Team Hackney GT had our first outing to a gravel race for the inaugural Gritfest two day event in Llandovery, Wales a couple of weeks ago. We was not sure what to expect. How would the race format work? What would be the best setup and and would the sausage roll pit stops be enough.
The format for this event was two days of 90km and 60km respectively with three timed stages on each day and relaxed riding in between. The stages varied a lot from a 1 hour 20km ball breaker to a 2 minute hairy down hill. A 10km single track forest blast, a 30 mins all uphill slog and several other variations in between. This actually worked really well and made for great social riding as well as some full on racing. We went around as a team then raced the stages individually , regrouping after.
It was interesting to check the various rides people were on. Would a gravel bike be the optimum machine or was there something better? There was everything been taking for a spin from full suss MTB to cyclocross bikes and everything in between. All bikes had advantages and disadvantages but checking the winners and stage times it would seem that a lightweight hybrid gravel set up with some fatter tyres was actually probably the best option. Hardtail carbon MTB with semi slick tyres , ideally with a rigid frontend would personally be our choice. Dropped bars would have some advantage but not essential. There was a lot of time to be made up on the downhills with fatter tyres . Another thing to consider would be gearing a bigger top end. Spinning out on a cylco-cross gearing happened a few times for us.
Overall the weather was spectacular and the Welsh hills scenery all the way was top notch. It felt we could have been in the Alps. The campsite was great and there was plenty of entertainment, food stalls and even the football showing. The atmosphere was spot on and not too corporate. The gravel bikes looked way cool and we recon gravel racing is more than just a flash-in-the pain fad but something to stay. We wil definitely be going back to Gritfest and looking out for similar events . This leaves us with one perennial dilemma . Do we now need another bike?
Footnote : Hackney GT along with our good friends at Hub Velo cycles are riding the gravel all the way, Hackney to Margate Tuesday 17th July. Find out more details here https://business.facebook.com/events/218084839021691/ . All welcome.