Having been at VO for a while now, I've been able to put most of our gear through its paces in one way or another. I spent much of my time on the saddle last year testing our upcoming Rando revamp in races like Monster Cross and in our local cyclocross seasonal cup. This year, however, I chose to race Monster Cross on our MK3 Pass Hunter, set up single speed. While I did enjoy the race and most of the build, I did have a few changes I wanted to make for the rest of the year. As I started to gather parts, we had the fortune of receiving this year's new Pass Hunter production run, in a new, ultra-stealth colorway.
When it came time to discuss new colorways for this year's production models, my vote was to dress the Pass Hunter in a more subtle color that allowed you to highlight the parts, thus creating a balanced visual package. And when the clouds part and that bike sees full sun, the paint just lights up!
I had written in our blog a couple years ago about doing GRUSK, a Gran Fondo set deep in the hills of West Virginia, on an old single-speed All City Nature Boy. I'm usually a single-speeder in most events, but I had such a miserable time in that particular race, I'd vowed never to ride it single speed again. And so with Igor's blessing, I kitted up a new Pass Hunter with some of the fanciest bits I could get my hands on.
We'll start with wheels and tires - I'm a sucker for Continental rubber - especially when it's wrapped around carbon rims laced to VO hubs. These particular tires are the Terra Trail 42mm, from Continental's more recent Terra line, and they offer a fast rolling, yet supple and grippy ride even in singletrack-heavy rides.
At the cockpit are some of the obvious bits - our VO sealed cartridge tapered headset in black, VO stem, and a yet-to-be-announced addition to VO's dropbar collection. A black prototype seatpost and a Brooks C17 Cambium center-split (which has really been growing on me) finish off the kit.
The carbon fork is a bit of a red herring for now, as it's something we've been testing for a while, but I've been really satisfied with this one, and I'm hoping it moves forward as an aftermarket offering we can provide for Pass Hunters and similar bikes on the market.
Finishing off the build is the Shimano Limited Edition GRX RX810 kit. When they first announced this limited run of GRX, we reached out to Shimano immediately, but we got hit with the ol' "this is for custom frame builders only". Cut to a year later and they still had stock, so I managed to get my hands on one.
It's even prettier in person than in photos - it reminds me a lot of that iteration of 7800-Series Dura Ace, where everything was dripping in mirror-finish anodization. You knew you were looking at something made by folks who really cared if a product looks as good as it performs - and it performs very, very well.
Granted, I'd been riding the standard finish kit on my previous CX bike for years before this bike came into being so I knew what to expect, but now the looks outmatch the performance, and I couldn't be happier with the way it brings a special touch to an otherwise stealthy build.
All in all, I'd have to say this might be the most performance-spec'd build I've been able to do thusfar, and I'm excited to see how it does at GRUSK this year. At just under 22lbs, it might just be one of the lightest VO bikes on the road, so I may have something to write about when I return from that miserable slog of a race.