State Bicycle Co. 6061 Black Label All-Road: Getting Rolling – by MG
Perhaps better known for its single-speed, fixie, track and city bikes, State Bicycle Company’s mission is to “inspire and foster an enthusiasm for life lived on bikes.” While the company has been in business since 2009, it’s only been recently that they have ventured into offering multi-gear all-road bikes. Their 4130 All-Road model was launched in 2019 and has gained a loyal following as one of the best sub-$1,000 gravel bikes on the market.
In 2020, State launched the bike we have in for review – the 6061 Black Label All-Road. Designed as a lighter, faster, yet still affordable option, the 6061 Black Label All-Road features a heat-treated alloy frame, full carbon fork and unique State-branded 1×11-speed drivetrain. MSRP is $1,399.99 plus shipping, direct from State Bicycle Co. If you’d rather build up a frameset, you can get a 6061 Black Label All-Road frame and fork for $679.99.
Buying from State Bicycle Company
Like many direct-to-consumer brands, State Bicycle Company sells its bikes, parts and accessories through its website. On the purchase page for the 6061 Black Label All-Road, the buyer has numerous options, the first of which is the choice of 650b or 700c wheels. Or, for $399.99 extra, you can get both wheelsets, fully set up with tires, tubes and a cassette, so you can choose the tire/wheel combo that’s best suited for any ride.
Our test bike came set up with 650 x 47c Vittoria Terreno Dry tires, however I plan to test the bike with 700c wheels as well to compare the handling and ride quality differences between the two wheel sizes. The wheels themselves are fairly basic State-branded double-wall alloy rims and cartridge bearing hubs, and they seem to be of good quality. They aren’t light however, which is par for the course for sub-$2,000 gravel bikes.
Other options with the State 6061 Black Label All-Road include a choice of Selle Italia, Fizik, or Brooks saddles, at an additional cost of course. You can also add pedals, water bottle cages, a lock, and/or a handlebar bag.
In addition, State offers the $189.99 option to upgrade to their “Monster Fork”, which features additional mounts, including three-pack mounts on the outside of both fork legs. Considering the overall lack of mounts on the frame (two sets of bottle bosses inside the main triangle), the upgraded Monster Fork seems like a good option, especially for riders wanting to use the bike for bikepacking trips.
Features of the 6061 Black Label All-Road
First off, the 6061 Black Label All-Road is a great looking bike. The deep green “Dark Woodland” paint sparkles in the sunlight and the understated graphics don’t detract from the bike’s aesthetic whatsoever. It looks cohesive, purposeful and contemporary. If green isn’t your thing, State currently also offers the bike in a blue “Deep Pacific” color that, at least online, looks good as well.
As the name would suggest, the frame is built from heat-treated 6061 aluminum tubing. Most tubes are round in profile, aside from the top tube, which features a distinct shaped and tapered profile. The welds are very nice, particularly for a frame in this price range. Nothing about the look of the frameset looks ‘budget’, however buyers looking for a plethora of mounts may be disappointed. State includes two sets of bottle cage bosses in the main triangle, with fender mounts front and rear. Otherwise, it’s up to the buyer to strap on the bags they need for the adventures they aspire to do.
One curious spec is the 31.6mm seatpost. While mountain bikes have moved to 31.6mm posts due to the proliferation of dropper posts, most gravel bikes continue to use 27.2mm seatposts. Why? Because the smaller diameter posts typically have a better ride quality than posts with a larger diameter. Since the 6061 Black Label All-Road frame isn’t set up for an internally-routed dropper post, I’m not sure why they went with the larger seatpost diameter. It could make for a bit rougher ride, but time will tell if that proves to be true.
The seatpost itself is fairly unremarkable, with a 20mm offset and one-bolt head reminiscent of budget seatposts from 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the saddle fixing bolt is too long and can actually contact the bottom of the seat as the shell flexes. I swapped the post out immediately for a zero-offset Thomson Elite seatpost from my parts bin. After one ride, I swapped out the saddle as well, as the Tioga Undercover Stratum better meets my fit needs.
The full-carbon fork is a nice spec on the 6061 Black Label All-Road. Some manufacturers spec carbon fork blades with alloy steerer tubes in this price range, so it’s nice to see State went with the lighter, likely stronger option. They saved a little money by going with a black fork, as opposed to a color-matched model, but that’s a tradeoff I’m cool with on a bike in this price range. Here, I’d much rather have the full-carbon fork than color-matched paint and an alloy steerer tube.
State offers the 6061 Black Label All-Road in five sizes: X-Small (48cm); Small (51cm); Medium (54cm); Large (58cm) and X-Large (62cm) sizes, which should cover riders from approximately 5’3″ to 6’6″ in height. At 6’1″ tall, with a 33-inch inseam, I typically ride a large/58cm gravel frame, and the large 6061 Black Label All-Road fits me well. I had to replace the stock 110mm stem with a 90mm model from my parts bin to get the reach to be consistent with my own bikes, however. The stock 42cm handlebar is a bit narrow for a 58cm gravel bike, in my opinion. I’d have preferred a 44cm bar at least, but that said, the stock handlebar has a good bend and flare, so I’m going to run it and see how it goes.
The State All-Road 1×11 Drivetrain
State went its own direction with the drivetrain spec for the 6061 Black Label All-Road, and from what I can tell, that’s a very good thing. While most bikes in this price range rely on Shimano Sora 2×9 or SRAM Apex 1×11 drivetrain components, State curated its own branded 1×11-speed drivetrain. The stars of the show here are the State-branded brake/shift levers and 11-speed rear derailleur.
