Update: The Dean Bikes Antero cyclocross/gravel frame is now made in Boulder, Colorado with updated geometry, and the Asian-made titanium cyclocross and gravel frames are now sold under the Wily Cycles brand and called the Wily Cross.
Dean Bikes has been building titanium cyclocross bikes for almost as long as anyone, from its Boulder, Colorado shop. John Siegrist started the company and welded up every frame until a few years ago, when he passed the torch literally and figuratively to Ari Leon.
Siegrist is still involved at Dean, but Velosport Imports takes up much of his time. Leon and Siegrist still offer custom, made-in-Colorado titanium road, mountain and cyclocross creations (including this Pretty-in-Pink creation we saw at NAHBS), but have realized that not every cyclist can afford the company's creations and thus have expanded the company's offerings to include three new frames designed by the company but made in Asia, a path that Utah-based Why Cycles has also followed.
The company found a small factory that Siegrist says has some of the most prideful welders he's met. Dean works with this shop to produce the Scout HT hardtail mountain bike frame, El Vado road frame, and the Antero cyclocross/gravel frame. All three frames start at just $1250.
We first got a look at the Antero at Interbike 2015, and now we've got the Antero cyclocross frame in for review. Can a (relatively) affordable frame deliver on all the promise of titanium without pretentious prices?
If you're putting down the money for a titanium frame, whether it's made domestically or abroad, you'll understandably expect top craftsmanship. Looking at the welds and details of the frame, it's honestly impossible for us to pick out any telltale sign that the frame is made abroad. The welds are tight, the finish is consistent, and Siegrist has said that even to his expert eye, the craftsmanship is top notch.
The Dean Antero cyclocross frame is built from straight gauge 3A/2.5V titanium tubing, with stock, middle-of-the-road geometry with six different size options. Our size Large frame features a 56.5cm effective top tube, 43cm chainstays, 65mm bottom bracket drop with a 71.5-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle. It's not super aggressive geometry but falls more into the do-it-all category.
By the numbers, the Antero uses pretty tried-and-true geometry that avoids extremes. The 43cm chainstays are similar in length to Kona and Felt's top cyclocross bikes, but longer than the current 42.5cm norm, and still shorter than most gravel bikes. The 65mm BB drop matches the drop of the Focus' Mares platform and should offer increased pedal clearance to avoid pedal strikes in corners, off-cambers and the rocks and roots compared to the common 68 to 70mm drops we see on most cyclocross bikes or gravel bikes.
S-bend chainstays, a 44mm head tube, rack and fender mounts and replaceable derailleur hanger are some of the nice touches found on the Antero frame. The only feature that might suggest cost savings were a priority in the design are the zip tie hose guides on the top tube. Zip ties can scratch and break, but some attention when cutting and orienting them can mitigate the danger.
Hate press-in bottom brackets? Dean's got your back. The Antero features a threaded BSA 68mm bottom bracket shell for easy maintenance and quiet operation. It's stayed with time-tested features not just at the bottom bracket. The quick release rear dropouts and IS brake mount are two other areas that have not followed the latest trends (although many metal builders have told us they find flat mount rear caliper mounts to be problematic).
Dean Bikes has stayed with time-tested features not just at the bottom bracket. The quick release rear dropouts and IS brake mount are two other areas that have not followed the latest trends (several metal builders have told us they find flat mount rear caliper mounts to be problematic).
Our test bike featured a sensible, no-frills mix of components, but Dean Bikes will build your bike to meet your dreams and budget. Up front, a TRP thru axle cross fork, Bontrager stem and Ritchey Evo Curve WCS handlebar and Chris King headset handle navigation.
A SRAM Force 1 drivetrain and brakeset and Stan's NoTubes Iron Cross wheelset help with driving duties. The Iron Cross rim makes for easy tubeless setup, but with its restrictive maximum pressure limits, may not be the ideal choice for pavement and smooth gravel adventures.
Invest in a titanium ride, regardless of where it's made, and you'll likely want to spend more than just cyclocross season on it. If that's the case, you're in luck with the Dean Bikes Antero cyclocross frameset. It's a capable race bike—well suited for the more rugged courses we're starting to see as domestic races attempt to emulate the technical European races many of us watch. If your weekly cyclocross diet is nothing but grass crits, you might want something tighter and lower, but for year 'round riding, especially if your riding includes both trails and gravel, the Antero hits the sweet spot in terms of do-it-all geometry.
If your weekly cyclocross diet is nothing but grass crits, you might want something tighter and lower, but for year 'round riding, especially if your riding includes both trails and gravel, the Antero hits the sweet spot in terms of do-it-all geometry.
Cyclists in general and cyclocrossers specifically are often attracted to the magical metal for its ride quality, corrosion resistance and durable finish, and the Dean Antero delivers in spades in these areas. Whether rolling on the Clement PDX rubber with inner tubes as it arrived, on bigger tubeless tires or Zipp 202 wheels with Vittoria's new tubulars, the Antero serves up a smooth ride. It's not flexy by any means under our amateur power, but it offers up a bit of compliance that's noticeable on bigger hits. The best description we can offer up is that while carbon frames can often mute road vibrations better, titanium frames can take the edge off bigger jolts. Does that make titanium a better fit for cyclocross? It's all a matter of personal preference, but if you're looking for a year 'round bike for more than just an hour of racing, the material certainly makes a strong case for being an ideal choice.
While not marketed as a gravel bike, the Antero is certainly capable. Out back, there's clearance for 45c rubber, and up front, we've squeezed in an undersized 1.9″ (48mm) 29er tire. With big volume tires, we might prefer a lower BB drop, but do-it-all bikes have to make compromises and the Antero leans towards making sure you're not clipping pedals in the corners while racing cyclocross or navigating rocks and roots.
We've been fortunate to have tested a number of titanium bikes, and the Dean Bikes Antero ranks right up there in terms of ride quality, versatility and balanced handling. We often think of titanium bikes as "lifetime" purchases, and the Antero frameset delivers a ride that you'll likely to want to enjoy for life, even if it doesn't cost your life savings.
Sure, with straight gauge tubing it might not be the lightest option, and being built in Asia, your hard-earned wages are split between Boulder-based Dean and its Asian factory. Some American readers may prefer a made-in-USA option, which Dean Bikes offers with custom geometry via its Torrey's Cross frameset, for twice the price.
We often think of titanium bikes as "lifetime" purchases, and the Antero frameset delivers a ride that you'll likely to want to enjoy for life, even if it doesn't cost your life savings.
The Antero is not a trendsetter or follower. It doesn't boast dropper post cable routing or a rear thru axle or clearance for giant 50mm rubber, but it's built to last around easy-to-find standards. If you plan to keep the Antero around for a while, you'll have to get used to enjoying a smooth ride without bleeding edge tech or the latest configuration of ever-changing standards. Or you can rest easy knowing that by opting for Dean's pricepoint imported frame over the made-in-Boulder option, you've saved four figures. Smartly invest that money and when you're finally ready to update your ride years later, going custom might suddenly look affordable.
Another benefit of the Antero frame is that Dean keeps these in stock. If you're ready to pull the trigger, gratification can come in days, not months or years.
See the full photo gallery below the specs.
Dean Bikes Antero Cross Specs:
MSRP: $1250 frame, $1800 with ENVE fork and Cane Creek 40 headset (approximate price as built is $4200)
Tubing: 3/2.5 straight gauge titanium
Features: S-bend chainstays, 44mm head tube, rack and fender mounts
Rear dropouts: quick release, IS brake mount
Bottom bracket: BSA 68mm threaded
Weight: 3.4 lbs (size Large)
More info: deanbikes.com