Shimano Pro Racers Share Their UNBOUND Gravel Setups

Gravel’s marquee event of the year brings thousands of top professionals and everyday athletes to Emporia, Kansas to take on grueling roads and unpredictable conditions of UNBOUND Gravel. 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.

Lining up for UNBOUND of any distance requires planning and preparation on many levels, but none more so than for your bike and gear. After last year’s muddy conditions and treacherous weather, racers have been busy testing equipment and watching weather forecasts to determine what gearing to use, what width of tires and pressure to run, and how to carry enough food and water.

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.

Shimano Gravel Alliance Athlete Taylor Lideen standing with his custom Allied gravel bike

Taylor Lideen – UNBOUND XL

Bella Vista, Arkansas

Bike: Allied Mule #4

Gearing: 48/31t chainrings with an 11-34t cassette

Tires: Either Vittoria Terreno Dry or Mezcal 2.1

Pressure: 29.5 / 30.5 psi

Taylor Lideen's Allied Mule #4 custom gravel race bike for UNBOUND XL 2024

Bike setup priority: Comfort and tires! I don’t get caught up in trying to make my bike as light as possible. I want it to be optimized for comfort for 350 miles and run tires I am confident in.

Special Equipment: My wife Mary got me a pretty good custom sticker from the show “Jersey Shore” haha. We love watching trash TV so that’ll be on my bike to keep things light and fun. I also like to bring some electrical tape around a mini hand pump just for emergency purposes and toilet paper. Always bring toilet paper!

Lesson Learned from Previous UNBOUND Experiences: To really do your homework on bike setup! I spend at least a month dialing in tires, gearing, fit, and nutrition to make sure everything feels like it does in training come race day!

What are you most excited about for UNBOUND: Im really stoked the course is going north this year. It has a totally different feel and I love everything the northern route has to offer. It’s rough, sharp and keeps things super interesting.

Looking Forward to Post-Race: Seeing my wife Mary is the best part of finishing these races. I love hearing about what she did while we were out racing. She always has great stories of what goes on behind the scenes during the XL.

Shimano athlete Kait Boil Unbound XL 2024

Kait Boyle – UNBOUND XL

Victor, Idaho

Bike: Pivot Volt

Drivetrain: Shimano GRX 1x12-speed mechanical

Gearing: 42t chainring with a 10-51t cassette

Tires: Maxxis Ramblers 60 TPI Silkshield

Pressure: 25 psi

Kait Boil's Pivot Vault gravel bike UNBOUND XL

Bike setup priority: Tire resilience and all day/night comfort.

Special Equipment: A toothbrush. Clean teeth and a fresh mouth can help me eat later in ultras.

Checkpoint Nutrition: The contents of Caseys General Stores. (Unbound XL is unsupported and riders rely on convenience stores for food and drinks)

Most excited about for UNBOUND: The sunrise after 15 hours of riding, the feeling of contentment and presence, experiencing the energy of other racers, spectators and the community out on course, and the finish line.

Most nervous about for UNBOUND: Sharp rocks and waiting for trains!

Looking Forward to Post-Race: A maple creeme!

Shimano Gravel Athlete Hannah Otto standing with her bike at UNBOUND 2024

Hannah Otto – UNBOUND 200

Salt Lake City, Utah

Bike: Pivot Vault

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

Tires: Kenda prototype tires

Pressure: 30 / 31 psi

Hannah Otto's Pivot Vault with Shimano gears Unbound 2024

Bike setup priority: Balancing speed and durability for the long course and unpredictable conditions.

Special Equipment: In the feed zones, I'll have extra of everything (socks, shoes, glasses, gloves etc).

Checkpoint Nutrition: First Endurance Liquid Shots and an extra USWE hydration pack. I always have an "emergency" bag that I don't plan to use but if things get crazy, I'll reach for that bag which will have a variety of flavor profiles from sweet to savory to salt etc.

Most excited about for UNBOUND: Testing my limits and pushing further than I ever have before.

Most nervous about for UNBOUND: As a newbie, it will be important to attempt to anticipate the key moments of the race and to save my matches for those moments.

