Ryan Christensen

Ryan Christensen is a New Zealander racing in the elite category of the UCI’s Gravel World Series. We spoke to him about his bike and the racing.

We ran a brief bio on Ryan Christensen on our sister site BritishCycleSport a while ago. In that we learned that like many his love affair with the bike started early and he was racing by thirteen. After leaving the junior ranks he raced at Continental level for a couple of years, before heading to Europe. Ryan describes himself as a rouleur when it comes to how he rides and the races he likes. A rouleur is a rider that excels at those long hard days in the saddle; races like the Classics.

Ryan Christensen is a Kiwi rider racing the UCI's Gravel World Series
Ryan Christensen is a Kiwi rider racing the UCI’s Gravel World Series

That’s just the kind of rider that suits gavel racing. Ryan says of gravel racing that it’s very taxing, mentally and physically. That they are races of attrition “where you can’t switch off . There are line choices, technical corners and then race tactics to also think about.” All this has to be tackled solo, as unlike the road, riders race as individuals. No more does he have teammates who “work together to get the best result“.

Season so far

At the time of writing Ryan’s competed at five of the UCI Gravel World Series races, as well as the Traka. Out of those five he’s had three top-ten finishes, which shows good consistency in his first season gravel racing. They also indicate he’s a lucky rider, important in gravel races where mechanicals can strike at any moment. When asked how he felt about his season he said, “The results have been consistent. I’m happy where I’m sitting in the UCI gravel standings, but still wanting to step onto the podium in the second half of the season.

Ryan Christensen at the 2024 Traka
Ryan Christensen at the 2024 Traka

The Traka

This year Ryan rode the Traka for the first time. The Traka is one of Europe’s premier gravel races that takes place around Girona; the epicentre of all the is cycling cool! The Traka is a one day race that has three distances, 100, 200 or 360 kilometres. The main event is probably the 200 and like most gravel races attracts some serious competition in the Elite categories. So we asked Ryan what he though of the event.

CTR: You’ve just finished the Traka 200, is Girona as cool as we are led to believe?

Ryan Christensen: It’s a great place and in recent years it has become a hub for a lot of professional cyclists. The training is amazing out there for road and what I’ve discovered from racing the Traka, it also has great gravel trails to ride on too.


CTR: The weather leading up to Traka was pretty unpleasant with rain and snow. How did you prepare?

RC: Going into it I was watching the weather from the UK. Trying to ask riders what tyres they would be using, watching Instagram videos and viewing Strava pictures of recon rides, so I could cover my bases and bring the right equipment. Flying with my bike, I have a max baggage weight, so packing strategically and bringing the essentials is hard. 

CTR: Race day was dry, but did the mud cause any problems? The pictures look gritty!

RC: The sandy soil made for dry conditions for the most part. The rain stopped roughly 48 hours before so 90% of the race was dry and dusty. It was only in the shaded areas in the run back home where it became muddy.

Ryan Christensen came in the top ten at a tough edition of the Traka
Ryan came in the top ten at a tough edition of the Traka

CTR: Did you manage to get around without any mechanicals?

RC: I did, just a dry chain; which sounded horrific by the finish

CTR: The Traka has three big races, did you get a feeling of how big the event is?

RC: It’s a great community to be a part of. There were some 5000 riders across the week so you’re always bumping into somebody you know. I love how everyone can be on the start line mingling with the pros and everyone is happy for a chat. The vibe is less elitist than road racing and I like that. 

Traka set-up

CTR: Now the nerdy stuff, what was your set-up for the Traka?

RC: I played it on the safe side and ran a mix tyre, which had slightly larger knobbles and better puncture resistance, but in turn, had a higher rolling resistance. I was faster on the descents as I had more grip and was a lot more confident. No liners, just a tubeless set-up. In terms of gearing, I had a 52/36 crankset with 30/11 on the rear.

CTR: You rode a 2x set-up, any plans to go 1x?

RC: At this stage, I am happy with the 2x set up. I like having the closer range and the smaller jumps between gears resulting in a cadence in a range I like. I would run 1x if I was using a classified hub.

CTR: What were you carrying for emergencies, tools etc?

RC: Multi-tool, tube, Co2 gas, dyna plugs and a hand pump.

CTR: Nutrition, did you carry everything you needed, rely on feed-stations or did you have helpers on course?

RC: I had a helper out on course that managed to feed me at two feed stations. I started with 2x750ml bottles in my cages and a 500ml down the front of my shirt to carry me through to the first feed zone at 105km. After that I collected a musette with two fresh bottles and a top up of gels.

Racing schedule

Ryan has already qualified for the 2024 UCI Gravel World Championship final in Belgium. For which he says the plan is to “arrive in the best shape possible”. To that end he will be riding at least another four of the UCI GWS races with the aim of “gaining a better gridding spot come October.” Those races will be in Germany, Poland, Sweden and the Netherlands. There will also be the odd road race mixed in such as the 5 day stage-race Rás Tailteann, which he rode as a guest for Foran CCC.

Riding as a privateer may look very glamorous, with Instagram photos focussing on riding your bike in glamorous locations. The reality involves a lot of planning, travelling, keeping sponsors happy and somehow fitting in time to train and recover. All of this at a time when budgets are being cut and riders are not in short supply.

