“What’s mainly wrong with society today is that too many dirt roads have been paved.”–Paul Harvey
“There’s nothing like the
scent of rain on a dirt road.”–Dallas D’Angelo-Gary
“Take a trip down the gravel road.
Where history happens and no one knows…”–Alison Christa
Congratulations to winner Milton Feliciano. Thanks to everyone who entered.
GRAVELBIKE has teamed up with Andrews Designworks and is giving away the following products:
- King stainless steel water bottle cage ($18 value)
- King Top Cap cage mount ($8 value)
- King titanium tire levers ($8 value)
A winner will be randomly selected and notified via email on Friday, November 29th. One entry per-person.
There’s a saying here in Colorado: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” While our weather can–and sometimes, does–pull an abrupt about-face, I’ve found that the large daily temperature-swings can be even more challenging. In the fall, it’s not uncommon for morning commute temperatures to be in the low-40′s (or colder), with late-afternoon temps reaching 60° or higher. Unless you want to lug around your entire wardrobe, selecting versatile clothing and accessories is key. To keep your feet dry and comfortable in those unpredictable conditions, Louis Garneau’s Bimax shoe covers are ideal.
Bimax shoes covers ($39.99 MSRP) are constructed from 3mm neoprene and Louis Garneau’s Wind Dry fabric. The latter features 3-ply construction for protection from wind and rain, while still remaining breathable. A seam-sealed rear zipper offers improved water resistance, and the reinforced rubber sole makes walking easier while fending off rain and road spray. Available in five sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL), Bimax shoe covers can accommodate shoes from size 36 up to 50. The large size (43.5-45) was compatible with 44.5 SIDI Dominator MTB shoes without requiring any special gymnastics or contortions.
One of the first things you notice about the Bimax covers is their compactness and light weight (153g/pair), which makes it easy to store them in a jersey pocket. Louis Garneau recommends the Bimax for moderate weather, and I found them comfortable down to approximately 40° (4.5°C). The Wind Dry fabric proved to be very effective at combining breathability with water resistance (dry feet are happy feet). Despite having only a rear zipper, they could be pulled on and off quickly and easily (even when yours truly was not 100% awake). While the uppers do feature reflective accents, I would like to see visibility improved with additional reflective material.
Disclosure: Louis Garneau provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.
In this series’ previous installment, we covered the wheels-and-tires portion of GRAVELBIKE’s Salsa Vaya 650B conversion. For this entry, we’re going to spend some time talking about gearing.
Salsa has always spec’d the Vaya completes with sensible gearing, and my own Vaya’s gearing (36/46, 11-34) was more than adequate for pavement and gravel. For extended climbs on rocky terrain, however, that gearing simply wasn’t low enough. Drawing on my past experience with 26″-wheeled bikes, I knew that a sub-1:1 low gear would not go unused when exploring more rugged trails.
Achieving that low gear turned out to be a bit of a challenge due to the fact I was running such an eclectic mix of drivetrain components (10s Campagnolo shifters, 9s daVinci/SRAM rear derailleur, Shimano 9s cassette). Taking inspiration from Salsa’s Fargo off-road adventure bikes, I decided that a mountain-double crank would give me the low gear that I needed without having to replace any other components.
To maintain compatibility–and eek out every last bit of shifting performance–many crank manufacturers offer dedicated chainring combinations designed to work specifically with Shimano or SRAM systems. Since my hodgepodge setup contained a mix of both companies’ components, I needed a crankset that would play nicely with a non-dedicated setup. Thankfully, Full Speed Ahead designed their Afterburner double crankset to be compatible with both Shimano and SRAM drivetrains.
Installing the Afterburner crankset was a breeze, requiring only a 5mm hex key and Shimano Hollowtech II-compatible socket. During my testing, I alternated between 24/38 and 22/36 chainring setups, logging the most miles on the 22/36 combo. While it wasn’t designed for such tiny chainrings, the Campagnolo Veloce front derailleur shifted better than expected when it was positioned such that it barely cleared the chainstay.
On paved and gravel roads, the 36t chainring proved surprisingly versatile. There were a few situations where I found myself wishing for a taller top-end, but I never felt handicapped by the 36/11 high gear. When it came to navigating steep, rocky trails, the 22t chainring was invaluable. I could cruise along in the 36t ring, drop down to the 22t when the trail started to get steep, and then fine tune my cadence by shifting up or down the cassette. Thanks to the added height of the 650B knobby tires, pedal strike wasn’t an issue with the 170mm cranks when traversing rock gardens or navigating stair-type obstacles.
If you tend to divide your riding equally between pavement and dirt, consider a mountain-double crankset. For riders seeking a wider gearing range–while still maintaining the simplicity of a double-chainring system–Full Speed Ahead offers the Afterburner in 26/39 and 42/28 combinations.
Disclosure: Full Speed Ahead provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.