It took a few years, but I built of my dream gravel bike, and had some good results in the 2-3 races I do a year. I ended up getting rid of it as I couldn’t justify having it for just racing it a couple times a year (there’s no gravel anywhere near me), and am just going to use my Hardtail instead. Anyone out there manage to stay competitive doing this? Setup tips?
I did this at the Vermont overland last weekend. What you really need is sufficient gearing, fast tires and a good position. I would also target more technical gravel races, as those will be more fun with a mountain bike.
Some way to get an aero poison comfortably too.
I second the use of very fast-rolling tires on a MTB. My wife runs 50mm Maxxis Ramblers (not the fastest at all, but they’re at least a gravel tire, as compared to something like the Maxxis Aspen WT 2.4") and keeps up with people spirited gravel rides just fine on her 2020 Scott Spark (full suspension with TwinLoc).
Having the ability to lock out or at least stiffen up the fork on the fly for when you KNOW you’re not going to benefit from any suspension (ie. very smooth stuff), is probably worthwhile. But you may be able to leave the suspension fully open more often than you think, and perform well.
I suspect that suspension harms velocity much less than it harms perception of velocity.