Otso Cycles Waheela S: Getting Rolling- by Guitar Ted
Gravel bikes. It used to be a term that meant a lot of things, or nothing at all. To many a “gravel bike” was “just a bike“. To others it was simply a cyclo cross bike. Then the world went topsy-turvy and companies started making “tools for the job”. Bicycles with traits and characteristics borrowed from the past and from the present with an eye on the future. Perhaps no other bike represents that last statement better than Otso Cycles latest bicycle, the Waheela S.
The Waheela S, at first glance, looks like most bicycles earmarked as gravel going rigs. In fact, its steel frame resembles some of the earliest “gravel bikes” and not anything new at all. But you would be forgiven for thinking that. When looking closer, this bike is actually pretty radical. Suspension corrected in its geometry, a first to market characteristic, says Otso. (But it won’t be the last, by the way.) It also sports dropper post routing, and the capability to accept wide 650B or 700c rubber.
What It Is: The Otso Cycles Warakin was tested here last year, but that stainless steel rig gave us no clue as to what we have here in the Waheela S. This is much more versatile, perhaps even “radical”, than that bike is. The Waheela S, while sporting similar geometry figures, departs from the Warakin recipe in almost every other way. Here is what Otso Cycles says on its webpage for the Waheela S:
Depending on where, how, and with who you ride, the term “gravel” can mean any number of things. From smooth ribbons of packed dirt to miles of flint to rutted forest road, gravel is what you make it. Otso’s Waheela S was designed from the ground up to be the most versatile gravel bike available.
- Suspension-corrected geometry via custom Wolf Tooth headset
- Tire clearance up to 700×53 (29×2.1 mtb tire)
- Patent-pending Tuning Chip dropout system
- Reynolds 520 tubing
- Internal dropper routing
- Electro Deposited coating inside and out for rust protection
- Rack and fender mounts
- Available from Otso dealers or direct from Otso Cycles
The Waheela S has a foundation of steel from Reynolds. Otso chose the 520 series for this frame and outfitted it with their unique “Tuning Chip” rear drop out. That drop out gives you two options for axle placement which affects the geometry. You can go “long and low” or to a shorter wheelbase with a higher bottom bracket for a snappier feel and more pedal clearance in the rough stuff.
Up front the base level Waheela ships with the same Lithic carbon fork we tested on the Warakin last year. When ridden in this configuration a special lower head set extender is used. Otso Cycles offers the Waheela in three levels where you can choose some options at upgrade prices. Forks available include the aforementioned Lithic Carbon, a Lauf Grit, or the Fox AX, which is what our test bike came equipped with. The Fox AX is a first for Fox and basically is a modified XC fork with 40mm of travel and three position damper adjustment lever.
The test bike is mostly a Waheela S Pro build with the exception of the mechanical 1 X 11 SRAM and Avid BB-7 mechanical disc brakes instead of the hydraulic SRAM 1 X 11 bits which the Pro kit is spec’ed with. DT Swiss wheels are shod with WTB Riddler 37mm tires out of the box, but we will be swapping tires and trying 650B wheels in the bike to get a feel for the versatility the Waheela has on tap here. Otso Cycles says the Waheela can be fitted with 650B X 53mm or 700c X 2.1′ tires. Obviously you can go skinnier too.
The Waheela also departs from the normal fare with its internal dropper post routing. Our test bike came with a KS E 30i Dropper post with 100mm of drop on tap. While that may not seem like much, it is huge for a road going bicycle. We will find out what that might be good for in the coming weeks. The post has no offset, which may be a hindrance on the surface of it, but considering that Otso Cycles developed the Waheela with a long front/center, it isn’t that big of a deal. Speaking of that long front center, it demands a shorter stem, and our tester has a positively stubby stem. Especially when compared to the long tiller on our last test bike, the Jamis Renegade Elite. No, this bike does not fit like a road bike. Those coming from the mountain bike side to gravel will likely get on with the Waheela without issue. If you are a die hard roadie, this may take some getting used to.
Otso also outfitted this bike with the B-Rad system from its sister company, Wolf Tooth Components. This system allows us to double the water bottle capacity and we also have the accessory to add a strap which holds a tube or other gear to the B-Rad plate. We will get into more detail on that as the review gets going.
First Impressions: Wow! Is this a mountain bike with drop bars, a gravel rig, an adventure bike, a versatile touring rig, or all of the above? It seems almost overwhelming when you think about all the possibilities this platform presents. The suspension fork may seem weird at first, but after a few short test rides you don’t even think about it. A dropper post seems unnecessary as well, but I will hold judgement on that until I get around on some gravel and dirt first. But that said, my initial thinking was, “Isn’t this going to be a heavy bike?” With that dropper and suspension fork, you might think, as I did, that the Waheela would be a tank. But at barely over 25lbs as pictured, (with SPD pedals), the Waheela doesn’t feel all that heavy. We’ll see how that weight feels going up a gravel grade soon. Still, that’s not a bad weight considering the lack of carbon fiber or silly weight saving parts.
The Waheela has so much going on that it will take a bit to dissect the features and how they help or don’t on the gravel roads. There will be some dirt travel and some wheel swapping going on as well. The next post, “Checkpoint”, will have the details and more in a couple of weeks.
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Note: Otso Cycles sent over the Waheela S for test and review to RidingGravel.com at no charge. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.