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Bike Check: Bikes We're Riding at Unbound Gravel 2023

What's the best gravel bike for taking on Unbound Gravel? We have a good amount of experience racing Unbound, and chose gravel bikes that will (hopefully) help us achieve our goals this year.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Gravel

What bikes are we riding into the sunset? Photo: LifeTime

Unbound Gravel, the world’s biggest gravel race, is less than a month away. If you’re riding it, and you don’t have a bike by now, you might be in big trouble. My co-worker Sheldon Thomson and I are going to be racing this year, and fortunately, we already have our bike set-ups (mostly) dialed. 

Let’s take a quick look at the bikes we’ll be taking with us to Emporia, Kansas. We have pretty different goals for this race, so our bikes are pretty different. 

See also: The Gear We’re Using at Unbound

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Sheldon’s Unbound Gravel Bike: Rodeo Labs Flannimal 5.0 Ti

Unbound gravel bike check rodeo Labs Flannimal 5.0 TiSheldon is a grizzled Unbound Gravel veteran. This year will be his fifth time racing Unbound, and finishing will put him in the exclusive 1,000-mile club. That’s pretty impressive, but what’s even crazier is that this will be his third time riding Unbound on a singlespeed. That’s right, take a close look at his rugged Rodeo Labs Flannimal and you’ll see a distinct lack of gears. Why would anyone subject themselves to such punishment?

“For me, single speed makes things simple,” Sheldon explained. “I don't have to worry about breaking off my rear derailleur if it's a muddy race. I'm forced to ride my own ride and not burn myself up trying to stick with groups. I just pedal my bike and maybe walk a few climbs. And if I am really slow I can blame it on the single speed.

“My bike is usually set up with Force/XX1 AXS. It only takes about 20 minutes to do a full conversion to singlespeed. I’ll be using an unreleased Wheels Manufacturing Solo-XD single-speed kit for XD freehubs. The design uses a base sleeve that threads onto the XD freehub body, just like you would with a cassette, and then the spacers and cog slide over that with a lock ring holding those in place.”


Frame: Rodeo Labs Flannimal 5.0 Ti, 54cm
Fork: Rodeo Labs Spork 3.0
Shifters: SRAM Force AXS
Brakes: SRAM Force AXS
Cranks: White Industries G30, 44t chainring
Cog: Wheels Manufacturing Solo-XD single-speed, 20t cog
Handlebars: Ritchey WCS VentureMax, 44cm
Stem: RedShift ShokStop, 90mm
Seatpost: Easton EC70
Saddle: Specialized Power Comp
Wheels: Rodeo 2.0 carbon rims / White Industries rear hub / Shimano dynamo front hub
Tires: Panaracer GravelKing SK+, 700c x 43mm
Pedals: Shimano Deore XT
Bags: Custom Exile Designs half frame bag w/ 2L bladder
Cages: King Titanium

Bruce’s Unbound Gravel Bike: Lauf Seigla

Unbound Gravel bike check Lauf SeiglaThis will be my third trip to Emporia after racing the 100-mile version in 2017 and the full 200-mile event in 2022. I managed to beat the sun last year, so my overly-ambitious goal this year is to finish around 12 hours. To do that, I wanted a bike that was light and fast, but also comfortable enough for long stints of pedaling in an aero position. That’s why I chose the Lauf Seigla. With the 30mm travel Grit fork and 10mm of flex in the rear, I can stay low and tucked while mowing down all the rough flint gravel. 

I’m riding a size small, and it’s essentially the stock Race Wireless build, but I’ve swapped the SRAM XPLR AXS drivetrain for an AXS mullet set-up. I rode XPLR at Unbound last year and it had more than enough gear range, but I wanted a slightly easier climbing gear since I’ll also be racing this bike at SBT GRVL later in the year. 

It’s worth noting that I’m using the same Challenge Getaway tire and CushCore Gravel insert combo I used last year, but I’ll actually be using a prototype version that is new and improved. There are going to be a few top pros racing on them, so I feel pretty lucky to have the opportunity to use them too. If I can get an extra set, Sheldon might be swapping out his GravelKings too! 


Frame: Lauf Segla, Small
Fork: Lauf Grit 3rd Gen
Shifters: SRAM Force AXS
Brakes: SRAM Force AXS
Cranks: SRAM Force AXS, 40t chainring
Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
Cassette: SRAM X01 Eagle, 10-50t
Handlebars: Lauf Smoothie, 40cm
Stem: Easton EA90, 110mm
Seatpost: Easton EC90
Saddle: Fizik Vento Argo R3
Wheels: E*Thirteen XCX Race Carbon Gravel
Tires: Challenge Getaway, 700c x 45mm
Inserts: CushCore Gravel.CX
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 7
Bags: Silca Speed Capsule TT
Cages: King Titanium

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