Kevin Benkenstein’s Curve GXR ‘Kevin’ Gravel Bike
“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 custom-machined 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 build-up 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.