Updated: June 26. One of the appealing aspects of the discipline for many gravel racers is the wide open definition of “gravel bike” the discipline embraces. Ted King rode aero bars on a cyclocross bike at Dirty Kanza, Olivia Dillon rode a gravel bike at Lost and Found and Minnesota’s Matt Allen rode an old steel road bike at the Almanzo 100. It is clear that gravel suffers/thrives from a lack of standardization.
Beyond just equipment, courses are variable as well. Some races are predominantly dirt roads and doubletrack, but others feature technical off-road riding that rivals a cross-country race. Choosing one bike that can be at home in any gravel event represents a challenge, to say the least.
Kona’s Barry Wicks decided to take gravel’s challenges head-on and build a do-everything gravel rig around a full suspension mountain bike frame to tackle the Lost Sierra Triple Crown of Lost and Found, Grinduro and the Downieville Classic Cross Country race. We saw Wicks racing at Lost and Found and caught up with him after the race.
While some riders opt for a mountain bike only on the gnarliest of gravel courses, Wicks went all in on his crossover. He started with a Kona Hei Hei DL mountain bike frame and added a flared handlebar and Di2 road shifters to build a bike for any event. “Once I put the bike together and started riding it, I realized how awesome it was and decided to just ride it at all the events all year,” he said.
Learn more about Wicks’ full-suspension Kona Hei Hei DL mountain bike / gravel crossover in our profile of his bike.
Barry Wicks’ Full Suspension Kona Hei Hei Gravel Bike
Wicks started his bike with Kona’s 100mm full suspension cross country model, the Hei Hei DL, and an MRP Ribbon 120mm fork. Similar to some gravel bikes we have seen, the Hei Hei DL frame has a dropped drive-side chainstay. Wicks’ crossover creation stands in stark contrast to gravel bikes that are predominantly rigid—although a full suspension gavel bike is reportedly around the corner.
Even with a mountain chassis and trail-tuned suspension Wicks said the bike works in his favor. “I don’t think the suspension affected my performance in anything but a positive manner, but for sure I had about a five-pound penalty over a cyclocross race bike,” he said about his Lost and Found setup. “I was comfortable, confident and relaxed all day, which was nice. I do not have any reservations about riding it at Downieville. I raced the Grand Junction Off-Road on the same setup and was passing people on the descents without trouble.”
With the bike designed for flat bars, he used a 45mm stem, 10mm shorter than he would choose for this bike with a flat bar, and a Kona-branded flared handlebar from the Sutra touring bike. Wicks did not say so, but perhaps he got his inspiration from the drop bar mountain bikes of Jackie Phelan and John Tomac from days past.
The frame, like many full suspension bikes, is limited to one bottle cage, but Wicks says he is still experimenting with ways to mount a second bottle for longer events.
With flared drops and a KS 150mm dropper post that he modified to fit road bars, Wicks said he can descend almost as fast as he does on his mountain bike. “Even if it’s really rowdy I can still go nearly as fast as I can on my mountain bike,” Wicks told us.
Wicks’ Di2 setup allowed him to match road shifters to an otherwise mountain drivetrain. He chose a 1x system with an M9000 XTR crankset and 36t chain ring and an 11-40t cassette. He paired Dura-Ace R9170 hydraulic shift/brake levers to an XTR M9070 Di2 rear derailleur. Wicks stopped his bike using hydraulic calipers and XTR RT99 rotors in 180mm front and 160mm rear.
Wicks rolled on custom wheels built with WTB Ci24 rims and XTR hubs. Wicks said he changes tires according to the course, but when we saw his bike, he had it outfitted with 700c x 45mm tan wall WTB Riddler gravel tires that he ran at 30psi front and 35psi rear. With flats often affecting the outcome of a race, Wicks keeps a Blackburn tire plug near the stem, just in case.
When we spoke, Wicks said he probably is not done modifying his Hei Hei DL gravel creation. “My ideal scenario would be to be able to take four to five pounds off my bike and also have a wider range of gears,” he said. “But really my setup was not a barrier to success at Lost and Found, and it sure was fun making everyone else look like amateurs on the descents riding twice as fast as they were and having at least twice as much fun.”
For more details on Wicks’ full-squish gravel bike, see the specs below.
For more gravel bikes, see our profiles of Olivia Dillon’s Specialized Diverge, Kaitie Keough and Ted King’s Cannondale SuperXes, Sven Nys’ Trek Checkpoint, Tobin Ortenblad’s Santa Cruz Stigmata, Craig Richey’s Devinci Hatchet, Katerina Nash’s Orbea Terra, Rowie Jaron’s custom titanium NTP Bikes gravel bike and Dylan Glatt’s Spooky Gas Mask.
Barry Wicks’ Full Suspension Kona Hei Hei Gravel Bike Specifications
Frame: Kona Hei Hei DL, full suspension, 100mm travel, carbon
Fork: MRP Ribbon, 120mm travel
Shift/Brake Levers: Shimano ST-R9170 Di2 Hydraulic
Brake Caliper: Shimano
Rotors: Shimano RT99, 180mm front, 160mm rear, CenterLock
Rear Derailleur: Shimano RD-M9070 Di2 Rear Derailleur
Crankset: Shimano XTR M9000
Chain Ring: Shimano, 36t
Cassette: Shimano 11-40t
Handlebar: Kona flared handlebar, 48cm at hoods, 52cm at drops
Seatpost: KS 150mm dropper post, remote modified to fit road bar
Rims: WTB Ci24, 700c, carbon
Hubs: Shimano XTR, Centerlock, TA
Tires: WTB Riddler, 700c x 45mm; changes based on course
More Info: konaworld.com