Why an Ironman chose a Drifter over a carbon time trial bike

May 21, 2018
Cheryl Kerpez used to see a bike as nothing more than a means to an end in a race—now she's found a life-long companion in "Gravel Gertie," her custom Drifter
Why an Ironman chose a Drifter over a carbon time trial bike

Cheryl Kerpez is a cyclist, an Ironman, a teacher and a librarian.

One thing she is not is a gearhead.

For years, she rode an old Taiwanese-made aluminum Motobecane she bought from Bikes Direct. She didn’t see a point in investing in carbon, even though she competed for age-group and podium wins in both triathlons and road races.

Despite completing multiple Ironmans, Kerpez also was never swayed by a showy and specific time trial bike many triathletes use for the 112-mile (180K) distance. “I know it’s more aero, but I don’t find it that comfortable,” she says. Kerpez has always instead gone with her gut, wisely choosing the right fit and versatility over a few theoretical seconds shaved off by aerodynamics. Her belief is that if you enjoy what you’re riding, you will do so with confidence, and ultimately perform better.

When she found a crack in her Motobecane frame, she decided it was time for an upgrade, and she was done with a cheap fix. Kerpez had spent a decade battling with a less-than-ideal fit, and knew it was time to forge a long-lasting relationship with that perfect bike. So, she reached out to those she trusted in her cycling community for advice. It had to be simple, yet beautiful, and built for performance, but tough enough to last a lifetime. “At Cycle Craft, my local bike store in New Jersey, I spoke with my phenomenal bike fitter, Tim Dougherty,” Kerpez says. “He is incredibly knowledgeable and I value his opinion. I initially thought I wanted a really nice carbon frame, but Tim presented and discussed the choices with me and I learned about the quality and comfortable ride titanium offered.”

The handcrafted No. 22 frames caught her eye, the Drifter’s versatility on both road and gravel were intriguing. “I decided to bite the bullet and make the purchase,” Kerpez says, adding that originally being from upstate New York herself, she instantly connected with the folks at the No. 22 factory and wanted to give her business to a small, up-and-coming company that put their whole heart into creating beautiful and timeless creations.

"I think it would be really fun to organize a ride and picnic for all the No. 22 bike owners in Johnstown near the shop and have the builders lead the ride on the gravel roads," she says. "I heard there’s gravel riding near the shop in Johnstown so maybe No. 22 will organize one."

Kerpez’s custom build features Shimano Dura-ace 9170 Di2, and she decided to accent the subtly of the design with the flare of pink anodization — “Pink is the color of my personality,” she explains. “I feel energized by pink.”

She has named her Drifter “Gravel Gertie”, after her grandmother, Gertrude. “She was a teacher in a one-room school house in upstate New York, where I grew up. She also helped my grandfather work on their farm and later became manager at the local Green Stamp store in town. She was a sweet and tough lady and my idol and the reason I became a teacher and librarian. Gravel Gertie seemed very fitting, as the name Gertrude means 'spear of strength,' just like my grandmother and strong titanium bike frame.”

To date, Kerpez has completed several multisport races on her No. 22 Drifter. Sometimes she’ll bring her finishers medals to her school, and says her students love to hear about the adventures and the story behind each medal. Next up is the Musselman Triathlon, where she’ll get to enjoy 56 miles of the beautiful New York countryside on her Drifter. “The cycling is my favorite part,” she says, noting that she’s excited to do some pure cycling events on her bike in the future, and has a goal of becoming a stronger hill climber. Her versatile and comfortable Drifter will certainly be the perfect companion to explore a multitude of hilly terrain types with while working towards that goal.

One item she never rides without? “A fun pair of socks,” she says.