This summer, TPC released its Mosaic GT-2 45 gravel bike. Only forty of these special edition frames were built, but eight were set aside for John Watson of The Radavist to build to his own specs. The result was The Radavist Edition Mosaic GT-2X. Watson’s explained that goal of his build was to increase compliance. The combination of a steel fork, wide titanium flat bars, a titanium seatpost, and 2.1” tires all added extra flex to enhance comfort on rough terrain and multi-day bikepacking adventures.
While our version, the Mosaic x TPC GT-2 45, is plenty comfortable, it isn’t enough to satisfy a compliance connoisseur like Watson. So we challenged him to upgrade one of our bikes. He swapped a few key components to create a bike that can smooth out the super rough roads where he spends most of his time. I caught up with him to find out what upgrades he chose to make our custom gravel bike Radavist-approved.
One of the modern bike components Watson is most critical of is the carbon fork. In the last couple of decades, carbon forks have become standard equipment on nearly every road and gravel bike.
He wrote in his GT-2X overview: “Even with carbon fiber engineered to be ‘compliant’ over the rough stuff, [it doesn’t] hold up to steel, or titanium for that matter, in terms of all-day comfort in rugged and rough terrain.”
Watson’s go-to comfort solution is to swap in a cushy steel fork. But many riders likely aren’t ready to give up their lightweight carbon forks. As a result, components like suspension stems have gained popularity (again). It’d be a shame to ditch the GT-2 45’s custom-painted ENVE fork, so a suspension stem was a sensible and affordable upgrade.
“We've already seen my ideal version of the bike,” Watson said. “But what is the Yin to the Yang? What’s the carbon-forked, suspension stem and seatpost version of this bike like to ride? I’m interested in the industry's slant on compliance. Components like suspension stems and seatposts are becoming viable solutions. Is that going to provide the comfort I want? Or is it going to provide a different feel altogether?”
Cane Creek eeSilk stem and seatpost
Most gravel riders experience discomfort or fatigue in their hands, their saddle area, or both. That’s where Cane Creek’s eeSilk suspension stem and ssSilk+ suspension seatpost come in.
The eeSilk stem provides 20mm of travel and it allows riders to swap between soft and firm settings on the fly with a compliance switch. The level of compliance is also easily tunable by changing between three included elastomers.
The eeSilk+ seatpost seatpost provides 35mm of travel. It comes with an elastomer designed for riders between 150-210lbs, but it can also be swapped with softer and firmer options to suit your needs. It also comes in a lighter carbon version if you’re looking to save grams.
Watson is cautiously optimistic about how the eeSilk products will perform.
“Obviously, the eeSilk is kind of like the old suspension stems from the ‘90s,” he said. “Similar to what mountain bikes were using in the NORBA era. I feel like a lot of technology like this is kind of gimmicky. But being open-minded about this kind of stuff is important. I don't think it'll be as capable as mountain bike suspension on singletrack, but for hammering out a bunch of rough gravel road miles it should be great. It isn't my normal thing, and I’m excited to find out how it performs.”
Having done a good amount of miles on the eeSilk+ seatpost myself (review to come), I think Watson might be pleasantly surprised.
[button]SHOP CANE CREEK[/button]
Cane Creek eeWings crankset
One component Watson isn’t skeptical about is Cane Creek’s eeWings titanium crankset. They carry a hefty price tag, but if you’re looking for high-end cranks to match the bling and durability of a titanium frame, these are the ultimate choice.
“I've had eeWings on two bikes,” Watson explained. “I like titanium. Obviously, it’s incredibly durable. But I think there's also this misconception that you buy titanium because it's lighter. To me, the eeWings aren't about saving weight. They actually provide the resonance damping I’m after.
“It’s not that they flex more or anything, but I feel that titanium just does a better job at dispersing vibrations coming through your bottom bracket than carbon or aluminum, which are very stiff and hard materials. Of course, I'm not a scientist or a metallurgist. I don't have data to back this up. It’s just based on 1000s of miles of experience.
“Plus, they look cool,” Watson added. “They look like the old cranks that were popular in the ‘90s, like Bullseyes or any of those.”
[button]SHOP CANE CREEK[/button]
Teravail Cannonball tires
The Mosaic x TPC GT-2 45 comes equipped with 45mm-wide Maxxis Rambler tires. They're wide, but for Watson, not wide enough. Tires are actually the most important component when it comes to improving comfort.
“I always try to max out tires,” Watson said. “Running a bigger tire at lower pressures is actually where the most resonance damping comes from.”
The GT-2 45 is designed to clear 45mm tires, but it isn’t uncommon for riders seeking bigger rubber to push the limits of tire clearance. In this case, Watson chose the 47mm-wide Teravail Cannonball. It’s only 2mm more, but the increase in volume should provide the extra bit of comfort Watson wants.
“I have Teravails on all of my mountain bikes,” Watson said. “I really liked Teravail stuff. The Cannonball gravel tires are not too aggressive. If I'm gonna do the gravel climb in town, it's 10 miles of pavement to get the start of the gravel roads. You don't want something that’s slow and noisy and feels really heavy.”
Can you buy this bike?
Yes! Though Watson only upgraded two bikes so you’ll have to get lucky. He’ll test one 58cm bike and it will be available for sale once he’s completed his review. Another 54cm bike will be available for sale soon, so stay tuned. Watson will be test-riding his upgraded version of our special edition bike over the next few months and reporting back with his thoughts on the build, which will be available to read on The Radavist.