|Litespeed Gravel GRX 400 photographed in its natural habitat|
The bike is fast and comfortable. A lot lighter than the Salsa LaCruz (no kidding) and it just wanted to be upshifted.I found myself down in Eldorado, starting at the house on the north side, in under an hour, which surprised me. The bike is efficient.
The cockpit fits well. I was a little worried about ordering a bike without a test ride but comparing my existing bikes to the specs on Litespeed's web site, they seemed very close. It worked. I had to do a few minor adjustments on saddle height and fore/aft position, and am still trying to decide on handlebar height, but the bike fits like a glove. I'm glad I took Litespeed Sales Engineer Sam Voigt's advice and added the 30 mm headtube extender. 20 mm would have been fine, too. I have leeway either way, if I want to drop the bars for a more aero ride or raise them to be more upright, perhaps on technical trails, there is room both ways.
Shifting the GRX 400 setup was precise and the hydraulic brakes were smooth and progressive. No surprises. The fine tuning trim on the front derailleur is nice to have going across ten cogs. I was a little concerned with getting the GRX400 setup rather than the higher priced stuff, but it clicks, shifts, and brakes as well as anything else I am used to riding.
The brake/shifter hoods are big, but that turned into an advantage. I found myself on the hoods a lot, especially pulling and climbing and in rough spots they provided plenty of support. Kinda reminded me of old fashioned TT bars, in a way.
At least on this bike, there is a lot of Torx hardware, so I had to get a new multitool. No big deal, and Rob and Charlie's was well stocked with Park Tools.
The Rail Trail is pretty flat, only losing a couple hundred feet between Santa Fe and Eldorado, but has a lot of sharp ups and downs. I never did get into the low end of the cassette (the 32 and 36 cogs) with the small front chainring but its nice to know that with a low 30x36 combination, you are unlikely to run out of gear ratios on tougher climbs. For really strong riders, swapping out the chainrings for 48-32 might be an option.
Even the saddle, which I grumped about the other day, was OK for a two and a half hour ride. I still think the material grabs my lycra shorts more than I prefer compared to shiny leather saddles, but it was comfortable and the size, amount of support, and shape was fine. A leather Terry Men's Ti saddle just arrived from Arizona friend Pat O'Brien. I'm not sure I would want to do a century ride on the stock WTB Volt Medium as I think the constant rubbing on the higher friction surface would lead to chafing, but everyone's hind end is different and for shorter rides, the Volt is fine. I'm gonna swap out to the Terry Ti though.
As far as handling I think Nick Legan's Adventure Cycling review was spot on. The bike has quick, road like handling and encourages spirited riding. As far as my first impressions, it handled very well on the somewhat loose surfaces of the Rail and Spur Trails, even on deep gravel sections that tended to slew the bike around a little. I found myself taking curves faster than usual (and faster than I thought I would on a first ride on a new bike). Nick had said those wanting a slower handling bike might choose the Cherohala SE. I am glad I chose the Gravel. Also, the Panaracer Gravel King SK 700x38c Tubeless tires, which might not be the most awesome on pavement, were fast and sure footed on the Rail Trail. Those wanting a more road-like tire might want to experiment with other rubber.
Overall first impression? Awesome. All that talk about Ti frames having a magic ride seems to be true.