In the first installment of GRAVELBIKE’s absoluteBLACK (aB) review, I covered aB’s 28T oval MTB chainring. Since then, the company began shipping their new oval CX chainrings. Available in conventional and direct-mount versions, absoluteBLACK’s CX rings feature the company’s Patent Pending narrow-wide tooth design. Because the conventional 5-bolt CX ring isn’t compatible with SRAM cranksets that have a hidden 5th bolt, I opted to test the direct-mount version. Over the past few weeks, I’ve logged 300-350 miles with the company’s 40T oval CX chainring on my Salsa Vaya gravel/commuter rig.
If you ride a production (read, mainstream) gravel or adventure bike there’s a good chance that it came equipped with 700C wheels and tires. While the debate over optimum tire width for gravel rages on, it’s generally acknowledged that 40 millimeters is the cutoff before one enters into monster cross territory. And just like gravel bikes themselves, tires designed for gravel and adventure riding are often open to interpretation.
I spent the past couple of months testing 700×40 versions of Kenda‘s Flintridge Pro, the Maxxis Rambler and Re-Fuse, and Panaracer‘s Gravelking SK. Each of the tires saw a mix of recreational and utility riding on terrain that included pavement, dirt, and of course, gravel. Thanks to Colorado’s ever changing weather, I also experienced first hand how the tires handled on snow and ice.
Tubeless road tires may be lagging behind their mountain counterparts, but these four models confirm that tubeless compatibility has become a must-have feature for gravel use. As with tubeless MTB tires, ride quality, comfort, and traction improved when the tires were ridden sans tubes. I tested each tire with various sealants–including Caffélatex and Orange Seal–and didn’t encounter any incompatibilities (such as blistering or delamination).
|Kenda Flintridge Pro||40.4||479||30-50||$59.99|
|Panaracer Gravelking SK||40.7||486||60||$49.99|
To insure consistent measurements, each tire was inflated to the maximum pressure and left for 72 hours. Tires were then inflated to 50 psi and the cross sections measured at the tire’s widest point. All measurements were taken using the same alloy rim with an internal width of 19.3 millimeters. Weights are the average of two sample tires using Feedback Sports‘ Summit digital scale.
It used to be that choosing cycling shoes for off-road riding meant one thing: compromise. Stiffness and efficiency often came at the expense of traction and walkability (and vice-versa). Rarely could you have your proverbial cake and eat it, too. Thanks to Pearl Izumi’s X-Alp Launch II shoes, however, gravel and adventure riders don’t have to sacrifice performance for off-the-bike comfort and durability.
At first glance, the X-Alp Launch II ($160 MSRP) may not look that different from many other recreational cycling shoes. Don’t let the subdued graphics and clean lines fool you, though, because the Launch II shares technology found on Pearl Izumi’s more expensive X-Project 1.0 shoes. And in case you’re wondering if the X-Alp can handle your local trails, the X-Alp just happens to be the shoe of choice for world-champion racer Brian Lopes.
Smooth Operator‘s Premium Lube is a low-toxicity, environmentally friendly lubricant that repels water and prevents rust. Suitable for either wet or dry conditions, the bottle’s specially designed applicator tip puts the lube only where you need it (which also makes it ideal for brake and derailleur pivots and cables).