GBDURO20 winner Josh Ibbett shares his thoughts on the gravel wheel conundrum.
650b or 700c?
The GBDURO route is roughly 50:50 road to off road. Of the off road sections a good percentage is relatively fast rolling dirt roads and gravel tracks with the rest being made up of rougher surfaces and the odd bit of hike a bike. So what should you prioritise, comfort or speed?
Well that depends on what kind of rider you are and how experienced you are off road. For those aiming for a fast time the priority maybe speed, for others it may be about getting the job done and maximum comfort. So ask yourself this question before you consider your bike, wheel and tyre selection.
A gravel bike is probably the best tool for the job, however a hardtail MTB will also work well. Let's assume though that most riders are at the cutting edge of bikepacking trends and are on a gravel bike. By now you should have decided if you are going fast or steady, speed or comfort?
Personally (being relatively keen on speed and experienced off road) I would recommend a 700c wheelset. These roll faster on the road and dirt road sections and are generally more efficient, however will require more care when riding off road and can be a little less forgiving on the rougher sections of the route.
If comfort is your priority, then a wider tyre will be the way to go. It will be a little bit slower on the smooth sections, however the improved comfort may well improve your experience. On a gravel bike the answer is to fit a 650b wheelset. A wider tyre can be run at lower pressures which will offer more grip off road and will help to absorb the smaller bumps. However, if you really want to go the extra mile for comfort it might be best to run a MTB with a suspension fork.
The vast majority of the route is on hard packed tracks and trails, although there may be some softer and rockier sections at times, so overall a fast rolling tyre would be the most beneficial. I’d recommend a minimum of a 45mm tyre on a 700c, and a 2.1inch on a 650b rim or MTB. I used the WTB Ridder 45 in the 2020 event.
Dynamo or No Dynamo?
Dynamo hubs are favoured by many long distance cyclists as they allow more self-sufficiency with recharging gadgets and powering lights. Having power on tap is one less thing to worry about on a self supported event. GBDURO's four stage format means that there will be the opportunity to find a power point to recharge after each stage meaning a dynamo might not be as important, but just remember there will also be 100 other cyclists fighting over the same power points in the same small village pub!
Words by Josh Ibbett who rides for Hunt Bike Wheels