When the summer months roll through Santa Fe, my drop bar bikes tend to get hung on the wall in favor of my flat bar mountain and touring bikes. The main reason is that our “gravel” in town is exposed, hot, and windy. Rather than battle the elements on gravel roads, we escape from town into tree cover and savor our luscious singletrack.
So when we released The Radavist edition Mosaic bikes, both in the GT-2X and GT-2 45 models, I had my friends at The Pro’s Closet hold onto a size 58cm GT-2 45 mechanical bike for me to ride this winter. In the interim, I did my best to “soften the ride” by incorporating Cane Creek‘s popular eeSilk components.
Well, I’ve spent some time riding the bike, both in Santa Fe and down in Southern Arizona, and am ready to spew my thoughts in a fully-detailed review, so let’s get to it!
GT-2 45: The Pro’s Closet Edition
In case you missed the previous Radavist post explaining this collaboration, you should read it in our archives, but if you don’t want to click through, the below excerpt is a perfect synopsis:
“One of my first assignments when The Radavist merged with The Pro’s Closet, was to design TPC and Radavist edition Mosaic gravel bikes. Like me, TPC’s founder Nick Martin also has an affinity for classic Cruisers. He has an FJ45 Troopy from Australia and a North American spec FJ60. Both are clad in “Desert Tan” and both are in their original condition, patina and all. With our mutual affinity for Cruisers, I decided to approach this project with a specific design intent of using these classic off-roaders to inspire custom Mosaic bikes that would be just as capable.”
The intent of The Radavist Edition GT-2X was to create the best flat bar gravel/light-tourer/adventure/do-it-all-bike on the market. It had titanium components galore: ti seatpost, ti bars, and a beautiful ti frame. Then, to give the ride quality more compliance, we specced a steel fork, which allowed the full chassis to absorb and dampen road surface resonance. These bikes ride so well yet flex in all the right ways over corrugation, ruts, and rocks.
Then, The Pro’s Closet editions took the Mosaic GT-2 45 platform, offered a beautiful semi-gloss paint, inspired by the body decals found on 1970s and 1980s Land Cruisers, and specced both electronic Di2 and mechanical GRX build kits with a Whisky Parts Co. carbon fork. These bikes embody the current trend of gravel bikes. They’re light, responsive, comfortable, and fit within the gravel paradigm with clearance for a 45mm gravel tire.
In total, we made 50 bikes as part of this limited-edition collaboration. The Radavist edition is where I think gravel bikes should be heading and The Pro’s Closet edition is where they currently are today. If that makes sense.
Soften the Ride
A few months back, The Pro’s Closet Magazine editor Bruce Lin and I had a conversation on Slack, an app our company uses to communicate in this new, work-from-home environment. Bruce offered up a question to me that was along the lines of “how would you ‘soften’ the ride on a carbon fork bike if you couldn’t swap out for a steel fork or titanium drop bars?” Since I’ve never seen titanium drop bars, we discussed products on the market.
Bruce and I went back and forth about what a GT-2 45 would look like with Cane Creek eeSilk and eeWing components, so I browsed TPC’s extensive inventory and selected the appropriate componentry. What you see here in this post is the result. Spend enough time at gravel races, and you’ll see the eeSilk components on many racers’ rides. I had never ridden the eeSilk seatpost or stem but have used an older Thudbuster and Softride stem before.
I hoped these components would emulate the feel and flex of the ti post and ti Doom bars we specced on The Radavist edition GT-2X. I was skeptical, but after a couple of hundred miles of Southwestern roads, I can finally offer up a critical review of these parts, but first, let’s look at some of the options available for such a task.
The components I selected to “upgrade” this ride are as follows:
I’ve reviewed the eeWing cranks before, so check those notes out if you’re curious.
Solving the Softening Equation: Cockpit
As I’ve shouted from the mountain tops over the years, it’s hard to beat the compliance of properly engineered steel and titanium auxiliary components, or frames, for that matter! These beautiful GT-2 45 frames are designed, engineered, and built in-house at Mosaic Cycles from T3A/2.5V straight gauge titanium. They are wonderfully detailed with internal routing, and a stunning paint job that looks great with caked road dust.
