A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, cyclists used to take their road or cyclocross bike, reduce the tire pressure a bit and ride beyond the pavement and explore dirt and gravel roads.
These days, even though some of us still find ourselves continuing these habits, endless options abound for dedicated gravel-specific bikes. Adventure bikes, all-road bikes, laid-back gravel bikes—riders have lots of choices for rides specifically built for long days in the saddle on mixed terrain.
One cyclist who still keeps the spirit of the cyclogravell crossover alive is Colorado's Kristen Legan of the new Bitchn Grit cyclocross and gravel team. Legan has been riding a titanium Firefly bike for the past few years, and it centers around a frame that she worked with the company to custom build for both cyclocross and gravel performance.
We saw Legan's Firefly in action last May at the Almanzo 100 gravel race and again in the Elite Women's race at Louisville Cyclocross Nationals. While riding with Legan at Almanzo, I told her at about Mile 70 that I would do a profile of her bike if she won the Women's race. She ended up finishing second behind Dee Dee Winfield, but ... here we are anyway.
This cyclogravel profile looks at Legan's bike as she had it configured at Almanzo last May and for the cyclocross season she completed at Louisville Nationals in December.
Kristen Legan's Custom Titanium Firefly Cyclogravel Bike
Kristen Legan is a cyclist of many talents. The former professional triathlete and avid road racer now turns her attention to gravel and cyclocross.
During the summer, she is best known for her gravel exploits. We saw Legan race at Almanzo last May, and she also took a stab at the first-ever 350-mile DKXL during the Dirty Kanza weekend in Kansas. Legan is also a member of the Shimano Gravel Alliance, a membership that will become apparent in due time.
When the days get shorter and the days cooler, Legan heads to the cyclocross course, where she is a member of the Tenspeed Hero p/b BitchStix, aka Bitchn Grit, team along with Dani Arman. Legan made one of the biggest splashes of the weekend in the Louisville mud when she donned gold pants and joined Sarah Sturm and others as one of the Glamorous Ladies of Singlespeed.
Firefly Bicycles is a custom builder of titanium and carbon bikes based in Boston, Massachusetts. Legan opted to have her custom bike built from titanium.
"Building a custom bike from the ground up was an incredible experience with Firefly," Legan said. "I’m a total bike nerd, so getting to discuss geometry, tire clearance, ride quality, handling and everything else that goes into building a bike was so much fun."
She picked titanium for some specific reasons. "Titanium is a fantastic material that offers a little more compliance over the bumpy courses. I often struggle with some back issues on bumpy courses, so I’m looking forward to a little more compliance out there. Titanium is such a beautiful material and the ride-feel on and off-road has been great so far."
On its website, Firefly says that it does not name its bikes since every frameset it builds is completely custom. Their custom ethos allowed Legan to build her bike to her own cyclogravel needs.
"I wanted to build something that was equally suited for long gravel adventures and for short, dynamic ’cross races," she said. "Firefly and I decided on a relatively aggressive geometry for the bike with super short chainstays and big tire clearance. This would let me run around 40mm tires for gravel races while keeping the backend snappy and responsive for ’cross."
Legan's titanium frame uses Firefly's Adaptive Butting it developed and is TIG welded. Accents have been added with colorful anodization. Both her and Arman's bikes are personalized and they also feature the logo of team sponsor Tenspeed Hero.
Perhaps the biggest change to Legan's bike during the gravel to cyclocross switcharoo was a fork swap. This year for gravel, Legan went with the Lauf Grit suspension fork.
"The Lauf Fork is a super interesting piece of equipment for gravel riding, and I believe it really saves your body from the constant vibrations of rocky gravel," she said. "I did several ultra events this season including the 350-mile DKXL as well as a 3-day gravel bikepacking race in South Dakota where a little extra comfort goes a long way towards preserving the body."
Although our reviewer Cliff Lee speculated on the utility of the Lauf Grit for cyclocross in his review, Legan picked weight savings over cush. During cyclocross season, she swapped in an ENVE Carbon Cross Disc fork for less compliance and more control.
The other big swap was changing up her wheels and tires. For gravel, Legan went tubeless with the Shimano Ultegra RS770 carbon tubeless clinchers, and although tubeless is gaining in popularity for cyclocross, she still opted to go the traditional route with Shimano's Dura-Ace WH-R9170-C40-TU carbon tubulars.
When it comes to tires, Legan's many gravel travels have helped her find her sweet spot. "I really like the 35 to 37mm range for most gravel races because the tires still feel fast but offer quite a bit of compliance to keep things more comfortable on these long rides," she said.
The gravel at Almanzo was hard and fast—Shimano provided us with bikes with 700c x 33mm tires—so Legan hit her sweet spot with 700c x 37mm WTB Riddlers at the Minnesota event. She said her favorite tread is the Donnelly MSO, and at the DKXL, she bumped up to 40mm tires for the extra cushion during the insanely long ride.
During cyclocross season, Bitchn Grit is sponsored by Colorado's Donnelly, and she was quick to point out that the PDX tubulars definitely came in handy at Louisville Nationals.
One last bit of gravel flair was the Revelate Designs Mag-Tank top tube bag. Those are not necessarily something we see for cyclocross every day.
Legan is one of the 16 current members of the Shimano Gravel Alliance, a group of brand ambassadors for the Japanese company. We already saw that Legan runs Shimano wheels, and not surprisingly, there is no SRAM or Campy to be found when it comes to the rest of her setup.
When we saw Legan's bike at Almanzo, she had a Dura-Ace R9100 crankset with 50/34t chain rings controlled by a Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 front derailleur. In the back, she ran the then-new RX805 Di2 clutch derailleur that we were in Minnesota to test out. In the back she had an 11-34t cassette, which no doubt helped with the climbing on the Almanzo 100 course.
As an employee of Shimano's PR agency, Dispatchco, Legan also had special access to the pro-only Dura-Ace cyclocross rings we see sponsored professionals ride. Legan ordered one of the 46t rings and paired it with the 34t she runs as the little ring during gravel season. During cyclocross season, she allows runs a narrower 11-30t cassette.
Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 shift-brake levers paired with the derailleurs and Ultegra R8070 flat mount hydraulic disc calipers.
A Pro Vibe alloy stem holds a carbon Pro Vibe handlebar and Wahoo Elemnt GPS computer. In the back, a 20mm-offset titanium seatpost with an ENVE one-bolt clamp holds Legan's Pro Stealth saddle. Well-worn Shimano XT M8000 pedals rounded out her contact points at Almanzo.
For more on Legan's cyclogravel bike, see the photo gallery and specs below.