Last month, the staff at Cyclocross Magazine attempted to extend our 45-60 minute attention spans by sending our Chief Cowbell Ringer, Andrew Yee, to race at the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder. Just north of San Francisco, the race included a range of bikes, from 29er full suspension mountain rigs, to custom titanium frames such as the one used by third-place finisher Jesse Reeves, as well as the tried and true cyclocross bikes we’re familiar with, such as the Focus Mares ridden by second-place Brent Prenzlow. Our countdown finishes with Jared Kessler’s winning bike, the Ridley X-Fire.
When we caught up with Kessler, the black Fizik bar tape he wrapped around his chainstay looked brown, dust completely hid the Ultegra etching on his Di2 front derailleur, and his external bottom bracket looked like it had just survived a Mad Max film. Such are the joys of gravel races.
When we asked him about his bike, he replied: “I just used the same bike I ride ’cross on; it’s a Ridely. It’s a bit older, kind of a hand-me-down since I raced a few cyclocross races last year and I didn’t know if I was going to like it or not. The goal was to put as little money in it as possible. Although I did just outfit it with Di2 this week, that was awesome!”
Unlike Brent Prenzlow, who risked flatting his tubulars for the benefit of their supple feel, Kessler opted to go tubeless with his Ultegra wheelset. He managed to fit WTB’s Nano 700x40c in his 4ZA fork, although the tighter rear clearances in his stays made him opt for WTB’s Cross Wolf 700×32 in the rear. Linear-pull brakes are used in cyclocross, although disc and cantilever brakes are better known for dealing with muddy conditions. In the dry gravel course of the Lost and Found, Kessler’s choice in the TRP CX-9 brakes seems to have treated him well.
A more familiar goodie to the cyclocross course is the Crankbrothers Candy 11 pedals installed to his SRAM Red crankset. Jared Kessler’s handlebars seemed like they were padded with extra care, a secret we learned from Rebecca Rusch two weeks ago.
We asked him if he would consider getting a gravel specific bike for future events. Although the Ridley treated him to a first-place finish at the Lost and Found, a gravel bike and all its offerings piques his interests, including the more comfortable geometry and clearance for wider tires. “That bike beat me up,” he said of his Ridley. His lowest gear was a 39-28, which he thought wasn’t low enough for some of the climbs.
Kessler might have his eye on a few gravel specific bikes, but he let us know that we would be seeing him in the fall, ready for the hour races with an aggressive cyclocross machine.
For more racing action and bike profiles, stay tuned to cxmagazine.com!