dirtnap time forevermore.  Which is totally why I love it.

I admit this bike is square by 2018 standards…until you give it a chance.  See I ride with a smattering of engineers, dentists, architects, army vets;  They’re all lowkey super-lads with their heads on straight despite the occasional tree hug at 33 mph or Black Mountain berm blowout to meteoroid impact.  You bet they’re alphas, every last one of them– an opinionated lot, but I could tell the skinnier tires weren’t going to make me any more friends as cool as them.  Absolutely none of these gentlemen approved initially.  Then I did 100 miles to prove a point.  I’m not showing off when I say it was easy.  Seriously, if you have an older hardtail laying around I highly suggest you consider transforming it into a monstercross/gravel grinder/TRAINER FOR ENDURO RACES.

Here’s the big idea:

  1.  1x front chainring for simplicity as well as weight loss.  I suggest 42 teeth on the front ring for a faster overall final drive ratio. 10 or 11 or however many you please out back. There’s a few great sites online such as bikecalc.com that’ll do all the hard work of gearing ratios and speed/cadence (on a level surface, dummy) for you.  Again, not very enduro but this is intended to supplement MTB riding and even keep miles down on the truck.  You thrifty ripper!
  2. A true warrior would opt for an Ebay Carbon rigid fork, just be sure to give yourself a fork that has some element of luxury about it considering the increased sadle time you’ll spend with it.  None of this will come together if your decades-old hartail is still burdened by a heavy, probably inoperable solo spring suspension fork. *doodie emoji*
  3. Keep the decade old 26” wheels.  Trust me, they don’t magically transform into fragile 700c road wheels once you shroud them in skinnier, less complex rubber.  “Taco time bomb” is only a phrase somebody who overspent on a gravel bike will say.  Just use your noggin’ and don’t send any booters!  We’re touring here; Mind the spoke tension and watchout for the ugly stuff.  Michelin I believe makes the best tires for this type of build logos.  1.1” or 1.4” wide Wild Run’r.  I use 1.25” WTB Slicks but i have a sneaking suspicion an even smaller contact patch would save me a few watts as well as decrease the rotational mass.  Cut weight and add lightness kids, 26ers aren’t dead!
  4. A more narrow bottom bracket gives you less of a prolific aerodynamic signature…

The point is that you can add serious velocity to a bike that perhaps has more love to give.  They’re everywhere…on facebook collector groups, craigslist, your neighborhood bike rack… (d’oh!) Keep them around, make them your own, and don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment and let your freak flag fly.  Gary was balled from the Olympics for having hair that wasn’t in accordance with the Olympic committee’s standards.  Be like Gary and grow it nice and gnarly.

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