By Stefan Feldmann
Cycling is a means to exploration for me. Call it standard™ but I ride to explore new places, and revisit old memories. To that end, I’ve always wanted a bike that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible within a specific “style” of bike. How #roadbikesoffroad can I take a road bike or how far up single track can I take my gravel bike?
That’s where the Cache balances right in between all three for me, roady enough that I can do a 100km road ride, gravel enough that I can rip a meandering valley trail and just wild enough that I can find myself in enough trouble that I quickly realize I should start thinking about getting a MTB soon.
So, what makes the Cache the perfect “all round” bike for me? Three things; gears, steel and a dropper post.
The ability to run 2x drivetrains is crucial for me. While a lot of bikes are coming out with only 1x compatibility, I’m still an advocate for the range possible with a 2x setup. On my Cache I run what’s been dubbed the “Peoples Liberation Drivetrain”, a hybrid of both road and mtb Shimano and SRAM components.
This bike was built up before Shimano GRX was available so a lot of what I’ve achieved here is mostly possible with GRX now. Up front use Ultegra road hoods and front mech, paired with Easton Gravel Shifting 46/30 rings and EC90SL cranks. In the back I have a Shimano XT Deore M8000 rear mech. Yes, a mountain bike mech on a gravel bike. It shouldn’t work though right? Well by using a Wolf Tooth Components Tanpan to adapt the shifting pulls, I’m able to use my road levers to shift my MTB derailleur. This allows me to put on a relatively large SRAM 10-42 cassette. Yes, a SRAM cassette on a Shimano MTB/road drivetrain. It’s unconventional but works flawlessly and enables a wider range of gearing outside the standard 11-34 that most gravel bikes have. For climbing FSR’s while bikepacking and hammering the Sea to Sky Highway on a group road ride, I find it perfect.
Call me old fashioned but I love the feeling of riding steel. Now I’m a tall guy so I’ve always had issues with large steel bikes being a bit of a noodle when built in steel. There is a point where compliance and comfort can go too far and turn steel bikes into a wobbly roller coaster at high speeds. That’s where credit is due to Noel and his wizardry in designing the Cache. On my giant 62.5cm frame I haven’t found any of that. I’ve loaded this bike down heavily with three days of food plus camping gear and taken on rough gravel forest roads with confidence. And yet the bike, and I, still feel great after 10 hours in the saddle with that steel ride quality we all know and love. In all, it’s a delicate balance which Noel and the team have nailed perfectly.
On the note of comfort, I believe it’s above all important to have fun out there on the roads and trails, and nothing says fun like a dropper post on a rigid bike. I’ll admit that I use it more to achieve an ultra-aero tuck descending local hills than I do dropping in on rowdy single track, but it’s just so much fun that I want one on every bike! When I do get myself into some rough trails, being able to drop that saddle and move the bike around so much more really has opened up the fun tap on gravel. I know this is nothing new for all the mountain bike riders out there, but as a someone coming from road bikes, droppers should be on more bikes!
Stay safe, ride far, smiles over miles.
By Stefan Feldmann