Bikes of Unbound Gravel 2023: The rigs taking on the world's biggest gravel race

Custom paint jobs and the pinnacle of gravel tech is on full display in Emporia, Kansas

Alexey Vermeulen's Custom MOG
(Image credit: Samantha Nakata)

Unbound Gravel  is the world's premier gravel race and an event where riders come to prove themselves and brands come to show off their latest, and sometimes unreleased, gravel bikes

Bike setups for Unbound can vary wildly with the event offering distances from 25-miles all the way up to XL 350-miler in which riders can be on the course for up to 35 hours. Riders need to be able to be self-reliant, to stay on top of nutrition and be able to be prepared for any damage the notorious flint gravel might inflict. 

Once again it seems that weather will play a large role in this year's race. There has been plenty of rain leading up to the start, and storms are predicted for race day,  so mud is guaranteed to be a factor. Mud can wreak havoc on a bike - wrecking drivetrains, clogging frames and stopping wheels, so equipment choice becomes even more important.

We've  assembled a collection of bikes from Emporia, with several sure to be hoping for podium performances.

Ian Boswell's Specialized Diverge STR

Specialized diverge str unbound

Ian Boswell's Custom Heritage Diverge STR

(Image credit: Specialized)

The former winner of Unbound returns once again on a throwback painted Specialized Diverge STR. Specialized has taken color-way inspiration from it's Technical Support Program from 35 years ago. Boswell has opted for the Diverge STR with 30mm of front and rear travel provided by the Futureshock. A 48T front chainring is paired with a mullet 10-50T rear cassette to give all the range Boswell might need. Boswell will be running Specialized rubber in the form of 42mm Pathfinders wrapped around Roval Terra CLX Evo wheels. A K-Edge chain catcher and Dynaplug bar-ends complete the build. 

Amity Rockwell's Trek Checkpoint

Amity Rockwell's Trek CheckpointAmity's Trek Checkpoint

Amity's Trek Checkpoint

(Image credit: Samantha Nakata)

Another former winner, Amity Rockwell (Trek/PAS/Maurten/Schwalbe) returns for 2023 aboard a custom smoke painted Trek Checkpoint. A full SRAM Red AXS XPLR groupset with a K-Edge chain guide will push Easton wheels with 42mm Schwalbe G-One RS gravel tires. A top tube feed bag and a pair of Arundel bottle cages complete the build.

Alexey Vermeulen's ENVE MOG

Alexey's Custom MOGAlexey's Custom MOG

All ENVE for Alexey's MOG

(Image credit: Future)

After being released at Sea Otter this year ENVE's Mog will make its debut at Unbound under the legs of Alexey Vermeulen. A custom blue color paired with CAD design lines showing notes from the engineers who created the bike make it a stunning and unique frame. Some other notes display the storage compartment on the downtube and the 50mm tire clearance. ENVE and Shimano dominate the build with ENVE aero stem and handlebar paired with GRX Di2 shifters make up the cockpit and a PRO saddle sits on an ENVE seatpost. GRX Di2 makes up Alexey's groupset with the exception of a DuraAce crankset. And ENVE wheels wrapped in Kenda Allumvium Pro tires completes the MOG.

Brennan Wertz's Mosaic GT1 45

Wertz's MosiacWertz's Mosiac

Brennan Wertz's Mosaic GT1 45

(Image credit: Samantha Nakata)

Former U-23 world rowing champion Brennan Wertz may not be racing Unbound but his stunning bike is still on full display. The titanium frame is a bit of an abnormality in the world of high end carbon frames but a welcome change. The bike has a mix of components including an SRM power meter and Ceramicspeed OSPW system attached to his SRAM Eagle AXS rear derailleur. ENVE SES 4.5 rims are rolling on matching orange Chris King hubs, and the Reneherse Manastash Ridge Endurance tires provide plenty of grip. Arundel bottle cages are spotted again decorating Wertz's bike.

1990's HED steel gravel frame

HED Steel FrameHED Steel Frame

A 1990s prototype frame decked out with modern components

(Image credit: Samantha Nakata)

This steel gravel frame is just one of seven ever produced. Owned by a HED employee is features Classified Powershift  to give it some extended range and HED wheels. A Brooks leather saddle fits the old school vibe perfectly.

Trek Project One tye dye

Tye Dye Checkpoint

Project One's capabilities on full display

(Image credit: Samantha Nakata)

A groovy Trek Checkpoint was on display showcasing its Project One custom bike program. 

Ashton Lambie's Lauf Siegla

Lambie's Flint Hills Ultra Bike

Lambie's Lauf

(Image credit: Samantha Nakata)

While not competing in Unbound this year, former track world champion Ashton Lambie has just completed the Flint Hills Ultra riding 1050 miles in just five days, and arrives in Emporia just in time for the Gravel Hall of Fame induction dinner.

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Henry Lord

Henry Lord is a Cycling Weekly Intern. He grew up in southern Maine and was introduced to mountain biking by his dad. Lord grew up racing mountain bikes and cyclocross across the East Coast as well as downhill and XC skiing. He moved out west to Durango, Colorado to start college at Fort Lewis, where in the last two years he has focused on road racing in addition to studying Communication design and marketing.

With contributions from