Whether you’re looking to win a gravel race or want to spend the whole day just riding around on back roads, the RLT 9 RDO is the perfect bike for all your adventures.
If race results are your main goal, your bike set up needs to be a balance of functionality and minimalism. If you carry too much, you run the risk of weighing down your bike, making the race just a little bit harder than necessary. But, if on the other hand, you don’t bring enough (think food, water, gear etc..) with you, you could be setting yourself up for failure.
First, let’s start with the handlebars. There are two trains of thought on this- to go aero bar or not. The traditionalists will likely say that aero bars don’t have a place in gravel racing, but if you go to a race, you’ll see that there a good deal of people with them on who would argue otherwise. It’s a personal preference, but if you do go the aero bar route, there are plenty of options that you can install for race day.
Hydration is a huge consideration for these long and often minimally supported races. It’s best to bring along a little extra water with you instead of running dry. All RLT 9 RDO models can hold two water bottles in the inside triangle. On top of that, you can also mount water bottles cages on the front forks. If that’s not your style, many racers wear a hydration pack. At aid stations, they swap out the empty pack and bottles for a fresh supply.
Tires choice is something many racers hem and haw about leading up to a race. Too beefy and they’ll slow you down, but not enough tread and you could end up with flats or find yourself skidding out on technical terrain. Many racers go with tires that have minimal knobs on the sides and almost no tread in the center. Some run different tires on front and back wheels as well. If you’re struggling to navigate in the sea of tire choices, this CX Mag article on Amanda Nauman’s DK 200 race bike might help you with your decision.
Lastly, don’t forget the essential gear. Calculate how long it is between aid stations and pack enough food to get you through, plus something extra in case you lose any snacks. Always bring spare tubes, a CO2/hand pump combo, and a multi-tool. Before you cross the start line, know how to fix mechanical issues since help is few and far between.
With some minor adjustments, the RLT can go from race machine to backcountry mule in no time. Whether you’re on the RDO, Steel or Alloy model, there are numerous ways to set your bike up for bikepacking success.
The front fork has three different mounting bolts that are compatible with just about any front rack you can buy which is great news for adventure and bike packing junkies who’ve accumulated various storage systems. You’re more than capable to set up two panniers for gear and supplies and a front pizza rack for beverages or whatever else you’d want to pack. If you want an easy installation option that doesn’t require mounting anything to the frame of your bike but still offers ample storage room, a handlebar pack is an absolute must. We’re huge fans of the Swift Industries Hinterland Paloma.
Now, depending on your riding style and the route you’re taking, you might want to throw on flat instead of clipless pedals. Why? Well for starters, you can ride in sneakers, so you won’t have to pack a change of shoes when you arrive at your destination. Second, you can get pretty shreddy in the backcountry without the fear of not being able to unclip.
Depending on your preferences, you can also change up the gearing and handlebars. Changing from drop bars to flat bars give you a little more stability when the trail gets rough. And many people feel more confident and comfortable on long-haul trips with flat bars. If you switch over to flat bars, might as well throw on SRAM Eagle. No climb will be too tough for you to grind out.