Baron Outsider - Reviewed

Outsider I admit it - my brakes squealed today, but then I’m a committed disc-brake for winter riding kind of guy.

Byron’s always had a hard time with the value of it - mostly because of the dislike of brake squeak, but I can guaran-f’ing-tee it makes a huge difference on those dangerous, wet descents. Today I took my Baron Outsider for a nice 3.5hr ride in the cold, wet mess of a New Years day we had here in Seattle. I snapped some pics after I got home to capture the bike in its element (covered in road grit). If you want fancy shots - hit the website.

Outsider

Outsider

Why did I upgrade from the Trek Portland? It had disc brakes, decent geometry, and was relatively light, but it wasn’t quite right. The Baron had a leg up in a few key areas:

  1. STEEL. Steel rides so nicely. For long, slogging rides over roads and trails that aren’t all that pristine - I want the comfort of steel. I could have gone for a cheaper, China-container-ship-steel frame made with 4130, but the Baron is high-end Tru-Temper Platinum. Nice. Comfortable. Excellent handling.
  2. Geometry. The Baron is a pure road bike. Even the Portland had a high Bottom Bracket and raised head tube. It road ok, but the Baron carves like my race bike. More importantly I can match the geometry of my race bike and avoid the 2 weeks of knee pain as I make the transition for race season.
  3. 135mm OLD. Trek and most other road-disc bikes are spaced to 130mm. 130mm rear hubs suck. I now have buttery smooth White Industries hubs that will stand up to years of abuse built into solid 32 hole wheels. I LOVE my wheels.
  4. Local. Baron bikes are cut, mitered, and welded in Yakima, WA, and painted in Ballard (Seattle). That’s worth something to me and I’m willing to pay for that.

There’s some other stuff that makes it a stand out (aesthetic, clean cable routing, brake adjustability, stout fork, etc), but these are the main points.

What’s wrong with it? Well yes, under certain conditions I can get the brakes the squeal. I don’t so much care - on the descent into the Carnation valley (steep and winding) the two of us on discs made it down safely with far more comfort than the two on rim-brakes. For fender-mounting, there’s no mount at the chain stay. I understand the logic that the builder went with there, but I think there may be some clever options there that haven’t been considered. The only other thing that sort of bugs me is the paint. I got a first-generation Baron that didn’t have a clear coat. I was impatient and asked for the bike asap and said I’d go without. After seeing the clear-coat bike - I should have waited.

That’s it. Baron’s are going to be popping up in shops in the Seattle area soon. There are ~20 on the roads so far with more to come.



17 Comments

One other potential thing that’s “wrong” with it?  It ain’t cheap :)

So, what happened to your Portland? You sellin’ it?

Yep - sold it.  I spent a bunch of money having the wheels re-built so they should roll well for a while, but I still think those Bontrager Select Disc wheels just aren’t all that hot.

Andrew and I have griped (is gripe really the right word here?) about the Portland for a while, mostly on coffee or beer rides.

I totally agree with the comments on the OLD diameter, and the Bontrager wheels, but I think he misses two key problems with the Portland.

First, the year that we both owned (first generation 2006) came with one gruppo choice: 105 Triple. You couldn’t get a double let alone choose between compact and regular. In order to get a gearing that made sense to me as a ‘crosser (not as a rookie just starting to bike commute), I had to buy a SRAM Compact Double Rival kit. (By the way- best $700 ever spent. With the Bro deal, that even came with a Force front derailleur!)

Second, the bike is clearly marketed as a rain bike/fast commuter… but it’s absolutely incapable of mounting any sort of full coverage fender. There are no eyelets front or rear, and the supplied OEM quick release fenders provide absolutely no buddy coverage. I’ve been able to get a pair of SKS RaceBlades XL to fit, and they’ll keep YOU dry, but my understanding is don’t show up for a group ride with them. Also, the options for racks and panniers are limited by the geometry and lack of mount points as well.

