The Warakin is the versatile stainless steel drop bar bike from the new bike builder Otso Cycles. The bike was introduced in August 2016 and on display at Outdoor Demo in Vegas:
Otso is a spin-off of Wolf Tooth Components and when developing the new line of bikes, the company's engineers tapped into the innovative thinking that put Wolf Tooth Components and its cogs and adaptors on the map.
Today we're taking a close-up look at our Otso Cycles Warakin test bike, with early ride impressions, in our four-page In Review spotlight slideshow below.
Otso Cycles Warakin: Early Ride Impressions
The majority of our riding so far has been with the stock wheels and tires and the Tuning chip set to long and low, all the way back at the 44cm chainstay position. This allowed maximum tire clearance, a low sub-7cm BB drop and a long 104.5cm wheelbase. In this setting, we estimated a 29 x 2.1″ mountain bike tire would fit. Stability, especially over rough roads and on trails was superb in this setting partly from the sublime steel ride, but undoubtedly contributed to by the long wheelbase and low BB. Rolling the G-One tires at 25-30 psi, depending on the expected terrain, we felt we could go for miles effortlessly. And we did.
Twenty three pounds is not a light road bike, and that is where we felt the bike was least at home. The heavy wheelset and wide tires just felt sluggish, even if steering was not necessarily slow. Descending was fine—fun even—with a suspension like feeling, but pushing the bike on ascents and even on flat roads felt burdensome after a while. For mixed terrain rides with lots of dirt roads and trails, we found the Otso Warakin to be a bike of choice, as long as the road sections were not too long.
We swapped for narrow ’cross tires with a Schwalbe X-One Bite on the rear and then found even steep mountain bike trails were rideable. The long wheelbase (and excellent Shimano hydraulic brakes) made descending a bit less hairy, albeit it was a lot easier to skid the rear tire.
We loved the steel ride qualities and the bike weight was not even on our minds when riding on the trails and dirt roads. It’s only when you have to throw the bike on your shoulder, or carry it over a downed tree from a recent storm that you’re reminded of its heft.
We did swap the wheelset for carbon tubulars, removing almost 2 pounds from the 23+ pound ‘as equipped’ bike weight, and flipped the Wolf Tooth Tuning chip to shorten the wheelbase 2cm as well as raise the BB 4mm. This change results in a 42cm chainstay, pushes the BB drop up a tad to 6.8cm and shortens the wheelbase to 102.5cm. The head tube steepened, but by a minuscule amount didn’t result in an obvious change in front-end handling at all beyond theory. However, tucking the rear wheel under the rider and shortening the overall wheelbase, along with the nearly two pound wheel weight reduction changed the ride remarkably. The ride turned sprightly, with snappier accelerations and faster climbing and more nimble turns in tight singletrack. Even if the front end geometry did not change, the bike felt faster around chicanes and on tight trails.
With the tuning chip in the short/high position and with the light wheel/tire combination, the Warakin, even with its still-20-plus-pound weight, felt like a quality steel cyclocross race bike.
We rode the bike unburdened, no racks, bags or fenders, but with the available attachments, we see the Warakin as an ideal bike for touring or bike packing, set in the long/low Tuning Chip position. We also did not have the mid-position Tuning chip so cannot comment if it would offer a happy medium.
The question potential customers will need to ask themselves is whether they’ll regularly want to swap between different geometries and tires sizes. Even for most gravel and mixed terrain rides, we’d prefer the shorter chainstays for all but loaded touring, regardless of tire size. Are the geometry options worth a bit of extra complexity and weight? It’ll depend on the rider.
Even without routine swapping between Tuning Chip settings, the Warakin checks the boxes of modern, do-it-all bike criteria, and steps outside the box with its options, adjustability and shiny finish.
We plan to further push the limits of that adjustability with some long gravel rides, heavier gear and technical trails. Stay tuned for our full longer-term review. See the full specs on the next page.