We’re Heading to Unbound XLJan Heine
As part of our effort to test and improve our products, a small team from Rene Herse Cycles – comprising of Mark and me – is heading to Unbound XL, the 350-mile race across the Flint Hills of Kansas. This isn’t Rene Herse’s first foray to Unbound: Our tires have been ridden to numerous podium places and outright victories on this unforgiving terrain, and we’ve learned a lot from examining these tires after the big races.
But nothing can replace first-hand experience. We aren’t just testing our tires, but also our vision for the ultimate all-road bike. We know that our bikes work well on the mixed surfaces of the Cascade Mountains, on the paved roads of Paris-Brest-Paris, and on the bumpy trails of the Oregon Outback. But the Flint Hills are an entirely different landscape. And a big gravel race is different from a team ride or even an individual time trial to set an FKT (Fastest Known Time).
I have to admit that it’s a bit daunting to line up with professional riders. Many of them have spent the winter in sunny Arizona, while we’ve been fitting our training around challenging schedules and rainy winter weather. But I remind myself that our goal is not to win, but to gain experience.
We’ll be riding Rene Herse all-road bikes. I’ll be on the bike that I built for the Oregon Outback (which Mark is riding in the photo above), while Mark will be on a new bike (if it gets finished in time!) The new bike will be equipped with electronic shifting, while mine has a prototype Rene Herse Nivex derailleur. It’ll be interesting to compare the two!
In a little over a week, you’ll be able to see our dots move across the Flint Hills. We’ll be riding hard, we’ll enjoy ourselves, and we’ll learn valuable lessons that will improve our bikes and components in the future. We’re very excited!