These ti chassis gravel bikes clear a 45mm – or, in this case, a 47mm Teravail Cannonball gravel tire – and are specced with a Whisky or ENVE fork. While the frame is wonderfully flexy and absorbs road chatter in a resonance-reducing bliss, carbon forks tend to push back on the frame’s compliance. My solution is to use a steel fork to combat this chatter on our Radavist special edition bikes. The steel forks flex, absorb, and overall offer a buttery smooth ride.
Generally, a US-made steel fork is about two to three times the weight of a carbon fiber fork. Forks made overseas have to pass more rigorous consumer safety testing and can sometimes weigh two to three times the weight of a US-made fork. For riders like myself, the added weight is negligible when you factor in the comfort achieved by a steel fork. However, many riders prefer to sacrifice fork flex for the drastic weight reduction found in carbon forks. To each their own, but I was hopeful this experiment in component swapping would result in a similar ride.
In my opinion, there are a few ways around softening the ride of a carbon fork. The first is pretty obvious. A big, fat tire, running at relatively lower pressures, can absorb the rough ride of corrugation or ruts found on double track and gravel roads. Yet, after a few hours, even big tires can’t solve this problem. Your wrists and shoulders will ache from fatigue. Or at least that’s the case in my experience. Hey, I’m 41 years young now!
Steel forks flex fore and aft about the hub axis, and components like the eeSilk Stem flex about the axis of the steerer tube, giving the handlebars a good amount of travel. While the dampening properties are not identical, the end result is comparable. This is possible thanks to the eeSilk Stem’s design, which allows for 20mm of active flex via dense elastomers. You can set the stem to two settings: soft or firm.
It’s important to note that this switch is not a “lockout” like you’d find on a suspension fork; instead, Cane Creek dubs it a “Compliance Switch.”
Cane Creek eeSilk+ Stem Specs
- Length as reviewed 100mm. Other lengths 80mm and 90mm
- Weight: 235 grams
- Angle: 6º, Clamp: 31.8mm
Cane Creek eeSilk Stem Overview
- Elastomer suspension stem offers two settings to soften road chatter.
- Three elastomer options for dialing in the preferred ride quality.
- Available in aluminum with glossy paint covering.
20mm might not seem like a lot, but if you consider a 100mm stem, the extra reach while riding on your hoods results in additional travel. This effective travel is difficult to measure, but my anecdotal experience tells me that your hoods and drops move more than 20mm. 25mm? 30mm? It’s hard to say.
Cane Creek supplies three elastomers, allowing riders to dial in their preferred ride feel. To do so, there is an Allen bolt on the top of the stem that will enable you to remove the elastomer and swap in a more suitable elastomer. I was pleased with the supplied elastomer and never felt I needed a stiffer ride quality. At 195 lbs, the “firmer” setting was perfect for graded dirt roads, and the “softer” setting felt smooth on rocky double track.
While climbing, I’d switch to “firmer” and descending, “softer.” Much like a rear shock or front fork on a full suspension MTB.
The firm setting still has a bit of flex but the soft setting allows for the bars to flex up and down. Initially, it feels like you have a perpetual flat tire, and riding on the hoods accentuates this sensation. Yet, while in the drops descending the rough stuff, the flat tire sensation all but disappears, resulting in a surprising amount of dampening and shock absorption.
This feeling is rather mechanical when compared to the flex of a steel fork, but the resultant is very similar. Primarily, there’s a substantial decrease in wrist and shoulder fatigue. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at this added compliance and while it’s not my normal cup of tea, I love experimentation like this!
The Cane Creek eeSilk Stem retails for $229.99 at The Pro’s Closet or your local dealer.
Solving the Softening Equation: Saddle
I haven’t worn a chamois in years; instead, I run saddles that fit my sit-bone profile and wear merino boxer briefs while riding. Yet, I am not immune to ass fatigue. It’s why I quit touring dirt roads with dropper posts and have come to love the flex of a long, titanium seat post. This review is all about trying new things, and throughout a few hundred miles ridden during this review, I can officially agree that the eeSilk+ Seatpost is indeed the best (non-titanium) seat post I’ve ridden!
