Kevin Benken­stein’s Curve GXR ‘Kevin’ gravel bike.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - Stories -

I“IT’S NEVER JUST A BIKE RIDE” is Kevin ‘Benky’ Benken­stein’s mantra on benkyrides.com.

Even a cur­sory glance at his In­sta­gram feed, pep­pered with moun­tain vis­tas and land­scapes at sun­rise, re­veals his love for ad­ven­ture. The for­mer pro rider, and now ex­plorer, is renowned for tak­ing on epic rid­ing ad­ven­tures – and the right bike is es­sen­tial.

En­ter the ‘Kevin’: a ti­ta­nium-framed gravel bike from Curve Cy­cling, an Aus­tralian-based col­lec­tive who de­sign and cre­ate bikes for ad­ven­ture – though the name is just a happy co­in­ci­dence, coined by Curve co-founder Jesse Carls­son while rid­ing a pro­to­type dur­ing a route recce for Race to the Rock. Of­fi­cially the GXR, the ‘Kevin’ is an up­date of one of Curve’s CX mod­els, with up­dated ge­om­e­try, tyre clear­ance and bike-pack­ing fea­tures.

Frame and Fork

Curve’s welded ti­ta­nium frame in­cludes dou­ble-butted tub­ing. Cable rout­ing is ex­ter­nal, and can be con­fig­ured for 1x or 2x gear­ing; Benky runs a 1x set-up with an Ea­gle cas­sette that pro­vides a wide gear ra­tio.

A key as­pect of the frame is the cus­tom­ma­chined chain­stay yoke, in­creas­ing tyre clear­ance with­out any loss of frame stiff­ness un­der load. Tyre clear­ance is gen­er­ous and ac­com­mo­dates either 700c or 650b, with vol­umes run­ning from a max 700c/45c to 650b by 2.1-inch. The fork is Curve’s own car­bon CXR15 Disc fork with a 15mm thru-axle, ac­com­mo­dat­ing the same tyre vol­umes as the frame.

Benky’s Kevin came with a cus­tom Qhubeka paint job over a raw ti­ta­nium fin­ish, speak­ing to his in­volve­ment in rais­ing funds for the project – Qhubeka in­tro­duces bikes as a trans­port so­lu­tion to help build com­mu­ni­ties.

Wheels and Tyres

Since the frame ac­com­mo­dates both 700c and 650b wheel sizes, Benky has adopted both: 28-hole al­loy Eas­ton EA70 AX wheels, with 700/42c Spe­cial­ized Saw­tooth tyres. This al­lows a broader range of multi-use ter­rain en­coun­ters, with the least loss on road sec­tions.

For more gnarly or ex­tended gravel routes, a more ro­bust choice is 650b 28-hole car­bon Curve wheels. The wider rim pro­file is per­fect for run­ning full-vol­ume MTB tyres such as the 2.2-inch-wide Maxxis Ikons. Both wheel-build con­fig­u­ra­tions are tube­less.

Driv­e­train and Brakes

1x gear­ing is a pop­u­lar choice for the groader. It’s sim­ple, and with an 11-speed GX cas­sette there’s plenty of gear­ing range. A Quarq power me­ter keeps the watts in check and runs with a Sram Force groupset, along with Force brakes on 160mm ro­tors.

It’s an un­com­pli­cated, clean and ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion, with lit­tle that can go wrong me­chan­i­cally. For­go­ing the front de­railleur also helps with tyre clear­ance, and keeps dirt buildup to a min­i­mum.

Light­ing and Nav­i­ga­tion

A Garmin 1030 keeps Benky on the straight and nar­row through twists and turns. It’s also a vi­tal tool for route recce mis­sions. He notes that the map to­pog­ra­phy is so de­tailed, it even picks up shep­herds’ huts along ru­ral routes.

See­ing and be­ing seen are as im­por­tant. A Garmin UT800 is fit­ted up front, while the rear lights are a pair of Spe­cial­ized’s Stix that are con­stantly on when rid­ing, night or day.


When carv­ing out big dis­tances along dirt roads with­out sus­pen­sion, com­fort is key. Eas­ton EC70 bars, with a slight flare, are mated to a 100mm Eas­ton EA90 stem.

Seat­ing is han­dled by a Spe­cial­ized Phe­nom sad­dle, at­tached to a Spe­cial­ized CGR Zertz seat­post. The Zertz insert in the ‘beak’ struc­ture looks gawk­ily weird, but it serves the pur­pose well and is a boon for low-fre­quency vi­bra­tions.


Choice of bag­gage is a va­ri­ety of Apidura op­tions. A top-tube pack has space for a rain jacket, ex­tra food and some spares, and a feed bag is per­fect for more food and/or stash­ing rub­bish. A good old-fash­ioned sad­dle bag pro­vides quick ac­cess to tools.

Three Arun­del stain­less steel bot­tle cages are fuss-free, ro­bust, and keep wa­ter bot­tles in their place.

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