The rear derailleur has the look of a much more expensive piece, and for the price, it’s a very solid performer so far. Where most derailleurs in this price range make extensive use of steel and plastic, State’s derailleur is built mostly from aluminum alloy, more like the other “S-brands” higher-end offerings. In lieu of a true clutch mechanism, the State derailleur has an adjustable spring tensioner, which seems like a good option for a gravel bike. I’ve found the need for a true clutch mechanism to be debatable on a gravel bike, but on a 1x drivetrain, a little extra chain tension can go a long way in retaining the chain over bumpy gravel roads.
Shifting happens with the right lever, and the actuation is similar to a SRAM mechanical shifter… except for the shift action happens with the brake lever, similar to downshifts on a Shimano lever. It may sound strange, but on the road the shifting is easy to figure out. The action is positive and shifts click off without drama in both directions. The levers have a reach adjustment feature, which I found useful for dialing the levers into my preferred position closer to the bars.
The stock YBN chain is a quality item I didn’t expect to find on a $1,400 gravel bike. My personal experience with YBN chains over the years has been top notch, and I expect this chain will shift smoother and last longer than the chains you’d typically find on bikes of this price.
Incidentally, if you’ve already got a frame and need a build kit, State offers the same exact drivetrain on its website for $349.99. The kit is pretty comprehensive, including mechanical disc brakes, rotors, a cold-forged two-piece crankset w/42t ring and external bearing bottom bracket, 11-42t cassette, and the State-branded derailleur and brake/shift levers. It’s a worthwhile option for anyone building their own gravel bike on a limited budget.
Unboxing and Assembly
The 6061 Black Label All-Road arrives in a standard bike box, and assembly is required. Unlike some direct-to-consumer brands, State Bicycle Co. recommends assembly by a qualified professional mechanic. From my experience, I’d concur with this recommendation.
Some aspects of the bike’s build, such as aligning the derailleur hanger and finish truing the wheels (both of which were necessary on our test bike), are simply above the skill level of the average home mechanic. Figure on $80-100 for a professional bike build if you’re not equipped with the tools and/or skills to do it right.
The State 1×11 drivetrain was easy to set up, however I did find the shifting to be much smoother once I reduced the b-tension, so the upper derailleur pulley more closely tracked the cassette. With this adjustment, the State 1×11 drivetrain is smooth and precise shifting from end-to-end. Very impressive.
Two initial concerns during the build were the stock mechanical discs brakes, which seemed to have a lot of friction in their actuation, and the handlebar wrap, which was really quite bad. Not only was it loose, it was wrapped backward, from tops-to-drops, which means the edges would curl as the bike is ridden. The quality of the bar tape leaves a lot to be desired as well, with minimal padding and average grip. I had to rewrap the bars before riding the bike and would suggest anyone buying this bike do the same.
I’ve been able to get several rides in on the 6061 Black Label All-Road, but my initial impressions are very positive. The switch to a 90mm stem and a zero-offset seatpost got my position dialed on the bike. In fact, the setup felt very familiar – close to the position of my personal bikes.
Within the first few pedal strokes, I could feel the effortless speed of the Vittoria Terreno Speed tires. Even with relatively heavy wheels, the bike had a very smooth, effortless feel under acceleration. Perhaps not race bike fast, but quick to accelerate and easy to hold it once up to speed. Inflated to 25psi in the front and 27psi in the rear, the voluminous 47c casings eat up bumps, which is good since the frame and fork feel pretty firm in terms of ride quality. I won’t say that’s bad, because I’m really enjoying my rides on the 6061 Black Label All-Road. That said, it pays to pay attention to tire pressure, as higher isn’t always better.
Overall, the State 1×11 drivetrain works as well on the road as it does in the workstand. Shifts in both directions are smooth and precise on the road. The only issue I had is an occasional upshift when engaging the rear brake. There’s a lockout mechanism that should prevent shifts during braking, but I found it was still possible to shift as the lever moved into its action. On gravel it was a non-issue, but I did experience a few unexpected upshifts when braking on fast, flowy singletrack. I also dropped a chain on the first ride, but since maxing out the derailleur’s spring tension, I haven’t had any further issues.
The stock mechanical disc brakes are perhaps the most underwhelming aspect of the 6061 Black Label All-Road, from my perspective. It’s the one area where I’m constantly reminded that this is a sub-$1,500 bike. While the design, with both pads compressing the rotor, seems promising, friction in the actuation makes the brakes feel underpowered and devoid of modulation. Ridden back-to-back with Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes on another bike, the difference in performance is like night and day. As a result, I’m looking at better mechanical disc calipers as the first upgrade I make to the bike during the review. The Tektro Spyre SLC is a leading candidate, but we’ll see what’s actually available when I go to make a purchase.
The handling of the 6061 Black Label All-Road is easy to manage, with a good combination of stability and willingness to drop into turns. It’s a fun bike to ride when a combination of gravel and smooth singletrack are on the route. The flared handlebar is comfortable, if a bit narrow at the hoods. The lack of width is more of a detriment on singletrack than it is on gravel however.
Initial Impressions of the 6061 Black Label All-Road
So far, I’d say State Bicycle Co. has done a good job of balancing the important aspects of performance and price with the 6061 Black Label All-Road. For someone on a budget that’s looking for one bike that can tackle a wide range of rides, from commutes during the week, to gravel and (xc) singletrack on the weekends. Look for my Checkpoint post to come soon, where I’ll go into more detail about the performance aspects of the 6061 Black Label All-Road.
In the meantime, head on over to the State Bicycle Co. website and check out their impressive range of bikes, clothing and accessories.
Note: State Bicycle Co. sent the 6061 Black Label All-Road to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review, and will always give our honest thoughts and views throughout.