The time has finally come to build up my Pragma Gravel Breaker Gravel Bike! In this post I will share with you the details of my Pragma bike build from start to finish, by highlighting all the different parts I am using to build up the bike. I will also explain why I chose each individual part for my Pragma bikes build, in the hope that it will help you, if you ever want to do something similar.
I cannot tell you how long I have waited for this. Ok, maybe not THAT long, but it certainly felt like it! This is the first time I have built up a bike from scratch. To be clear, I am not personally building up the Pragma Bike. It is my local bike mechanic and friend, Daryn, who will be doing the job for me. Daryn sold me my first ever road bike back in 2016 and he has been my go-to bike mechanic ever since. So, while I am not physically building up the bike myself, I get to do the fun part which is to scour the internet for all the different parts to buy. There is something special about building up a bike. You get to chose exactly what bike parts you want to use, given of course that everything fits your budget.
Table of Contents:
- What is Pragma Bikes?
- The Bike Build:
- The Pragma Gravel Breaker Bike Frame
- Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8020 Disc Brake
- Wheels: STANS COMP GRAIL
- Tyres: Panaracer Gravel King SK TLC
- Handlebars: Deda Gravel 100 RHM
- Stem: Deda Zero 2
- Saddle: Bontrager Montrose Elite
- Bottle cages: Ryder Clutch MTB
- Bar tape: LIZARD SKINS DSP
- Pedals: Shimano PD-M520
- The Pragma Gravel Breaker Bicycle
- How much do Pragma Gravel Bikes weigh?
- How much do Pragma Gravel Bikes cost?
- How do I order a Pragma Gravel Bike?
What is Pragma Bikes?
Pragma Bikes is a bicycle company started by YouTuber and cycling coach, Harley Johnstone. You might know him by his internet persona, Durianrider. To say that Durianrider is a controversial character is an understatement. If you have heard of Durianrider, you probably love him or hate him. I do not think there is any middle ground.
When I asked Harley Johnstone why he started Pragma Bikes, this is what he said:
I understand that most people will never know what it’s like to ride high quality carbon product. What I wanted to do with Pragma Bikes, is to create an exceptional product at an unbelievable price. That is exactly what I have done. I am not here to make a huge profit. My biggest ROI is providing incredible value to people. That has been my goal since uploading my first YouTube video in 2008 and over 12 years later, I still feel the same way about everything else I do.
I wanted a direct quote from Durianrider for this post, but I already knew what he was going to say. It is exactly this reason that I decided to choose a Pragma bicycle frame. For once, it is a company that I believe in and feel confident in supporting.
This year we have seen more cringeworthy marketing and ridiculous price tags from big name bike brands than ever before. I think it is great if you have the money to afford that, but for the rest of us I am glad there is now another option on the market. Even if I could afford the latest top of the range Specialized Diverge or Trek Checkpoint, I would have to spend four times what I have spent on the Pragma bike. The difference is with the Pragma, I get to build up the gravel bike exactly the way I want to. I have managed to build a bike without any proprietary parts. These are parts that are hard to service and hard to replace. That was especially important to me. When you are bicycle touring in the middle of nowhere you want to know that you will be ok if something happens. The Pragma Gravel Breaker is the most user-friendly bike there is and gives you the piece of mind you need, when riding into the unknown.
The Bike Build:
The Pragma Gravel Breaker Bike Frame
The Pragma Gravel Breaker is a lightweight full carbon gravel frame designed for fast gravel riding, racing and exploring. Here are some of the details about the Pragma Gravel Bike Frame (you will notice that the key focus here is performance and user serviceability):
- BSA bottom bracket
- 2mm seat post
- Headset: 1-1/8″ to 1-1/2″ IS42-IS52 45/45 degree
- Flat mount disc brakes compatible
- 50mm tyre clearance
- Thru axles come with each order. 12×100 up front and 12/142mm rear
What I love about Pragma bikes is that you can request any design you want. You may pay more for certain designs, but they can do it for you! I was torn between the plain black and white frame design and the bubblegum splatter. I ended up deciding on the latter. The plain black and white design looks extremely slick and professional, but I figured since I am going against the grain and getting a Pragma Bike, I might as well go all the way and stand out even more from the crowd.
