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.
BONX is a walkie-talkie that works on Bluetooth and is being crowdfunded. As an example of its application, Bobby McMullen relies on the BONX to be guided on his mountain bike rides. Bobby is from Marin County and only has 15% of his sight. He uses the BONX Grip earpiece with smartphone app with a guide riding in front of him leading the way. In the past, Bobby was forced to yell back-and-forth with the guide, but thanks to BONX Grip the two can now have a crystal clear conversation the entire time they’re on the trail. Besides guiding, the BONX will work for group activities, and staying in contact, just like walkie-talkies used to do.
If you want to make your own edits, of an awesome ride, and weekend, a new service is available….ProEditors takes your raw cam footage and edits it down into a 2-3 minute, professionally-created final product.
Whether you ride dirt or pavement, GoPro cameras seem to be everywhere. And that’s great, but few people want to spend hours at home editing all that footage down to something worth watching. With ProEditors, just hand over your raw video, highlight sections you definitely want to keep, and in 2-3 days you’ll receive a final edit, complete with soundtrack. Best part is you’ll actually want to watch and share it.
This affordable ($100.00 per edit), easy-to-use video editing service looks great for anyone who wants to shoot and share video. Maybe you’ll start a bike blog too? Here’s a sample of their work from a Moab trip.
We rented a shack and called it basecamp. I’d wholeheartedly recommend you do the same, but mind you it’s not the Hyatt. It hasn’t been gussied up or retro-modernized like so many other resorts. The rustic patina is clearly showing its age. No electricity, no running water. You bring your own sleeping bag and start your own fire. But it’s all in that authentic good way.
In case you missed it, the 3T Exploro is in on demo, and I took it with me to Bend, where some of the best biking in the Pacific Northwest is. Yesterday we rode 50 miles and with 700c, 30s on the Exploro. The chipseal in Bend will test any bike’s comfort carbon claims, it’s not the bumps, as the roads are well worn, but the vibration frequency. Bend considers cyclists when repaving their roads, using smaller rocks for lanes. The Forest Services does not, and the conditions degrade the farther you ride into the Deschutes National Forest.
I’ve had intolerable chipseal rides in the Bend area; including on carbon and metal bikes. Eager to learn how the Exploro performed, I was not disappointed. That’s because of the Challenge Bianca Strada tires at 80 PSI and the polymer dampening ring inside the seat post head. The tires muted the chipseal frequency just enough, and the seat post took the edge off the bumps. It’s a similar approach to tuning the ride, but more subtle than the Trek Boone that “suspends” the rider at the seat tube cluster with elastomers.
Before the next ride, I’ll switch out the Challenge tire wheelset for 650bs with slicks at even lower pressure and expect to maintain the same pace. That’s because of the Vroomen-engineered aero tubing. As 3T puts it a “40mm knobby cross/gravel tires and 2 water bottles it is faster than the equivalent clean round tube bike is with 28mm slick road tires and without bottles.”
That’s a bold statement and 3T has the wind tunnel numbers to back it up. What I felt so far was the bike slicing through strong headwinds and lift from tailwinds. It’s remarkable to roll a fast tempo on a bike with such big tires, and not have to work so hard….I did not expect to look down and see 18-22 mph on a gravel bike with two bottles, a tool barrel, and camera bag. I wasn’t putting that much pressure into the pedals.
It’s happened twice now, locals in big trucks driving around small towns have stopped to talk to me about what I’m riding and…that makes it a bonafide trend at least in Washington and Utah. Like fixie before it, and explained to me and Guitar Day one fateful day 3 years ago at Interbike by Steve Hed,
People start realizing possibilities when bike design departs from racing.