Fizïk Endurance Tacky Tape Review


So the Spooky was intended to be the bike to end all bikes.  The bike to ride on the road, on gravel, on light singletrack, on exploration rides, on recovery rides, and on so much more.  I spent a lot of time contemplating what parts to use for the build, and each part was hand-selected.

Touch points are one of the most critical parts of any bike–they’re the literal intersection of rider and ride.  And when it comes to hand-selection, hands are critical.  The handlebars were easy to pick…ENVE Compact Drop 44cm handlebars–my favorites.  But that left the critical question of bar tape.

In the past, I’ve run Lizardskins DSP.  After trying cork, synthetic cork, and a myriad of other bar tapes including synthetics of all types, I had thought Lizardskins were the best.  And so it was my plan to use them on this build.  On past gravel bikes, I had used a thin layer of Bontrager handlebar gel under the bar tape, because the bar tape needed a bit of help with vibration absorption.  That was essentially my plan for this bike.  But as with all components of the bike, I researched and considered my picks carefully.

I came across the Fizïk Endurance Tacky tape.  It seemed to somewhat fit the bill for what I was looking for–soft, tacky, aesthetically appealing, grippy, durable.  It had good reviews.  It was from a company I liked.  I put my hands on a box of it and liked feeling.  I decided to give it a go.

Install was easy.

No, install was awful.  It’s not the tape’s fault.  The tape was great.  I suck at installing bar tape.  Really–it’s a great personal failure of mine.  I can’t get it even, I can’t make it nice. All I want to do is make it nice.  I eventually got it on, and in somewhat acceptable fashion.  Then, I took it out for a ride.

It’s fantastic.  If you look in the pic above, it’s raining.  That day, it started misty, and ended full-on raining.  No problems.  Nice and tacky, nice and grippy.  It’s some magical combination of factors and characteristics–it doesn’t stick to you when it’s hot/muggy, but it’s super tacky when the weather is bad.  It doesn’t twist on the bars when you’re really tugging on them–it stays perfectly in place–but it offers impeccable grip.  The tape does a fantastic job of finding the dividing line between diminishing vibration on rough surfaces and conveying good road feel.  That’s a fine line, straddled perfectly by this tape.

There are 3 contact points between the body and the bike: pedals, saddle and bars.  In the realm of pedals, the shoes have far more of an impact than any bike component.  Saddles are certainly critical, and I’ve written about them at length.  Hands–hands are unique.  Hands are more sensitive than feet.  Hands have to support your upper body, steer, brake, shift, and otherwise fully control the bike.  Too thick, your hands go numb.  To thin, your hands hurt.  Too hard, you feel every crack in the road.  Too soft, it tears every time you lean it against a wall.  It’s got to be perfect.  The needs of a road bike are different from those of a “gravel” bike…and yet this tape has been perfect for both.

In the end, I like the Fizïk better than the Lizardskins.  It’s got better grip when it is wet.  It doesn’t need gel under it in order to be comfortable.  The matte finish looks better (to my taste).  It meets my needs for road and all-road in one product.  I can’t ask for more.

Continental GP4000SII Tire Review Update: 700x25c vs. 700x28c

A little over a year ago, I posted about the Continental GP4000SII tires.  At the time, I was running 25c Contis.

I’m now running 28c Contis, and have several hundred miles on them.  In the realm of reviews, I stand behind what I said about the Contis last July.  They’re fantastic.  They have amazing traction under a lot of conditions, and have shown great durability and wear characteristics.  Riding here in flat/straight Illinois, I tend to wear out rear tires faster than front, so I swap front to rear about halfway through the rear tire wear, and everything goes pretty smoothly.

A big part of this post is comparing the 25c to the 28c.  You wouldn’t really think 3mm of width would make a big difference, but in reality, that 3mm is more than a 10% increase in tire width.  Particularly when mounted on a wide-ish rim, it’s noticeable.  One of the biggest advantages is that I’ve been able to significantly drop tire pressure.  I’m running in the 75psi range (a little lower in the front), to great effect.  They’re fast, grippy, roll smoothly, and there’s no palpable “bounce” from underinflation, even when out of the saddle or sprinting.  There is a significant and appreciable difference in compliance.  I still have great road “feel” and can tell what’s going on at the tires, but they really help knock the sharp corners off of road imperfections, potholes, expansion joints, and the like.

