Teef (Sarah Hammond) and I (Jesse Carlsson) recently spent a couple of weeks test riding the 2023 Race to the Rock Entree course from Brisbane to Rockhampton. Queensland is hard to beat between May and October with blue skies and warm weather, without the humidity and storms of the tropical summer.
It was my first time on a long ride with the Big Kev. Even though we "flashpacked" the route, staying indoors every night at accommodation along the way, we still needed to carry quite a bit of load. I needed to work along the way and so I had to carry a laptop, keyboard and mouse. We also needed to carry quite a bit of food at times to make sure we had food to eat if we arrived late to a town and missed shop opening hours (or there wasn't food available that suited our dietary choices). It was a great test of the Big Kev in fast touring mode.
There was a hell of a lot of climbing along the 1,000 km course, especially at the start. The first 150 km had over 5,000 m of climbing. The road conditions were varied but mostly reasonably smooth gravel, with the occasional rough and rocky descent. The Big Kev with 29 x 2.1 Vittoria Mezcal tyres was perfect for the course and our bikes handled the loads we were carrying well. The SRAM mullet groupsets we rode with were ideal for the course - the seemingly endless power climbs can be tremendously energy sapping and a real grind without an appropriate gearing. Having a 10-52 cassette on the rear makes climbing all but the steepest walls a breeze.
I was riding with a new SRAM t-type / transmission set up, just to make sure the derailleur functioned well on Big Kev during an extended ride. It turns out these new hanger-less derailleurs work fine on Curve Big Kevs. Teef's drivetrain was a mix of various levels of SRAM components and Ingrid cranks.
There is some amazing riding on the tracks and trails between Brisbane and Rockhampton. It doesn't look like they get ridden much, if Strava Heatmaps are anything to go by. We only saw one or two people out there on bikes. The country is varied the whole way along the course with either plenty of climbing along the dividing range rollers through national parks and state forests or lovely and changing views through farmland closer to Rockhampton. Some highlights include the D'Aguilar National Park gravel roads, the stunning Glass House Mountains views, the big Sunday Creek Road climb over to Jimna, the loose tracks in the Wongi National Park and the Kroombit Tops. We were also surprised to get a great vegan feed at the Mount Perry general store.
Overall it was a great test of our Curve Big Kevs in fast touring mode. I've loved riding a GMX+ in recent years and it was interesting to compare the two models. The GMX+ is a highly capable bike that will give you the confidence to tackle almost anything, but it is a lot of bike. If you want to trim down and move a bit faster, the Big Kev is a great option. When I rode the Tour Divide (10 years ago - yikes!) this is the bike I would have loved to ride. When riding mostly gravel roads with the occasional section of chunkier terrain a 2.1" tyre is perfect; a 3" tyre feels like overkill. Big Kev is a great option if you want to push your gravel bike further and step up to gravel plus.
If you're interested in Race to the Rock, check out the Facebook page for all the latest news and course information. If you want to check out the Curve Big Kev and GMX+ in more detail click through to learn more.