Not too long ago bike riders were members of one particular group – you were a roadie, a mountain biker or, if you were a bit peculiar, a cyclocross racer. Then the gravel phenomenon began, and you could be anything you wanted to be... bikes evolved to the point where one bike, with a road endurance style frame, wide tires and a robust groupset, could carry a rider up a paved mountain road, along gravel or singletrack, through building sites, over gutters, along urban bike paths, and back onto the tarmac again.
Bike like those are built to handle the rough stuff – but there are shortcuts that will make unpaved (or terribly paved) roads just a little smoother. Here are a few ideas:
Canyon S15 VCLS CF Seatpost - $299 USD
This cleverly designed seatpost offers comfort and compliance, along with saddle angle adjustment, by splitting the shaft in two and sliding the halves of the shaft against each other, while the floating seat clamp keeps the saddle tilt constant as the post flexes. The VCLS seatpost features a curved shape design and offers 13 to 25 mm of saddle setback, and is easily adjustable thanks to the Flip Head, which allows the rider to customize the saddle tilt by simply sliding each leaf spring up or down.
What all this really means is that the seatpost flexes when you hit rough patches on the road – kind of like a rudimentary suspension system for your saddle. We’ve tried it, and it really does smooth out the lumps.
Prologo Scratch 2 PAS Tirox Saddle - $119
A compliant seatpost is great, but it works a lot better when the saddle mounted on top is a comfortable one. The Scratch 2 from Prologo is a great option for those long endurance miles on bumpy roads or gravel. The multi-density foam offers plenty of comfort, whilst a pressure relief channel reduces compression. A slight drop at the nose means it’s also ideal for those riders who are happy riding in the drop position on their handlebars.
DT Swiss PR 1400 DICUT OXiC Wheels - $552
These wheels are a great compromise – in the best sense of the word. They're not going to break the bank, yet they offer excellent build quality and longevity. The Aerocomp straight-pull spokes provide only marginal aero gains, but come out well ahead in terms of strength and fatigue resistance. These hoops are built to last, with bulletproof DT 240 hubs and Squorx nipples, and retain high-quality braking compliance and stiffness as the miles roll by. They soak up the ruts and washboards like a wheelset with a 4-digit pricetag, and the OXiC ceramic coating further strengthens the rim and adds wear life to the braking surface... and they look good, too.
Supacaz Super Sticky Kush Bar Tape - $42
This bold- colored polyurethane handlebar tape features a top layer of EVA foam backed with a silicone gel adhesive for security and added vibration absorption. It stretches nicely, goes on smoothly and is super supple. It’s also easy to clean and – best of all - it gets grippier when it’s wet, meaning your hands won’t slip off during a rainstorm.
Prior to an epic event, apply two layers of bar tape to really smooth out your ride and save your hands, wrists, and forearms.
Castelli Rosso Corsa Classic Cycling Gloves - $42.90
Sometimes even two layers of bar tape are not enough. That’s where these gloves from Castelli come in... well, handy. The palms are amply packed with gel padding and also feature a soft and absorbent microsuede wipe panel. A silicone print at the base of each finger adds extra grip and comfort, and the simple pull-on design means there is no messing around with Velcro straps or closure systems.
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GT Grade Carbon Ultegra Endurance Bike - $3730
A great blend of comfort and capability, the GT Grade will take you anywhere in style. Equally at home on the tarmac or on the trails, this 'eduroad' (endurance road) bike feels as comfortable after five hours in the saddle as it did when you left your driveway. Featuring an unbreakable Shimano Ultegra groupset, hydraulic disc brakes, and nice fat 32c tires, this machine is the complete all-terrain package.
Specialized Roubaix - starting at $1900
Since its launch back in 2004, the Roubaix has been one of the flagships of the esteemed Specialized stable. It can rightfully claim to be the pioneer in the “off-road capable endurance road bike” segment – the fastest-growing section in the entire cycling market. It offers all the benefits of a racing machine, with all the stiffness, low weight, and high pedaling efficiency that modern carbon fiber construction can deliver, but with endurance geometry and a frame rugged enough to handle the cobblestoned hell that is its namesake.
Choose from several models: the Roubaix with Tiagra, Roubaix Sport or Roubaix Elite with 105, Roubaix Comp or Roubaix Expert with Ultegra, and the Roubaix Pro with Dura-Ace. There are also Di2 versions, higher-end S-Works versions, a magical looking Peter Sagan 'Superstar' version, and an all-out race machine McLaren version.
Even if there was a better bike out there for riding the rough roads – and there probably isn’t – the heritage, value, and foresight that surrounds the Roubaix means it should always be worth considering.
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