I’m still a data nerd, and hence I was worried about weight and aerodynamics.  In the realm of aerodynamics, a 23c tire would be superior to a 25 or a 28.  Candidly, I’ve run ENVE 3.4s with 20c, 23c, 25c and now 28c, and I’ve never been able to discern a difference in aerodynamics.  Headwinds suck all around.  I’m sure that over a measured distance, there is some difference in drag/wattage.  It is small enough to be inconsequential to a rider like me.  If you’re doing TTs, you may wish to reconsider.  If you’re doing crits, I tend to think that the extra grip in the corners from a 28 would outweigh any aerodynamic disadvantage.  And from what I’ve read, in the realm of aerodynamic disadvantages, carrying a bottle cage or unzipping your jersey a bit carries a greater penalty than riding 28s.

That leaves weight.  By manufacturer’s specs, the 23/25/28 are 205/225/260 grams.  I’ve found mine to be within a few grams of that, typically plus a few grams.  If you went straight from 23 to 28, you might notice an extra 110 grams of rolling mass.  That’s about a quarter of a pound.  I went from 23 to 25, and then from 25 to a new bike with 28s.  I haven’t discerned the extra rolling mass.  In that same bike jump I went to disc brakes and a different frame material.  I don’t feel that the 28s are holding me back in weight, and haven’t noticed them in an adverse way, even on hill repeats.

There’s an interesting study of rolling resistance over here, which concluded that the 28c tires save you 1-2 watts of energy in comparison to 23s at the same pressure and speed.  Candidly, I can’t sense that kind of change either.  What I do notice is the smooth ride and amazing traction.  So in conclusion, unless you’re riding a TT and need every millisecond, I’d go wide on road tires.



Brooks Carbon Cambium Review


As an aspiring cyclist, I fell into the grams trap.  You know the one.

-This bottle cage is superior because it weighs 3 grams less.  

-This fork doesn’t ride as nice, but it’s lighter.

-I’m switching out the bolts on my brake rotors to titanium to save 0.325 grams of rotating mass…

There’s this ingrained culture in cycling that lighter is better–that lightness is a quality onto itself that should be viewed as inherently superior to all else.  That lightness should be chased, and that a lighter bike is a better bike.  I spent money on components that were lighter but not better, and spent time on bikes that were lighter but not more fun to ride.

As a general principle, I now look for components that are better.  All else equal, I’ll pick a lighter component where it is as good, as durable, rides equally well and is not ridiculously priced…but I no longer always pick lighter.  A difference of a gram, or even a pound, is not determinative of the outcome in the rides I do.  Accepting compromise in the name of lightness is not something I’m willing to accept.

So close to two years ago now, I switched to a Brooks Cambium saddle.  I went from a carbon-railed, carbon-shell saddle to a metal rail Cambium.  I made that switch cognizant of the weight penalty of the Cambium, because the increase in comfort was incredible–particuarly over long rides.  I fell in love with the Cambium for its comfort and durability.  I never noticed, not once, the increase in the weight of the saddle.

In building the Spooky, I had a chance to use the new Carbon Cambium C13.

Coming from a C15 standard Cambium, I was worried that the C13 would be too narrow.  It definitely is narrower, but it has not proven to be too narrow.  I’ve had 80 mile rides on it without concern.  Because it is narrower, it doesn’t offer as much room to move around, but it hasn’t been an issue.

The carbon rails are taller, so I did have to use the ‘wide rail’ adapter on my ENVE seatpost.  Installation is a snap, and the rough finish on the clamp area of the rail makes it super easy to dial in your perfect fit.

Ride comfort is impeccable.  It rides much like the standard Cambium, in that it has excellent dampening characteristics, and is supportive without being soft or bouncy.  I have not had any issues with squeaking or settling, even after riding in the rain.  I do believe the Cambiums offer a significant comfort premium over just about any other saddle on the market.  I do not notice any increase or decrease in flexibility or comfort between the carbon and standard Cambium, although I am a lighter rider.  It certainly does look better, and I anticipate it to last longer without any corrosion or other issue.  If you haven’t ridden a Cambium yet, don’t underestimate the comfort factor.  And if you get a chance, try multiple widths and carved versus non-carved.  My preference was previously for C15, not carved.  The C13 has changed that–I’m loving it.

And then there’s weight.  The C13 weighs about 260 grams.  That’s about 150 grams lighter than a standard Cambium.  The weight of the carbon Cambium puts it squarely in line with competitive saddles, like the Ergon SM3 Pro that I used to ride before discovering the Cambium.  So in other words, there is no weight penalty to ride a Cambium.

