MarcGasch_BCXPDTN3_171020__DSC5959.jpg

bc and XPDTN3: Bikepacking and Gravel Grinding

Ulli 30. October 2017

We recently offered two customers spots to take a tour through the German Eifel and Belgium Ardennes. Find out how great it was through the eyes of Ulli, one of the winners.

In cooperation with 3T and XPDTN3, bc’s Jonas & Björn went on a Gravel based 3-day bikepacking tour and took two lucky bc customers with them. The daily routes took the crew through rough mountainous terrain and beautiful forests. With an average length of 120 km and 2000 vertical meters a day, this was no easy task, even on 3T’s more than capable Exploro bikes. One of our winners, Ulli, was kind enough to send us his impression from the ride, which you can read about below:

Detailed Planning

There I am, standing around weighing a bar of soap in one hand and a bottle of shower gel in the other. The question is, which do I take? When considering the minimalism that is required for the next few days, small details like this can make the difference. However, the soap only weighs 150 g and the shower gel 250 g, making the decision a little easier. bc has left me no choice but to pack light and even consider cutting my tooth brush to save weight and space.

Jef and Jonas are prepping the bikes.

Jef and Jonas are prepping the bikes.

Ready, set, go!

Ready, set, go!

Cobblestones to start the ride.

Cobblestones to start the ride.

Call me Ulli.

Call me Ulli.

XPDTN3 - Let’s Gravel!

And we’re off. Three days of XPDTN3 with bike-components await. I get in the car and we make our way to the main station in Aachen to pick up the second winner from Belgium. But first, who am I? My mother calls me Ulrich, but I prefer Ulli or Uller. At 36, my career as an MTB Marathon racer is mostly over, but I am still ready for lively rides through fields and forests of all kinds. After getting in the car, we soon arrived at the main station and Jef took a seat next to me. Hailing from Gent, his English is superb, he is very relaxed and as I would later find out, he can pedal like Greg van Avermaet did in April 2017. Jef is the second winner to take part in this Gravel ride, which is guaranteed to make us both smile.

Behind XPDTN3 is the Italian bicycle company 3T. Recently, they have taken to expanding Gravel rides to all corners of the world. Riding Gravel means getting into the drops and daring to go where most riders might not. That means rough trails filled with roots and rocks, sprints through small towns, mud up to your ankles and hike-a-bikes galore. Gravel riding is a little bit of everything.

Something is wrong with Hasi

The car door opens once more and we are at the bike-components store. We were greeted with many a beautiful bike, but at the other end of the room our steeds for the next three days stole the show. Seeing the seductive stays and the smooth design, all I could think was to call my bike ‘Hasi’, a German word roughly translated to honey. I was asked if I wanted to spend the next three days riding Hasi and boy did I. After the bike, I began to inspect the bags. Bring it all, or nothing at all so long as it fits. Now, I began to think about the clothes I packed and I thought it’s the 20th of October, let’s keep the bibs short!

The first singletrack of day 1.

The first singletrack of day 1.

As we passed the last house in Aachen, we hit our first singletrack. It took some time for me to get used to the saddle bag and the 1x drivetrain, but eventually I accepted them both. Riding through the leaf covered forest floor, I realized something is wrong with Hasi. Everytime I brake, she screams and when I let off the screaming doesn’t stop. But bc’s Jonas worked his magic and adjusted the rotor to fit perfectly between the brake pads.

The XPDTN3 Crew

We are now in the middle of nowhere, and we are on a long climb where I am trying to keep Paul in sight. Paul comes from Britain sporting a healthy dose of beard. Everything he does is calculated and he remains calm throughout. More than half of his life has been spent riding bikes. He is the just do it kind of guy. And at this point Paul is leading the pack. Pushing myself, I get up behind him and Jef is soon to follow as Jonas yells ‘Grupetto’. When Paul lets off just a little, Jef takes over. Paul and I are left trying to comb gravel out of our hair as Jef takes off with no chance of us keeping up.

Packed up and riding in the sun.

Packed up and riding in the sun.

‘Pics or it didn’t happen’. Marc from Catalonia is responsible for documenting the XPDTN3 rides and is also a professional sports photographer. His tanned face shows his love for outdoor sports. This is now his sixteenth XPDTN3 ride. He is always riding a little farther away to be able to spot and capture the spirt of our trip. Paul and Marc are the perfect team and the trust they have with one another is palpable.