The bubblegum splatter paint job is quite something. Durianrider says it has become the most popular seller in recent months. I can see why! What you might not be able to tell from the photos is that the “splatter” of the different colors you see on the frame are not painted on, but “thrown” on. That means there are paint bumps on the frame where the paint is thickest and if you run your finger over it you can feel that. I have never seen a paint job like this in my life.
For those of you who are interested in the Pragma Bike sizing. I am 192cm and I have a 58cm frame. I should be on a 60cm frame instead, but I always prefer to ride a frame size down and have a more aggressive bike set up.
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8020 Disc Brake 11 Speed Groupset
I have opted to put a road groupset on my gravel bike. The reason for this is that the Pragma Gravel Breaker bike will be the only bike I own, at least for now, and because of this I will be doing a lot of road riding with it. I feared that had I opted for a mountain bike groupset or even for the GRX gravel groupset, that the gearing would not be sufficient to keep up in road rides and races. Instead, the gearing that I have on my gravel bike will give me more flexibility. I have a compact crankset and an 11-34 cassette. This is the easiest road gearing that is available, but in the past, I have found it to be suitable for 95% of road riding. As for the gravel riding I will be doing, there are a lot of steep off-road climbs in South Africa, but not that steep that I will be left grinding with a 34×34 easy gear ratio. It will be interesting to test it out. I think I have found a good balance between what I need for road riding and what I can get away with on gravel.
After a month of use, I have decided that it would be best to change my crankset to a Shimano GRX Crankset. It will be a 2×11 with a gear ratio of 48/11. I now regret putting a road crankset on my bike. There is very little clearance between the frame and the road crankset I currently have on my Pragma Bike. It runs smoothly, but the problem is that should the chain fall between the frame and the crank (which inevitably happens to all bikes at one point or another) the chain is going to get stuck and the only way to get it out will be to remove it at the link. This happened the first day that I was test riding the bike and messing around with the cable tension. It is not the end of the world, but my biggest concern is that should it happen during a race, my race will basically be over. Something that should take a second (putting a chain back on a ring after it has fallen off) will take minutes. Also, I risk damaging the paint behind the crankset. There is already a gnarly paint chip from the first time it fell in between there. Shimano says the following about mixing a GRX crankset with an otherwise road groupset:
Shimano GRX cranksets feature a +2.5mm outboard chainline, which improves rear tire clearance, making room for wide gravel tires. This also means that the GRX crank’s Q-Factor is +2.5mm wider on each side compared to Shimano road cranks. Due to the wider crank and chainline, GRX cranks must be used in conjunction with a GRX front derailleur for 2×11 and 2×10 drivetrains.
Problem solved! By the sound of things, I will just need a GRX front derailleur to get it to work.
Wheels: STANS COMP GRAIL 700C WHEELSET
When choosing a gravel bike wheelset I had to decide whether or not to go with 700c or with 650b wheels. The decision was a fairly easy one to make and I went with 700c. For the type of riding I plan on doing it is the best choice. I have already mentioned that I will be doing a lot of road riding with my Pragma gravel bike and the fact is that 700c wheels tend to be lighter and faster than 650b. I read somewhere that 700c wheels give your gravel bike more of a road bike feel, while 650b wheels give your bike more of a mountain bike feel. I think that sums it up brilliantly.
The wheels are where a lot of the bike weight is coming from. The Stans Comp Grail wheelset weights 1.76kg. Not bad for a gravel wheelset, but not great either. I will admit that this was not my first choice of wheels. I bought them because they were selling for a good price. When I bought them, I was reaching the maximum amount I could afford to spend on the bike build and I got a bit panicky. I was at no risk of not finishing the bike build, but it just meant I could not spend as much on a wheelset as I would have liked.
