Skip to Main Content

2023 Unbound: Muddied but Unbowed!

June 08, 2023

2023 Unbound: Muddied but Unbowed!

There’s challenging. There’s tough. And then there’s diabolical. In 2023, the small town of Emporia, Kansas turned the dial right past challenging and tough, and bypassed diabolical… and went right to mayhem—then ripped off the knob. And at the end of a wild, wild day of gravel racing, we had some losers. And some impressive winners.

And some rain. And a little mud. Just a little.

Unbound Gravel is always gonna be "the one". The one with the distance, the Flint hills, those sharp, nasty flint rocks that chew on tire sidewalls. The one you can count on for heat. For rain. Maybe a tornado warning or two. Definitely, some lightning and thundercracks that cause hairs on your arm to stand on end. And over 4,000 riders champing at the bit to get a taste of it all.

The 2023 edition of Unbound Gravel took it to another level. A peanut butter mud pit that ripped off chains and derailleurs. Miles of running. Barbed wire excursions that left kits shredded. For a ride down dirt farm roads in Kansas, the 2023 iteration of Unbound was a Navy Seal-level obstacle course. Much suffering, some pain.

UNBOUND 2023

But first… there was fun. Downtown Emporia played host to the Unbound Gravel expo, a massive, wild expanse of maple syrup energy gels, chain lube, fancy ride bandanas, and more. OBED was there with it all; GVR models to test, a mechanic on hand to get all OBED athletes dialed for race day, a first look at our new Copper Penny paint upgrade option, our wildly popular Prism paint upgrade, sticker swag, high fives… all of it.

Then came the race itself. The start was buzzing, and while the 50- and 25-mile athletes would avoid it, the 100 and 200-mile course would head right into the fray… at mile 11.

There—waiting for them—was the stickiest mud pit we’ve ever seen—the La Brea tar pit of gravel. Tire pressure, tread choice, gear selection, it didn’t matter; nearly everyone was forced to dismount after trying and failing to ride through, with tires, wheels, chain, and cassette all piling up with mud that sucked the shoes off the feet of some riders. With nowhere to go, many resorted to taking to the grassy road shoulder, where they pushed or shoulder-carried their mud-caked bikes for miles.

And that was just mile 11. Everyone still had some heat, some rain, hail, and mud to deal with the rest of the day.

OBED pro-Angela Naeth had this date marked on the calendar. The Crown Jewel of the Life Time Series, the 200-mile Unbound event was a fantastic opportunity to not just pick up points toward the season-long series, but also showcase how her third year of racing pro has improved...against what was arguably the deepest women’s field of the year. That centerpiece event took off with a five-minute gap from the pro men, and nearly 10 minutes on the age group competitors, allowing the pro women to duke it out amongst themselves for the early part of the race.

Naeth was right in the main pack through the mud pit, consistently strong through it, assisted by her sponsors from Oofos who kept her fed and hydrated during the NASCAR-style pit stops (which Naeth, also a pro triathlete, endearingly called T2).

“It was rough as rough gets,” Naeth said. “That first mud was just hike-a-bike—it was brutal.”

After a spate of a bad stomach for several miles her digestive system finally came around, and with it came more power in the late miles of the race as she battled with top-10 contenders. With 30 miles left in the race, “the mud started again, and I was like ‘Oh no!’” she said. “But I managed to ride the whole section.”

Naeth managed to keep a few riders back on her charge back to downtown Emporia to finish an impressive 12th overall, covering the 200-plus mile course in 12 hours, 40 minutes, and four seconds, averaging 16.21 miles per hour on some of the most insidious terrain in event history.

Her summation of the race? “I don’t know if it was fun or not!” Said with a laugh and smile, we think once the fatigue wears away, she’ll consider it to be the former; a good, muddy time.

UNBOUND 2023

The 350-mile Unbound XL? They had their own brand of pain.

OBED ambassador Austin Sullivan set off for his third effort at the Unbound XL. He’d been sick the week leading up to the race (which started Friday night) but seemed to have bounced back. Maybe things would go as planned after all.

Maybe.

Sullivan pounded a pre-wrapped Belgian waffle on the start line before the gun went off, then set off in the first 30 miles, sitting pretty inside the top eight riders as the brave riders undertook the overnight excursion. But by mile 60, his sickness reared its ugly head, and he was quickly dispensing with the food he so needed to fuel his race through the night and into the morning.

At mile 78, Sullivan rolled into Casey’s General Store. While athletes arrived in drips and drabs for the customary refueling on gas station Pop-Tarts, Red Vines, and fountain soda, Sullivan sat on the grass behind the market. With his stomach not playing nice, and knowing how dangerous it would be to try to force things through the dark and cold of the night, he made a long play: the day was done. Time to regroup for the next ultra-distance event.

UNBOUND 2023

Throughout the day, riders crossed the finish, some under the warming sun, some under a deluge of rain, but all with a smile knowing they’d survived something incredible, memorable… truly special. The rest of you? We want to hear your OBED stories. Hit us with your Unbound experience… your weekend session with friends, your bikepacking epic, and anything else in between. Tell your story on Instagram and tag us with #OBEDAnywhere so we can share the stoke!

Follow Us on Instagram  Explore Copper Penny  Explore Prism Paint  OBED Ambassador Austin Sullivan



Also in Stories

How to Clean Your OBED's Drivetrain

How to Clean Your OBED's Drivetrain

July 17, 2024

To ensure your OBED continues to perform at its best, maintaining the drivetrain is crucial. A clean drivetrain enhances efficiency and prolongs the life of its components. Yet, so many cyclists neglect this key part of bike ownership. Just as you need to keep your car lubed and oil-changed, you need to care for your OBED's drivetrain in the same way.
Unbound 2024: Less Mud, More Gravel

Unbound 2024: Less Mud, More Gravel

June 07, 2024

Last year's 2023 race, the Mile of Mud, was a disaster, destroying bikes and sending many riders home defeated. In 2024, concerns about rain were high, but race day brought dry skies, transforming mud into dust. OBED riders, including Michael McNair, Audrey Mace, and Chris Brown.
Traction Action: Choosing the Right Tires for Your OBED Gravel Bike

Traction Action: Choosing the Right Tires for Your OBED Gravel Bike

May 17, 2024

While component, saddle and stem length options are what make OBED gravel bike buying experience a special one, there's no bigger option on an OBED than choosing your tire. We walk through how to select the right tire tread and volume for the terrain you ride.

OBED Exclusive

Size Guide

View our size charts below to see what size is best for you. After purchasing your new OBED, our product team will reach out to you to confirm your order and sizing information to be sure you have selected the optimum size.

If you're on the border of two sizes, the right size may depend on certain body measurements and your riding style. Feel free to contact us at any time regarding sizing questions - our product specialists are experienced with finding riders the right fit by cross-referencing your information with our fit database.  

If you're not transferring measurements from a similar bike, to get completely "dialed in" for maximum performance, we recommend you see a reputable professional bike fitter that can fit you to your new bike.

GVR / Boundary / Baseline / Borough Size Chart

 XS

5'1" - 5'6"

S

5'4" - 5'9"

M

5'7" - 5'11"

5'10" - 6'2"

XL

6'1" - 6'5"

 

RVR / RVR SLi

 XS

5'0" - 5'4"

S

5'3" - 5'7"

M

5'6" - 5'10"

ML 

5'9" - 6'1"

L

6'0" - 6'4"

 

Seclud Size Chart

 S

5'3" - 5'8"

M

5'7" - 5'11"

5'10" - 6'2"

 

* Sizing to be used as reference only