It’s too soon to talk about durability, but I expect it to be excellent.  A quick note on durability…I’ve had “regular” saddles get scuffed or even torn by seemingly inconsequential acts like leaning them against a park bench, or laying them on the ground.  The durability of the Cambium covering cannot be underestimated…I’ve treated my Cambiums poorly and they come back for more.  Even after many thousand miles on my old Cambium, it looks like new.

It’s more comfortable than any other saddle I’ve ever ridden, it looks fantastic, it is amazingly durable, and there’s no weight penalty.  Win all the way around.  The carbon Cambium is one of my favorite products, and comes with my highest, unconditional recommendation.

Did I mention it looks great?


Syntace Disc Brake Shims

As you’ve read by now, I’m running 2 sets of thru-axle wheels on the Spooky.  One has Zipp hubs and the other has Chris King hubs.

The King hubs are about 0.5mm narrower than the Zipps at the location that your disc rotor installs.  Both are perfectly true, but with that difference in width, if the rotors are installed directly on the hubs, you’d have to adjust the calipers every time you swap wheels.  That would, in the technical parlance, suck.

The solution came after about 30 seconds of googling.  Syntace makes 0.2mm disc rotor shims for 6 bolt discs.  They come in a pack of 8, and are made of stainless steel…so they install behind the rotor and shim it over to where you need.

Since the Kings are narrower, I set up my brakes to work with the Zipp wheels and then shimmed the Kings to fit with that setup.  In my case, it took 2 shims, front and rear, for perfect setup.

If your rotors are true, this means that you can swap wheels back and forth with no adjustment of the calipers, even if you have different brands of wheels with different width hubs.  They’re cheap, easy to install, and work perfectly.

This is the shims, in the bag.


And here, you can see them installed on the King hubs, behind the rotors.


Spooky Dune Review: Road Bike

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.


Click through to read the full Spooky Series:

Spooky Cycles

Spooky Dune in Pictures

Spooky Dune: The Build

Spooky Dune: Gravel Bike Review

Spooky Dune: Road Bike Review

Spooky Dune Review: Gravel Bike

I join the conundrum of many in not knowing what to call the bike in this format.  Is it a “gravel” bike?  An “all-road” bike?  a “cyclocross” bike?  I default to gravel bike because that’s what we have around here to ride.  When I hear all-road, I always think of bikes running 28-30c slicks, and that’s what I’m running in “road mode”, so we’ll stick to “gravel bike”.


I just don’t get sick of those pictures.

So what is it like as a gravel bike?  My friend Brendan said that the Dune is like a road bike that always wants to get dirty.  That’s apt in some ways.  I can tell you that coming from years of riding carbon and titanium, and never having had a premium aluminum frame, I was scared.  I was scared that it would be harsh and unforgiving, and that I’d regret the move to this bike.  I was scared it would be punishing to ride on gravel and chatter.  I was worried that if it was compliant, it would be noodley and loose.  Those fears were unfounded.

I’m running 40c Maxxis Ramblers, tubeless, on Zipp 202s, typically around 35psi.  I’ve previously written about the amazing vertical compliance of the Zipps–palpably more than my ENVE 3.4s.  And so, running big tires at lower pressures with comfy wheels, I’m aware that I’m open to the criticism that what I’ve done is taken a harsh frame and isolated it with other components.  I’ll give two answers to that:

First, I don’t believe it’s true, because I’ve ridden other frames on cushy components and not had the same result.  Heck, I rode a premium carbon frame designed for gravel just a few days before building this bike, and it terrified me because I really didn’t like the ride.  This bike is more than the sum of its parts–the frame is amazing.  Having tried different tire pressures and ridden different conditions on this frameset before posting this review, and having ridden dozens of bikes under a myriad of conditions, I can offer an informed perspective and say that this is a fantastic frame.  It is neither soft nor hard.  It is responsive, athletic and responsive without being harsh.  It is not a cushy ride by any means–it’s a sporty ride.  When I ride, I don’t want a cushy ride.  I want something that feels fast and peppy without being punishing.  I want something to take the edge off of the worst conditions, but that still communicates what surface (and what traction) is underfoot.  I want something that turns every watt into forward motion, but that doesn’t leave me feeling bruised at the end of a ride.  In short, I want a Spooky.

