The idle pastime of people watching has been around forever, and now with gravel racing becoming increasingly popular, gravel bike watching is the next hot activity. With gravel bikes coming in every shape and size, it can be fun to hang out at the finish area and check out the gravel bikes that roll through.
After finishing the Almanzo 100 gravel race in Minnesota last week, I grabbed a Surly beer and plopped down near the finish to look for Midwest friends and bike curiosities. (TBH, I was also waiting for CXM contributor Dave Mable to finish on his Supafly single speed, which took a few extra minutes.)
Last week, we did a full profile of Dee Dee Winfield’s Blue Norcross SL and Matt Allen’s Medici Gran Turismo and today, I have a quick look at three more bikes and the stories behind them. Stay tuned for a look at Women’s runner-up Kristen Legan’s titanium Firefly after she tackles the Dirty Kanza XL on the platform this weekend.
Use the slider to check out the three bikes and the stories behind them.
Casey Matthews’ All-City Nature Boy Zona Single Speed
It’s not really surprising, but bike choices often have a regional theme, especially when big companies are in the area. At the Dairy Roubaix in southwest Wisconsin last month, it seemed every other person was on a Trek Crockett (and one brave soul who rode her Emonda), and at Almanzo, the company du jour was Minneapolis’ All-City Cycles. All-City sells steel bikes—at Sea Otter we saw the Gorilla Monsoon gravel/adventure bike—geared toward the off-road and rough road crowds, so they fit in perfectly on the roads outside Spring Valley.
Interestingly, the All-City that caught my attention belonged to an Iowan in Casey Matthews of Iowa City. Matthews rode the now-retired Nature Boy Zona single speed cyclocross frame. “The frame has been out of production for like five years,” Matthews said about his bike. “I found a new old stock frame on the internet and built it up. Now I use it for racing gravel.”
The red, white and blue frame was built using Columbus Zona tubing and was a dedicated single speed frame with horizontal dropouts. The frame, discontinued in 2013, and steel fork had built-in brake posts that Matthews used to attach road calipers. A newer version of the Nature Boy is available with disc brakes.
Flat bars are not uncommon on single speed ’cross setups thanks to the leverage they provide, and Matthews carried the approach over to his gravel bike with a set of wide flat bars. Matthews does not uses this frame for ’cross, but he said he owns a newer one he uses during the fall.
The Almanzo course had a decent amount of climbing, so I asked him how it was riding the bike on the southeast Minnesota hills. “Single speed is right,” was his response. He ran a 42-18 gear combination. To be fair, as an Iowa City native, Matthews is well-acquainted with Mt. Krumpit and Jingle Cross, so perhaps the local training every fall helped him out.