Is this the world's lightest functional gravel bike?

Ollie Bridgewood takes a deep dive into Twisted Wheel's super lightweight custom gravel machine

Clock08:29, Saturday 12th August 2023

Gravel bikes are known as being rugged and burley do-it-all, drop-bar bikes. To achieve this often means adding weight to make them strong and robust enough for the demands that they expect to encounter. However, Oleg Kononov of Twisted Wheels has decided to buck that trend with this super lightweight gravel build.

The frame

This custom-built, ultra-lightweight gravel bike is based around a Syre Punkcake gravel frame. Syre is a brand based out of St. Petersburg, Russia, that remains relatively unknown on the global market partly due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The Punkcake frame differs from typical gravel bike trends in geometry and keeps an aggressive and responsive approach. The chainstays are a prime example of this responsive and agile design approach coming in at just 420mm. This is just 10mm longer than what you would expect to find on an out-and-out road racing machine.

To achieve this, Syre has made the driveside chainstay incredibly thin, with the section between the chainring and tyre just a single block of solid carbon. The skinny chainstay means there's enough room for the chainring on one side, and for the tyre on the other. It allows the designers to bring the tyre and the bottom bracket closer together, making that short chainstay possible.

Custom-picked drivetrain

The bike is running a concoction of parts to make up the drivetrain, selecting the lightest weight components that still allow for the bike to be ridden as you would expect of a gravel bike. The bike has been built around a single chainring set-up as this keeps the weight down, and with a wide ratio cassette, no functionality is lost.

The striking chainring used is a machined aluminium 40-tooth ring from Garbaruk that is mounted onto a SRAM Red crankset. To maintain the aesthetic of the bike, the logos on the cranks have been covered with black vinyl.

Accompanying the chainring is a 10-46-tooth wide-range cassette from Rotor, selected as it is the lightest cassette available that covers such a wide spread.

Hand-built wheels

On this custom lightweight build, the wheels are an area that see a great deal of the weight savings, with the hand-built set tipping the scales at just 990g.

To achieve this, Oleg has brought together parts from different manufacturers. The hubs are from Chinese brand H-Works, and they're laced to Light Bicycle rims with Sapim spokes. Lighter wheels exist, but this set balance light weight and gravel durability.

Mounted on to the wheels are a set of Schwalbe Furious Fred tyres. What is interesting about this selection is that they are a discontinued model. However, they are incredibly light for a 50mm gravel tyre with a knobbly tread pattern at just 360g per tyre.

Shifters and brakes

Continuing the theme of functionality, Oleg's opted for Hope RX4+ brake callipers. These are super light, four-piston callipers that offer exceptional braking power. Interestingly, when fitted with aluminium-backed pads, the total system weight for the calliper weighs in at less than SRAM's offering.

The rotors are from another Chinese manufacturer, Quaxar. Opting for centre-lock rotors, these are some of the lightest on the market at 90g per rotor, some 20-25g lighter than the equivalent offering from Shimano.

Something you might not expect to see on a super-light bike build is third-tier components, however that is exactly what we find on this build. SRAM’s Rival AXS shifters are only 12g heavier than the Red variant, but with some subtle modifications to the clamps, they have managed to shed that weight penalty. This has been done by replacing the clamping hardware to titanium bolts, nuts and washers, resulting in a saving of around 12g.

As well as benefiting from the cost saving, Oleg prefers the feel of the lower-tier shifters. Both the current Force and Rival shifters have been updated with newer ergonomics, something that as of yet has not been rolled out to the Red platform.

Finishing kit

PRO delivers the bar of choice with their gravel-specific Discover carbon handlebar. This features a fairly aggressive flare to the drops, something that allows for more control when riding on rough gravel. At the hoods these bars measure in at 440mm with the brake hoses running internally to the stem.

The stem is a custom-painted Bontrager XXX that has been colour matched to be in keeping with the rest of the bike. It also features a nice hose tie to keep the brake hoses in place before they enter the frame at the head tube.

Both the saddle and seatpost that top the bike are from Slovenian brand Bjorn, with the saddle being a 3D-printed Setka. As well as offering a suitable level of comfort, the saddle is in keeping with the principles of the build, weighing just 120g, which is almost half of what a typical 3D-printed saddle would come in at.

The weigh-in

What is interesting about this bike is that the frame and fork it is built around is not the lightest starting platform. Although very feathery for a gravel bike, the frame comes in at 1,200g and the fork a further 500g - this really shows that the intended use has been a real consideration on this build, not just extreme weight savings

The real weight savings have been made mostly in the wheel and tyre choices, as well as through smart and considered component speccing that keeps the total package weight down.

In this configuration with 50mm tyres, this custom gravel build hits the scales at 6.81kg. To put that into perspective, this gravel bike is only 10g off being illegal in-race for breaching the UCI's minimum weight limit.

Catching up with the builder

To find out more about this unique gravel build, watch the video above where Ollie catches up with the creator himself, Oleg. There you can find out about the ideas behind his creation and what he thinks he could do to make it even lighter still. Or if you want more of these lightweight wonders then check out another of his builds, this time making a Specialized Aethos even lighter.

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