Second, I don’t know anyone that rides “just a frame.”  A bike is the collection of parts.  If you don’t put them together intentionally, then I’m not sure what you’re doing.  A bike can’t be ridden without wheels and tires.  Pick good ones.  I review this bike as an assemblage of parts.  The frame is versatile enough to allow me to run 40c tires, so I run them.  And yes, the tires are good.  So I’ve put together an amazing kit, and yes, I’ll review it as a kit.  I could make the bike ride worse by putting crappy components on it, or by increasing my tire pressure to unnecessary levels.  That’d be relatively dumb.  I try to review bikes at their best, and when I build bikes, I build them as good as I can (within reason).  This is a review of the Dune, as-built.

Comparing ride quality from a Salsa Carbon Warbird to this bike, the Dune offers just as good of vibration dampening and far better responsiveness.  The Dune features those short chain stays that just make it want to go.  I’ve got clearance for 40c tires and a 52/36 crank, and chain stays that are as short as the Routt had.  When you stand on the pedals to climb a hill, the Dune is a rocket.  ROC-KET.  There’s one little climb on a local bike path, where you make a 90 degree turn and immediately go up a short little roller with loose limestone.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the whole ride, though it only lasts 20 seconds.  You come around the corner pretty slow (because it’s loose and off-camber), and then stand up out of the saddle and push up the little hill.  The first time I rode that hill on the Dune, I was transfixed.  It’s awesome–it goes.  I assume it’s what riding an e-assist bike up a hill feels like; unnaturally fast.

In comparison to the Moots, again, the Dune gives up nothing on ride quality.  The Moots had short chain stays (same length as the Dune), but only had clearance for 35c tires.  The Dune feels equally as fast in most conditions (and more compliant).  In soft conditions or loose gravel, the Dune feels faster, because of those big ‘ole tires.

If you look at Moots builds, the chain stays are thick and come together in a single monolithic stay that goes up to meet the seattube.  The Dune features thin, butted stays and a thin bridge between them.  I’d dare to guess that the Dune actually offers greater vertical compliance than the Moots did.  Moreover, the Moots had a lot more seatpost showing and could leverage the vertical compliance of a significant amount of exposed 27.2mm titanium seatpost.  The Dune makes no such shortcuts.  The compliance you get comes from the design, build and materials.  The larger triangle reduces exposed seatpost, which makes you rely on the frame and rest of the design for compliance.  Moreover, it gives you a ton of room for frame bags.  I’m curious about how the bike would ride without the seat stay bridge (for a light rider like me), but it’s got such a wonderful ride now, I wouldn’t want to screw it up.

The 56cm geometry is perfect for me.  I’m about 6’ (ish), with a 33″ inseam.  I’m usually 76.5mm from center-crank to top of saddle.  With a 110mm stem, the Dune is a dream.  The ride position is perfect for gravel.  Ride the hoods or tops to recover, and reach down to the compact drops on the ENVE bars when you need to scream.

When I first pulled the virgin frame out of the box, I was awed by its beauty, but surprised by its simplicity.  I remember thinking, “that’s it?”  It is so much more than just an aluminum frame.  I don’t know what design or engineering went into the bike–the tubing sizes and shapes, the butting and welding and heat treatment.  I just know how it rides, and it rides amazing.

My first gravel ride on the Dune was Night Bison.  I punched well above my weight and kept up with riders who were far faster than I.  I dropped riders who are stronger than I am.  I crushed it, because the bike was perfect.  Look down and see beauty.  You see chudder in the gravel, but you don’t feel it.  You just keep pedaling.  You come to a loose corner and feel the bike slide around it–and never lose a hint of confidence.  You ride on several inches of thick, loose, fresh gravel and it just floats atop it.  It shifts subtly from side to side but never loses its footing.

If you need to scrub a little speed, the SRAM Red Hydro brakes are there to handle any needs you have.  Even with 140mm rotors, they’ve got far more stahp than you’ll ever need.  Actually, coming from 160mm rotors to 140mm rotors, I’ve come to think that 140s are better on a road bike in this area, as they allow more modulation and still have more than adequate ultimate stopping power.

The road points up and you need to jump up a gear, or the group speeds up and you need to click down a gear–the SRAM Red 22 shifting works to perfection.  When I was a kid, we had this old door on our farmhouse that had a spring loaded lock on it.  You’d turn the knob to open the lock, and then flip a little button that would hold the lock open.  When you wanted to lock the door, you’d close it and then flip the button down, and the lock would click home with great precision and alacrity.  It was one of those tangible mechanical feelings that gave great satisfaction, and I remember playing with it, fascinated by its operation.  That’s what shifting this drivetrain feels like.  It is just so satisfying to ride, to shift, to use.

