Otso Cycles Warakin: Checkpoint- by Guitar Ted
The unusual stainless steel framed Otso Cycles Warakin has now been put through many miles of gravel travel. The unique material posed questions for me which I now have answered, for the most part. If you missed the introduction to this review, you can go back by clicking HERE. There you will find some technical specs and my first impressions on this silvery-grey gravel grinder. Now, let’s get to what I have learned about this bike…..
Ride Impressions: The Warakin came to me set up with Scwalbe G-One tires tubeless. I am not very familiar with those tires, and the smooth, supple ride of the Warakin could have something to do with that tire. So, in an effort to level the playing field, and to test the limits of clearances, I installed a set of WTB Riddler 45mm tires which we reviewed earlier. Those are familiar tires to me, and they are big. That said, the Warakin had clearance to spare around the big Riddlers. No worries on mud clearance even. Impressive. The 58cm frame was also fitted with a Revelate Tangle Bag and a prototype J-Paks top tube bag for a planned century ride. I also fitted my Bar-Yak System aero/cue sheet holder for the big ride I planned. The narrow-ish Lithic handle bar precluded the use of my arm rests, so I dispensed with that part of my usual set up. Finally, I must note that the under the down tube bottle mount requires a careful selection for your cage, as many cages will mount too high. This caused the bottle to overlap the front tire on my first attempt. I did find that an old Profile cage worked fine here in this place.
Loaded up for my test ride in preparation for my century ride revealed that the Warakin was a willing pack mule. The handling was neutral and the ride still smooth. The Riddler tires were different feeling than the Schwalbe tires that were on the Warakin, but I did not see a significant difference in ride quality. The Warakin is definitely a smooth bike, with maybe a tic stiffer feel than my Reynolds 631 tubed Tamland, another steel bike whose ride feel I am intimately familiar with. Weighed down for the bike century coming up, I felt that the Warakin rode even smoother.
The Lithic fork was not the jackhammer I was expecting it to be, but do not go thinking it is a smooth fork. It doesn’t have much give, but the frame works hard to eat up the chatter, as evidenced by the oscillations at the handlebar. This is something I think gets overlooked by many companies. That being if you spec a stiff, unforgiving carbon fiber fork, the vibrations introduced by the rougher roads have to go somewhere else to be damped. The story that many believe is that the carbon fiber fork mitigates these inputs, but that is not true in many cases. Actually, the frame and top tube end up flexing and you can tell this by how the handle bar oscillates in your hands. The Warakin isn’t bad in this area, but that fork could be more compliant and this wouldn’t be an issue at all.
The test ride was a good indicator that the Warakin was going to make for a good ride on a century. The down hill manners were stable, and the climbing was met with that familiar steel springiness, but with barely any motion at the bottom bracket. This bike can climb if you have the legs, and sprinting up hills does not require you to dance with a flexy frame in a special manner. It just goes forward.
The century ride was successful and the Warakin performed admirably in all situations. There were 25 miles of dirt roads, some bordering on mountain bike type terrain, where the Warakin’s stable manners proved to be a big benefit. The smoother ride allowed me to survive without much in the way of after the fact soreness and that was appreciated. I can only imagine what something like the recently tested Redshift Sports ShockStop stem might do for this bike’s ride qualities.
A word about the components here: The Lithic branded wheels were smooth and felt stiff enough. Tubeless performance has been great. The Lithic handle bar, while being narrower than I would have chosen for myself, actually felt comfortable and worked out just fine over the century ride. The Lithic fork, as mentioned above, could stand to be more compliant for sure. I also missed bottle mounts on the fork, as I find them to be a handy addition for mounting bottles and cages for extra long rides. That said, I was able to use the Wolf Tooth B-Rad mount to expand my water bottle capacity by one.
The century ride I did was one of those rides where I never once had the bicycle on my mind. The Warakin just went about carrying me along without causing me to notice anything untoward, and that in itself is a good thing. It speaks to a bicycle whose ride quality and design “just get it done” and nothing more or less. If there is one thing other than the fork which I would point a finger at it is that at times if I allowed my foot to go “duck footed”, toes out, when I pedaled, my heel would graze the chain stay. Those who have such a stance normally with cleat position up under the ball of your foot may find this to be an annoyance. I only had it happen twice so far, but my pedal/cleat interface has a bit more looseness and float than many do.
So Far…… The Warakin strikes a skinny tubed profile and looks like a titanium bike. Many people are surprised that see it when they find out that it is stainless steel. The ride is classic steel- Smooth, springy, but not at the expense of a solid bottom bracket. The Lithic fork is a tad too stiff, but the compliant frame tubes make up for it to a degree. Stable and smooth for longer rides and with a light load, the Warakin is ready for any adventure on gravel you can throw at it. Stay tuned for my final verdict coming soon.
Note- Otso Cycles sent the Warakin to RidingGravel.com for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.