So why does this seat post deserve such high praise? Well, for a few reasons… but first, let’s lay it all out:
Cane Creek eeSilk+ Seatpost Specs
- Travel: 35mm
- Diameter: 27.2mm, 31.6mm
- Offset: 12mm
- Length: 387mm
- Weight: 373g (27.2mm), 378g (31.6mm)
- Maximum Rider Weight: 250 lbs
Cane Creek eeSilk+ Seatpost Overview
- Elastomer suspension seatpost reduces vibration and chatter
- Parallel-linkage technology with forged and machined aluminum arms
- Solid stainless steel pins with IGUS bushings
- Available in carbon and aluminum
Back in 1997, Cane Creek released the Thudbuster Seatpost, designed for XC mountain biking, but with its silky smooth ride quality, the Thudbuster quickly found its niche on utility and touring bikes. Since the Thudbuster was a bit too beefy for uber-lightweight gravel bikes.
That’s where the eeSilk Seatpost entered the gravel stage. Now, there are a few permutations of the eeSilk Seatpost. The eeSilk (295g/345g) offers 20mm of travel and comes in an aluminum model, while the eeSilk+ (333g/378g) comes in either carbon or aluminum and offers 35mm of travel. The eeSilk+ comes in 31.6mm/27.2mm diameter, while the eeSilk, only 27.2mm.
For suspension to do its thing, there needs to be resistance to loading forces, of which the eeSilk+ utilizes an elastomer rather than a coil or compressed air found in MTB shocks. Elastomers are essentially rubber pucks that can be compressed and spring back to their intended shape. Kind of like a shock in your car or truck. Yet, unlike shocks, elastomers are simple, lightweight, and require little to no maintenance. It’s why some of the earliest suspension bikes utilized elastomers before the advent of the “Rock Shox.”
The eeSilk+ comes with an elastomer rated for 150-210 lbs. This should be perfect for a wide range of riders, but if you fall outside that range or want to tune the firmness of your seatpost, it’s easy to swap out. There are four additional elastomer options – two firmer and two softer – that you will need to buy separately.
While there is about a 150-200g penalty for this technology, when compared to traditional seatposts, my experience found it to offer a much softer ride when compared to aluminum (ouch) or carbon (less ouchy) posts. Unlike many posts, the offset for the eeSilk is 12mm, right in between the more common 0mm and 20mm offsets found in most seatposts.
My riding season weight comes in around 185lbs, but in the winter I can easily pack on a few more pounds. Ok, it’s not a few more pounds; it’s usually ten or so. For argument’s sake, let’s say I weigh 195 lbs these days, which puts me on the higher end of the eeSilk+’s weight range.
Despite only having 35mm of travel, the eeSilk+ softens up your favorite gravel loop’s surprises in the form of potholes, ruts, and corrugations. It’s surprisingly good at reducing the ouchies when you hit a pothole or the like. This 35mm of travel can often feel like your rear tire is flat, akin to pedal bop on a full suspension mountain bike but again, a few rides and your body becomes habituated to this feeling.
The eeSilk+ Seatpost retails for $219.99. You can purchase one at The Pro’s Closet or at your local dealer.
After a few six-hour rides, my body adapted to this new tech, and the GT-2 45 felt more flexy, but my wrists, back, and shoulders were free of fatigue. When you’re in your early 40s, you try to take care of yourself so you can still ride for many years. Abusing your body has a way of catching up to you as you age, and tech like this can reduce your aches and pains.
The complete bike, as shown, weighs in at 22lbs
While my biases push me towards flexy posts and bars, I felt like the Cane Creek eeSilk line offered a comparable ride quality to the titanium components I enjoyed on The Radavist Edition GT-2X bike. So if you’re not a flat bar, fat tire convert just yet, this package delivers a similar ride experience to the flex of titanium bars and a seatpost.
If you have been curious about the eeSilk line, now’s an excellent time to whet your appetite. If it were my money buying these components and had to choose but one component to try out, I’d start with the eeSilk+ Seatpost to keep your booty happy and then the eeSilk Stem if you have wrist pain or hand fatigue.
While it would cost around $460 for both components, your ride quality would benefit from the added softening. Do you have an eeSilk post or stem? What are your experiences with it?
If you have any questions about these products, drop them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them!
This size 58cm limited edition Mosaic TPC Edition GT-2 45 will be available from The Pro’s Closet as a Certified Pre-Owned bike in the coming weeks. If you’d like to reserve it for yourself, drop me a line, and I can connect you to the appropriate contact.
We’re also giving away a GT-2 45 at The Pro’s Closet, and all you’ve gotta do to win is sign up for their newsletter by December 14th. We’ll be picking a winner on December 20th, just in time for the holidays! Sign up at The Pro’s Closet.