My favourite road cycle races are Paris Roubaix and Strada Bianche. I savour these two races because they do not follow the tarmac roads exclusively. In the former the competitors ride the brutal cobbles of Northern France and the latter it is the white gravel roads of Tuscany which feature.
My manifesto is outlined here – https://veloklubhaus.com/2018/03/15/roubaixesque-london-gravel-reiten/
I follow any race just a little harder when it is like minded and there are a good number of these; a racing style that the founders of our sport might appreciate. Simply there is a proud heritage of these types of events. Results, picture and video links to such races are here.
Gö Strada Bianche (GöWeißeStraßen) Bike
Close to my new home here in Central Germany (Gö) are many gravel, dirt, cobbled, concrete and green roads linked together by often short stretches of tarmac. I have a cyclo cross bike that suits me fine over the worst of the gravel, especially the sections in the forests and I also have a road bike that I love to ride on the sweeping open, smooth and quiet tarmac roads. Many such rides are featured here.
But…… there is always room for another bike. I looked at my boxes of bike bits and realised I could build a bike to suit the lower level ‘white roads’ of Goettingen (Gö), these are gravel trails that can be ridden on a road bike (with care). The Gö ‘white roads’ I think are ideal for the autumn and winter being close to home allowing me to ride in inclement weather and thus making it easier to bail-out to home quickly if I get cold or very wet.
Like many cyclists I have boxes of kit which I have saved over the years (although I gave lots of stuff away before my big move to Germany) and this is what I came up with. Purists, sorry for what I am about to say!
This Merckx-Ritchey special will be my work horse during the autumn and winter months – what I have done is take a Merckx road frame and added a Ritchey WCS cyclo cross fork to it.
What about the geometry? I hear.
I was a bit worried about this as the cross fork is very different from what the frame was designed around.
Fitting the cyclo cross fork has pushed the front of the bike up 2cms and the same for the bottom bracket, whilst the wheelbase is almost the same.
The frame is a CHM made at a respected carbon facility in Italy under Eddy’s personal supervision (I’ve been to the workshop) and this model was withdrawn from the Merckx catalogue in 2009. The frame is from 2008 and was intended for long days in the saddle – it was designed to be stable over cobbles.
The fork is a late 2000 Ritchey WCS (World Championship Series) and is a class act coming from the doyen of USA bike manufacturer and cyclo cross.
I was eager to test the bike to see if this ‘Frankenstein’ approach might screw up the handling and thankfully it hasn’t. Although the bike is now more relaxed, but it still sweeps into corners very well and importantly out. A testament to both Merckx and Ritchey I would say. The Ritchey fork soaks up the bumps very well and the whole package was very stable at 60KPH.
From the Box of Parts
Don’t you often regret not keeping stuff, just in case they may turn out to be handy? That’s why we horde? From my box of parts I was able to put together a nice build that weighed on completion 7.32KG (17+ pounds).
I bought two items for the build; one was a slim front cantilever brake hanger (to fit the length of my steerer) and a Shimano Ultegra R800R rear brake that has been designed for modern fatter tyres.
If the CHM frameset had been manufactured today it would have a greater clearance around the rear chain stays and after much umming and ahing I dispensed with fitting a Challenge Roubaix 28, instead I fitted a narrower Vittoria 28 on the rear and finally opted for a Panaracer Gravel King+ 26c. There was just a 2mm gap per side with the Roubaix! (see picture below)
There will be no issue with mud and plant life clogging at the front!
Frame: Eddy Merckx CHM 2008.
Fork: Ritchey WCS Carbon Cyclo Cross.
Handlebar: Bontrager Carbon RXL.
Stem: Deda Newton.
Seat Pin: 3T Dorico Team.
Saddle: San Marco Zoncalon.
Brakes: Rear – Shimano Ultegra R800R. Front – SRAM Avid Ultimate.
Levers: Shimano 105 10 speed.
Gears: Front – Shimano Ultegra. Rear – Microshift ‘White’ 10 speed.
Chainset: Shimano with Shimano CX 46 outer and FSA 32 inner rings.
Pedals: Time Atac Ti.
Wheels: Vuelta, Bontager Aealus or Bontager Race Lite (subject to conditions).
Tyres: Front – Challenge Chicane. Rear Panaracer Gravel King+ 26 (subject to conditions).
Other: USE and Token bottle cages, Carbon cantilever front brake hanger, Specialized Phat bar tape and Thomson seat pin clamp.
At the end of the day I built this bike because I could and the fact that it works so well means that I don’t have to take it apart and place the bits back in a box.
it was great to rekindle my mechanical skills and work out a few issues such as headset height.
After riding the bike a few times I changed the bar position, chainrings, the wheels and tyres. I finally opted to fit a Panaracer Gravel King+ instead of a Challenge Roubaix or the Vittoria Pave as pictured.
Test Rides on Strava
Dry/Dusty Short distance: https://www.strava.com/activities/2727888896
Damp Medium distance: https://www.strava.com/activities/2744068825
Damp Longer distance: https://www.strava.com/activities/2749409966
Note: A ‘Gö Strada Bianche’ (GöWeißeStraßen) ride is one that includes sections of tarmac connected by the ‘white’ gravel roads of Goettingen and includes concrete weg, other gravel, cobbles and dirt, but nothing too gnarly!
The bike complete and ready for the autumn and winter months. This is the bike I would love to ride the Arenberg Tranchée once more on.