Monday, November 2, 2020


 Another gravel bike?

Super Gravel Monster 2020

Ugly, right? More than 3 decades later Zio Lorenzo's up to the same tricks. Regular blog readers might remember this post?

Super Gravel Monster 1987

Riding around on Mt. Etna awhile back reminded Zio of his original B-Stone MB-1 and how fun it was to ride, unlike the modern 29" wheeled things we rented for the Etna tour. The crazy-wide bars coupled with an insanely short stem had him scratching his bald head wondering WHY?

Nobody has been able to offer a reasonable explanation but now that gravel bikes are all the rage  Zio thought why not put some drop bars on this ancient, pre-BigTex Trek to ride around in Sicily?

This mid-90's Trek 8000's been around awhile - most recently used back when we enjoyed the American Academy in Rome. Zio thought about the drop bars then but didn't get around to it, but now that this old bike's here in Sicily WHY NOT?

Ya kind of need some fat tires to ride out here

A set of cheap bar-con shifters went on a 3T anatomic bar we had laying around. Finding a 1 1/8 quill stem for a 26 mm handlebar was a bit tougher so he had to settle for the ugly adjustable thing you see here, but a test-ride the other day over a route he would never again ride (even with a modern MTB with flat bars!) proved it was secure and safe. One can now buy drop-bar brake levers engineered to properly actuate V-type brakes so the stopping power (not to mention the feel - these are so similar to Campagnolo Ergopowers from a few years ago Zio finds himself trying to use 'em to shift, then remembers the bar-cons down below) is vastly improved over the old B-Stone's cantilever brakes with standard road levers. Zio stuck on a bar top lever for the rear brake while he was at it, just in case!

Fire roads were his thing 30+ years ago in SoCal and they have 'em here in Sicily too - they're called sterrata (as in unpaved) - this bike works very well on these, not to mention the paved sections between the dirty fun. You certainly don't have the level of control you get with a flat bar, but at Zio's age he's not interested in riding over that type of terrain anyway, flat bar or not. A 50+ kilometer mixed-surface ride this past Sunday had him smiling and remembering zooming around the dirt roads of Malibu, CA all those years ago. 

This is much better bike than the old B-Stone ever was even though it's made from aluminum. The ancient RockShox INDY fork is a nice bonus, something that didn't exist back in the B-Stone daze though Zio's gotta get used to the bobbing up and down when he stands up on the pedals. A modern lockout would be nice, but that's not in-the-cards for this cheapo project.

Zio's got a set of smooth tires to go on eventually, but these goofy-looking Vittoria skins (they used the name GEAX at the time) have a supple carcass and a fairly smooth-rolling knobby tread design - exactly as promised by the Italian bike store guy who sold 'em to us. 26" was already old-fashioned then, so these previously top-of-the-line tires were a bargain to boot! Grazie Pinato!

Not much is left of the original bike these days, perhaps just the well beaten-up frame, front derailleur, hubs and crankset? A frame designed before suspension forks makes for some slow steering but you'll hear no complaints from Zio compared to the modern, twitchy, 29" wheeled things we've ridden on Etna and in Napoli awhile back. 

Zio thought more than once of just buying a new MTB but after riding a few of 'em decided it would be a waste of money. A modern gravel bike might be OK but this thing works pretty darn well. A Favaloro custom gravel/mountain bike could be really fun, but Zio will play with this one for awhile instead before spending that kind of loot.

All that's left is to slap on the MTB style fenders for when the roads get sloppy.

Time to hit the dirt!!

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