Gravel World Championships bike: Paul Voss’ Orbea Terra M

German rider combined Orbea’s lightweight gravel bike with a 2x SRAM Red AXS groupset for the Veneto Worlds

Clock12:04, Tuesday 17th October 2023
The Orbea Terra M gravel bike

© Nils Laengner

The Orbea Terra M gravel bike

The path from road racing retirement to the world of gravel riding has become well-trodden. Nicolas Roche, Laurens ten Dam, Peter Stetina and, more recently, Alejandro Valverde are just a few of the riders who have turned their attention to the rough stuff after a career focussed on the tarmac.

Read more: 26,000km in the bank in 2023 but Alejandro Valverde laughs off comeback suggestion

Another is Paul Voss, although the German rider has gone under the radar a little compared to other riders. That’s not because he lacked road-racing pedigree. Throughout his career, Voss started seven Grand Tours and wore the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France as recently as 2016.

However, unlike other former road pros, his transition to gravel didn’t come immediately after hanging up his road cleats. Instead, his 2016 retirement was followed by a period in which he worked as a sports director, occasional TV commentator and started his own podcast.

That was until 2021 when the call of gravel lured Voss over to the US for his gravel debut. Since then he’s become a star name on start lists which he has backed up with some notable victories, including the 3RIDES round of the UCI Gravel World Series in May.

With another successful gravel season under his belt, Voss found himself on the start line of the recent Gravel World Championships in Veneto where he claimed an impressive 17th-place finish atop his Orbea Terra M gravel bike.

Here’s a closer look at how Voss set up the bike for the challenging route.

Read more: Did Matej Mohorič win Gravel World Championships on an unreleased Merida bike?

Orbea Terra - a gravel bike for any terrain

The Terra has been around for a while now, first released in 2017 before undergoing a complete redesign in 2021. The end result was a new range that balances performance with the off-road capability and practicality that is required for multi-day adventures.

For the World Championships and his gravel season, Voss used the Orbea Terra M which is on the sportier end of the range, benefitting from a light yet stiff and robust carbon frame.

While other brands have gone all-out on these racing characteristics, the Terra M still retains a pure off-road spirit. It can accommodate up to 45mm-wide tyres, more than ample for the toughest of off-road adventures.

Practicality is a key part of the design, most notably resulting in the LOCKR in-frame storage which is located under the bottle cage mounts on the down tube. This is a handy place to keep a pump or CO2 canister in case of any punctures which can be hard to avoid in gravel races.

This willingness to favour off-road capability as well as speed is displayed in the seat tube’s relatively slack angle, allowing the seatpost to flex more.

Read more: Pro gravel bike - Peter Stetina's Canyon Grail

Ready for a climbing-heavy course

The inaugural edition of the UCI Gravel World Championships in 2022 caused some controversy due to its tame route, with many of the gravel specialists steering clear of the event - Voss wasn’t one of those, finishing 27th.

This year’s course was more fitting of its ‘gravel’ name, packing in longer and tougher sections of off-road riding with nearly 2,000m of climbing also added into the mix, most of that accumulated on short but viciously steep climbs.

Riders tend to prefer either a 1x or 2x set-up, but Voss has used both this season, and for the World Championships he opted for the latter. His SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset combined a compact 50-37t chainset with a SRAM Force 10-36t cassette. That resulted in 37-36 easiest gear for the toughest gradients - many riders were reduced to a crawl over some of the climbs - and an ample power gear for the flat.

Voss wasn't the only rider who chose a 2x set-up for the race. Check out Wout van Aert's Cervélo Aspero with a 2x SRAM groupset here.

Tyre choice: speed on the rear, grip on the front

Bike set-up is critical for gravel races and the toughest of the component quandaries is often tyre selection. Choosing the right tyre is about finding a balance between speed and performance. One way to achieve this is to use different tyres on each wheel, a route taken by Voss.

For the front, he opted for the grippier Schwalbe G-One R with its all-round tread, with the semi-slick Schwalbe G-One RS adorning the rear wheel. As most of the steering force of a bike goes through the front wheel, a grippier tyre at the front should improve a bike’s handling, which can then be supplemented by the lower rolling resistance provided by a slicker rear tyre.

Both tyres were 40mm wide - a popular choice at the race - and linked up with Zipp’s 353 NSW. Ignoring common conventions, the name doesn’t give any indication of the rim depths which are 45mm, some of the time at least. That’s because Zipp uses undulating rim depths for many of its wheelsets, so they’re only 45mm at their deepest point at the spoke nipples.

Like many on the gravel scene, Voss is a privateer who relies on the support of sponsors for equipment. Zipp is one of these, supplying other key components including the SL Speed seatpost and SL-70 Aero handlebars.

The saddle of choice was Fizik’s Vento Argo 00.

Bike Specification
  • model

    Terra M

  • Manufacturer


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