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.
Angus Morison’s Custom Steel Waltworks 29er Hardtail
Last Saturday at the Almanzo 100, Angus Morison of St. Paul, Minnesota rode a custom steel hardtail 29er built by Utah’s Waltworks. As much as he loves Almanzo—this year’s was Morison’s sixth—the bike does have a higher calling than gravel. “I wanted something I can use for many purposes,” he said about his bike. “A lot of what I do is pull my kids in the trailer with this bike. It has to wear a lot of hats, so it has to be pretty flexible.”
Waltworks is the one-man shop of Walt Wehner based in Park City, Utah. Wehner’s forte is custom mountain bikes, but he will also build a road, cyclocross, gravel or track frame on request.
Morison had his 29er built for the triple threat of mountain biking, gravel and kid-pulling. To get the three uses, he needed to make it versatile. One step in the customization process was having Waltworks build a rigid gravel fork to go with the suspension fork Morison uses when he rips the trails.
Morison also wanted a tire that could serve more than one purpose. At Almanzo, he ran 700c x 50mm Honali Tough any road tires. “I’m a bigger guy, so having that little bit of extra cushion is really good,” he said about his tire choice. “This tire can run on pavement really well too. They’re set up tubeless, so it’s not really straightforward to spoon tires on and off, so I wanted something I can use for many purposes.”
In a way every 100-mile gravel ride is going to be a training ride, but this year, Morison wanted to get some extra work in to focus on mountain biking skills. Waltworks built the bike as a geared bike, but Morison used a Paul Components Melvin chain tensioner to run it single speed with a 38-18 gearing. He also ran flat pedals as part of his training plan.
“What I’m trying to do is get better at is pedaling different cadences and different speeds for mountain biking, so I figured I would just go with the single speed setup and work on my cadence,” Morison said. “That’s the reason for the flat pedals too. I flat pedal for mountain biking. This really makes me pedal circles and pedal smoothly.”
Since he has experience doing Almanzo on both geared and single speed bikes, I asked him how the experience was. “It was tough,” he said. “I had to walk three hills. I’ve ridden geared bikes before and ridden all of them and some years I had to walk one. I geared it kind of tall because I don’t like to spin out on the flats, so I figured I would just have to walk a little bit. It worked out really well.”
The final thing that stood out about Morison’s setup was how well it took advantage of the available storage space on the bike. He had a rain coat, first aid kit, bar bag, saddle bag, top tube bad, front and rear lights, water bottles and Garmin for the day in the saddle. Also to his credit, he went with the matchy matchy yellow zip ties to affix his number plate to the front of his ride.
I asked him how much of his gear got called into action. “Didn’t need the light. Didn’t need my rain coat, but otherwise I pretty much used everything else,” he responded. Morison finished around 5 p.m., so he had plenty of time left before the head light would have been a necessity.
For more from the Minnesota gravel roads, see all our 2018 Almanzo 100 race coverage.
Stay tuned for more gravel with our on-site coverage of the Dirty Kanza 200 from Emporia, Kansas.