Bike Choice For the Wild Horse


By Chris Magerl — “An ice cream headache of bike setup choices”

Like any gravel event, at some point you have the wrong bike. From multi-time participant Aaron Phillips after the 2018 event: “Gravel races provide an ice cream headache of bike setup choices, and the challenge of riding gravel is answered by a dizzying array of setups. Ultimately, if the gearing is not terrible, you have good tires and good luck, and you are comfortable on the bike, then I recommend letting go of the worry and running what you ‘brung’.”

What did the fast folks ride in recent years?

Breanne Nalder on her way to winning The Wild Horse (2019). Here, she climbs Rydalch Pass at the south end of the course, in the Cedar Mountain Wilderness. Photo by Andrew Newcomb

Breanne Nalder, second place (2017), first place (2018-19) woman, The Wild Horse: “Cannondale Slate with a fast rolling MTB tire on my front wheel and gearing similar to my road bike. With those two adjustments and a saddle positioned for off-road stability, I felt confident to get after it!”

Meghan Sheridan cresting Hastings Pass (2018). Sheridan would go on to finish second, behind Breanne Nalder. Photo by Pete Vordenberg

Meghan Sheridan, first place (2016), second place (2018) woman, The Wild Horse: “This is my third year doing the race, and my first year doing it on a cross bike. In 2016 and 2017 I rode a hardtail mountain bike. Despite having my PR in 2016 on my hardtail MTB, I think a CX bike is more fun and a superior choice.”

Eric Flynn winning the 2016 Wild Horse Dirt Fondo on a gravel bike. Note the medium width tires, drop bars, and determination. Photo by Chris Magerl

Mark Currie, first place men, The Wild Horse: “I chose to ride a Why Cycles R+ frame, ENVE M525 wheels with WTB Resolute 42mm tires, ENVE cockpit and a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain. The equipment was absolutely dialed, and truly worked flawlessly. Already stoked for next year!”

Thomas Cooke, second place men, The Wild Horse: “I rode the same rig I rode in last year’s Dirty Kanza 200, Crusher, and RPI: an Open UPPER with a single front chainring. A little bird who raced last year, who may or may not be named Jamey Driscoll, told me to run my 650b wheels with fat tires, which was good advice that I ignored. Instead, I rode Gravel King 700c x 43c tires with waaaaay too much pressure. I should have stopped to let some out, but I doubt the winner would have waited for me!”

Aaron Phillips, first place men, Little Wild Horse: “Due to the fairly rough condition of the road in general and my tender spine (herniated disc), I opted for a full suspension race 29er equipped with suspension lockout with 2.2” tubeless tires. While perhaps 2% slower than a gravel bike on the course overall, I felt the comfort and confidence associated with this ride made the mental game of the race a bit easier, and I reasoned that it was probably “sixes” with respect to bike choice.”

[Editor’s note: While you’re at it, you should check out the race report from 2018 and all of our Wild Horse coverage.]

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