A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit Part 2


Okay.  Okay.  I heard you loud and clear.  It’s just a word.  No need to be childish about it.  I get.  I hear you.  I apologize.

Cock.  Pit.

Cockpit…TEE HEE!!!

Love it.  Okay.  Moving on.  Whats in my Cockpit Part Two!!  What?  You missed Part One?  Thanks for paying attention.  You can find it by clicking on this link.  A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit.  Without a doubt the cockpit of a bike can be the busiest and most personalized part of the bike.  We don’t all ride with the same goals.  I get it.  I’m not telling you to do exactly as I do.  I am telling you I know what I like.  I know how to survive gravel endurance rides up to and including the Dirty Kanza 200.  I know how to complete these rides on very little training as a new rider and I know how to finish them quickly as a seasoned #midpackattack rider.  I admittedly lack knowledge of front of the pack riding.  I simply lack the natural athleticism to maintain that kind of power for more than a few miles.  I am happy to know though that so do a LARGE percentage of gravel riders.

Why do we focus so much on the weight of the bike?  Why do we focus on aero?  Why do we call out those things that are not aero?  I guarantee you this…I have the power numbers over the past 3 years to prove this…5, 10, 15 hours into a gravel ride…if you are NOT comfortable then you are NOT pedaling efficiently.  Period.  (Period?  Okay…tone it down I sound preachy…)  You can not average 13, 14, 15 mph hour late in a ride if you have hotspots on your feet, piercing pain in your shoulders, sore or numb triceps, fingers that lack strength to shift, a head you can’t lift up or an ass you can’t keep in the same position for more than 10 seconds.  You can’t.  You won’t.  You’ll make excuses.  You’ll coast.  You’ll stop.  (#truth)

Marginal gains?  Who gives a crap between Finishing spots 213 and 412?  Push your self hard by all means.  I do!!  Take a small step towards being more comfortable.  It’s okay.  Come to the Dark Side.  Don’t ask “How much weight does that add to the bike?”.  Instead ask “How much bacon can I stuff into that extra pocket?”.  (I like bacon.  Kevin Bacon.  Footloose.  Gary Bacon.  Candied Bacon.  Bacon sandwiches.  Plain.  old.  Bacon.)

Nothing I have on my bike is a cure all.  Parts of me will always ache long into a gravel ride but the longer I can be comfortable before those pains creep in, the shorter I have to ride with those pains and the faster I finish the ride and enjoy stories and beer with friends and family.

Okay…enough preaching…lets knock out The Cockpit.

ShiftersSRAM Rival 1 (Didn’t weight each shifter) – Not much to say here.  Rival 1 works and works well.  I will probably be switching my eTap system shifters over soon.  I currently have them on my Salsa Warbird.  I’m now confident in the True Grit frame geometry so will be riding it more often.  Might as well move over the eTap and see if it works with the 42t cassette…I’ve heard things.  Another story for another time.


Photo Cred to Ryan Balkenhol! I’m posting this pic for no other reason than to show…one time…ONE TIME…I beat everyone up a hill!

Casual BarsProfile Design T1+ (520 grams) – I prefer the double bend style.  (Yes.  It’s a style.  At least Profile Design calls it a style.  They could have been more creative I suppose.)  My hand and wrist are in a more natural casual (I like that word…casual) position.  I feel the grip position gives me stronger control on the variable terrain associated with gravel.  Plus.  Bonus.  When you remove the extension bar and flip it over…reminds of Han Solo’s blaster from Star Wars.  PEW!  PEW!  Aluminum over carbon here.  I’ve had clip on carbon casual bars before.  The weight savings is minimal due to the weight of the brackets AND I’ve had the carbon fracture in a solo crash.  No.  I was not in the casual bars at the time of the crash…It was a dumb move.  I reached for a water bottle and hit washboards at high speed.  Point is…aluminum would have just bent I think…carbon fractured.  Fractured carbon is ouchy.  I’ll stick with aluminum.

Look, I have casual bars on for comfort…not for being aero.  Safety is always a major concern.  (Especially when I’m leaning on the bars to text, take selfies or watch Star Wars while I ride…kidding!!!  Mostly.)  I’m in my Casual Bars when I’m alone for HOURS on end rolling along on hard pack gravel trying to tackle roller after roller.  Rollers for hours.  Not a turn in sight.  Midwest Gravel.  I’m a firm believer that for the majority of gravel riders, Comfort equals Speed.  If you’re back/neck/shoulders/arms/wrists hurt 4 hours into a ride…you aren’t pedaling efficiently any more.  You start focusing on the pain and stop focusing on your cadence and pedal stroke.  You are busy sitting up and stretching.  Flexing your hands.  I’m thinking “shit this hurts!!!” not “how can I be more aero and make this suck even more”.  Casual Bars are simply another riding position for me.  Be smart though.  You have to focus extra hard and really should only be in them on hard pack surfaces…and relatively solo…which we have and are a lot of here locally.

Bags/StorageRevelate Mountain Feed Bag (107 Grams)- Go to bag for any race here.  I’ll decide on ONE or TWO depending on race needs.  The bags are so, so versatile.  First…my favorite need and the first thing I notice when they aren’t on the bike is Trash disposal.  DO NOT LITTER!!!  Gel wrappers.  Chew wrappers.  Bar wrappers.  The external webbing pocket is perfect for storing these messy…gooey wrappers.  The pocket is super easy to clean since it’s webbed.

Honestly…I put the bags on the top shelf of the dishwasher and have for years.  No issues.  Yes…the webbing has stretched a little after 3 years of use.  Not enough to buy a new one although maybe I should to support a great company.  I use the bags for extra water bottles.  I use the bags for nutrition and extra Skratch hydration packets.  I use the bags for phones, batteries and charging cables.  Heck I’ve even use my feedbag as a soup bowl for Gas Station Chicken Noodle Soup!!!  No I haven’t.  I’ve never had Chicken and Noodle at a fast station but…not a bad idea actually.  I bet it would work.

Bags/StorageTank Top Pack – Cedaero – Love love love this top tube bag.  Large zipper so extremely easy to zip and unzip while riding.  I liked the Revelate Gas Tank bag as well but sometimes those tiny water proof zippers were a frustrating pain 10+ hours into a ride.  In that mental state…any minor deterrent to nutrition is a major problem.  15 minutes becomes 30 minutes and pretty sure you’ve delayed an hour to eat simply because the zipper was annoying.  (I used Revelates Gas Tank bag for over 15,000 miles…great bag)  I wanted to try something different.  Enter the Cedaero bag…awesome zipper.  I like the internal webbed pocket for Credit Card and ID.  Keeps it organized and out of the way of nutrition grabs.  I prefer the velcro straps as opposed to the bolt on.  Depending on angle of top tube sometimes the bolt on doesn’t sit firmly against the headset and stem.  I’m OCD about that wasted half inch of space.  The Velcro strapped version is something I can easily move between bikes and cinch up tight.

That’s it!!  I’m done!  That’s my cockpit.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Lots of people comment on my cockpit.  I felt the need to explain it.  Adam Blake from Gravel City Adventure and Supply wanted me to talk about my cockpit.  Now I have.  My cockpit is not your cockpit.  All cockpits are different.  Never joke about a cockpit.  Just look quickly, give a nod…and move on to your own cockpit.  Take care of your cockpit.  Your riding comfort depends on it.

Next up about A Casual Gravel Bike?  Wheels.  Tires.  Sealant.  Suspension (GASP!!)  Frame.  Seatpost.  Saddle.  Drivetrain.

About BobbyT

Backroad cycling enthusiast, husband, father and friend. View all posts by BobbyT

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