And the carbon Cambium.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  It looks amazing (IMO so much classier than the shiny rails on regular cambiums) and feels fantastic.  I prefer the standard saddle to carved cambiums, and while I traditionally ride a C15, I’ve been incredibly impressed with how comfy the C13 is.  It’s the comfort of a Brooks with the weight and appearance of a top-end road saddle.  Best of both worlds.

My Dune has 3 bottle cages, mounts for a rack, and clearance for frame bags for days.  Soft or hard luggage, it’s ready to go.  It is such a versatile bike.

You ride and see where the little single track loop comes out to the bike path, and you think, man, I’m on a road bike.  If only I had my mountain bike today.  But then temptation gets the better of you and you duck down into the woods.  Pretty soon, you’re flying along dabbing a foot here or there as you rocket down the trail.  The Dune doesn’t know its limits–it doesn’t inspire limitations.  It inspires confidence and adventure.  It wants to go.  Everywhere.

This is an initial review.  I’m only a few hundred miles into this bike…but it’s amazing.  Keep in mind that I downsized from a top of the line carbon-fiber road bike and top of the line titanium “gravel” bike to this one bike…and I don’t miss either of them.

If you have a chance to ride one, do so.  If you have a chance to get one, do so.  If you have a chance to drool over one, don’t drool on it, but check it out.  And no, you cannot ride mine.



Click through to read the full Spooky Series:

Spooky Cycles

Spooky Dune in Pictures

Spooky Dune: The Build

Spooky Dune: Gravel Bike Review

Spooky Dune: Road Bike Review

Spooky Dune: The Build

The Dune is the first bike that I’ve ever built up, by myself, from the ground up.  I’ve done all of the individual components on bikes before, but never built one up from the ground.  It was a straightforward process, and incredibly rewarding.  It gave me detailed knowledge of every millimeter of the bike, and the confidence of knowing that no one had hidden Justin Bieber pictures inside the frame anywhere.  (Trust me, don’t ask).  Every fastener was appropriately lubed, anti-seized, pasted or loctite’d, every thread was perfectly started, every adjustment was meticulously made, every option was fully contemplated.  My decisions are not those that others would have necessarily made, but I’m thrilled with them.  With no further adieu, the build:

  • Spooky Dune in 56cm.
  • Chris King headset, spacers, bottom bracket (and road wheel hubs) in turquoise.
  • ENVE seatpost, 110mm stem, bottle cages (two) and 44cm compact drop handlebars.
  • ENVE thru-axle fork with custom paint.
  • Brooks Carbon Cambium C13 saddle.
  • Fizïk Endurance Soft Touch bar tape.
  • SRAM Red 22 hydro drivetrain with 52/36 cranks.
  • I have a Bontrager RXL bottle cage in the third position for right now.
  • Gravel Setup:
    • Crank Brothers Candy 3 pedals.  (Though now that I see the pink Candy 7s, hmmm…)
    • Zipp 202 disc brake wheels, converted to thru-axle.
    • Avid HSX 140mm rotors, front and rear.
    • Maxxis Rambler 40c tires, tubeless, with Stan’s sealant.
    • Shimano Dura-Ace 11-28 cassette (or Ultegra 11-32 cassette for climbing missions).
  • Road Setup:
    •  ENVE SES 3.4 Disc Clincher wheels, laced to Chris King hubs with Sapim CX-Ray spokes.
    • Continental GP4000SII 28c tires.
    • SRAM Red 11-25 cassette.
    • Avid HSX 140mm rotors, front and rear.
    • Time iClic carbon pedals.


The ENVE fork has generous clearance for 40c tires.  Also note in this picture that I ran front and rear shifting cables around the non-drive-side (detailed pictures below).  The Maxxis Ramblers set up with a floor pump and held air without sealant (overnight).  With sealant, they’ve been flawless thus far.

I don’t have a crown race driver, so I went to a local bike shop to have that part installed.  The came out with a mini-sledge and a hacked off piece of a bike frame, and explained that they’d never installed a tapered fork before.  I backed away slowly and reconsidered my options.


