Editor’s Note:This post was written by longtime Mtbr forum member Ben Slabaugh, aka Schlim. Ben, 37, has been riding bikes since he was 12, and today leans toward the XC mountain biking side of things. This year, he headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event where he rode as many bikes as possible. Test rides usually lasted 30-60 minutes, and all bikes were then rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35.
Check out the rest of the Outerbike Test Sessions archive.
The Why Cycles R+ represented the bleeding edge of cycling industry evolution right in front of me. The trends have been toward more gravel bike offerings in drop-bar formats, and fatter tires in mountain bikes. More and more drivetrains are going 1x with a single chainring.
What hung on the rack was a titanium frame with an ENVE carbon fork, single ring setup, disc brakes, and 27.5 Industry Nine wheels mounted with 2.0” semi-slick Maxxis tires. I loved the concept and wanted to ride it to find out if it met expectations. My buddy Justin grabbed one with standard 700c wheels and cross tires and we paid the $10 access fee so we could ride them into nearby Arches National Park.
I’d call the R+ best of show in terms of sheer curbside appeal. It turns out Adam, one of the owners, started Borealis bikes, and we had a good conversation about the benefits of not being locked into an expensive carbon mold for development of new bikes. Titanium remains a great option for non-suspended road, mountain, and cross applications.
The R+ strikes the right balance of classic and avant-garde. The frame had fine, beautiful welds throughout, and the sublimated graphics accentuated the amazingly shaped tubing. It was stuff I didn’t know you could do with titanium. The whole package oozed quality and class.
Especially striking was the Industry Nine UL235 disc wheelset with turquoise hubs and nipples. I didn’t mind the loud buzzing of the rear hub, as it sounded like precision engineering to me. By the way, does anyone else besides me have trouble figuring out exactly what Industry Nine wheelset you are looking at because of their cropped graphics and decals?
Adam later told me that he put just 28 psi in the tires as his optimal setup for the fat (for road) Re-Fuse textured slicks. The EC70 bar wasn’t my ideal bend, but the tops were nice and fat wrapped with Lizard Skins shock absorbing tape. ON the other hand, 1x drivetrains are my thing, as I run a SRAM Force 1 setup with 50t chainring and 11-36 cassette on my own road bike. This test bike had a 42t ring and the same cassette that I run, so shifting felt very familiar.
In terms of fit, the reach was long for me, and the stack was too low. Even with the positive stem angle, I’d prefer more spacers, and probably a shorter stem in the large, even with a zero-offset seat post and relatively short-reach bar. The Ergon saddle wasn’t my favorite. I think Ergon made a push for OEM spec this year, as many of the demo bikes from several brands featured Ergon saddles.
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On the dirt (where the R+ is more naturally at home), it was a magic carpet ride. I know other brands are putting suspension on their gravel and cross bikes, but Ti paired with higher volume tires seems just as good. The road was different story, though. Out of the saddle efforts highlight that the ENVE fork is substantially stiffer than the Ti frame, and that 28psi results in some tire squirm.
Sitting in the saddle, though, it’s a comfortable ride and it doesn’t feel like there is much power lost, even climbing. Cornering was an exercise in re-learning. I’m used to my Specialized Venge just tipping in and carving through a curve. The R+ proved highly resistant to changes in direction. Basically, I had to counter-steer it, but it was so stable with hands off the bars and cruising.
Climbing over the ridge into Arches was no problem, as the 42t ring kept the gear ratio low and I was able to spin rather than mash. I didn’t feel that the larger wheels held me back, and the entire package was amazingly quiet. I did get spun out pretty quickly on descents, which happens without a ring in the 50t range.
Other than the low stack, my gripe with the frame is that the chainstays were flared out too far and caught my heels with the extra float of the XTR pedals and bulk of my Five Ten shoes. I don’t think a road SPD pedal setup would do this, but the R+ will likely see more mountain pedals than road given its intended use. Justin’s heels hit the 700c stays as well. Adam confirmed for me that this would be an easy fix, since there is a good inch of clearance for the rotor and there is no carbon mold to re-tool.
I’d rather have the R+ than, say, a Specialized Roubaix or Cannondale Slate just for simplicity, sheer style points, and its exceptional ride. My ride partner Justin actually bought an S7 Ti mountain bike from Why Cycles on the spot after riding it. We both question the name of the brand (once again, pun intended). From a branding standpoint, we think it lacks some flair. How about something like, Triton?
Outerbike Test Session Score: 29 out of 35.
Editor’s Note: After this review was published, Why Cycles founder Adam Miller reached out to RoadBikeReview to offer some clarification on ride feel and available spec related to the observations above. Here’s Miller note:
I really think the [frame] stiffness issue here is 100% due to the tires. We actually don’t even offer a stock build with these road plus 2.0” tires because we think there are still some drawbacks to that set up. The bike is built around 700x40c tires, and handles significantly differently. At 28psi awith 2.0” tires, any rider would have a hard time fully understanding the stiffness of a frame. We built four steel prototypes and two titanium prototypes of this bike before settling on our final design. Stiffness and handling was my main concern when designing this bike, because that is traditionally the main drawback of titanium. We had multiple very experienced test riders on these bikes, as well as several pro cyclocross racers, and have heard the opposite when it comes to frame stiffness from all of our test riders.
For more information visit www.whycycles.com.