After cycling the Camino back to Norway (read Part 2) and at the time of writing this I have a good 2700 km on the Camino. I have travelled loaded up with gear as if I was crossing continents, ridden at higher speeds without any luggage, across perfect pavement, on gravelroads, in mud, through snow, on twitchy and steep singletrack, climbed mountains and bombed back down at high speed. In every situation I have been in, the bike has handled beyond what I am accustomed to on my other bikes. It handles with great agility and confidence, always rendering a smile on my face.
The weight of my body seems really well placed within the frame. The frame seems stiff where it need be and compliant and dampening where called for. The all carbon fork lightens the bike, and gives excellent assuring handling in the turns. It really soaks up a lot of chatter from the ground too. The bike seems to adapt to the terrain and surface more skillfully than with any other bike I have been on. When I want it to act like a mountain bike it does so, and when I want to pace it like a roadbike it does a darn good job at that too. An amazing achievement in my opinion. Another point worth mentioning is how there is no toe overlap, despite the narrow wheelbase. This was such a nice discovery.
SRAM has really pushed the development of 1x drivetrain the last few years, for the mountain bikes and now increasingly on the crossbikes and even roadbikes. I have dabbled with various 1x hacks on my own for a long time, both on my roadbikes and mountain bikes. The SRAM Force1 groupset that comes with the Camino has really impressed me a lot. I was offered to go with the slightly wider 10-42t cassette, in combination with the 40t chainring. To me, and my riding this is an excellent combination, giving me ample climbing power and even enough push on the higher gear on the flats and downhills. I hit about 46 km/h with my highest gear at a cadence about 100. I am not a strong enough rider to really push beyond that.
The shifting from the Force1 shifter and derailleur is really assuring and exact. Across my 2500 km of riding now, in various conditions, I have yet to experience an accidental or unfortunate shifting, and no chaindrop, and hardly any chainslap.
The Force1 brakes have also really impressed me, in the way braking power is modulated, and its maximum braking power once needed. In my experience the Force1 groupset is perfect for a bike like the Camino. I am definitely not missing any front derailleur! Just recently I replaced the SRAM chainring with an oval chainring, also 40t from Absolute Black, and what a difference. It made an excellent pedaling experience even better.
My experience with the WTB Nano 40c tires have been a good one as well. They are really faster than I thought they would be, especially on hard pack dirt and gravel. They are a bit noisy and yield a little much buzz on the tarmac, but that´s difficult to come around I guess, being knobby tires. They do grip really well in the loose.
The Alpkit bags have functioned really well. To me the Koala hits a sweet spot for size of seatbags. Larger bags tend to tailwag too much for my liking. The frame bag has been an excellent place to gobble up a bunch of stuff, esp. heavier items, and fit the weight as close to the center of the bike as possible. The way the headtube is sized and width of the Love Mud Bomber bar, allows easily for the 20 litre drybag to be fitted, without rubbing the tire or obstructing the handlebar positions too much. Unfortunately the downward straps of the Kanga handlebar harness didn’t clear the 40c WTB tire. I had to settle for the smaller Joey harness. It did a fairly decent job of fixing my 20 liter bag, but for the Camino, this could need some improvements from the Alpkit people.
Their drybags are excellent, hardy and great value for the money. The toptube bag and stem cell work brilliantly together. I really like how the strapping is done with all the Alpkit bags. It allows fine adjustments as to how everything comes together on the bike. The load of all the bags really didn’t negatively affect the Caminos handling. This too was a wonderful experience.
After returning to Norway I have had mostly dayrides. I have done dayrides of up to 200 km of on pavement, pretending the Camino is a roadbike and I have done 12 hour rides of 200 km in the mountains, on a variety of surfaces and across substantial climbing altitude. Although tiring, never have the fatigue been created by the bike and setup.
The bike really does so much so well, I am extremely happy with my purchase and congratulate Alpkit/Sonder with a wonderfully design bike that I am sure will bring me and other customers many great experiences on two wheels, wherever and for however how long they choose to ride out. Best bike I ever rode! The experiences have made me consider their other offerings, in terms of the Broken Road and even the Vir Fortis. Later in the summer I will get out on some weekend and multiday tours, fully loaded up. If you have interest, follow my love affair with the Camino on Instagram @velole.