Ryan Francesconi rode his steel-framed Smeltzer ‘Thee Gifford’ adventure bike in last summer’s Paris-Brest-Paris. Ryan’s tires were wider than almost anybody else’s, and yet his 650B x 48 mm Switchback Hill Extralights didn’t slow him down as he surfed the fast pacelines during the early hours of the event.
Ryan opted to keep his One-By drivetrain for PBP. With a 40-tooth chainring and a 10-42 cassette, he had more gears than he needed. As a powerful rider, Ryan wasn’t bothered by the slightly larger steps between gears.
He did swap his XT cranks for XTRs to get a lower Q factor, and he reported: “I was very happy with that decision.” Similarly, the just-introduced GRX gravel rear derailleur worked perfectly with his Ultegra shifter.
Rene Herse 650B XL fenders cover the large tires, and a second stay stabilizes the front of the fender. “Essential for fast gravel rides,” commented Ryan. Ryan loves riding in technical terrain, and he prefers to distribute his luggage evenly across the frame. That makes the bike more agile in twisty single track, and easier to jump, too. Not that he was going to need to jump a lot in PBP, but having a bike that feels familiar is a benefit on a long ride. Small bags on the handlebars, in the main triangle and under the saddle held everything he needed for the long ride.
A SON Delux thru-axle generator hub powered Ryan’s lights. Ingeniously, he used Honjo R-clamps to route the headlight wires along the fork blades. The clamps usually attach fender stays to the dropouts, but here they are mounted to the mid-fork cage braze-ons – a clean solution.
Ryan liked the comfort of his Berthoud Aravis saddle, and he had no saddle issues. However, his ‘gravel’ handlebars – designed for leverage and control on single track – were not ideal for such a long ride. He suffered from ulnar nerve problems, which fortunately cleared up soon after he completed the long ride.
Even though Ryan’s Smeltzer was originally designed for off-pavement adventures, it performed well in Paris-Brest-Paris. It combined speed with comfort and the ability to carry the gear needed for this long ride – which is exactly what we want in a randonneur bike.
Click here to see David Wilcox’ Seven all-road bike set up for PBP.
Photos: Nicolas Joly