We often forget about the notion of comfort when we speak about gravel bikes. However, it is essential for anyone who wants to ride the same bike on uneven roads, dirt paths, stony ground and even MTB tracks.
Performance stems from comfort. When the body is less impacted by the abuses of rough ground, it is better able to provide the effort needed to ride faster and longer.
The main element affecting comfort is the frame, followed by the wheels and tyres.
The Grand Panorama gathering organised by Arles Gravel gave me the perfect opportunity to check all that. No less than five circuits departing from Arles of 60 to 150km to do one after the other (or not) on the vast expanse of territory that I have fallen in love with for its diversity.
A little personal challenge and the chance to test myself, I chose to tackle the two most brutal routes: the 90km La Crau and the 100km Les Alpilles.
La Crau is a sedimentary plateau south east of Arles. Almost flat, it is abundantly green, full of plants, irrigated by many canals. Then comes the “dry” section, an immense arid plain that we cross on a track so covered in Durance pebbles, that it is impossible to avoid them!
Specialists say they’re worse than the Paris-Roubaix cobblestones. There’s no respite from them. The ultimate paradox is that the faster you ride, the less you suffer from the terrain.
This is where the vertical comfort offered by the titanium tubes of the AllRoad frame come into their element. Working with the lateral stiffness of the carbon joints, no energy is wasted and all effort goes into gaining speed.
The integrated titanium seatpost brings even more comfort, another benefit of the AllRoad frame. And finally, the Mavic AllRoad Elite 650B wheels with their WTB ByWay 47mm tyres inflated to 2 bars, help give this feeling of floating over the stones.
Even if I had the impression everything would come apart, nothing budged.
The return to Arles is on good condition cyclepaths and quiet roads.
After being put through the mill, I left the urban area for the 100km loop in les Alpilles.
This route has a lot more climbing, but on terrain equally as tough as the first loop. I had forgotten just how aggressive the white stones of the Alpilles can be, especially after the little village of Aureille, where we head into the heart of the range on forest roads. I heard stones bashing against the downtube in the descents as my 47mm tyre on the front pushed them out of the way. The climbs were slow, a hard slog, but happily the incredible views captured my attention.
It’s the first time since the beginning of the year that I’ve ridden 190km on a gravel bike and without the comfort of the AllRoad, I wouldn’t have finished, or would have been in a terrible state.
Tired but happy, I joke with the other participants at the finish in Arles. I can sense a little respect in their eyes when they check out my AllRoad bike which enabled me to float over the stones in order to keep enough energy to smile and enjoy a few IPA beers.
Words and photos: Sylvain, cofounder of Caminade
My bike configuration:
AllRoad Apex at €2 990 with just the Elite option of Mavic 650B wheels.
Published : 2018-05-30RSS feed