I think wheels will be the first thing I upgrade on my Pragma Gravel Breaker in the year to come. I could literally knock 300g of weight off this bike by investing in the Spinergy GX wheelset. It is not even that the Spinergy wheels are that much more expensive… it is just that I cannot get them locally, like I can with Stans No Tubes wheels and I would therefore have to pay import fees and shipping.
Tyres: Panaracer Gravel King SK TLC Folding Tyre – 38mm
When choosing which tyres to put on my gravel bike, I was looking for a good combination between speed and durability. I made use of the incredible work done on bicyclerollingresistance.com. I seriously love that site and probably spend a bit more time on it than I should. What can I say? I love bikes and all the geek nerdy things associated with it. I saw on the Bicycle Rolling Resistance site that the gravel tyre with the best overall performance is the Gravel King SK TLC. It is a fast and lightweight tyre, but also has a good durability.
As far as the size of the tyres are concerned, I went with a size 38mm. I will just have to see how this goes. It might be an overkill for some of the gravel racing I will be doing. In hindsight, 35mm might have been a better choice, but tyres do not last forever and I can always experiment with different sizes in the near future.
Handlebars: Deda Gravel 100 RHM Handlebars – Black / 42cm / 31.7mm
The difference between road and gravel handlebars is that gravel handlebars are flared. Flare is the amount that the drop section of the handlebar slopes outwards from the vertical. Most road handlebars have just a small flare or none at all. On the other hand, gravel handlebars have a large flare to provide extra stability and control when you are using the drops. This is especially helpful when you are descending a tricky and narrow road. For my South African readers, I am sure you can imagine how handy a flared handlebar will be when you are racing down the Swartberg Pass, in Prince Albert.
Stem: Deda Zero 2 Road Stem
I have used a stem from Deda in the past and I know that they are a reliable brand, but I was open to any good looking road stem in 110mm that I could find. This stem was on sale so I decided to buy it. There is not much more to it!
I did check with Durianrider what his experience is with bicycle stems on gravel bikes. He said he did not notice any difference while using a road bike stem on a gravel bike. That was good enough for me. I have to commend Durianrider on his incredible customer service. It might just be because I have him as a friend on Facebook and all of our conversations took place on Facebook messenger, but he was always quick to respond. The longest I had to wait for a response was a day, maybe two max. I really appreciate that. When it comes to questions regarding the Pragma bike frame you expect him to respond, but I was constantly picking his brain regarding the bike build. It was really great having someone like him to rely on during the process of building up the bike!
Saddle: Bontrager Montrose Elite Bike Saddle
Funny enough, finding the correct bike saddle for my gravel bike proved to be the most challenging part of the bike build! It was not very challenging, which I guess says a lot about the bike build in general. I had originally purchased a super light and stiff saddle from the brand ‘Lightweight’. It weighed 157 grams! There was actually a time when I thought I will be using that saddle on my gravel bike! After two weeks of destroying my ass with it on my road bike, I decided to look for a different saddle for my Pragma Gravel Breaker. The Lightweight saddle looks amazing, but I could not imagine riding with it on loose gravel roads.
Fortunately for me, a friend of mine had taken a new Bontrager Montrose Elite Bike Saddle off his brand new Trek bike. The Montrose saddles are known to be comfortable saddles and I have heard good things about them from everyone who has used one. I will let you know what I think about it in a month or so.
Bottle cages: Ryder Clutch MTB Water Bottle Cages
I picked up 2 of these Ryder water bottle cages for R74 each (or $4.9). They weigh 29 grams! Not bad for a non-carbon bottle cage. As you can probably tell I am the ultimate weight weenie. You will hear more about that soon when I discuss the complete Pragma Bike weight.