A short break for cake and coffee.

A short break for cake and coffee.

This is my kind of nature.

This is my kind of nature.

Fall is in full force, perfect for a Gravel ride.

Fall is in full force, perfect for a Gravel ride.

One with the bike

With every meter pedalled, I felt closer and closer to my bike. A switchback descent to the Rur Lake in the Eifel, no big deal. With this bike, everything is possible. From flowy singletrack to wildly rough trails, our daily routes had plenty of everything. Occasionally things get a little too out of hand, but in the end every ride was just plain fun.

Pit stop!

Pit stop!

When the time was right, I asked the bc boys, Jonas and Björn, how they knew about these great trails. There answer was simple. They have spent the last few months taking part in the Gravel fever and riding various events that allowed them to test out our route. In the end, we didn’t have to do much except ride. They even made sure as to have all the necessary gear to keep flats at bay so all I had to do was focus on riding up and down, left and right, as well as the beautiful scenery and Jef’s rear wheel.

Group pic!

Group pic!

Fall, Fall everywhere.

Fall, Fall everywhere.

Tired but happy

Out of breath, I take a look at the swaying trees above me. The last day was cold and rainy. I could hear the rain drops on my helmet and feel the first bit of water running into my shoes. Even in these conditions there was still a smile on my face like no other. Riding over wet leaf covered stones, and through thick root fields we made our way to Malmedy, Belgium.

Just keep pedaling...

Just keep pedaling...

Give me more is all I could think of and more I got. We rode along a small stream then forded a river right after. Getting over the last highest point of the grind, the weather gave us a little break. But even with the hair on my legs, things started to get a little cold and uncomfortable. The last few kilometres into Aachen afforded the others a chance for sprints, but I rode on behind. For me, the experience of the last three days was all I needed.

Just beautiful.

Just beautiful.

Me at the end. Tired but happy.

Me at the end. Tired but happy.

The bc office space.

The bc office space.

Final Thoughts

When we arrived back at the bc headquarters, I was thrown back to the 80’s where as a child of the GDR I would lose myself in excitement when opening a package that came from our family in the west. Walking by the coffee bar, the canteen I was taken aback by the office life of the bc employee.

They even had a Carrera Track right in the entrance that put yet another smile on my face. After washing up, I looked at the bar of soap I brought with me. It was unused because our accommodations were well stocked. Throwing minimalism to the wind, the bc and XPDTN3 Gravel bikepacking tour was easily one of the best ride experiences I have yet to have.

Now that's a race track.

Now that's a race track.

What a ride!

What a ride!

Thanks Ulli!

On the left, you can download the gpx. files for the tour and try the routes out yourself. We will soon publish a more in depth blog post about the routes so you can get a better idea of their difficulty and requirements.

When was your last Gravel ride? Let us know about it in the comment section!

Call me Ulli.

Ulli

Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.
Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.
  • Gianni B. 3. November 2017

    Hello,

    Very interesting subject and beautiful ride ...

    I would like to have your opinion on WTB 650bx47c tires. I equipped my Colnago World Cup with these tires (Tubeless), I am very happy except in gravel road ... + / - 30kms Gravel road and 2 punctures while I never burst with any other tire ..
    Did you also experience punctures with this tire? maybe I'm using tire pressure badly on gravel road? advice?

    Best regards,

    Gianni

    Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.
    Blog comments are published with first name and first letter of surname.
    • bike-components 3. November 2017

      Hi Gianni,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I ride the WTB Horizon 650bx47c tyres anywhere between 2.7-3.0 bars. So far, I haven’t had any issues with punctures, and I have been on some rough singletrack as well as rocky descents. I hope this helps.

      Drew

    • Gianni B. 3. November 2017

      Hi Drew,

      Thanks for your answer.

      That's what I think too. I am very light and this kind of tires could be used almost everywhere. I brong Challenge Almanzo also almost everywhere without problem.

      Maybe it's just bad luck ... or/and too inflated 3.5 bars.

      Thanks,

      Gianni

    • bike-components 3. November 2017

      I think lowering your pressure is going to be your best option, but I understand what you mean. Sometimes it is just bad luck. We’ve all had those days when a tyre pops and just won’t stop popping. Happy riding and enjoy the weekend.

      Drew