This past weekend saw the running of the 2017 edition of the Herald Cycle Tour MTB event – having done the short 30km route a few times I wanted to mix it up a bit and try something a bit more challenging … boy was I in for a surprise!
Whilst I knew my current fitness and work load would not allow me to finish the 60km ( especially if it rained or was super hot like the past few years ) I decided to do the 30km ( a ride that is 99% Gravel ) again but this time with one of the latest prototypes we are developing for the 2018 range. #R355
Our first frames had just arrived and it was a bit of rush to get them built – many of the parts are not readily available like MTB components – however with the help from Cape Cycle Systems ( SRAM importers ) we were able to build up some FORCE1 equipped bikes to do some gravel + grinding in the PE area.
My previous rides had all been on the road so when I woke up to the pouring rain I knew I was in for a more challenging 30km than year’s past!
Apart from some mechanical challenges ( no doubt brought on by the mud and lack of saddle time on the bike ) the ride was a big 11 out of 10 on the FUN side and it gave me a chance to consider all the options where this style of bike could be a weapon and where it could be a curse!
Some key points:
- this is NOT a CX Bike ( it has a taller head tube , slacker head tube angle, taller head tube, longer wheelbase etc )
- my ride with Stans Crow 700c tyres was quite harsh ( there were alot of corrugated gravel sections ) – in hindsight I would have preferred some 27.5 x 2.1 or 700 x 40c wheels ( note: next wheels going on are 27.5 x 2.10 rubber on ZTR Crest )
- bike is super light compared to a MTB
- hydraulic brakes are awesome on a Gravel bike
- bike drew alot of attention – especially after anyone noticed the skinny tyres and drop bars
- extended head tube is very comfortable compared to a normal road bike geometry
- mud and skinny tyres are very challenging when the trail points downhill
- extended wheelbase makes for a bike that is not as skittish as a traditional road / CX bike would be on gravel routes
- only maintenance required after the ride are chain / cassette / clean-up ( no suspension damage to worry about )
Whilst everyone confuses these bikes with CycloCross ( often referred to as CX ) models this particular model forms part of the new Gravel Plus segment – these are NOT CX bikes and in a very broad definition are MORE MTB than ROAD.
With SA’s numerous endurance events and the routes focussing more on distance rather than technical difficulty, a bike like the R355 starts to make loads of sense!
Is this the 1 bike to rule them all? Probably, actually DEFINITELY NOT! Is it a bike that you can use for training and an alternative to a traditional road bike – DEFINITELY YES!
Should you get one? YES!
ps. we plan to have a complete bike option available around July 2017 – pricing and full spec details to dealers soon