So you’re reading this and saying, wait a minute. The Dune is a CX bike. It’s not a road bike. Spooky makes the Mulholland–that’s a road bike.
Well you’re right and you’re wrong. The Mulholland is a road bike. The Dune is a do-everything bike.
When I look at my perfect geometry for road and “gravel”, I realize that I’m not racing crits. I want a bike that will be comfortable for a fast 25 mile ride, a quick 50 mile ride, or an all-day 150 mile ride. My geometry for each of those ends up coming out relatively similarly…drops for quick efforts, hoods and flats for longer pulls.
I also start looking at the same types of components. With my Moots and Madone, I had the same drivetrains, same bars, and many other of the same components on both. When you find what you like, you want to ride it all of the time. For me, the difference between road and gravel comes down largely to different wheels/tires, and different gearing. I want a narrower cassette for road, with smaller gaps between gears…driving skinny slicks. I want a slightly wider cassette for gravel (with an option to go to a 32t cassette), driving the widest/lightest tubeless tires I can reasonably run. For me, the 38-42c range is the optimal combination of width and weight.
And so it was not a long jump for me to go to thinking that one bike with 2 wheel sets could fulfill both needs. My recent experience with the Horsethief (set up similarly) was also confidence inspiring.
There are no downsides to the Dune on the road. Sure, it has more clearance than you need, and that extra fork width might cost you 0.322 watts at 30mph, but really..your water bottle is costing you more drag than the fork. For me, my hairy legs offer more drag than I can recover with even the most aerodynamic frame.
As I said with the recent gravel bike review, I review the bike as a system. That means I review it as-built.
I can’t say enough good things about the ENVE wheels. They’re light, aerodynamic, and fantastic. They shrug off sharp crosswinds, and in cornering crosswinds (front/rear quarters), they feel like you’re sailing–like you’re taking an advantage from the wind.
The Continental GP4000Sii tires–well, they’re the best road tires on the market, bar none. My question in building this bike wasn’t if I should run them, but rather what width to run. I was settled on 25s, when my friendly Continental rep suggested I should try 28s. I did, and I’m glad. I’m still working on optimal tire pressure for me. Four years ago, I was riding 23c tires at 120 psi. Then I dropped to 100 and felt like I had leapt forward a great distance. Then I went to 25c tires. Then I dropped to 90psi and felt another huge leap. Now, I’m running 28s at around 75psi, and it’s another huge difference.
I feel no lag on hard surfaces. I feel no bounce under hard, sprinting efforts. What I do feel is better traction, particularly when it’s wet. For grins, I did try about 30 miles at 100psi, to see what it felt like. It felt harsher and “less smooth” (which for some reason seems a more apt description than rougher), but there was no hiding the amazing qualities of the frame. It’s got that perfect quality of toeing the line between showing you what’s going on at the tires, and keeping you from feeling brutalized after a long ride…just compliant enough, without impacting responsiveness.
Cracks, crackseal, little gravel–that stuff just melts away under the bike. I did a hard ride the other day and was coming up to a stop sign. I had seen it in the distance and I poured everything I had into the pedals. As I rolled up to the stop sign, my head was down and I was trying to catch my breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the rumble strips ahead. Now ordinarily, on my old Madone, I’d do anything I could to avoid rumble strips. I’d leap them, or dive onto the little respite between the rumble strips and the shoulder, or if the road was clear, would head into the oncoming lane. But this day, I had no time to react, no path to avoid. I was heading right into the strips. As my mind processed that fact, my bike started to cross them and I waited for the inevitable harsh jackhammer up the seatpost.
It didn’t come.
My mind was having a hard time understanding what was going on–my eyes said rumble strips, but my body wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t feel it in the pedals, or the saddle, or the bars–I didn’t feel it anywhere.
That’s the glory of this bike.
On a ride this past weekend, we came to the Burr Road hills–some local steep hills that we often put into our rides. I rolled up to the hills on a rainy Saturday. The rain had permeated my helmet and cap, and sweaty droplets of cap-water splashed down onto my face. My legs were burning from 40 miles of headwind, and I really didn’t have it in me to tame those hills. I shifted up a couple gears (to a harder gear), anticipating getting out of the saddle and churning to a slow cadence as I muddled up the incline…but as I stood out of the saddle, the bike jumped forward under that first pedal stroke. Surprised, I pushed through the other pedal and the bike jumped forward again. Back and forth, back and forth I just pushed on the pedals and looked up the hill, and the bike joyously sprang forward.
I wasn’t planning on attacking. I was planning on just barely surviving. The geometry–those short stays, that willing steering feeling–it inspired me. The responsiveness of the frame, the traction of the Continentals on wet pavement, the allure of the road ahead and the brilliance of the blue frame below me–they all conspired to make me risk it all in a headlong dash. The bike felt so light, so spry, so perfect.
So yeah, it’s a road bike. The geometry is perfect for me. I couldn’t think of a thing to change in the fit (except maybe I’ll drop the bars a smidge). It’s a do everything bike. The biggest challenge I have is in trying to decide which wheels to run, because it’s just so good in both applications. It’s so much fun, and so willing. It feels alive in the best possible sense of the word, and that inspires you to dig deeper when you’re out of matches and played your last good hand. It makes you long for better roads and long days in the saddle.
My Dune is parked on a shelf, right above the hood of my car. Each morning as I go out to work, I walk past it wistfully. It wants to go play, or cruise, or just hangout. It wants to surprise me with the mystery that is a frameset equal parts responsiveness and tuned dampening. I guess that’s what that whole #aluminati thing is about.
So who is Spooky? I’m Spooky. We are Spooky.
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