Peter Stetina standing with hi Shimano equipped Gravel bike

Pete Stetina – UNBOUND 200

Santa Rosa, California

Bike: Canyon Grail CFR

Gearing: 50/34t chainrings with an 11-30t cassette

Tires: IRC Doublecross 42mm

Pressure: 29 psi

Bike setup priority: Tire robustness

Special checkpoint snacks: The new Clif Bloks Sours are a great palate refresher on a long day

Most Excited About for UNBOUND: Return to the north course

Lesson Learned from Previous UNBOUND Experiences: It’s such a long day everyone goes through highs and lows. It’s about when they come and how to manage them

Looking Forward to Post-Race: The week after. It’s just rest and family and decompression after all the excitement and stress

Shimano Athlete Kristen Legan Unbound 2024

Kristen Legan – UNBOUND 200

Nederland, Colorado

Bike: Mosaic GT-1 i45

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

Tires: Vittoria Terreno Dry 47mm

Bike setup priority: Comfort and durability. The Unbound north course is so rugged and chunky that a little extra comfort out there will be huge towards the end of the day.

Di2 Customization: I set up my Di2 accessory buttons to scroll through the pages on my Garmin. I also set my shifting speed to high (not super high).

Special Equipment: Duct tape.

Checkpoint Nutrition: I’m using Skratch Labs Super High-Carb mix for most of my bottles and some other snacks to round that out. I’ll have Sour Patch Kids in the checkpoint because that’s my emergency food when nothing else works.

Lesson Learned from Previous UNBOUND Experiences: Patience. It’s going to be a super long day out there and you have to have patience with yourself and with the circumstances. There is time to come back from punctures and mistakes, but you have to just keep moving forward.

Most excited about for UNBOUND: The super chunky sections up north. This course is beautiful but you have to stay engaged and ride smart because the techy bits can easily sneak up on you.

Zach Calton Unbound 200 gravel bike

Zach Calton – UNBOUND 200

Ogden, Utah

Bike: Ventum GS1

Tires: Kenda Prototype 45mm

Pressure: 29 / 32 psi

Bike setup priority: I set it up for how I’ll feel and how I’ll ride under extreme fatigue. It’s easy to think you want the fastest rolling tires, most extreme aero position when your back, feet, and hands feel good, but you're going to want some cushion and insurance for mistakes that second 100 miles!

Di2 customization: I set up my Di2 system to control my Garmin to navigate pages without having to take my hands off the bars.

Checkpoint nutrition: I will have First Endurance EFS pro in my bottles and packs, and First Endurance liquid shot gels. I'll also have a pipeline punch monster at checkpoint two to keep the caffeine rolling! I had some coffee cakes and cosmic brownies last year, but they were pretty muddy to eat out there. Haha.

Most excited about for UNBOUND: I love that iconic finish straight on Commercial Street. Last year I had a small group sprint at the finish, which was pretty dang cool, and I’d love to experience that again.

Lesson Learned from Previous UNBOUND Experiences: I have learned to never give up and be prepared for adversity. If you are physically and mentally prepared to overcome the unpredictable you're way ahead of most of the field.

Declan Irvine standing with his Gravel bike Unbound

Declan Irvine – UNBOUND 200

Newcastle, Australia // Girona, Spain

Bike: Argon 18 Dark Matter

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

Tires: Pirelli RC (45mm for dry / 40mm for mud)

Bike setup priority: Comfort and reliability are at the forefront of my mind for this race. In other shorter UCI world cups, I would go lighter on gear to save weight but at Unbound it’s about surviving the whole race with the least number of problems.

Di2 customization: Di2 Synchro-Shift

Special Equipment: My Diabetes supplies, which will help me keep my blood sugar in check throughout the race.

Checkpoint Nutrition: I always look forward to our specials rice cakes in the feed bag, but I think at this race it will just be Maurton Choco bar which I actually really like.

Most nervous about for UNBOUND: I’m most nervous about doing 300+ km’s in the backroads around Emporia! But I’m also really looking forward to the adventure with my best mates and teammates David and Charles!

Most excited about for UNBOUND: The vibe at the race! I loved going to worlds last year and racing with the best in the world. So, to do' it at Unbound is going to be a memory I won’t forgot!