This week we’d like to present Alex’s Basso Palta gravel bike. Alex has really been getting the miles in this winter in the UK and we’re sure the trend will continue. Please note: Alex is running a Garbaruk jockey cage with a 12t lower jockey rather than Garbaruk’s recommended 16t. This setup will affect the intended chain take-up of Garbaruk’s cage. That cautionary note aside, over to Alex!
I’m Alex and, like most people here, I live and breathe cycling. I’ve been road riding pretty seriously for about 7 years now, and before that dabbled in a bit of mountain biking. More recently, I’ve really got into gravel riding and have been absolutely loving it. I do most of my riding around Cambridge and near the Suffolk coast. After experimenting with TTing for a couple of years while at Uni, I’m definitely now a retired rider and just ride for the joy of it; I’d describe myself as a café stop specialist. The Suffolk coast happens to be a brilliant place for gravel riding, and what it lacks in hills it more than makes up for with miles and miles of quick-draining heathy, sandy and forested gravel tracks. It’s been the perfect place to put the Ratio kit through its paces!
The bike is a 2020 Basso Palta, in striking emerald green. Being a long-time roadie, I wanted a gravel bike with reasonably aggressive and quick-handling geometry, and the Basso’s frame delivers this well. I bought it second-hand off Facebook Marketplace, which allowed me to get a decent build at a much lower price than new. The groupset is Sram Rival 1x, with a 44T Absolute Black oval chainring up front. I’d never ridden an oval chainring before, but if I’m honest I haven’t noticed much difference in how it feels! The brakes are Hope RX4s, which offer great stopping power. It’s been very confidence-inspiring knowing I’ve got that reliable braking power even in the wet, which has been a nice change coming from rim-braked road bikes. The wheels are Basso’s own-brand, Microtech, and I’ve shod them in 40mm Continental Terra Trails (run tubeless), which give a good balance of off-road grip without too much on-road rolling resistance. The handlebars are funky-looking Specialized hover bars, and while their looks divide opinion (Ratio co-founder Felix wasn’t sold on them!) they’re super comfy. The wide flare means they measure 46cm at the hoods, and a massive 50cm on the drops, giving a very stable base for more technical off-road sections.
When I got the bike, it had 1×11 Sram Rival gearing. The cassette at the back was an 11-36, which, when paired with the 44T up front, didn’t leave much room for spinning up steeper off-road climbs. I wanted to keep the big chainring for faster road riding (I’ve been using the bike as my winter bike on the roads, as well as gravel bike off road), but needed some easier gears at the back. The Ratio 12 speed conversion kit was therefore the perfect solution, allowing me to run a mullet setup with a huge cassette at the back. I’m now running the bike 12 speed, with a 10-50T Sram Eagle cassette. This gives a huge gear range, and between the 44-10 and 44-50 means I never run out of gears, either on or off road. I’m still using the Sram Rival rear mech, but with a Garbaruk long cage on to accommodate the huge sprockets. The shifting isn’t quite as crisp as it would be with an Eagle rear mech, and I’ve had some problems getting the setup to sit happily in the 50T sprocket, but I’ve been loving the huge range the conversion has given me. Although there aren’t many double figure gradients in Cambridge or Suffolk, I now know I’ve got a setup which will be capable of doing some loaded gravel bikepacking, where the bigger sprockets will really come into their own! I’ve definitely given the bike a lot of abuse, riding it off-road most days through an English winter. Recently, in protest of this, the Sram jockey wheels I had been using totally gave up on me. I’ve since been running a pair of prototype Ratio jockey wheels, which have been great so far!
My best rides on the bike so far have been exploring the quality gravel riding the Suffolk coast has to offer. Especially at this time of year, the quick-draining nature of the sandy heaths are fantastic. You can ride all day and hardly touch tarmac, and can even do long stints on the more compact sections of beach and dunes. There’s also a lot of Forestry Commission land (like Tunstall Forest and Rendlesham Forest) which seem like purpose-built gravel bike playgrounds. Once Covid allows, I’d love to explore some of the gravel roads on the continent, perhaps heading down the coast of Portugal.
Thanks very much to Alex for running us through his setup. If you’re interested in being featured, just contact us.