That said, I’ve been more than modestly happy with it for two years now. It’s been a good bike (and in my opinion, probably one of the best mass produced fast commuters, if not the best), but now that I’m riding year round and starting training for cyclocross so much earlier, it may be time to sell it and get a better rain bike.

No one thinks those Bontragers are hot.

Mavic makes a 135mm 700C wheelset which is kinda like a Ksyrium Equipe with rotor mounts.  But they market it poorly as a cross-training wheelset for your mtb, rather than as a disc-brake road wheel.

I guess no one has written a “road discs suck” post, because we all want them to work. The lack of wheel choices is a big factor; also warping from heat for tandems, roadside repairs, ridiculous noise, etc. I’ve not been in a situation where my brakes don’t work. However, I’ve got the Avid Juicys on the Bettie and think they’re amazing. Totally different setup, need, and requirement—those howl like a garbage truck, but who cares. You could take those Juicys off and put them on a lightweight motorcycle, they’re so powerful and controllable.

To the Baron,

Good review—you didn’t mention the odd lack of fender clearance I noticed and make it in Ti and he’s onto something. It’s interesting how roadies who left steel, when Carbon became the only viable frame material, are back and loving it cause it can be built with disc brakes. Tastes change, as needs change—the same fanboys gushing over SRAM wouldn’t have considered an alternative at the height of DA 10.

5 years ago steel wasn’t stiff enough and now it’s “compliant, a great ride.” I hope, at the least, the Baron and bikes like it remind cyclists how real steel, or Ti is. What sets up all my reviews, is that first Tange Steel MTB I rode; an Specialized S-Works. It gliding on the trails, was stiff, but compliant without suspension and I realized this is what a bike should ride like.

that’s a loooooooooong stem.

@Matthew - I got full fenders to work no problem on the Portland.  What I DON’T like is the location of the brake inside the triangle.  Sure it makes mounting the fender easier, but it makes keeping tension in the rear brake line a total pain in the ass.  My rear brake rarely did anything on my Portland. 

My Baron setup is far better.  I just use an extender to set the fender mount outside all the disc brake hardware.  I think you can see it in one of the photos.

@Byron - the descent down off Novelty Hill to Carnation is downright scary on a rim brake.  Two of us had discs, two had rims.  Anything over 15% is a little dicy for rim brakes in the wet.

The odd lack of fender clearance was an issue that occured for 5 frames - mine being one of them.  It was built for a standard brake bridge if the rider wanted it.  It was corrected to match a long-reach brake position which allows for plenty of fender clearance.  That’s been fixed on all frames now.

As for Ti - I think Baron would love to do Ti, but the tubes are pricy.  I would do Ti too, but there’s a BIG jump from a $1200 frame to a $3000+ Ti frame.  If money were no object - I’d go Ti for sure for a winter bike.  I’d probably run all SRAM RED with Reynolds Carbon Clincher rims, and Chris King Disc hubs while I’m dreaming.

@vdb_fan - it’s a 130mm, 84degree Ritchey 4-Axis.  I run a 130 on all my bikes actually.  I’ve got longish arms, and a big saddle to bars drop.  I could have gotten a 61cm frame (instead of 58) and a 120 stem, but then I couldn’t get low enough (even with a 73 degree stem which I just can’t live with the look of these days).

I ride a disc brake equipped Redline ti ‘cross rig as my winter commuter.  There are very few aftermarket options out there for 130mm OLD disc compatible rear hubs…Velocity makes one but it’s pretty low end…Phil Wood makes one but only seasonally.  I ended up getting the rear of my bike cold set out to 135 to take advantage of a larger selection of mtn bike hubs.

Avid’s squeal like crazy under heavy braking.  I have a set of the road compatible version on my Salsa La Cruz (AKA my dog sled).  I have a set of Shimano’s R505 brakes (road compatible) on the Redline and they don’t squeal at all.  In case you eventually do get sick of the squealing, I’d recommend the Shimano’s.  Shimano doesn’t use the orbital washers between the IS adapter and the caliper body like Avid does.  While those make setting up easy with the Avid’s, I suspect the lack of rigidity at that particular point in the brake mounting is probably what causes the squealing.  That’s speculative…should ask Mark V if his R505’s on the drop bar MTB squeal. 

