Sean: You have many options for bikes at your disposal, what is unique about the Specialized Sequoia Expert from the rest?
Ashton: Versatility. I think it has the perfect balance of precision and stability. Precise enough handling to be gravel-race worthy, but stable enough to do ridden all day. And still plenty of mounting points for racks, bags, etc. for our summer/fall bikepacking excursions.
S: Knowing your goal of riding the Dirty Kanza this summer, how will you stay comfortable over many hours of rough gravel?
A: The importance of BG Fit can not be over emphasized. Especially when planning a 100 or 200 mile ride on gravel roads (by the time you're reading this I will have decided and registered). Having someone look at the structure of your body and make adjustments to the bike and equipment accordingly. This is a service that I offer to others, but doing it to myself is a challenge. Luckily I have some friends in the industry that can help me out there.
S: You have a ton of experience building steel bicycles- is the Sequoia similar to something you could offer, with less lead time?
A: Yeah, for sure. I've wanted to build myself something like this for years before this came out, just never had the time to actually do it. The biggest difference is that with a custom bike like I could build, I could make the fit and handling catered specifically to the rider. I like the way it rides and I'm close enough to "average" that the stock fit works for me... for now. We'll see how I feel next fall. Haha!
S: You're going to reach for sustenance and extra gear when putting in long days in the saddle- how do you intend to store those items?
A: Depends on what I'm carrying, I guess. I'm really impressed with all the new Burra Burra bags from Specialized and EXP bags from Salsa. Anything SWAT from Specialized is great, too. Specifically, Specialized makes something they call "Bandit" that will bolt to the bottom of the seat and securely hold a tube, tire lever, CO2 canister, and an inflator head- everything needed to fix a flat. They have a multi tool that mounts to one of their cages. Pictured below you'll see that tool mounted to a King Cage before I brazed on the necessary support to the cage. To round out the repair kit, there's a chain breaker that fits inside the steerer tube of the fork. As for food, a top tube bag is where it's at. Located everything on top of the frame right behind the stem so you can easily grab on the go.
S: Specialized Bicycles has had decades of product development- what is your favorite detail of the Sequoia?
A: As a frame builder, I really appreciate the fact that these bikes are built with size-specific tube sets. Meaning the tubes a 49cm frame are built with are smaller diameter, thinner wall, and butted differently than the tubes they use to build a 61cm frame. Pretty much everyone else in the industry builds bikes with the same set of tubes for all sizes. They just cut them shorter or longer for bigger or smaller bikes. What that means for the rider is that a Sequoia rides great in any size. The smallest size won't be any harsher than the biggest and the biggest won't flex any more than the smallest size.
S: Do you see yourself upgrading any parts in the near future, considering the awesome component specifications of the Expert-level bike?
A: Honestly, no, not really. I may switch to the Industry Nine/Pacenti wheels I built myself for another bike to lighten it up a bit, but I may just put a second set of tires on them and switch back and forth depending on the ride or conditions.
S: Steel frame, one-by drivetrain, hydraulic brakes, tubeless tires... is this a perfectly modern-retro steed?
A: Pretty much.