Big Kev - One Year Review

Big Kev - One Year Review

Written by April Drage

On the 22nd of December 2022 I received a very exciting Christmas parcel, an XS titanium Big Kev with the Rival/ Eagle AXS groupset and carbon Dirt Hoops, complete with dynamo. Strava tells me that since then, we have shared 16,389 kilometres together in all variations of rain, hail and shine. Now that we have celebrated our first anniversary and some blood sweat and tears, it seemed like a moment to take stock of what it’s like to share this kind of time with a Big Kev. 
The arrival of this titanium gravel machine into my life wasn’t just any New Bike Day (although they’re all exciting!), this was the delivery of the bike I would take on a bike ride called the Tour Divide
To ride this route was a dream that I held close for years, a dream so big it seemed hard to even say out loud that I was planning to ride it. I admit that I didn’t know a lot about the Big Kev before she arrived on my doorstep. There hadn’t been anywhere near the amount of trawling for details, asking around and fact checking that I’d usually do before meeting a new bike for the first time. This special delivery transpired purely due to the recommendations of people that know what’s needed to go long in a bikepacking race far better than I do. When Jesse Carlsson and Sarah Hammond tell me which bike is the bike for the job, I listen.I quickly but methodically unpacked and assembled my new best friend. I named my Big Kev Miles as a nod to the Australian author Miles Franklin and the US unit of measurement. My first ride with Miles was a short one. Little laps around my suburban block, a few little gravel tracks and little ride and fall. My first impressions were that she felt comparatively tall and spritely; decidedly chunkier than my Kevin of Steel but shorter and taller than the 650b x 2.6inch titanium tractor named Xena that had been my partner in long journeys until then. I took the simplistic view that Curve must have been aiming for a sweet spot between their much loved Kevin and the Race to the Rock machine, the titanium GMX+. I hoped that the Big Kev would prove to be the Jack of All Trades and not the Master of None. I began experimenting with various bags and accessories on Big Kev to try and get the feel for just how this bike might fit into my life and how my life might fit onto the bike. I rode Big Kev at every possible opportunity in the months that followed; road rides, gravel rides, trails, little loops through mountain bike parks (the sort of rides I’m terrible at!) and bike packed all over the place. I have to admit, I was confused and a bit worried about my compatibility with Big Kev for what felt like a long time. I’d heard the Big Kev referred to as ‘the bikepacking race machine’ and as I don’t consider myself a racer that didn’t really seem like an appealing or useful description.
The sloped top tube meant that my usual set up with a half frame bag was out of the question if I also wanted to carry at least a couple of litres of water in the main triangle. I was also concerned about the limited clearance between the seat tube and the rear tyre. My list of little worries grew. I rode around pontificating over such aspects of the design, as they initially seemed like compromises; less main triangle space then Kevin and less clearance than the GMX+.  I couldn’t work out why exactly I needed this bike in the first place and scratched my head as to what it was exactly that made the Big Kev the bike for the Tour Divide, when I had the option of a longer wheelbase load hauler like the GMX+. As I dialed in the fit, refined my Tour Divide pack list and accumulated thousands of kilometres and hundreds of thousands of vertical meters of climbing, it all started to make sense to me. What I found is that the Big Kev begs me to ride it like my Kevin of Steel. I find myself out of the saddle at any opportunity, pushing up climbs in a more spirited way than I would on a GMX+ without compromising too much on the traction required when the terrain is loose. The nimble ride feel is paired with the kind of all day cush and comfort of wider tyres, without paying the road tax that goes hand in hand with over biking for the terrain, as I so often found myself doing on my little tractor. 
Despite my concern that comparatively, the Big Kev has slightly less packing real estate in the main triangle than my Kevin or the GMX+, this didn’t prove to be an issue. The Big Kev has a wide range of mounting points and importantly, has enough space in the right places; clearance for my saddle pack and plenty of room for my sleep system up front. There hasn’t been a single excursion that has presented a packing challenge for my XS Big Kev and I always seem to manage to pack the most important thing; space in my bags for things I collect along the way. As for my worry about the amount of clearance between the seat tube and the rear tyre; I have tested this HARD and have discovered that if peanut butter mud is going to collect anywhere, it’s not going to be there. I’ve also learnt that there is enough space in the other traditionally tight spots on the frame and fork to keep me rolling and if the mud is that bad, then no amount of clearance will be enough to avoid having to walk a little. My Big Kev has offered me so much more than what the Curve Cycling website says it will; and the website says it will do a LOT. Not only has my Big Kev delivered unbelievable reliability (not a single mechanical issue in all of those kilometres) and proved to be exceptionally adventure ready (straight out of the box!), my Big Kev has also offered me the kind of confidence that only a best friend can. With such a trustworthy, nimble, yet sure footed friend who shares the same sense of fun and enthusiasm for going all the places efficiently, there isn’t anywhere that feels off limits. When I reflect on the 12 months I’ve spent with my Big Kev (Miles), it’s clear that I’ve grown as a rider, I’ve opened up and leaned in hard to the kind of life I’ve always wanted to live, but didn’t know was possible. It’s hard to believe that such a huge gift is something that arrived at my house in a box. I reckon that’s a pretty good Christmas present.   

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