Ryan Christensen building up his A1R0evo at the Handsling factory
Ryan building up his A1R0evo at the Handsling factory

Equipment choices

As a privateer results are important, as they are what sponsors are looking for. Getting good results and keeping yourself in the media’s eye is the way a privateer rewards their sponsors. To that end Ryan has to choose equipment that will help propel him towards the podium. The equipment choices he makes have to work though, no point choosing something cool that doesn’t work. So let’s take a look at what he’s running in these gravel races.


Ryan is riding on bikes supplied by UK brand Handsling. On the road he uses their A1R0evo, which is their UCI legal T800 carbon-fibre aero frame. When it comes to gravel though, he rides the CEXevo, This carbon frame is as happy charging through the mud of a ‘cross course as it is the dust of a gravel race. Ryan actually built up his frame at the Handsling factory, so he knows his bike inside and out. We reviewed the A1R0evo and CEXevo previously, click the links to see what we thought.

Have you made any changes to your bike set-up now that you’ve got some more racing under your saddle?

It’s stayed relativity the same, just the tyres change depending on the terrain we are racing on. 


Shimano is my go to. I’ve raced on Shimano most of my career.

Do you use a chain catcher?

No, if the groupset is set up properly, you shouldn’t need one. I’ve found in the past when using one, it creates more problems like mud build-up between the frame and cranks.

Handsling CEXevo, as ridden by Ryan Christensen
Handsling CEXevo, as ridden by Ryan Christensen

Do you change the gearing to suit the courses?

I may change the rear cassette to a bigger ratio, but usually it stays the same 

When it comes to gravel racing what are your thoughts on 1x and 2x drive-trains? Which have you used and do you have a preference?

I like a 2x set up. There’s smaller jumps between gears and finding a gear that’s comfortable to pedal i.e. not over or under-geared is easier.


Are you running narrow bars on your bikes?

I have matched my set-up the best I can between my gravel and road bike. I want to train on both bikes without having to adjust every time I switch. So 38mm bars; they give more control. Going any narrower is for the aero-geeks, I’ll leave them to do their thing!

For gravel racing are you running double tape, gel pads under the tape, or just plain single wrap?

Just a single wrap, the thinner the better. In my case, I have a little bit of padding in my gloves, but prefer to have a solid grip on the bars.

Would you consider using a suspension stem?

Haven’t thought about it really. I don’t think I would as the vibrations in running a softer tyre pressure takes most of the hit.


What’s your choice, are you super fussy here, or can you ride any brand?

Pretty fussy with saddles. I’ve been running with a PRO stealth short nose saddle for the past four years and have had zero issues. It’s comfortable on long days.

Dropper post. Got one, tried one, want one?

Negative, there is no need for gravel racing. 

Ryan has represented New Zealand at the UCI Road World Championships
Ryan has represented New Zealand at the UCI Road World Championships

Tyres, the big one!

Brand, width, pressure, so many variables. Do you stick with one tyre or change it up for each race?

Tyre pressures and choices is the million dollar question going into races. I choose between 33 and 45mm. When it comes to tread, you want to race as fast as you can, so rolling resistance is key to making it to the finish. If you can run a faster tyre you’ll be saving a lot of energy and will get you further into the race fresher. However, generally speaking these are also less durable and more prone to punctures, so it’s definitely a fine line

At the Gralloch, the organisers were advising people to run higher pressures than normal (I did, but still punctured) is this something you do on rocky races?

For the Gralloch, it was a lottery if you did or didn’t puncture. I ran 38mm which was not the best tyre choice, but it was all I had coming straight from a race before. I ran lower pressures than normal, but in the end and punctured 15km from the finish on the final gravel section.

When it comes to pressure and widths, what do you prefer?

38mm to 40mm are my go to tyre widths. I do like a harder tyre pressure. Coming from the road. I like to feel zippy and fast.

In longer races Ryan is using a USWE bladder
In longer races Ryan is using a USWE bladder

I assume you’re running tubeless?

Yes, I’m running tubeless. As I’m changing tyres weekly, depending on the race, I’m also changing the sealant at the same time.


You’re using Hunt, can you tell us what wheels and why you chose them?

I’m running the 40 Gravel Aerodynamicist wheelset. They are fast, lightweight and handle any terrain.


SPD or road pedals?

I’m still running my road Pedals. This keeps my road and gravel set up the same so I don’t get any niggles or injuries when switching between the two disciplines 

Emergency kit

What are you carrying for race repairs?

Multi tool, tube, Co2 gas, dyna plugs and a hand pump.


Bidons or bladder, what do you use on race-day?

I have been using a USWE hydration pack for the longer races where I don’t have a support crew. It allows me to keep hydrated in and gives more storage space to carry extra snacks with me. I’m hoping to get rid of the backpack part with the new RULE28 gravel suit. With that the bladder is incorporated into my gravel suit for aerodynamic purposes, I believe it’ll be available to purchase soon. 

If you would like to keep up with Ryan you can follow him on ProCyclingStats, just look for Ryan Christensen.

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