Am I damaging my bike?

Hey all, want to get a sanity check on something. I’m racing a very technical gravel event next weekend and did some course recon today. The course is brutal, and more of a mtb course than gravel imo.

For context, I’m racing in Spain right now, but I have raced Vermont Overland in the states a couple of times, and though that one has a rep for being a technically tough gravel race this course is hands down tougher, with several rock gardens.

So here’s the question, im riding an Orbea orca carbon endurance road bike, with 38 tubeless gravel king tires. I was legit beat up today, and the impacts on the bike seemed intense. I lost water bottles several times. So, am I damaging the bike? It looks fine on inspection, but what is the level of impact where a carbon road bike is entering the danger zone?

Any input appreciated!

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Maybe, probably. I think you could find compelling arguments for both yes/no.

Although this seems to have fallen out of fashion, see if you can find out the ASTM/ISO condition classification for the bike, then you will at least have an idea of how far over you may be stressing the frame and fork. I’d expect it would be a 1, possibly a 2.

DT Swiss provides some context for their rims which I think is important:

[3] Due to the light design of the components, this application can also cause damage to the material in case of riding errors, which can also lead to injuries to the rider.

[4] DT Swiss components in this category must be checked for possible damage after each ride due to the high loads. A shortened product life time cannot be excluded.

Please don’t interpret this as meant to cause panic or distress. The bicycle industry is in a difficult phase where increased tire clearance has provided a very large capability window while the ratings and perhaps testing standards are not capable of capturing how some riders would like to use their bikes.

As someone who has broken an unusual amount of frames, cranks, rims, and spokes - I’ve never been satisfied with information I could find relating to the expected lifetime for bicycles and components. It ends up being relative and random, even with the testing standards.


Looks like the Orca is Category 1


Thanks a bunch for the detailed response. This race falls under level 3 for sure.

I’m not worried about my rims, it’s an old bombproof pair of mavic all roads that I don’t think I could destroy if I wanted to, not the ones that came on the bike. I’ll probably race a bit conservatively, since this is my only road bike atm and I would like it to live through the summer :).

As a side note, I was significantly faster over the course on my mtb (an alma hardtail so on that list you posted as a 4), and I’m not a fan of race organizers forcing a certain type of bike just because. If it’s faster on a mtb (for me) I should be able to ride a mtb imo, but I’m sure there’s a good reason, maybe pack dynamics. /rant

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I wouldn’t worry about it if it’s just chunky gravel/rocks. If you are doing big drops or anything that’s results in big impacts, I’d probably pick a different bike.

Or not….


Nice video. Can’t say I’d ever WD-40 my frame though :grimacing:

You can’t race the mountain bike? Don’t think I’ve ever seen a gravel race that banned “mountain bikes”. Not sure how’d they’d even do that - require drop bars? OK, so toss drop bars on the mountain bike (that’s a trend in the US now). Limit tires to 50mm? Ok, run a 50mm tire on the mountain bike. Etc.

Yeah it’s a uci race, and they are strange. Even more local races in spain have a strong uci component and usually some pro teams involved, and thus they do silly things like turn people away from cyclocross races because of 38 mm tires lol…

But I agree, how do you define mtb? From the translated racers guidebook:

IMPORTANT: Only Gravel bikes are allowed to participate in the Spanish Cup races, MTBs are not allowed.

I would just put drop bars on the mtb and call it a day, but I do suspect that I would be turned away lol…

That’s goofy.

From UCI’s own website:


Riders may use any type of bike (road bike, mountain bike, city bike, hybrid bike, cross bike, etc.) with the exception of tandem or recumbent bikes. time trial road bikes are also forbidden. During the UCI Gravel World Championships, all bikes should have dropped handlebars. It’s not possible to participate in the UCI Gravel World Championships with a mountain bike.

Only the WC event has a restriction on mountain bikes. And even then, it sounds like the definition is just “has drop bars”.

Weird, thanks for posting that. I guess the existential question is “what makes a mtb a mtb”.

I might email the organizers. Or I might just take my road bike and be near the back haha.