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ENVE Stone Circle 

What is it really like to ride?

As a midsummer gravel event, based at the English Heritage site of Old Sarum fort and taking in stunning Stonehenge as part of three different routes for varied abilities, all run on unspoilt MOD land with gravel roads that resemble those of Kansas, it’s not hard to see the appeal of the ENVE Stone Circle. But what is it like to take part? Our team reveals all.

This year, Saddleback had four riders taking part in the event, with quite a spread of experience on gravel and different goals for the day.


Head of Finance Dave Andrews wanted a taste of gravel riding with the 56km Festival route, having treated himself to an ENVE MOG over the winter and since used it only on bridleways and for a Lake District weekend. “Being able to tackle off road tracks, whilst still covering long distances, brings a sense of adventure that I love and that’s why I got the bike,” he said.

The other three riders had much more experience, but very different goals for the 160km Historic route.

Joe Griffiths, our super-fit 28-year-old ENVE Service and Warranty Technician, has ridden in the Gravel World Series and mainly chose the Historic route, rather than the 216km Monumental ride, because he likes to ride fast and saw the latter as more of an endurance event.

Neil Towns, our Commercial Director, lives near Salisbury and planned to ride with friends and discover new local trails, saying “It’s far enough for a nice, long day out without being a chore. A nice day in the countryside and a chance to get a tan!”

Chris Tatton, our Customer Services Manager, regularly rides on gravel but wanted to take on this longer event to challenge himself.

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Dave kitted out his MOG with WTB Vulpines, rather than his usual road ENVE SES tyres, explaining, “I think they should be both grippy enough for the gravel on the route and slick enough to feel like I’m making good progress."

For riding kit, he chose a Castelli Aero Race 6.0 Jersey and a gilet in case of bad weather, but admitted that, not being a tech expert when it comes to clothes, he’d chosen them mainly for the colour scheme and wasn’t even sure which model of shorts he’d chosen.


Joe, too, owns a MOG, which he explained was perfect for this event due to its geometry. “The front end is slightly slacker than a lot of similar bikes, which means it tracks the ground better when it’s rough, rides over stuff more smoothly and descends better.”

Being experienced, he had also fitted inserts to reinforce the tyres against punctures and packed spares, plugs, tools and a pump in case of incident. He brought a hydration pack too, “A very important part of my kit, especially when the weather is hot and the race is very long.”

Joe intended to ride in his Saddleback Team speedsuit, based on the Castelli Sanremo BTW, despite such kit being rarely seen on gravel, since he’s a fast rider and a speed suit puts him in the right frame of mind to compete. He chose an HJC Bellus Helmet, since it’s important to keep the head cool on hot days and it’s well ventilated, making it his favourite for long distance comfort.


Neil’s go-to for gravel riding is his Moots Routt 45, which he says is the perfect blend of light, responsive and comfortable. Although a fan of the gravel AG25 wheelset, for this ride he chose ENVE SES wheels, explaining “The deeper 4.5 ARs are my favourite off road summer wheels, shod with a pair of WTB Nano 40mm tyres, for luxury with each turn of the pedals.”

He chose Sportful gravel kit to ride in, because of its many pockets, excellent design and ideal features for the heat, and finished his outfit off with the HJC Bellus helmet. He added, “I’m wearing my trusty Sidi Tigers, they’re really stiff. Perfect for gravel, as long as you’re not doing any walking, they’re too stiff for walking.”


Chris upgraded his 2019 Cannondale Topstone with a pair of ENVE AG25 wheels, which are much lighter than the stock models due to their carbon rims. “I’ve used WTB Nano tyres in the past,” he said, “but I wanted to try a slightly wider and more heavily treaded Riddler and Raddler set, primarily for grip and a little extra comfort.” He also fitted a Silca Assymetrico seat pack, complete with tubes, plug kit, a pump and a EOLO IV CO2 Regulator, all of which he hoped not to use.

He chose the gravel-specific Sportful Breakout Supergiara Jersey, with its many pockets for gels and energy bars, Castelli Espresso Bib Shorts and Sidi Eagle 10 Mega Shoes, the wide fitting, off road version of the Genius 10 shoes.


Joe was first back, around lunchtime, having achieved a time of a little over five hours, with an NP of 320. One of the Hotchillee reps later jokingly complained that he had completely thrown off the curve for the 160km ride, with most riders having been slower than expected because of how hot the day had turned out.

Despite this, Joe had blisters on his hands and admitted that he’d had one minor off, where he’d just missed a curve in the road. Joe also explained that he hadn’t felt great for the first two hours, but going into the fourth and fifth hour had felt good again and could really push on.

“The MOG was as faultless as always,” he said. “I’ve got so much trust in this bike, it’s fantastic.” He’d ended up riding in a jersey and shorts after all, because of the heat, since even a short sleeved skinsuit can get hot. Asked what he intended to do next, he said, “I am gonna sit down, have a nice cold coke, and demolish anything I can physically find.”

Dave was the next in, a couple of hours later. In the event, he’d been peer pressured into trying the Historic instead of the shorter Festival route, but found the going tough, since his back began to tighten up while negotiating the undulating plains of the route.