The Spooky has exposed cable runs from just behind the head tube back to the front/rear derailleur.  SRAM Red shifting set up incredibly easily.  I shortened both the front and rear hydro brake lines at home with minimal fuss, and bled the brakes with a SRAM Pro Brake bleed kit, without incident.  Steerer mounted bottle opener is a necessity.

I made an initial cut on the steerer tube, but left lots of room for adjustment.  Until I get more time on the bike, I’m leaving it as-is for now.  I anticipate either staying where it’s at, or dropping the stem down and just using a 5mm spacer above the headset.  ENVE stem and bars because, well, ENVE.  In seriousness, I’ve used many aluminum and carbon bars, including ridiculously stiff ENVE SES Smart bars.  The ENVE 44cm compact road bars are my favorite bars–they offer a great, comfy shape, are incredibly durable, and they offer genuine vibration dampening that stiffer bars do not.

I’ve never used Fizïk bar tape before, but man is this stuff nice.IMG_5633

Rear isn’t as tight as this photo looks.  Great clearance for 40s, and likely clearance for 42s.  45s would not fit, however.  SRAM Red Yaw derailleur is clamp-mounted.  I found that in order to accommodate  the 3 different cassette sizes I wanted to use, I had to mount the front derailleur just a smidge higher than ordinarily recommended, or I’d get rub in extreme combos.

I wanted a non-corrosive aluminum frame (i.e. ti or aluminum) largely because of the chain stays.  I’ve seen carbon bikes get destroyed in a single race, from gravel/mud eating away the stays, and I’ve seen too many steel frames show extensive rust in this area.  (In fact, a steel frame died at the Night Bison this year from hidden corrosion in the downtube).IMG_5635

ENVE bottle cages.  These were on the Madone and are perfect.  I have a set of King ti cages that I’d contemplate using, but these fit and look so nice.

I ordered mine with a custom 3rd bottle cage on the downtube, anticipating longer-range missions.  Spooky was happy to accommodate ,and the spacing allows drivetrain clearance while still fitting a bottle in without running into the front wheel.  On some previous bikes I’ve had, the third bottle cage was useless as there wasn’t front tire clearance to actually use a bottle.

Also shown in this picture are the Crank Brothers candy’s that I’ve now had on 4 different “gravel” bikes.  I can’t begin to count how many miles are on them at this point–well into 5 figures.  They do get rebuilt once a year, and serviced as needed.  At some point, they’ll get replaced with Candy 7s in pink.


I haven’t written about the Zipps in a while, but many, they are spectacularly nice wheels. I’ve been nothing but impressed by them.  The Ramblers roll fast and are a perfect tire for this part of the country.


The top tube is high on the bike.  I have adequate standover clearance, but only just.  If I had 1″ less, I’d be in trouble in road shoes.  That said, it does provide huge room in the triangle which makes for easier shouldering (particularly with the flattened top tube) and leaves lots of room for frame bags and luggage.


I was worried about the width of the C13 carbon Cambium saddle.  To date, a few hundred miles in, it’s been fantastic.  I loved the regular Cambium C15 I had on the Moots, but was interested in the carbon because it is lighter, offers the potential for better vibration dampening and better durability/corrosion resistance.  Plus it looks dreamy. IMG_5641

Again looking at the large main triangle, there’s not much seatpost showing.  I went ENVE because ENVE…and for carbon’s vibration dampening.  With this little seatpost, however, I don’t think it’s contributing a ton to the ride.  For reference, I’m typically 76.5cm from center of crank to top of saddle.

Spooky has the anodizing done by the same shop that does King anodizing.  Damn, Daniel, rocking the blue anno again. It’s spectacular in all conditions and all light.  I’m particularly thrilled that it’s anodized and not painted, as the anodizing will be more durable and scratch resistant, and also easier to care for.

The aluminum frame is made by Frank the Welder and is a thing to behold.  I had asked Spooky for rack mounts on the seat stays, and they indicated that the stays are designed to offer an amazing ride with multiple butting, and are too delicate for rack mounts.  Accordingly, the bike now has a Salsa seatpost clamp (not pictured) with integrated rack mount.  I don’t rack often, but it’s nice to have the flexibility (and the bike does have fender/rack mounts on the dropouts, chainstay bridge and seat stay bridge).  The ride is nothing short of amazing (details to come), but I wonder what it would be like without the seat stay bridge, for a lighter rider like me.



Here it is in road configuration (albeit still with Candys).  The ENVE SES 3.4 Clinchers were, at the time of my order, the best road clinchers available on the market, and are built up with the best parts available…King hubs and CX-Ray spokes.  I loooooooove them.

