Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Pro Race
Erik Kleinhans' eye-catching Canyon was his pick from their lineup for the event. It's a cyclo-cross race bike with more aggressive geometry than the other bikes on tour, but given the generally good condition of the Klein Karoo gravel and Erik's abilities it was well suited. This top end model was suitably kitted out with Reynolds Assault LS carbon wheels, SRAM Force CX1, and a beautifully integrated handlebar and stem.
Jan Braai's Momsen R355 threw in a bit of a twist with some 29" mountain bike wheels and tyres. The Momsen offers good clearance and versatility being able to accommodate the 2" Continental Race Kings on Stans Arch rims. Jan certainly had an advantage on the bumpy, loose downhills, and in maintaining traction on the uphills, however the broader contact patch and meatier tread made for a less efficient ride. Given the predominantly smooth surfaces we encountered, the bike was a bit over-equipped for the route, but that didn't seem to slow him down.
Cannondale Slate Ultegra
My steed for the week was the plush Cannondale Slate rolling on 27.5" wheels with some semi-slick 27.5x1.75 tyres. Had I done a bit more forward planning and arranged the bike earlier I'd have fitted something with a bit more tread. Thankfully though the road surfaces were quite accommodating and the tyres faired well until the road got bendy. On turns with loose marble like stones on a hard surface, it was very skittish and I had to slow right down to keep the bike upright. The turns aside, the tyre width and volume did make for an incredibly comfortable ride (and I'm sure the Lefty helped here too).
Santa Cruz Stigmata CC
Tim Brink's Santa Cruz Stigmata CC was equipped with the same Maxxiss Rambler 40c tyres as on the Canyon and both had a hassle-free ride. The Stigmata is no stranger to our shores as one of the earlier gravel bikes to hit the market. Tim can usually be seen riding all sorts of typically "mountain bike only" terrain on this bike so naturally, the smooth roads of Tour de Braai offered little challenge for him (and the Stig).
Another Momsen R355 was piloted by David Moseley, but this one featured a more conventional 700x40c wheel and tyre setup (the same bike which we reviewed earlier this year). Based on the feedback over the week, the general consensus was that 700x40c was the sweet spot for the Klein Karoo gravel providing just enough volume to give comfort while still a fast rolling tyre.
IF Bikes Custom Titanium gravel / touring bike
To a casual observe Kenny Scheepers' understated bike might not garner a second look, but one look at the head badge and you realise it's no ordinary machine. This is a fully custom Titanium Independent Fabrication frame hand built in the US. Kenny opted for 38c Challenge Gravel Grinder tyres and as the only rider with tubes was also the only rider to puncture over the five days. All the punctures were a snake bite and all happened at speed as we headed downhill. In order to run the tyre pressures that we found to be ideal for comfort on these roads (2 - 2.5 bar) a tubeless setup is mandatory to avoid snakebites.
The next tour takes place in May 2018.