Regarding fender mounting on a disc brake bike…I opted not to use the fender eyelets on the brake caliper side on frame/fork because I didn’t like the fender strut hanging that far out from the frame.  Was worried that it would bend and snap if the bike accidentally fell over on it.  Instead, I bent the eyelet head of the fender struts about 90 degrees in a vise and mounted it to the top bolt that connects the caliper body to the IS adapter.  Then just bend the struts so they line up correctly.  However, I did learn the hard way that a longer bolt was needed to accommodate this.  First time around, I stripped the threads inside the IS adapter because there wasn’t enough thread engagement after adding the strut eyelet to the “stack height” of the stock bolt/caliper/adapter assembly.  That cost me a few extra bucks to order another IS adapter from Shimano. 

Civia’s also had a unique solution to the fender issue on their Hyland model.  They opted for metal fenders where the lower strut angles downward from the fork mount to the tail.  This can be replicated with Honjo’s where you have to drill the holes and mount the fenders any way you like.  Honjo’s are pretty but I wouldn’t want to set them up.  SKS chromoplast fenders would be darn near perfect if they put their mounting hardware on the outside of the fender (like Honjo’s and others), rather than the inside.  Those metal brackets on the inside of the fender are setup to drop water directly onto your toes…on really wet days, rain booties are still required.  I’m tempted to dremel out rivet holding the bracket on and re-attach it on the outside of the fender.

The Baron’s a nice looking rig…seeing as we’ve got a particularly wet winter this year, you chose a good time to get a disc brake road bike. 

Tai

I have a ‘06 Portland and really like it.  I agree with the comments about the 130 vs 135 mm hubs.  After about 4500 mi both rims cracked at the eyelets.  Bontragger was good about warrenty, only problem was that they did not have any rims to replace them with.  The rims were a real design flaw.  They are both like 20 or 24 spoke hubs which don’t really stand up well to the rigors of commuting with a light to medium load.

Getting a new rear end was a real pain, but my mechanic at the veloshop (pdx) did an incredible job converting a 135 xt hub to 130 with velocity deep v’s fore and aft.  As for the comments about fenders, I have full coverage and rear rack with out problem.

I started riding cyclocross this season, and after the beating my conquest pro took, I can’t imagine taking the Portland out for that kind of abuse.  I did see a couple of PDX’s around the cyclocross scene and kept questioning why people would beat on such a nice bike.  My advice is to buy a PDX for commuting, and a used bike for cyclocross and upgrade it as you break parts off.

Cheers

I agree with the comments on the Portland.  I thought it was a fine bike for a rain bike.  My issue was, it was spec’d as a rather pedestrian-level rain bike.

There’s very little need for a 32yo to ride a triple crankset around Seattle.  A compact double would have made more sense, but for my use I needed a standard road double.  Luckily, the 105 shifters can do either double or triple so all I needed to swap out was: Cranks/BB/Rear Der/Ft Der.  By the time I did all that - I was most of the way to the price on a Baron. 

The real call of the Baron (after 135 spacing) is the steel - 4hours in the rain on a Portland sort of sucks.

Oh - and the comment on the Phil Wood 130 disc hub!: $459!!!!! for just the HUB!

I’ve been ridding Mavic crossmax 29er wheels on my disc equipped commuter with road slicks are they are pretty damn bad ass and reasonably light. But you still can’t really call it a “road bike”

@erik k -

I chased the 29er route as well, but the 135mm spacing was limiting.  The Portland is Aluminum so spreading the frame even a little is probably a bad idea.  One friend tried it, and the rotor wouldn’t clear the caliper mount.

Mavic makes a Speed City or something as well, but they are PIG DOG heavy - and also 135mm.

Believe me, we would love to do a ti bike.  Maybe the Baron full-on-race-bike?

Geoff:

What’s the pricing on your frames? Couldn’t find it on the site.

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