The Bicycle Academy was approached by Giro when the American sensation ‘Grinduro’ first planned a visit to UK shores. With a varied parcours and timed segments there really is no perfect bike (or rider) for the event, and this is what gives it it’s charm. Grinduro isn’t just a bike race; it’s a weekend long bike party. The Bicycle Academy have been participants, revellers and key instigators during the 2017 and the 2018 editions of the race. The event takes place on the remote Isle of Arran which ensures attendees are a passionate group of frame builders, gravel fans and custom bicycle devotees.
There is a certain “run what you brung” feel which everyone loves. The laid back approach that most riders bring to the race encourages a non conventional approach to racing; bikes range in both style and discipline from fixies to tall fat-bikes!
Each year, in partnership with Columbus and SRAM, we have had the pleasure of setting four carefully selected builders the challenge of building and racing their perfect Grinduro bike. In 2017 we selected Mecredi, Shand, Feather, and Donhou. In 2018 we selected Quirk, BTR, Field and August. The freedom that came with the generous sponsorship meant everyone could really let loose and design something focussed on the event itself. Here we present a round up of the bikes created by our chosen frame builders.
We begin by hearing from the chosen frame builders from the 2017 edition.
The bike is built as a prototype rig, around a Works Components angle headset, allowing me to try out different head angles. The Zona 29r bent down tube gives me lots of room to clear the RockShox forks crown, and the rear is kept tight and close whilst still full of clearance around the 27.5 wheel. I also go for external cable routing. That way, I can easily swap the Reverb dropper for a rigid post when long adventures call. Maintenance will be also super easy that way. I don’t like hiding things away. Bikes have cables and hydraulic hoses, that’s what makes them work. I’m proud to keep them out. The entire ride was amazing.
Where the MTB was a little slower up the long hard packed climbs, it allowed me to fly down the single tracks to take the win in my category and come out 3rd fastest woman altogether.
With this frame, we really wanted to use design to push past a standard steel frame and the centre point of the design is the 3D printed seat lug. This allows us to achieve multiple things; it sets the seat stays wider apart for greater tyre clearance, it allows us to use the custom formed ovalized top tube building stiffness into the frame as well as making shouldering more comfortable. For the Grinduro paint, we simply went with the spirit of the event and had fun with it… It looks quick, it’s essentially a flame job, but using actual paint drips instead of flames for the punk rock vibe! Minimal masking and simply getting the freak on with a paint brush. The splatter paint did a great job of hiding the dirt post event too.
I kind of had in mind that the bike would become my training bike following the event, but I also used it as a bit of an opportunity to build a bike I could race CX on. I’m not a huge fan of a traditional CX geometry and always wanted to try something a little less sluggish. Turns out, it worked just as I wanted it to. Well balanced, with sharper steering and a lower BB than your average European CX bike. Obviously, the bike was going to struggle on the wooded parts of the race, thick dirt, dropoffs, and technical downhill are a bit out of my comfort zone as a road cyclist. Everything else, it was perfect.
When asked to build a gravel bike for Griduro we didn’t do a custom build as our Stoater and Stooshie designs have been refined over time and ideal for this type of riding allowing tyres up to 45mm in width. I ride a fair bit off road and on MTB trails with the Stoater and there’s very little I would change. For Grinduro we built a Stooshie with the main difference to our standard builds being the Lauf fork.
The climbs I knew I’d have no speed on and would just hang in at a steady pace, but I was looking forward to the technical decent and it didn’t disappoint. The Lauf just soaked up the roots and tight turns and the bike had a nibble feel that helped to easily pop the front end over obstacles. A real hoot.
Next we hear a little about the bikes from the 2018 edition.
Rob from Quirk had the advantage of having ridden the first Grinduro Scotland and as such knew a little bit more than some about what to expect…
“Singletrack, grinding gravel ascents, fast fire-road descents, gnarly forest trails, every type of off-road you can imagine. I wanted as large a volume tyre I could get.”
Rob opted for 700x42 WTB resolute tyres.
“The large tyres would help soften the road but more and more I’d been looking into suspension for gravel bikes. There was no question about it; it had to be Lauf Grit. These forks are perfect for filtering out road vibrations and unbelievably after eight hours in the saddle, I had not a single ache or pain in my shoulders or hands. The fork performed flawlessly dealing with anything the course could throw at it.”
Gavin has always been ahead of the curve with drop bar road bikes, and for his Grinduro bike he decided a tried and true “gravel bike” would be his weapon of choice. Deciding to reduce the wheel size from the normal 700c to the ubiquitous 650b and with the clever use of Columbus MTB-bend seat stays, the 42mm WTB tyres have plenty of room around them.
Details such as the flat-capped seat stays and the exquisite detail milled and brazed onto the dropouts are perfect examples of Gavin’s craft and unique style.
MTBs are a perfectly valid choice for this ride and Tam developed the geometry of their Ranger model to better suit the longer distance, steepening the angle of that beautiful Columbus tapered head tube slightly and adding the larger volume rubber.
“In the 'Ranger Plus' Grinduro bike we wanted to keep as much of the Ranger’s speed and handling characteristics, and use 650B+ tyres to add plenty of grip in any terrain”.
Jamie, BTRs chosen pilot, had this to say of his Grinduro experience.
“I immediately found myself making progress within the field through virtue of the plus tyres and relaxed geometry. While others spun out and hooked up on roots and rocks the BTR trundled through without a hiccup or any serious effort.
When the trail pointed down, in places plummeting riders to sea level in only a handful of turns, the bike came truly alive, storming through the tight switchbacks and holding any line I dared to take.”
Field Cycles are known for building fast and nimble road bikes, but that might be pushing it a little for Grinduro. Tom at Field explains their plan for what the course would throw at them…
“Our Grinduro build was our chance to take our road-going Field Works frameset, keep what makes it so good and add a few tweaks to turn it into a gravel dream machine. Just as capable of eating up miles of gravel as it is tarmac.”
Tom was lucky enough to be the man at the helm for Grinduro this year and it wasn’t the bike that held him back!
“The first outing did not disappoint, this is such a fun bike to ride. Light, fast and stiff with that unmistakable zingy-feel when you put the power down up those gravel section climbs. The only thing lacking was my skill and legs when things got a little more sketchy in the woods – there’s no shame in being passed by a hardtail MTB gapping roots at race speed is there?”
Special Guests of 2018
We always find it hard to select from such a thriving frame building scene in the UK for these projects. Luckily, we managed to sneak a little more sponsorship for a couple of builders keen to get involved with something a little more ‘leftfield’ and playful!
Mick at Lapsley had this to say about his bike. “The idea behind the bike for Grinduro was to bring a bike based on the thin tube cyclocross frames of the 70s and 80s.
I wanted to make a classic looking frame that would still hold up to the riding conditions of Grinduro and incorporate some more modern aspects such as disc brakes and a front through axle.”
Petor from Dear Susan is known for pushing the limits. And as you can see from his build this Grinduro ‘cross bike doesn’t disappoint! It’s not all show and no go though; take note of that adjustable bottom bracket for tensioning the belt!
To see some more pictures of the bikes from 2017 click here to check out the Grinduro 2017 article on The Radavist.
To see more pictures of the bikes from 2018 click here to check out the Grinduro 2018 article on Cycle Exif.