I’ve been wanting to get back off-road and go bikepacking for a while now but with everything else I’ve been training for all year I’ve not really had the chance. So, with the downtime I had available after my recent charity ride I decided to get a bike set up for this purpose (plus some winter commuting).
I retired my Arkose a few months back in favour of my Dolomite, which is a fantastic road bike but always felt a little restricted in it’s usage. I’ve always been a big fan of using bikes for multiple purposes. I remember putting some big tyres on my Boardman Hybrid and taking it off road for a laugh and then putting slicks back on it to commute to work.
With the addition of the CGR Ti to my stable I’ve been looking at the bikes I own and really scrutinising their uses. The Arkose set up as a road bike when the CGR Ti covers that is a waste, so I set to work making the Arkose a full-on gravel/bikepacking style bike.
I’m a big fan of 1x chainrings and clutch mechs off-road, and with Shimano’s new Ultegra RX mech out I felt this would be a good plan for this build. The Ultegra RX is designed to work with a 2x set up, but I really wanted to go with the simplicity of a 1x, so I paired that with a 40t Raptor Chainring from Superstar Components and an 11-40t Shimano SLX cassette for a low 1:1 gear ratio.
NOTE: Officially the Shimano Ultegra RX only accommodates an 11-34t cassette. However, winding the B-tension screw all the way in will allow you to run an 11-40t, although this will probably void any warranty on the product.
The rest of the build was fleshed out with a flared Venturemax handlebar from Ritchey, Specialized Power saddle, Shimano pedals and a set of Mason X Hunt 650b Adventure Dynamo wheels shod in WTB Horizon rubber.
I’ve also picked up an Igaro D1 USB power converter I’ll be hooking up to the dynamo to try out and I have a set of SON Edelux lights I can use come winter.
First ride out on the bike was interesting, having spent so much time on a road bike over the past few years the low gearing was a shock and the gaps in the cassette compared to a 50/34 11/32 set up meant that maintaining my cadence was more effort. However off-road I think this bike will shine. The 1:1 bottom gear will help me crawl up all but the steepest of climbs and once I’ve got the dynamo completely set up I should be pretty self-sufficient.
The only thing I found odd was the tyres. The sidewalls have a recommended minimum pressure of 55psi, but that’s far too high even on the road. Hitting bad sections of road were quite unnerving as the bike would ping around underneath me andÂ I’d be knocked off line a lot. IÂ brought the pressure down to 40psi which added a lot of comfort and made the bike feel more stable no matter the state of the road. However this did add some noticeable drag, so I’ll need to have a play with the pressures especially on the road.