Fat Pigeon: Racing the World’s Fastest Gravel Bike

As a gravel privateer, Nol van Loon is used to pushing boundaries to find the next competitive edge. Regularly lining up alongside current and ex-pro riders, Nol knows that his equipment has to be flawless and demands the best. In the run-up to Unbound 2022, he heard rumours from his friends at Ridley about a top-secret project to make their Noah Kanzo Fast gravel bike even faster and knew he had to be involved. This video from his creative team at Fat Pigeon tells the story of Nol’s search for speed with the Apidura Aero Pack System and its debut at Unbound 2022.

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To celebrate the film and his ride, we asked Nol to share what this project meant to him.

“Freedom and adventure got me addicted to gravel but my cycling background was performance, speed and adrenaline. Combining both passions at the largest gravel race in the world was something I dreamed about for years.

It’s well established in road racing these days that speed means aerodynamics. The spirit of gravel, however, pushes back against the trappings of professional road cycling and there’s a strange balance between the ‘spirit of gravel’ and the highly optimized bikes of the pros at the front of gravel races. This blurred ground felt like the best place to explore ways to go faster and match some of the advantage the pros have through equipment choice and sponsorship.

Nol and Rory in the Bike Valley wind tunnel

Already riding the fastest gravel bike out there, there seemed to be limited ways to gain ‘free’ speed but then I heard about a project between Ridley and Apidura – packs that make you faster. I had to see this for myself, so together with Ridley, Apidura and Hunt, this Fat Pigeon went to the Bike Valley wind tunnel to discover just how much free speed aerodynamic packs could create. A long day of testing different

fabrics, different pack positions and dimensions lead to the optimal setup, and I knew I’d found my Unbound competitive edge.

Fast forward to Emporia and the pink beast was set up with all the components, including some last-minute additions from Ceramic Speed. Goosebumps covered my entire body when looking at this mighty piece of art. Fully confident we lined up for Unbound with about 3,999 others. This 320km gravel race isn’t for the faint-hearted, especially with the predicted weather, and we prepared for carnage.

Nol van Loon's Ridley Kanzo Fast with Apidura Aero Pack System attached at Emporia, Kansas

Even with the expectation of carnage, it was a tough race. My body wouldn’t really cooperate, and my legs didn’t have the power they should have. After about an hour in the front group, I had to let them go and continue at my own pace. I struggled for the next couple of hours but then the rain came and with it, new energy. I managed to pick up some of the top 10 placed female riders and rode to the finish with them.

My body might have held me back from the podium finish I’d dreamed of, but the bike and Aero Pack System was flawless. What a beast! I was able to hold my wind-tunnel optimized position for around 7 of the 11 hours and the bike flew. Hopefully next year my legs will come along for the ride and it’ll be the best race ever!”