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The Grind: Belgian Waffle Ride* on a loaded Orbea Orca

Here is the gear I chose for a 140-mile, 14,000ft, local substitute for the actual Belgian Waffle Ride.

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The best laid plans, eh?

Belgian Waffle Ride was slated for this past Sunday, but coronavirus.

So, a few of us around the country opted to do a local solo version, thanks in no small part to Ted King’s rallying efforts around his #DIYgravel project. The idea is simple: shoot to hit the same distance and/or elevation gain as the event you were planning to do. Just do it on your own. It’s not a race; no one is timing anything. Just go get it done, and enjoy being on the bike.

I used Strava’s Route Builder to sketch out a route from my house in Boulder, Colorado, up to Estes Park, along the gorgeous Peak to Peak Highway, and then back into town via a few dirt climbs. Total distance: 140 miles. Elevation gain: 14,000ft. Estimated time: all friggin’ day.

Not *the* Belgian Waffle Ride, but a Belgian waffle ride. Photo: Stella Delaney | VeloNews

The horse for the course

Much like the actual Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego County, California, my one-man-band version was largely paved, with a lot of up, then some dirt road and trails mixed in for good measure.

Typically, the gravel question is, ‘What is the right tire?’ Here, the question was simpler: ‘How the heck am I going to carry enough water?’

I’ve been doing some longer rides with a CamelBak Chase vest, and aside from offending my delicate roadie aesthetic sensibilities, it’s just kinda annoying to wear.

So I opted to imitate my former colleague Josh Patterson, who has run extra bottles on his seatpost for some of his very many Dirty Kanza 200 adventures. I went digging through the boxes in the garage to unearth a Profile Design double-water-bottle saddle-rail mount.

Two more bottles on the bike and out of the wind? Yes, please. Photo: Ben Delaney | VeloNews

Could I still fit a saddle bag under there? Ah-ha, I could!

For food and clothing layers, I popped on a trusty Road Runner Burrito handlebar bag. I probably could have gone Burrito Supreme…

As for the bike itself, I opted to use an Orbea Orca that VeloNews tech editor Dan Cavallari had in for test. Why this bike? Simple: It has a compact crank and a Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow that I just fell in love with. I figured that if I was going to be a) riding all day, and b) climbing for much of the day, I sure would like to be comfy while doing both.

A Garmin Edge 830 attached via a K-Edge to keep the running tallies.

Road Runner makes its bags in Los Angeles. This is the Burrito, and there is also a much larger Burrito Supreme. Photo: Ben Delaney | VeloNews

How the gear and the rider fared

I opted for a single pit stop in Estes, at roughly the halfway point, to buy coffee, food, and a bunch more water. It’s a weird time in the world, obviously, and I hadn’t been to a coffee shop since Colorado shut down more than six weeks ago. It was refreshing to see that the folks at Inkwell still had their business going, albeit with socially distanced customers all wearing masks and the staff hidden under masks and face shields.

Midway up one climb I stopped to peel off layers and tuck them in the Burrito bag. After hanging my helmet on the K-Edge mount and draping some clothes over the bars, I noticed that the Edge 830 screen had gone blank. What the? Pressing the power button elicited a beep, and alternating ‘screen locked’ and ‘screen unlocked’ messages on an otherwise blank screen. The touchscreen was completely unresponsive. Uh oh. What is the point of being out here pedaling without a digital record?! Fun? I laughed at myself and cursed the computer.

After a few more presses of the power button, the go-back button and the start/stop button, the screen came back to life. Weird. I had no more problems the rest of the day, and appreciated the 830’s mapping for being able to not only zoom in and zoom out, but also slide around to look to the sides of the default screen. The latter feature is something missing from the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, which I otherwise love.

Orbea’s OC2 carbon bar has a nice subtle forward sweep to it, and I found the bars comfortable for an all-day ride. I just wish the Di2 levers would work with the Garmin Edge 830 without needing to buy the additional D-Fly plug-in. Photo: Ben Delaney | VeloNews

The bike itself was quite enjoyable to ride, as the low gearing and the comfy bar and saddle made for a happy rider.

I wish Shimano’s Di2 system would come with the D-Fly functionality built-in, so that the electronic group would talk to your computer. Once you connect a sold-separately D-Fly, you can use the buttons on the tops of the Di2 hoods to control Edge computers — and Garmin Edge and Wahoo Elemnt computers can give you gear-selection and battery-life readouts on screen. Super handy, and annoying that this isn’t stock the way it is on SRAM’s eTap groups.

Aside from that nit, the Ultegra Di2 group was perfect. Single-finger braking on steep, dirt descents at the end of a long day was easy, and reassuring. Shifts were crisp. And you better believe I charged the battery the day before so I wasn’t worried about getting stuck 100 miles from home stuck in one ring.

Speaking of batteries, the Edge 830 had 59 percent battery left when I got back home more than 9 hours after I left. Since I knew where I was going, I did not use the navigation beyond just looking at the map screen. Following a route can pull more juice, but I was quite pleased with the battery performance nonetheless.

I had never tried the Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow until getting on this bike a week ago. But my initial impressions were so good that I was happy to use it for an all-day ride. Photo: Ben Delaney | VeloNews

We’re all triathletes now

This whole coronavirus pandemic thing is doing some weird things to our brains and our bikes. We’ve got bags and hydration solution bolted and strapped all over, and we’re doing long rides alone. As my friend Nick Legan has pointed out, the pandemic is turning us into low-grade bikepackers and/or newbie triathletes.

Case in point: I turned my garage upside down trying to find some clip-on aerobars. Alas, there were none.

I have to say, I was pretty pleased to have a four-bottle capacity on the bike, even if I did almost tip over the first time I went to dismount and forgot about the rear situation.

Part of the fun of gravel events is trying to figure out the gear to get you through a long day. If you’ve got an event that got canceled or postponed, I encourage you to give it a go on your own. And don’t be scared to pull in some solutions from our three-sport cousins. Just no singlets out there, okay?

The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel.

The Orbea Orca M20iLTD-D — with a few modifications for a big solo day. Photo: Ben Delaney | VeloNews