It is amazing how much a person can learn about pro level bike set-up and race tips just from hanging out shooting the beautiful hand built bikes at Shimano’s GRX Limited bike gallery. Well, it helps when top gravel racer Peter Stetina walks up and starts talking shop with Shimano tech reps. First and foremost was the advice he gave a first-timer on how best to overcome the brutal conditions of Unbound Gravel and ensure a strong finish.
“My best tip,” Stetina said “Is to protect your bike. Remember, the slowest bike is a broken bike. Try not to go splashing through the stream crossings. I always take a small amount of chain lube with me when I race because a dry chain can add up to 40 watts to your effort.”
WHAT ABOUT STETINA’S WHEEL & TIRE CHOICE?
One of the best parts about gravel racing is the quandary faced by many top riders about what tires, wheels, and gears to use given the uncertain course & weather conditions. Just as occurred last year at BWR when I watched Peter seeking opinion from the IRC tire techs, I was fortunate again to witness Stetina applying a level of thought and discussion that most would never consider. So pro!
The real reason that Stetina was visiting the Shimano booth was to get some advice on what wheels to run. Famous already for being one of America’s top gravel riders while running Shimano’s Dura-Ace road wheels, pedals and 2x crank, Stetina was now unsure what wheels to run given how much he “loved” his new Shimano’s GRX carbon wheels.
What was discussed next was an uber-deep discussion about the merits of what wheel/tire combo would be the most aero and durable. Peter was fully aware that the 21mm internal width of his Dura Ace wheels would have an impact on the shape and air volume of his (inflated) tire distinct from that of the 25mm width of the new GRX wheels. But, the deeper Dura-Ace wheels could also be more aero. But, if it gets windy on Saturday the shallower (32mm deep) GRX wheels would move around less which could be a boom for his still recovering the broken wrist that held him back from competing for the win at last months Belgian Waffle Ride.
It was at that moment that Shimano’s Nick Legan reached waaaay back in time and pulled some really obscure Tour de France lore to add to the discussion. That was in 2011 when Mavic engineered a thin foam strip to fill the void between the rim wall and tire sidewall interface. I was actually walking among the team cars at the Tour that day the moment when Mavic tech support hurriedly began stripping the foam inserts off the team Garmin Cervelo wheels after the UCI banned the quick fix effort.
In the end, Stetina said he would opt for a the GRX wheel up front and the Dura-Ace wheel in the rear – both mounted with his usual 42mm IRC Bokken Double Cross tires. filled with Orange Seal sealant. Of course, within hours, it was reported that another top pro rider was considering running 33mm cyclocross tires given the potential of muddy conditions – what the?!?!
And so it goes!