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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.

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Rob Chose’s Full Suspension Specialized Epic Gravel Choice

One of the bikes that caught folks’ attention at Sea Otter this year was the Niner Magic Carpet Ride full suspension gravel bike. Although the MCR is not yet available, Rob Chose from Shorewood, Minnesota had his own approach to full suspension gravel in 2018. Chose rode his dual suspension Specialized Epic mountain bike for increased comfort over the 100 miles of Minnesota gravel.

Rob Chose went full suspension on a Specialized Epic at the 2018 Almanzo 100 gravel race. Rob Chose's Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

Rob Chose went full suspension on a Specialized Epic at the 2018 Almanzo 100 gravel race. Rob Chose’s Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

The Epic has a rich history as Specialized’s XC race bike, with over 15 years of experience racing at the professional and amateur levels. Rock Shox suspension provided 100mm of travel front and rear.

Full suspension for gravel is already here for Rob Chose on his Specialized Epic XC bike. Rob Chose's Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

Full suspension for gravel is already here for Rob Chose on his Specialized Epic XC bike. Rob Chose’s Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

This year’s Almanzo 100 was Chose’s first gravel race on the squishy bike and his first gravel race ever. “I loved having this bike out there, specifically when we went through the last half of the race where the gravel was really deep,” he said about his bike choice. “I don’t know if it was fresh gravel, but it just seemed to be more sloppy. I definitely felt more secure through it. It was a benefit to have this bike.”

A Rock Shox suspension fork provided Chose with 100mm of travel over the rough gravel. Rob Chose's Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

A Rock Shox suspension fork provided Chose with 100mm of travel over the rough gravel. Rob Chose’s Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

In addition to the full suspension and wide mountain bike tires, Chose also had some extra comfort in his cockpit. Aero bars are becoming increasingly popular for gravel riding, but Chose had some choice words about them. “No aero bars for me,” he said.

Chose instead opted for Specialized bar ends to provide some extra comfort during the 100-mile ride. “For me, I need extra hand positions,” he said about his cockpit add-ons. “I need three positions. The extenders, the grips and then on the inside. It is a little old-school, but I love it. It works for me.”

Chose chose bar ends for an extra hand position. He said aero bars are not for him. Rob Chose's Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

Chose chose bar ends for an extra hand position. He said aero bars are not for him. Rob Chose’s Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

Mountain bikes can also be a big benefit for gravel thanks to their gearing designed to get riders up steep off-road climbs with pitches not regularly seen on the road. Chose was not sure what size his 12-speed rear cassette was, but the Epic comes stock with a SRAM GX Eagle 10-50t cassette. “It helped to have the gears back here for climbing,” he said, pointing at the massive 12-speed cassette. “I know when I was on Oriole, I put it into the big cog and went for it.”

The Epic uses SRAM's 12-speed shifting and fits a 10-50t rear cassette. Rob Chose's Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

The Epic uses SRAM’s 12-speed shifting and fits a 10-50t rear cassette. Rob Chose’s Almanzo 100 Specialized Epic. © Cyclocross Magazine

With an Almanzo 100 finish in the bag, Chose now has a new target for him and his Epic ride. “I’m doing Leadville this year, and this is what I’m riding. Mind as well get used to riding my ride.”

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