It’s show season in the bike industry, and that means product launches….two so far this week (Otso and Pivot) and now FSA has announced their long-rumored, and debated electronic group. It’s a wireless/wired system, 11-speed with a cog size up to 32, and weighs 2090g. As long as this group has been discussed, we’d hope for a gravel option; like a derailer that’d shift into a 40 or more, and hydro. For now, you get a group that’s feature for feature similar to the systems from Shimano, SRAM, and Campy. Pricing wasn’t announced at launch.
Our 2017 Vault makes it easy for dropbar riders to simplify—it is one perfect bike for Cyclocross, Road and Gravel. “Dropbar bikes are evolving as fast as are mountain bikes,” said Pivot Cycles President and CEO, Chris Cocalis. “In the same way that our great trail bikes take MTB riders all over the mountain, the Vault is the only bike that most road riders really need. We are excited to dispel myths about what makes a great cyclocross, road racing or gravel bike by offering one truly exceptional machine that excels in every field.”
If you’ve been following the category, every marketer for every company calls it something different. A few years ago, it was even called freeroading, for a while. As I shared on Medium Bicycles, “gravel” is whatever you want it to be, it really just means getting out, and riding where there are no or fewer cars. To do that on non-paved roads it’s best to have a more relaxed geometry than a CX bike, and with room for a big tire, and by that we mean 40 or larger—the Exploro I have in runs up to a 55 or a 2.1, when running 650bs.
The reason you want drop bars is for multiple hand positions, instead of one on a flat bar. The makers of bikes have also figured out there are too many niches. One modern road bike should handle most, if not all of your riding.
A 48 will fit in the front fork of the Vault and a 38 in the back. I rode and reviewed the previous Vault, a couple seasons ago. It’s a nice bike from a company obsessed with design. Built up with Ultegra and Stan’s Grail wheels it retails for $3,999.
I asked Mark V what he thought of the new Vault. His reply:
Most of these new bikes don’t have features that make them uniquely-gravel oriented. The fact is that ANY recent CX bike makes a decent gravel bike, and bigger tire clearance is the LEAST a frame designer could do to woo the gravel crowd. Pivot is a CX bike with more clearance and a lot of emperor’s new clothes. 65mm drop is solidly CX territory, hardly “new school,” or in the territory of what 3T and OpenCycle are doing. Considering the chain stay, 425 is almost standard for CX and in comparison, the U.P. is 425, and to fit a 700x40mm is very clever. Fitting a 650x55 is amazing. Exploro is 415 and does the same, which is mad clever.
Indeed it is. The jargon and numbers, bring me back to what is gravel anyway? Well, any bike that’ll fit a tire bigger than 28 will do, a CX bike will do too, but the stiffness and geometry will have you wishing for a more compliant ride, once you start to feel the vibrations and bumps of non-paved surfaces.
New 1.5” tapered steerer carbon fork with 12mm thru axle, increased tire clearance and Shimano’s flat disk mount.
Oversized fork crown optimizes stiffness, increases steering precision and eliminates brake chatter on rough surfaces.
Thru-axle, disc brake frame design rivals the best road racing bikes for sprinting and climbing efficiency
Next-generation cross/gravel/road geometry – works for any road surface.
Full carbon frame featuring proprietary hollow core internal molding technology for ideal weight, strength and stiffness
Optimized layup structure with ideal top tube and stay shaping for comfort and power output on long rides, rough roads and epic adventures.
Internal cable routing is compatible with both Di2 and traditional, mechanical shifting systems.
BB386EVO bottom bracket substantially increases torsional rigidity, strength and power transfer, while providing increased rear tire clearance.
Disc brake compatible with 140-160mm rotors
2 bottle cage mounts
Available as a complete bike or as a frame/fork/headset
Sizes XS, S, M, L for riders between 5’3” and 6’3”
This week Otso Cycles launched a new line of bicycles. Otso’s bikes are from the engineers and innovators at Wolf Tooth Components, who up until now have made solutions for 1x systems and chainrings. The Exploro I’m riding and sharing stories about is spec’d with a Wolftooth front chainring. Focused on on bringing innovative bikes to the mountain bike and mixed-surface road markets (aka gravel), Otso released the Voytek and Warrakin. Of those, the Warrakin interests us the most. It’s described as the ultimate any surface drop bar bike. And, with this blurb
Native American folklore tells of a mythical wolf-like creature, the Shunka Warakin. Fierce and elusive, the Warakin evoked both fear and awe in those who encountered it. Like the legendary creature, our Warakin™ bike can take on many different forms. It can be a fierce CX competitor or a relaxed gravel adventure bike and everything in between. A beautiful and durable stainless steel frame combined with our patent-pending Tuning Chip™ system makes for the ultimate all road bike. Legendary stainless steel ride quality with modern features like carbon fiber fork, disc brakes and through axles combine for the perfect ride on any surface.
The tuning chip provides 20 mm of chainstay length adjustment and subtle changes to the bottom bracket drop and head tube angle. By moving the chip forward and back, you can change the characteristics of the bike from a fun and nimble cyclocross feel to a more stable touring handling.
I asked Mark V what his take was. He replied.
I don’t really get the hype about “legendary stainless steel ride quality”….stainless steel is a very recent trend in bicycle manufacturing and still rather rare. I’m not sure where these legends are made unless we’re talking Instagram from NAHBS. But the Tuning Chip dropout inserts are very clever. I’d love to see how they function in the field, because the feature adds a layer of versatility to the framesets that perfectly matches the flavor of all-road cycling.
In just 5 paragraphs, the trendiest niche of the bike indstry has been described 3 ways. But, wait there’s more. It’s also defined as:
Back to the Warrakin, I’ve ask for a demo to see how well their tuning chip works. SCOTT has offered a hot-swappable geometry on their MTB bikes for a few years and I’ve never used it on the trail. Of the two features, a tuning chip v. a chainstay that can handle 650b and 700c, I’d guess I’d chose the later. Until then, every turn of the pedals on the Exploro is with a Wolf Tooth chainring.
I hope Otso haven’t bitten off more than they can chew, launching a bike line in the category where much bigger manufactures are making a play.
The market will decide, once it also figures out exactly what the category is.
Iron Horse Trail presented itself beautifully yesterday, and we had a video camera with us. These tunnel are between Hyak and Easton in a section that passes two lakes. Seen in the video, is the 3T Exploro, an aero-gravel bike.