“I did a kind of hybrid,” he explained. “I got halfway, I got to the food stop and we had one of our mechanics there, who was then going to the third food stop, so I hopped into the van with him and started back from there.” He had, however, managed his longest day on the bike, at 95km.

He highly recommended the ENVE MOG, having had no issues with the course, even though there were some sections that strayed almost into mountain bike territory. “And then we got to the road bits, and I was able to keep pace with people who were fitter and stronger than I was, which I’m putting down to the bike. It was amazing, just perfect for this kind of event.”

There was a gap of a few hours again before Neil and his friends arrived back at the festival ground, having had a wonderful day out. He’d been familiar with the first half of the route, since he rode in the area so regularly, but had enjoyed the adventure of exploring new territory in the second half.

“The route’s amazing,” he said. “You’ve got a kind of wide open gravel plain on the military bit, then you go further into the country and there are some brutal hills to test you. Thank God it was dry, it would have been a completely different story in mud, you couldn’t have asked for better weather.” In fact, his only criticism was that, at 159.9km, the route was frustratingly short of the 100 metric milestone!

Again, Neil was really happy with his choice of the Moots Routt 45, explaining that titanium has a bit more compliance and give than other metals. Being well built and responsive, he says the frame lets you ride the fast bits fast and deal with the technical points well. He also praised the super fast ENVE wheels and his ENVE components, saying that all the touch points were comfortable and made for riding off road.

The 6.30 awards ceremony (not for winners, as this event isn’t a race, but for things like "Best Quote” and “Bravest Ride”) had long come and gone before a very hot, sweaty Chris arrived back, limping slightly and with blistered hands.

He had meant to ride with his son, but Will had hitched a lift back to the festival ground after he sustained an unfixable puncture. As Chris rode on alone, his bike computer died, so he had been forced to tag onto different groups to stay on the route. He rode with influencer Juliet Elliott and her friends for part of the way but pressed on when the group stopped for a pub meal mid-ride.

He admitted, “It was extremely difficult, The 160km ride takes it out of your body, takes it out of your hands. I’m pleased to finish, but yeah, pretty tired.” He explained that the bike setup had made his ride easier, though, and that he’d been particularly pleased with his WTB Raddler and Riddler tyre combination, which had delivered a nice amount of comfort and grip.

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Joe says: “I always have the two and a half hour dip, it’s a point where you’ve really got to push through that, and then you can start to feel good again.”

Dave says: “The 160km should be doable, but I’m not especially fit. That’s something I need to work on, that stopped me. But it was fantastic, the route was incredible, the organisation of the event, the whole thing, it’s been really good. Really enjoyed it.”

Neil says: “The last 30km was very much a case of breaking it down into kilometre chunks, just to get through. But, when you finish, all the aches and pains disappear straightaway, at least within 12 hours.

“Sportful is my favourite brand for riding on gravel, they just focus on comfort and the longer days out, so extra pockets in the jerseys and bibs, gravel riders love a little bit of extra storage, and putting in that many gels and Jelly Babies for today, you need to keep them somewhere.”

Chris says: “Go for it. It’s an experience, it’s well worth doing. Do some training if you need to do it, but yeah, highly recommended.”


Saddleback’s presence at the event wasn’t just confined to riding, we had a full ground team, including those manning the ENVE and Sportful tents and a couple of mechanics in the thick of the action, based at the feed stations along the route.

Josh Lambert, our PR & Events Coordinator, and Anthony Evans, our South West Area Manager, were kept furiously busy all day, helping out with emergency repairs to both the bikes and their riders. Here are their takeaways and tips for making the day a success.

Anthony noted that the first feed station saw by far the most mechanicals and injuries, likely because the first leg of the ride featured some of the roughest, fastest descents that caught people out.

He said, “I’m assuming that this is where adrenaline got the better of people and made them surpass their skills. A few people also mentioned how wet the dew had made the ground too. In short, I would suggest people take it steady to start with and ease into the ride. There’s no point in breaking yourself early on.”

He was also struck by how many people commented that they hadn’t packed enough food or water, probably due to their lack of experience of riding gravel over such a long distance, as opposed to faster tarmac, leading them to misjudge the riding time between feed stations. “There is no such thing as carrying too much food or drink,” he stressed.

Josh similarly saw the great majority of issues arising at the bike-breaking beginning of the event. He felt that most of the mechanicals would have been prevented if riders had sought out a service by a reputable bike shop before the event.

“Loose bolts, gears not set up correctly and tubeless issues are all basic things that would have been resolved by a service,” he explained. “Many of these issues probably weren’t noticeable when riding the bikes on local routes, but the surprising roughness of the start quickly made them apparent.”

He also stressed that using the right equipment is very important, having noticed a significant rise in issues and failures with the less premium products. “We want the sport to be inclusive to everyone, but this event does have a tough route which can test the limits of premium bike technology,” he cautioned.

However, he was at pains to point out that a premium bike isn’t a strict prerequisite to riding the Stone Circle. For anyone who wants to ride the event next year but doesn’t have over £1,000 to spend on a bike, Josh offered the following advice: “Tyres and wheels are probably the most crucial points that are going to take the most abuse, and they can also make a bike handle better and be safer overall.”

He suggested investing in good wheels that are tubeless compatible, to prevent pinch flats, along with quality gravel tyres, both of which he felt were worthy investments to make your day more enjoyable.