Building up a gravelracer

with 7 Comments

The title falls short. It should say gravel-adventure-allroad-endurance-touring-commuter-racer, because that’s what my new bike is going to be.

Wait, a what now?

Feel free to skip this part – It all started when I decided it was time to ‘upgrade’ my old 7 speed touring bike which I mainly use for commuting. I wanted something faster and something more fun. I read about gravelbikes and how they are found to be ‘something inbetween’, slower than roadbikes, and frowned upon by true roadies.

That didn’t sound any good. But why are they flooding the cycling market at the moment? The only reason I could think of is that they’re fun to ride. And I wasn’t wrong.

With their huge tyre clearance they are versatile. Even with fenders mounted you can stick really wide (like mountain bike wide) tyres in there, perfect for gravel roads and commuting. For the same reason and for proper braking they pretty much all have mounts for disc brakes. They are strong and can take a beating. The geometry is a bit more comfortable then road bikes and thus suited for long hours in the saddle.


Now it’s not only my commuter bike, I also rode the over 350 kms long DuoDiagonaal self supported night ride on it. This particular frame also has eyelets for racks – back and front(!), so even loaded touring is possible. And with CX-tyres I shred straight through the forests around my home town. It’s a bit slower then my road bike, because this steel one is a bit heavier (but not that much). So it’s goodbye Strava PRs, but being not limited to asphalt roads my rides have become much more fun.

Note: I’m not a bicycle mechanic or mechanic in any other way. I started fumbling on bikes years ago, rebuild a couple of bikes and do all the bicycle maintenance myself. I have learned a lot from doing so. And although you can cycle around the world without any technical know-how, some knowledge about the bike you’re riding can be a big advantage, in particular when you’re riding long distances in remote areas. But most of all, building a bike is rewarding and fun – just take your time and read the manuals.

The hardest part

Needless to say the frame is the most important part of the bike. Choosing a frame can be really hard. You can’t testride every available frame out there. But almost every manufacturer has geometry data on the website.

After a couple of weeks in doubt about what frameset to buy (all part of the fun) I decided it had to be the veloheld.iconX. A steel gravelracer that met my needs. Affordable, matching geometry, 2,0 kilos frame weight and … available in custom colours! I chose matt black for being stealthier when camping in the wild. After that came the really hard part: waiting for the delivery man.

Here it is, a beatiful frame with matching powdercoated steel fork.


I also bought the Sram Rival 22 groupset. I use Sram already on my road bike and like it a lot. The Rival groupset is affordable and good for many, many kms. All of Sram’s manuals are online. I chose a compact over the now available 1x, so I can ride a small cassette (12-26) for the right cadence at any speed and use the inner 36t chain ring for (loaded) climbing.


For stopping power I have the Avid BB7 Road S mechanical disc brake. Hydraulic disc brakes outperform mechanical ones, but these are easy to install and you can use the regular brake levers (Avid belongs to the same company as Sram). Besides that I like the low tech side of it with just a regular (but longer) brake cable. And the tool is included, it’s like Ikea!


That didn’t take long – already spinning! Not stopping, because there’s no cable installed yet.


With the veloheld frameset came a seperate derailleur hanger. I use little drips of Loctite on the bolts to keep them in place.


As you can see in the first picture, the headset was already installed. That saves a lot of work. Now it’s time to shorten the steerer tube. Don’t forget to add spacers first! If they don’t slide on immediately, try putting them in hot water (not the carbon ones, I think).


With the stem installed, draw a line around it. Mark the stem about 2 millimeters lower. Notice that I’m – besides wearing an ugly sweater – using A LOT of spacers. I’ve never ridden the bike, so I prefer to cut the tube several times than once too short.


Before I started sawing the custom fork (exciting!) I wrapped extra tape around it. When you’re done filing the edges gently tap the star nut in the fork.


Reassemble the fork, spacers, stem and the handlebars. The seatpost clamp was already installed as well. Just slide in the seatpost and mount the saddle. It’s starting to look like a bike!


Slide the brake levers into place. Tape the four outer cables temporarily to the handlebar and determine the total length before cutting them.


Install the brake cables. Don’t you love how the end is one of the very few things on a bike that hasn’t changed for years and years?


The veloheld.iconX has an ‘old school’ threaded bottom bracket (BSA). Hurray! All you need is some grease and one big ass tool. Srew in one side to the left, the other one to the right. After that you can install the cranks.


The Rival front derailleur is available as a braze-on type only. The veloheld doesn’t have a eyelet, but a clamp band adapter can easily solve that problem.


The rear derailleur is in place. The chain can be measured and made to size according to the manual. Cut the excess inner brake en shift cables and the bike is ready for a first test drive!


And done! Happy with the 2×11 drive train.


And the dynamo in front wheel for commuting and night rides.


I love the stylish logos on the iconX. The right one is the top tube.



Follow Stephan van Raay:


Photographer on a bike, enjoys long distances onroad, varied with the occasional offroad track.

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7 Responses

  1. Frederick
    | Reply

    Nice ride! I recognize the bicycle stand sold at lidl, good value! 🙂 What wheels and hubs did you use? And what is the pricetag of the bike, if i may ask?

    • Stephan van Raay
      | Reply

      Hi Frederick. Thanks! A friend of mine got the bicycle stand and was really happy with it, so I bought the same one. It’s heavy and bulky – exactly what you want in a stand. 🙂
      This wheelset is custom made. The rims are the new R 460 from DT Swiss. I bought the non-disc version so I can use the dynamo hub in front – a Shutter Precision PD-8 – on my road bike too (without the disc). The weight and build of the rims are exactly the same as the disc brake version. Spokes are DT Swiss too.

  2. Vincent Molenveld
    | Reply

    Nice bike, Stephan! What kind of fenders (type and size) do you use for commuting rides? Are you satisfied with them?
    Regards, Vincent

    • Stephan van Raay
      | Reply

      Thanks, Vincent! SKS Bluemels, pretty standard, but very functional. 45 mm wide to fit 30 mm tyres.

  3. m
    | Reply

    Hi! Great tutorial! How wide tires were you able to fit in this version of the frame? They state 37mm, but I’m not sure if that is with or without fenders.

    • Stephan van Raay
      | Reply

      Hi! Thanks.
      For Taunus Bikepacking last August I fitted 40mm front and back. In front I could even go wider.
      But veloheld have updated the iconX frame, so I don’t know if that’s possible with the current frame.
      Just contact them. They respond fast!

  4. Sm
    | Reply


    Have you done any loaded touring with your bike? Wondering how comfortable that geometry would be over longer days on it.

    Thank you

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