The 2024 Unbound Gravel, one of gravel racing’s holy grail events, just took place in Emporia. Miles of rolling Kansas dirt roads were traversed, new champions were crowned, and based on what we saw on race day, we were convinced: Litespeed is far and away the best bike for Unbound.

There, we said it.

So, before we get into a rundown of our experience at Unbound Gravel, what about that “Litespeed is the best bike for Unbound” claim?

We stand by it. This race is long—which is fine. Pick the 100 or the 200-miler. Or for the masochists, select the 350-mile Unbound XL. The Flint, Ultimate G2, and Toscano are each tailored, through industry-leading tube shaping, to provide that iconically comfortable, buzz-damping titanium ride, an experience your body may find greater appreciation for the longer the race goes.

Consider the terrain. Unbound is notoriously rough on bikes. Pick your poison: dry, dusty washboard roads, loose Flint Hills rocks, or ruts. Or roll the dice and wake up on race morning to a wet day. That’s when things get wild with sticky peanut butter mud. On a dry day, rocks kick up. On a wet day, as we saw in 2023, mud sticks to the tires, gets sucked into the chainstays and drivetrain, and renders the bike unrideable. Your cleats and shoes become a conglomerate of mud and rocks. We saw riders running roadside through tall grasses, trying to avoid the mud, but it was too late. We saw slow times and more than a few DNFs. Racers on bikes of other materials tried to force their way through the mud, but the sandpaper-like scraping of mud across chainstays and through tight aero seat tube cowlings caused damage to the paint and into the frame's fiber. These conditions truly wrecked bikes. Well… other bikes. As for Litespeed Titanium? The material batted away the abrasive mud. No harm at all.

So what would we get this year? That became the question. The days leading up to the race were foreboding, with a bit of rain Thursday before the Saturday race. Friday, final shakeout rides on the North-run course saw some riders already sweating the prospect of muddy roads, already getting a taste of what was possible, packing up in their frames. Would this be another painfully epic year? One Litespeed rider wouldn’t wait; girding up his Ultimate G2, all loaded with bags for food and clothing, and wired with lights he’d need for an overnight of riding as he lined up for the wildly challenging Unbound XL, he swung by the Litespeed booth for one extra bit of good juju, as we sent him off with all the good vibes.

There was still time to wait until the gun went off. So everyone bandied about the Unbound Expo, asking what they thought the day would bring. Per usual, the Litespeed booth was buzzing with energy. It was, as always, a fantastic chance for us to showcase the finest titanium bikes in gravel. Expo-goers had an opportunity to test-ride a Litespeed for the first time ahead of the race.

We were also thrilled to see several riders swing their pre-Unbound Litespeed rigs by our booth, either for our standard pre-race complimentary service and safety checks, or to simply catch us up on how much they’ve been loving their bike. We always love to hear it.

Race morning came, and luck would smile on the riders; there would be no rain. In fact, because it had rained two days prior, the course would be nearly dust-free. With cool, gray skies (that would yield to sun in the late afternoon), no mud and almost “hero dirt” conditions (well, as best as could be described for Emporia), it made for heckin’ fast race conditions.

And so, the racers raced.

We bounced around on course chasing our own Litespeed family. Litespeed CEO Peter Hurley took on the 50-mile event, as did sales agent Sam Voigt. Dialed for a bite-sized dose of Emporia’s bounty, both finished with a smile.

And along the way, we spied Litespeed riders powering along far, far north of Emporia, on broken country roads that were devoid of cell service, and beset on either side by wide acres of green farmland and cattle, gazing at the procession of pedaling bodies. They would be the only live witness to the level of exceptional achievement being attained out there.

And we were thrilled to see scores of Litespeed riders trickle in from the 100, the 200, and the 350 XL… battle-weary but thrilled with the finish. As for next year? We'll be there and hope you will be too.

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