With their drop handlebars and narrow(er) tires, gravel and adventure bikes share plenty of DNA with conventional road bikes. In recent years, however, a great deal of mountain bike tech has crossed over into the gravel and adventure space. Thanks to our knobby-tired brethren, gravel bikes now sport disc brakes, tubeless tires, and even 1x gearing. The best crossover, however, may be something you wear instead of ride. I’m talking about MTB shorts.
Traditional lycra shorts are great for logging big mileage, but many riders prefer something less conspicuous (and more durable) for off-road and adventure riding. While you certainly could wear casual or generic athletic shorts over bibs, MTB-style shorts have cycling-specific cuts that are designed to cover what needs covering, while still providing freedom of movement for efficient pedaling.
Mountain–or baggy–shorts vary in length, cut, and materials. Shorts designed for hardcore technical riding are typically longer and have wider leg openings to accommodate kneepads or body armor. Trail-oriented shorts often have a slimmer profile and shorter inseams. While many of the shorts include padded liners, some manufacturers eschew liners altogether, leaving the rider provide their own.
Do you wish your road bike’s drivetrain had lower gears? With Wolf Tooth’s RoadLink you can run a wide-range MTB cassette and still use your road derailleur. The patent-pending RoadLink is compatible with 10- and 11-speed drivetrains and retails for less than $25.
Scheduling (and publishing) reviews is always a bit of a balancing act. Manufacturers want to see their products reviewed the moment they’re released. Readers, on the other hand, want to know how products perform over the long haul. As luck would have it, Ergon’s SMC4 arrived just a few days after I posted GRAVELBIKE’s 2016 saddle roundup.
Since then, I’ve tested the SMC4 with a variety of gravel, mountain, and road bikes. The saddle has seen use with conventional rigid seatposts, as well as suspension and dropper-style posts. In typical Colorado fashion, Mother Nature provided a wide range of weather conditions during the test period.
Shopping for chain lube can be daunting task. There are different formulas for wet and dry weather, road and off-road use, and even lubes that claim to lube and clean your chain at the same time. What if you just want one lube that performs well for any type of riding? Bucking the trend of hyper-specialized lubes, Smooth Operator offers a single chain lube that’s designed to excel in wet and dry conditions, on- or off-road.
Smooth Operator chain lube is available in four ounce bottles ($12), or a travel size (10 ml) three-pack ($9). Both bottles feature child-resistant caps and precision applicator tips. While I didn’t review the lubes’ safety data sheets, the company classifies their the lube as environmentally friendly and low-toxicity. My highly scientific sniff test revealed a light, sulfur-like scent, but any odor dissipated quickly after application.
According to legend, Tullio Campagnolo was inspired to invent the quick release skewer nearly a century ago when he was unable to loosen his bike’s wingnuts during a race. Some may argue over the authenticity of said legend, but it’s generally acknowledged that Signore Campagnolo’s invention was a major technological advance. If you’re not racing, though, you may not need–or want–quick release skewers. For riders who prefer added security and simplicity, Delta Cycle offers Axlerodz bolt-on skewers.
Priced at $14.99/pair, Delta’s Axlerodz feature Chrome-Moly axles, stainless steel springs, and aluminum end pieces (with threaded steel inserts). Installation requires a 5 mm Allen key (not included), and the bolt-on skewers fit dropouts with outside measurements of 95-115 mm (front) and 128-148 mm (rear). Untrimmed, Axlerodz weigh just 69 grams (per-pair). By comparison, a pair of Shimano Deore XT skewers weighs 123 grams.
Setting up a gravel or adventure bike sometimes requires mixing road and mountain components. Dialing in fit can be a challenge, but Easton offers a wide range of handlebars, stems, and seatposts in both aluminum and carbon fiber. I outfitted my new test bike with the company’s EX90 SLX carbon drop bars, and alloy EA70 stem and seatpost. How will these parts hold up to mixed-surface recreational riding and commuting?