Gravel’s marquee event of the year has finally arrived and after a long hiatus from racing, top professionals and everyday athletes have arrived in Emporia, Kansas. Whether racing for Gravel King and Queen status at the 200-mile event, going long for the 350-mile unsupported UNBOUND XL adventure, or sharing the gravel experience and community on the 100, 50, or 25-mile courses, the weekend of racing offers something for everyone.

bikes of unbound

Lining up for UNBOUND of any distance requires planning and preparation on many levels, but none more so than for your bike and gear. Deciding on what gearing to use, what width of tires and pressure to run, how to carry enough food and water, and what tools you’ll need in case the sharp flint rocks snag our time, it’s all part of the planning process.

bikes of unbound

With such diverse conditions, ever-changing terrain, and unexpected weather all thrown into the mix, every rider is different in their choices and gear selections. We caught up with some of Shimano’s athletes before hitting the start line at UNBOUND to talk about their gear and how they made these tough race-day decisions.


UNBOUND History: 2021 will be #7 (2019 DKXL Winner)

Ultra-Endurance Cyclist and Ambassador of Sport, Jay Petervary’s life motto is “Ride Forward” which not only applies to the direction of his wheels.

Bike: Rodeo Labs Traildonkey

Tires: Panaracer Gravelking SK 700x38c

Bike Setup Details:

Aero Bars: Absolutely using aero bars

Repair Kit: Multi-tool, chain breaker, piece of chain, lube, tire plugs & plugs, 3 tubes, derailleur hanger, mud brush/stick.

Special Equipment: I will definitely bring some earbuds to listen to music. The XL is a long and lonely ride!

Starting Line Nutrition: 2,500 calories on my bike, 69oz of fluids

Checkpoint Snacks: Convenience stores because UNBOUND XL is self-supported

Race Treats:


UNBOUND HISTORY: 2018, 2019 and 2021.

A mountain girl born and raised in Colorado, Amy left the financial industry at age 34 to pursue a passion and career in professional road racing. Besides racing gravel, Amy also owns and directs the SBT GRVL gravel race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Bike: Ventum GS1

Gearing: 50/34t chainrings and an 11-28t cassette

Tires: Panaracer Gravel King plus 700x38c

Pressure: 32 psiTire Insert: Cushcore

Aero Bars: I won't be using them and I don’t think they are ideal for road races. The surface is too unstable and the packs are too hectic for aerobars.  

Special Checkpoint Equipment: Spare shoes. When hot foot strikes, having a change of shoes is a game changer! I’m also hoping the Dynaplug will work its magic, if necessary!

Starting Line Nutrition: Two 1-liter bottles on the bike plus a Camelbak 1.5-liter hydration pack. I’ll shoot for a minimum of 250 calories per hour. 

Checkpoint Snacks: Burrito, Pringles, Pop-Tarts, PB&J, and Coke.


UNBOUND History: 2nd place overall in 2019

Pete jumped from WorldTour racing into gravel racing and the gravel community has never been the same (in a good way, we promise!). He currently holds the FKT for the Kokopelli Trail and is the 2019 BWR defending champ.

Bike: NEW Canyon Grizl 

Gearing: Dura-Ace 50/42t chainrings with an 11-34t cassette 

Tires: IRC Boken DoubleCross 700x42c 

Pressure: 31 psi front - 33 psi rear

Bike Setup Details: Customized front chainring choice and aero bars.

Aero bars: They're called Comfort Bars, thank you very much, and I like being comfortable. 

Repair Kit: Tubes, PRO multi tool, Dynaplug and spare plugs, CO2. 

Start Line Nutrition and Hydration: Two 28oz bottles with a high calorie solution since it’s early and temperatures are cool. For food, I’ll stick with big Clif Bars for the early stuff and save the sugar for later in the day. 

Checkpoint Snacks: A plethora of Clif products, a hydration pack pre-loaded, an entire spare saddle bag for a quick swap if needed, and of course cold brew coffee. 

Race Treat: A bag of gummy bears


UNBOUND History – First timer

Angela Naeth is a professional triathlete, Ironman Champion, and loves the gravel community.

Bike: Obea Boundary

Gearing: 52/36t chainrings and an 11-30t cassette

Tires: Maxxis Rambler Silk Shield 700x40c

Pressure: 40-50 psi

Bike Setup Details:

Aero Bars: Yes, Pro Missile Evo Clip-On

Repair Kit: Two of everything 

Hydration Pack or Bottles: Both

Checkpoint Snacks: Powerbar products


UNBOUND History: First timer. “I highly underestimate.”

Dad of two boys and husband of Thessa. Laurens is a retired WorldTour rider who now considers himself a professional adventurer. He runs a business which is named Live Slow Ride Fast, and it consist of three gravel events in Europe, a podcast, some movies on youtube, and a cycling clothing brand (LSRF). In the meantime, Laurens is the Editor in Chief of BicyclingNL and writes about his adventures.

Bike: Specialized Diverge Pro 

Gearing: 48/34t chainring with an 11-34t cassette

Tires: Specialized Pathfinders 700x42c

Pressure: 2.0 Bar (29 psi)

Bike Setup Details:

Aero Bars: 

Repair Kit: Plugs, CO2, tube, tyre lever, multi-tool  

Starting Line Nutrition: Electrolytes from NUUN and Clif Blocks

Checkpoint Snacks: More Clif Blocks, fresh bottles, maybe an extra hydration vest. It’s boring food for 10 hours but we’ll compensate at the afterparty.

Race Treats: I’ll carry the Live Slow Ride Fast Bomba


UNBOUND History: 2021 will be #4

Crystal Kovacs describes herself as a strong back-of-the-pack rider who fell in love with biking as it was the sport that I could do with my entire family.

Bike: 2021Salsa Warbird

Gearing: GRX 1x11 with a 40t chainring and 11-46t cassette

Tires: Kenda Alluvium Pro 700x42c

Pressure: 35 psi 

Di2 Customization: I customize my handlebar buttons to control my Garmin so it switches to the map screen

Repair Kit: Wolftooth handlebar kit, spare tube, CO2, tire levers, and a multi-tool

Starting Line Nutrition: Three water bottles with Carbo Rocket 333 in them and 750 calories on the bike

Checkpoint Snacks: Carbo rocket that I can pour into the water. I’m doing a short enough event that I won’t need real food.

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