Bar tape: LIZARD SKINS DSP BAR TAPE 3.2MM – BLACK
You cannot go wrong with Lizard Skin bar tape. It is expensive, but the reviews speak for themselves. I have never cared much for what bar tape I used on my road bike, but I figured that with my gravel bike I want to have the best bar tape in the business. I remember when I rented a gravel bike last year to do a gravel race, just how hard it can be on your hands. That is why I also opted for the 3.2mm lizard skin bar tape, which is the thickest bar tape that they have.
Pedals: Shimano PD-M520 Bicycle Pedals
The pedals will be the only part of my Pragma Bike that will not be brand new. I had an old pair of Shimano PD-m520 pedals that I used on my road bike, before I upgraded to road pedals and cleats. I could not get myself to buy new pedals knowing that I have these that work perfectly fine and have a lot of life left in them.
The Pragma Gravel Breaker Bicycle
I do not think I could be a happier customer after seeing the finishing product. Besides for the Pragma frameset, I am also very pleased with the bike parts I chose to put on the bike. I have no regrets, yet! (YIKES! I spoke too soon, see above).
I am on my way to do a 3 week training camp in Plettenberg Bay in South Africa, which is an area surrounded by epic gravel roads. I imagine that by the end of these 3 weeks the Pragma Gravel Breaker will have a good thousand odd kilometers on it. I can not wait to update you on how the bike held up. I also have a few gravel bike races coming up in the new year, which I look forward to doing on this bike.
How much do Pragma Gravel Bikes weigh?
My Pragma Gravel Breaker weighs 8.9kg. That is including the weight of the pedals! My goal was always to build a gravel bike that is under 9kg, so I am super chuffed that I was able to do that. I can definitely make the bike even lighter, but it will cost more money. For example, I can save around 300g by upgrading my wheelset to the Spinergy GX Gravel wheels. I can also around 100g by upgrading my pedals. If I make those two upgrades the bike will weigh around 8.5-8.6kg, which is ridiculously light for a gravel bike. I know weight is not the only metric to measure the quality of a bicycle, but it can be one of them.
The Pragma Gravel Breaker frame weight is 1200g and the fork is 460g. Obviously these figures are not set in stone and will depend on what size bike you ride and what paint design you choose.
How much do Pragma Gravel Bikes cost?
I am hesitant to put a number here, but I know that if I do not, I will get a hundred messaging asking how much my Pragma bike costs. The problem is that even if you build up a Pragma Bike with the exact components that I have, it will not even cost you close to the same as it did me. There are just so many different factors to take into account. Take the bike parts for example, some of which I bought on sale and others that I paid premium price for. Also, I had to order almost all the parts online and I paid import fees on them. The full Ultegra R8020 groupset cost me roughly 16.5% extra, because of import fees. Even the Pragma Bike frame will not cost you the same as it did me. I paid an absurd amount for shipping. I was expecting this tough! If you live in the UK, Europe, Australia or New Zealand I expect you will pay a lot less for shipping than I did. There is also the cost of the custom paint job on your Pragma Bike. Different paint jobs will cost a different amount of money.
What I will say is that at the time of writing this article, you can expect to pay anywhere between $700-$1200 for a Pragma Bikes Gravel Frameset. This includes the seatpost and all the accessories you get with the frameset. It also takes shipping into account. This figure is for the Pragma Gravel Breaker Bike and is obviously subject to change.
How do I order a Pragma Gravel Bike?
A good place to start is to have a look on Durianrider’s website. The bike in question is titled the Pragma Gravel Breaker Racing/Adventure Frame Kit on the website. It will give you a good idea of exactly what the Pragma Gravel Bike is all about. It will also give you the opportunity to look at some of the different Pragma Bikes paint jobs and might even motivate you to start designing your own. You might see a paint job that you like and decide that is exactly what you want. That is what happened to me! What you need to do next is email Durianrider at firstname.lastname@example.org so that you can discuss sizing, parts, paint design and whatever other query’s you may have.