Five beautiful custom builds of the British Gravel Champs – from Cannondale to Reilly

We take a closer look at some of the most eye-catching builds raced and ridden at the King’s Cup Gravel

Image shows one of the custom bikes of the British Gravel Championships.
(Image credit: Stefan Abram)

Alongside the hotly contested racing at the British Gravel Champs, there were plenty of stunning custom builds. From heads-down racing machines to gravel mongrels being pressed into the far extremes of their wide ranging duties - there’s been a broad spectrum taking to the start line. 

Elsewhere we’ve rounded up the race-winning bikes of the British Gravel Championships, and caught up with the day’s victors Danni Shrosbree and Jacob Vaughan. We entered the Brititsh Gravel Championships ourselves too and it was brutally fun – here you can catch up with how that went...

But for now, let’s take a look at what rocked up!

Spoon Cycles’ ‘Fat Tracker’ custom build

Image shows bikes ridden at the King's Cup Gravel.

(Image credit: Future)

First up we’ve got a real treat: Spoon Cycles’ ‘Fat Tracker’ custom build - with Josh Gordon being the very lucky man getting to ride it over the King’s Cup Gravel weekend.

The design cues have their roots in classic 90s mountain bikes, Gordon told us, with the Columbus steel frame being hand built in the UK and British outfit Gun Control Paint being responsible for the colourway. 

Naturally, then there are numerous purple accents, from the fork legs, bottom bracket and chainstays to the headset spacers and chainrings. 

It would have easily been possible to go much heavier on eye-catching anodizing: Hope supplied the headset, hubs, bottom bracket and brake calipers - all of which could have been colour matched - but we’d argue this build is all the better in refraining from overstatement. 

The tyres, though, are uncompromisingly chunky, with the 2.2in Maxxis Ardents easily filling out the generous clearances. Every bit of the oodles of grip they provide does get utilised with those MTB style four-pot brake calipers specced both front and rear - Gordon assured us that the stopping power on this rig is phenomenal.

Vielo V+1 Gravel

Image shows bikes ridden at the King's Cup Gravel.

(Image credit: Future)

Next up, we’ve got Franco Porco’s stunning Vielo V+1 Gravel. This frame is actually quite unusual within the ‘gravel-sphere’ for sporting a completely symmetrical rear end - typically the tubes will be contorting themselves around the chainrings, derailleurs or tyres to some degree.

This design does make the bike 1x specific but specificity is Vielo’s modus operandi, with the brand making waves earlier this year for a wireless specific frameset with no ports in the chainstay for any wires to derailleurs.

That’s perhaps going a step too far for Porco who’s a strong proponent of Shimano GRX Di2, appreciating the shaping of the hoods (which locks you into a much more secure grip) and the lever action of the brakes (which offer much better control than the Ultegra shifter’s of Porco’s ‘cross bike - GRX will replace them when the time comes).

Across the rest of the build, we’ve got Schwalbe’s new G-One RS tyres wrapped around Zipp 303S rims and an understated Chris King headset. As with most of the bikes being raced at the weekend, power readings were being taken – in this case bya set of Garmin Rally pedals. Notably, they’re still reading within a few watts of Porco’s turbo, despite having been subjected to a few rock strikes and knocks.

Cannondale Topstone Alloy

Image shows bikes ridden at the King's Cup Gravel.

(Image credit: Future)

Now onto Joe Griffiths’ equally enviable build, sporting the new Chris King GRD23 carbon wheels (yes, that includes the rims as well as the hubs) that we spotted earlier this year at The Cycle Show in London. These are shod with the more aggressive of Schwalbe’s top-end gravel tyres, the G-One R.

Coming to the drivetrain, we’ve got a complete pick-n-mix of Shimano components. Starting at the front, Griffiths has gone with Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifters paired to Ultegra calipers. So far, so matching. Next is the Dura-Ace crankset (including a Stages power meter) that’s driving the Shimano XT 11-42t mountain bike cassette, with the shifting provided by a GRX rear derailleur.

It’s certainly not a stock build – and especially not for this frame. It’s a Cannondale Topstone Alloy, which Griffiths chose because of its multidirectional strength (you don’t have to worry about knocks to the tubes) and the scope that material provides for customisation. 

Obviously it’s not something that we would recommend, but Griffiths was able to drill two holes into the BB area for threading through the Di2 cables – a modification he wouldn’t attempt on a carbon frame.

Planet X Tempest

Image shows bikes ridden at the King's Cup Gravel.

(Image credit: Future)

Slightly more grounded than the preceding three very flashy builds, Martin Usher’s Planet X Tempest is a bike that balances its bling with a (still sizable) budget. 

As Ti frames go, the Tempest is one of the cheapest, coming in at just above a grand. Naturally it’s not the lightest, the claimed frame weight being 1,985g (others are around 1,500g), but the benefits of impact and corrosion resistance are all still there – and, Usher told me, so is the ride quality.

The mechanical GRX drivetrain lands at a similar point in the spectrum of price versus performance – much less expensive than any electronically shifting system, although still spinning 11 speeds rather than the entry-level 10.

In a similar vein, the headset comes from FSA and the tyres are the Goodyear Connector. There are a few flourishes for additional comfort – a Redshift suspension stem takes the edge of the chattery bumps, while the small cage of the Crankbrothers Mallet pedals helps provide a bit more stability when pedalling. 

Reilly Gradient T47//Adventure Disc

Image shows bikes ridden at the King's Cup Gravel.

(Image credit: Future)

Finally, we’ll round things out with another Ti build, this one being Marcus Elliot’s Reilly Gradient T47//Adventure Disc. Built 1x with mostly SRAM Rival eTap AXS (save for a Force level power meter crankset), it strikes one of the cleanest silhouettes we’ve seen all weekend. 

The wheels are Parcours’ Alta 650b – carbon and very lightweight – with the tyres being WTB’s Resolutes. They were among the more aggressively treaded tyres we saw at the weekend - much better suited to the loose and sandy sections, although not quite as fast on the wide and open tracks.

One of the biggest perks of a raw titanium frame is that you don’t have to worry about chipping any paint. That’s not to say that rubbing straps and cables won’t make their mark, but those reminders of past bikepacking trips which span the length of the top tube are additions Elliot is happy to keep.

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Stefan Abram
Tech features editor

After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back. 

Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.

But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia

Height: 177cm

Weight: 67–69kg