Bike choice is key at Unbound. Photo: LifeTime
For some, Unbound Gravel is the pinnacle of endurance gravel racing. For others, it’s a foolish and brutal event for masochists that they have no interest in ever doing. With 200 miles of rough gravel, steep kickers, and block headwinds, it’s understandable.
But if you had to take on this monster, what bike would you ride? I covered the bike I’m riding in an earlier post, so I decided to ask the bike geeks here at TPC what they thought. I told them to pick a bike that would give them the best chance at reaching the Unbound finish. These are the bikes they chose.
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A Budget Unbound Racer
Bombtrack Hook EXT C
You don’t need a wallet-busting superbike to handle Unbound, but you still want something well-designed, comfortable, and most importantly, reliable. That’s why Andrew chose a Bombtrack. This German brand comes from the rough and tumble world of BMX bikes so they know how to build tough and fast bikes that don’t break the bank.
“It’s not the fanciest bike out there, but I think this build has everything you need without any unnecessary tech or gimmicks which could derail your race. Hydraulic disc brakes are a must, but I still feel that despite the proven durability of modern electronic drivetrains a mechanical drivetrain is the most durable (and serviceable in the case of a crash or a mechanical issue) choice for a 200-mile gravel epic. The solid Hunt wheels and 2-inch Venture tires will also provide a decent amount of compliance and grip for the rowdier sections on the course.” - Andrew Austin, Purchasing Product Specialist
The 2x Traditionalist
Orbea Terra M20i Team
The Orbea Terra Team is actually the bike I use to race Unbound in 2022. I absolutely love this bike, so I’m totally down with Megan’s pick. As a 1x evangelist though, I can’t say I agree with the drivetrain choice. But she has way more experience than me doing ultra-long sufferfests and makes a strong case for having more gear range.
“It's a solid, sensible choice. The colorway is not so flashy that I'd be bummed out when it gets caked in a dusty Kansas patina. I’m also a big 2x fan. Spinning in that 31x34t is going to be sweet if the course is muddy, or when I hit triple-digit mileage and the terrain starts to tilt upward even a little. Plus, that integrated aero front-end is going to save incalculable amounts of watts — I might just make it to the 200-mile mark!” - Megan Schmidt, Ride Guide - Sales
Team Ti Is Fly
TPC x Mosaic GT2 45
Plenty of riders still love metal bikes for their durability, ride quality, and classic good looks. When it comes to high-performance metal frames, titanium is the top choice of aficionados like Duncan and Alan. If they’re going to ride a big event like Unbound, then they’re going to ball out with a pair of high-end limited-edition Mosaics.
“I really prefer the ride of a steel or titanium bike to carbon. The Mosaic looks amazing. There is no questioning the ride quality and clearance for fat meats means things are going to stay smooth for all those rolling miles of rolling and many feet of climbing. I would prefer to have robots handling my shifting but we don't seem to have the Di2 version in my size so here we are. While I am at it I would upgrade the wheels to something carbon, probably ENVE. Add some XTR pedals and we are almost ready to hit the starting line.” - Duncan Benning, Ride Guide
“45 mm tire clearance and 20 lbs. I think titanium handles gravel the best!” - Alan Zalewa, Intake Supervisor
A "Full-Suspension" Superbike
Specialized S-Works Diverge STR
If money were no object, this bike would be my choice too. Plenty of internet memes have made fun of the funky Future Shock Rear with its aluminum tendon, but experienced endurance riders like Nick understand the value of extra compliance. In a long race like Unbound, the increased comfort can boost your power output and help you stay in a fast and aero position for longer.
“I would go with the new Specialized Diverge STR. I've been wanting to try this new seat post tech for a while now and I think it would absolutely crush Unbound, where fatigue is a real factor. You can't go wrong with that sub-19-pound weight and full SRAM AXS mullet setup. It's the Cadillac of gravel machines.” - Nick Leng, External Compliance Specialist
The Weight-Weenie Special
Specialized S-Works Crux
Unbound isn’t known for long, extended climbs. Instead, you face an endless series of steep kickers where competitive riders like to step on the gas to try and break up groups. While weight isn’t the most important factor, a light bike can really make those decisive moments a bit less painful. Not that it matters to a powerhouse like Chase. He’d still drop me on 30 pound singlespeed.
“Absolutely the S-Works Crux. It's the lightest gravel bike on the market, and this build is only just over 16 lbs! Compliant enough for a big day in the saddle, but tough enough to always get you home. I actually ride the non-S-Works version and I've tested its mettle at the 200-mile Rexy race, so I know this bike is up to the job.” - Chase Robertson, Consumables Coordinator
That One Crazy Singlespeed Rider
The Radavist x Sklar Super Something Cruiser
There are always a few crazies tackling Unbound on a singlespeed (see my co-worker Sheldon’s Unbound bike). But Lincoln wants to take things to the next level with this limited-edition Radavist x Sklar singlespeed which uses a coaster brake. That’s right… a coaster brake. Good luck, man.
“200 miles on a singlespeed coaster brake bike. What can I say? I am a glutton for punishment. When something is hard, should you really make it harder? Yes, please. I may or may not finish, but I would enjoy every mile. Except for the ones that I don't…” - Lincoln Bradley, Ride Guide Team Lead
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