Gravel riding is like mountain bike riding in a really interesting way. While at some level all roads bear something in common—a flat, straight road in Alabama is not all that different from a flat, straight road in Anaheim—because of how different the geography and geology can be from one region to another, every time I do a gravel ride in a different state, it’s always an education in learning to how to handle a gravel bike on a new surface.
Galena Lodge is a pretty interesting operation northeast of Ketchum, Idaho, on Why 75. It’s mostly a winter sports destination. They’ve got 50km of trails groomed for Nordic skiing—both classic and freestyle. There are also snowshoe trails for people to explore during the winter. In the summer, they switch to mountain bike riding, horseback riding, and hiking, plus a kids’ camp, not to mention a coveted place for weddings and receptions. While it’s easy enough to drive up there, we picked a spot just out of town to hop on gravel bikes from Moots and Turner and ride up to the lodge for lunch.
My ride for the morning was a titanium Turner Cyclosys. In talking to David Turner about the bike he cautioned me against calling it a gravel bike. In his mind, the Cyclosys is meant to be a versatile drop-bar bike, as adept at taking in a group ride while running 28mm tires as it is on a cyclocross course or taking in a milder gravel event. With a max tire clearance of 38mm, he doesn’t think of it as a gravel bike, which in his view would have a longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket than the Cyclosys does. I’ll get to more about that in a sec.
Up until now, the Cyclosys has been an aluminum bike. The new titanium version holds the promise of being a more comfortable and durable bike compared the the existing aluminum version. As I haven’t actually had a chance to ride the aluminum Cyclosys, I can’t say that the ti version is more comfortable, but what I can say is that it is a reasonably comfortable bike.
In looking the bike over, the weld quality was very high and the internal routing kept the bike looking clean (not to mention easy to pick up and put on a shoulder). The frame takes flat-mount disc brakes, is 142×12 thru-axle, and features a press-fit bottom bracket. The bike comes in six sizes, from XS to 2XL. The tubing is ovalized at the BB to increase the frame’s stiffness. Nice touch.
Press intros being the blunt instruments that they are, we don’t always get to size the bike according to our needs. Sometimes we don’t even get the correct size bike to ride. In this case, I rode a medium, which if the geometry for the original aluminum version of the Cyclosys holds for the new ti edition, then my bike had an effective top tube length of 54.5cm, a reach of 37.6cm, a stack of 57cm, a head tube of 14cm, a seat tube angle of 73.5 degrees and an 80mm stem. I was able to position the saddle in a pretty close to normal spot for me, but the reach to the bar, due to the short top tube, head tube and stem was, well, abbreviated.
The consequence of this was that I had a lot of weight on the front wheel and made getting out of the saddle for any reason a cause for the rear wheel to spin. While our route was mostly uphill, there were a few brief descents and even a section with some rollers. In those spots, so long as I kept my weight back, the bike handled really well.
Remember how I said that going to different places will yield different surfaces to ride once you’re off the paved roads? Well our route to Galena Lodge was on an old double-track dirt road. I wonder how many years that served as the main road north. With the passing of winter only six weeks before, a crew had hit the road with fresh gravel a week or two before and there were spots where the gravel was several inches deep and loose. That can make for some lively cornering.
More and more, I’m running across bikes that are meant to be more than a one-trick pony. The Cyclosys is one such bike. As Turner himself put it, he’s happy to do a group ride on it one day and race cyclocross with it another. With two wheelsets, one set up with some skinnier tires for road riding and something wider and knobbier for ‘cross and gravel riding, this is a bike that could serve as a rider’s only drop-bar bike. As cool as N+1 can be to dream about, there’s an elegance to a bike that can slay more than one course.
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