Steve’s Gravel eBike – The BFG

It’s normal for a custom bike to go through a number of versions before it’s finally finished, but this bike seems to just keep on being reinvented.

The bike started out as a Cannondale Synapse Neo endurance roadie – it was a nice bike to ride but too heavy, and struggled to keep up a road pace of 30-35kmh.

We unlocked the limiter on the bike but the range went from 100+ kms to less than 50…no good! It was fun for stealing KOMs though, and on a 20km commute it would cruise at 45ish, and if pushed it would do 55 – it would keep up with the morning traffic down Wollombi Rd!

We converted it from 2×11 road gearing to 1×11 wide-ratio cassette and a 53t front chainring and it was fast. We fitted a pair of 3T forks to it to make it steer a little quicker. It was super-stable especially when descending. But…

We knew it wasn’t right, and it sat unused for a while. Plenty of head scratching ensued as we tried to figure out what this bike was actually good at. Some new gravel-specific eBikes came onto the market and as we rode them we realised that this bike could be an excellent gravel bike…given a few mods.

First we fitted some carbon flat bars to it, and a Bosch phone cradle that turned your phone into an interactive digital dash that bluetooths to the bike. GPS, voice commands, music and contacts…now it was a very good commuter. We gave it a big Supernova M99 headlight (with high beam for winter evening riding!)

We fitted Pirelli ‘Hard Terrain’ gravel tyres to it, 35 at the rear and 40 in the front – this is the widest tyres the frame would take. Great for both road and gravel!

About 1000kms went on it like this, with most of it hidden from Strava because it was still a bit of a KOM thief. Such a great bike!

Then came a small incident that required some frame mods. It needed to be painted afterwards and seeing as how there wasn’t much of the original bike design or engineering left, we painted it black and gave it the new Millfield decals. The Big Friendly Gravel (BFG) bike is born.

Lots more kms go on the bike as we introduce the monthly Sunday Train social ride. The bike is absolutely perfect for this 70km loop around Cessnock and it just chews up the road. It’s now running a 44t AbsoluteBlack oval front chainring for perfect gearing on the climb up Mt View.
When these long-awaited set of Jones H-Bars turn up – along with what turns out to be the best handlebar bag ever – we re-invent the cockpit of the bike once again.

It took a couple of rides for my wrists to get used to the sweep of these bars, but they have three riding positions and they’re soon my favourite handlebars for a morning spin up to Bimbadeen to watch the sun rise.

The bike now has a Kiox dash, so I don’t need a GPS unit anymore – the Kiox does it all and has 14 scrollable screens of data I can use when I’m riding. It will also do all the GPS mapping and data logging, ready for Strava upload when I’m finished my ride. Super little unit this one!

For months I’m riding this bike everywhere, it went up to Ashley’s and covers every km of Werakata NP. Then the Lefty forks finally arrived from the US…

Wow, these forks are good. Carbon body and 30mm of travel, tuneable action, lockout for the road…plus they look fantastic. We ordered components for a new custom front wheel – Lefty 50 hub and DT Swiss rim – and had them built by Trent at Havacrak Wheels.

If we thought it was good to ride before, now it’s a dream. Plush fork action soaks up every pothole and a big ride is no trouble for the body. The forks added less than a kilo to the bike. Would we go back to rigid carbon forks? No way!
We changed the standard length ESI grips for the XX-long version and the comfort level goes up again. Long grips are the best, and such a surprise that I changed the MTB to long grips as well.

A couple of months later a new product turns up to test: Gump 760 bamboo handlebars by Passchier. Yep, that’s right, laminated bamboo – all the reviews say they are super comfy to ride…we have to try them!

Knowing another cockpit change was coming, we decided to push the go button on an idea we’d had for a while – time to turn this beast into a 12 speed. A new Hope Pro4 rear hub wheel is ordered, along with a matching DT Swiss rim and off they go to Havacrak for building.

We say goodbye to the Jones bars, and hello to some sexy new Passchier bars.

The Shimano XT 11 speed goes in the spare parts tub and there’s a bunch of empty SRAM boxes on the bench. Eagle X01 shifter, GX rear derailleur and 10-50 XD cassette. It’s over-geared for climbing but maybe we’ll go looking for steeper hills? I hear Sawpit Rd at Sweetman’s Creek is pretty gnarly…

We’ve added a third bidon mount under the frame to take the tool can, and swapped the ‘Hard’ Pirelli tyres for ‘Mixed’; the bike does almost no road work now so it’s time to prioritise traction off road.

Its time to put some kms on the bike and settle on what’s next. We have an idea what it is, but it’ll take some time for the bits to arrive.
Can anyone say XPLR eTap wireless?
Stay tuned!

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