By Greg gentle
Steel has enjoyed amazing popularity over the past hundred or so years as riders seek the simplicity and comfort afforded by a steel tube set. While steel bikes have never really left the scene, boutique brands like Breadwinner, SoulCraft, and Salt-Air have elevated steel’s status, inspiring big brands like Kona, Specialized, and Trek to bring steel to the forefront of their lineup. Smaller brands are paying attention, as well. Minneapolis based Otso Cycles first introduced us to the steel Warakin, their gravel steed back in 2017. Today the all-road, all-adventure Warakin continues to defy categories through its evolutionary design, versatility, and ability to get you places few other drop-bar bikes are prepared to go.
With so many different options available on the Otso Custom Bike Configurator, it comes as no surprise they offer the Warakin in only the (raw) Stainless-Steel (SS) finish. They took the pain out of picking a colorway. While you can start rolling on a Warakin SS for about $2850, featuring a Shimano 105 build kit, the Custom Bike Configurator allows you to mix and match your needs with a variety of forks, wheels, and drive-train groups to fit your style and budget. If deep custom is your jam, the frame only option is available starting at $1450. Want a fork? Upgrade to the house brand Lithic carbon fork for $250, or pair the frame with a Whiskey No.9 MCX fork, or a Lauf for a few dollars more.
What separates the Warakin from other brands in the production steel bike corral is its incredible versatility. It starts with the Tuning Chip. The rear axle Tuning Chip allows you to change the chain-stay length from 420mm for fast and twitchy CX racing to 430mm and 440mm settings for more stability and adventure mode. Adjusting the tuning chip also changes the bottom bracket height to respond to changing conditions. This adjustability allows for massive tire options up to 51mm in a 650b, 700c, or a 29er wheelset. The table found on the Otso Cycles web site illustrates available tire size options determined by the tuning chip placement.
- Progressive frame geometry featuring a longer top tube for greater stability when you want to get rowdy off-road
- Frame mounts galore: Three water bottle mounts, mounts for racks and fenders, and mounts for variable cable routing
- Full-length cable routing for smooth shifting under all conditions
- Post Mount rear brake, flat mount on Lithic fork
- 15×100 thru axle front & 12×142 rear for lots of wheel options
- Frame couplers available if you like to travel with your bike in a suitcase
Our 58cm test bike came with some nice upgrades including a Shimano GRX 40T, 11-speed mechanical drive-train with hydro brakes, a Whiskey No.9 MCX carbon fork, and DT Swiss C1800 700c wheels paired with a pair of tubeless 38cm Panaracer Gravel King SK tires. The Otso build options are somewhat limited for seat post and cockpit options. Our tester came with an alloy aluminum seat post and stem, 44cm Lithic Corundrum handlebars, and an Otso branded WTB Volt saddle. I’ve been swapping stems and saddles to get the fit just right. To that point I should mention the Otso Warakin top tube length is longer than most drop bar bikes I’ve ridden. I had to drop down from a 110mm stem to 100mm to find a more comfortable position for the long days ahead on this bike.
We’ve got some fun planned for the Warakin over the next six weeks. This whip was made to take you places few other drop-bar bikes are prepared to go… and that’s where I’ll be headed. Tune in later this summer for the full test run-down and review.
For more information about Otso visit – Otso.com