It’s been just 10 days since I introduced my Specialized Sequoia. It was in a Facebook photo of the progress on Healthy Habits’ new location going up yards from our current digs. She arrived beige. Boring beige. And I don’t ride boring bikes.
Taking orange decals originally intended for my recently stolen 2016 Salsa Mukluk fat bike, I dialed in her color with cable housing, bar tape, Arundel bottle cages and Issi pedals. A few days later I added an orange Salsa Lip Lock seat post collar. She ceased being boring.
In the last week I’ve had her out four times, putting in miles where and when I could. My previous gravel riding was done on either mountain or fat tires, but with my next big goal being Dirty Kanza 2019, skill building starts now on the Sawtooth 42mm tires that came stock on the bike.
Already I can tell gravel riding on narrower tires is a whole different beast. Last year I was doing much of it on a mountain tandem with my son which definitely has its advantages for honing one’s handling skills.
This year I did all my gravel riding on my fat bike, and nothing beats the stability of a fat tire to make gravel GRAVY! Those monster tires and treads mean even the loosest of gravel is no problem. But those monster tires are also slow and exhausting. It’s one thing to do 20 or 30 miles on a fat bike, and quite another to do 200.
So why did I choose the Sequoia? It’s been a year-long process of elimination. I loved the pre-2017 Salsa Warbird, but the new design features a 1x drivetrain. Many people tell me that’s what all gravel bikes are heading to, but I know myself–I need gears and wanted a 2x setup. With the Warbird out, I figured I’d do what my husband did and go with the newly designed Diverge Comp from Specialized. A full carbon rig with the new Future Shock in the headset makes for a super comfortable ride.
But steel, especially for riding gravel, was something I couldn’t ignore. The stock Sequoia is pretty hefty, but earlier this fall a customer, Vinny, ordered a Sequoia frame and had us do a custom build from there. I was stunned how much weight was shaved just in wheels. That’s all it took. I chose the Shimano 105 group set and plan to build lighter wheels in the future. She’s set up tubeless and for now, I’m simply riding and figuring out what psi works best for me.
I find gravel super intimidating so as I delve deeper into a new way of riding, I’m drawing on last summer’s Ironman training. Hill repeats, week in and week out, for several months taught me to finally surrender my fear of hills. It was in the doing, over and over again, that I lost my fear. I’m going to trust that by riding gravel, day in and day out, on hard dirt and the loosest of fresh rock, I will eventually jettison my fear and embrace the suck.