It was my intention to run Continental GP4000Sii 28c tires (which I did).  They too were picked because in my experience, they’re the best road slicks on the market.  I’ve run 23 and 25c tires before, and with this bike’s generous clearance, I wanted to run 28s.

To my chagrin, the day that my bike was delivered was the day that ENVE announced their new disc clincher wheelset designed specifically to be more aerodynamic with 28c clinchers or 30c tubulars.  So ENVE, if you’re listening and would like to upgrade your humble servant…

IMG_5653 IMG_5656


Here’s the detail on the cable routing.  I tried every way I could, and ended up liking this the best.  I do have an inline adjuster on the front derailleur.  The rear derailleur has an adjuster right at the derailleur.

IMG_5662 IMG_5663


Ahhhh…carbon.  Did I mention it’s carbon?

Because of the thickness of the carbon rails on the Cambium, I did run the alternate seatpost clamp that comes stock with the ENVE seatpost, and it works perfectly.IMG_5665

I wrote a few years ago that thru axles were overkill for road/gravel.  That’s still true in the sense that I’ve never broken a skewer on a road/gravel bike.  But what advantages do thru-axles have?  Well, there’s not really a weight penalty.  They are undoubtedly more durable. They are super easy to install/remove and do offer greater rigidity.  That latter point has proven itself out with the Spooky.  If you recall, I had posted a while back with the Moots that under high-traction, high lateral force conditions (e.g. fast turns on pavement), I’d get weird brake rotor rub with the Zipp wheels, no matter how well the brakes were adjusted.  That condition’s completely gone with thru-axles, and I think it’s because of the greater rigidity at the hub/frame that they provide.

Deal points for me included a bike with a large head tube and tapered fork, because there are more forks available (and forks with greater clearance).  Point to Spooky.

Deal points also included a standard english threaded bb.  I’ve chased creaks on press fit BBs and didn’t have a desire to do so on my all-the-time bike.  That, and a King bb will last forever.

After my recent posts,  I think the SRAM/Shimano choice is pretty clear, but in this case, there was more to it than just brand preference.  At one point, I was maintaining 2 fancy bikes with Shimano Di2 setups on them.  Frankly, I didn’t want to have to mind batteries any more.  Mechanical setups are shifting just as good as electronic these days, and never are out of juice.  I’d have considered running eTap (candidly) because of the convenience of setup, but SRAM doesn’t have WiFli eTap available yet, and I’d want WiFli hydro eTap, as I’m not giving up on my ability to run a 32t cassette in the rear.

How’s the shifting?  Perfect.  The single-trigger shifting means that even when it’s cold out and I’m wearing mittens, I won’t have to hunt for a shifter.

Are hydro brakes needed on a road bike?  No–not a deal killer for me.  But they do allow lighter wheels, more consistent braking, and easy replacement of wear parts (instead of wearing down your rims).  So that was a bonus but not a requirement.  Having consistent braking in all conditions, wet or dry, has proven to be a nice improvement thus far.

I went with a mid-compact crank (52/36).  I’ve run both standard (53/39) and compact (50/34).  For that matter, I’ve run CX cranks (46/38).  The midsize crank offers near standard big ring and near compact small ring.  I think I’ll be just fine with 36/32 on the bottom on my climbing adventures…and with 52/11 on the top, that also offers plenty of gearing.  Candidly, I have had times when I’ve been “geared out” with 50/11.  Before you crunch the numbers and start telling me I’m full of it because I’d be riding at some ridiculous speed, you’re right–I’m not geared out in the sense of riding at 120rpm in top gear.  I was geared out in the sense that I was pedaling that gear as hard/fast as I could under those conditions, and if I had a slightly higher gear, I could have maintained a similar cadence and had a higher speed.  Admittedly, that’s not the textbook definition of geared out, but it is a functional limit.  For a cross road/gravel bike, the midsize cranks are perfect.

I’ve spent a lot of time on a lot of different bikes and components, both mine and borrowed, and have developed some very well-conceived notions about what I do and do not like.  This bike is the culmination of the things that I’ve come to love and look forward to using.  So this is the “what”.  Next, will come the review.

Click through to read the full Spooky Series:

Spooky Cycles

Spooky Dune in Pictures

Spooky Dune: The Build

Spooky Dune: Gravel Bike Review

Spooky Dune: Road Bike Review