it is all about comfort of gravel riding
My quest for the most comfortable gravel bike possible begun in 2016 with buying a steel Jamis Renegade Exploit.
I decided to go with a steel frame because it was perceived as a most forgiving material for gravel. And this is true – the amount of flex and the vibration taming properties of steel frame provides a very unique and plush ride.
My first upgrade was a Ergon CF3 Pro Carbon seatpost. An unique looking seatpost with so much visible flex that you feel like riding on a big plush tire. For some the amount of flex is too much but I am very happy with it.
To increase the comfort even more I also purchased a Brooks C17 saddle. It is very comfortable saddle with a lot of flex build in.
Having dealt with the rear of the bike I then moved to the front and bought a Redshift Shockstop suspension stem. With a most comfortable elastomer setup dedicated for drop bar it brought a lot of additional comfort to my rides.
Then I moved to the tires itself. Jamis Renegade Exploit comes with 35 mm tires so naturally I wanted to go wider and bought a pair of Panaracer GravelKing SK 43 tires. It made a lot of difference, especially when I go as low as 20 psi (even without tubeless setup!). Usually I ride about 25 psi but soon I will try to convert my rather narrow (17 mm inner width) Alex rims to tubeless to see if I can gain even more comfort from that setup.
For me comfort is mostly about reducing vibrations but also a general fatigue and that is why I also changed my handlebar to a Specilized Hover Expert with 15 mm rise to get more upright position on my bike (I am usually between sizes and I have chosen a smaller one which naturally is a more aggressive one).
Also to preserve my knees from injuries I bought a fantastic Speedplay Frog CrMo pedals that allow a free leg movement.
Finally, to get more comfortable on steep hills I changed the rear cassette from 11-32 to 11-40 Shimano Deore which also required changing the rear derailleur to a long cage Shimano 105 R7000 GS. It all works perfect in that combination.
Overall I am very happy with my current build but for sure it is not the end of the road towards best possible comfort. In the near future I would like to test a suspension gravel fork from Lauf (Grit), a Redshift suspension seatpost and a Spank Vibrocore rims to see how much comfort improvement they will bring to my rides.
If you know any other comfort inducing solutions please let me know. I will try to test it for you. To do so please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.