The Outdoor Demo of Interbike was thin on test offerings this year, but the stainless steel Warakin from Otso Cycles caught my eye. Otso is the brainchild of the Wolf Tooth Components team, started to build off-the-shelf bikes that “were not available.” We hear that excuse a lot, especially in the last few years with the explosion of several new, small bike brands. I took the Warakin for a short test ride to see if there might be any substance to the hype. I also like shiny things.
(Try not to mind the blue plastic flat pedals on our test bike; it’s what we had.)
Why stainless steel? The answer I got: “Why not? It’s unique.” It was chosen for ride quality and because it’s not commonly used other than by custom frame builders. The frame is indeed beautiful, though I think a black carbon fork would look better than the attempt to color match paint to brushed steel.
Though I only had about an hour to spend with this bike, it already felt more balanced than many of the other bikes in this category. I liked it right away. When bikes like this claim to be just as adept at cyclocross racing as they are at light touring, they usually aren’t. They tend to lean much more toward one of those ends of the spectrum. While I didn’t ride the Warakin with any load other than my own 120 pounds, it gave me a sneaking suspicion that it might actually occupy that elusive middle ground. (Though it has a rounded top tube, so it’s not the “perfect” CX race bike.”)
The ride quality of the material impressed both on smooth pavement and rough dirt roads. The Warakin stayed more stable than a traditional road bike as I meandered down sandy desert washes, and held on better than a dedicated touring bicycle when I hit the road and enjoyed leaning it hard and fast through a series of car-free roundabouts.
Of course, I can’t just credit the material for the ride. The geometry is well balanced and I can only imagine how much more comfortable I would have been had I had the time to really set the bike up per my preferences. The numbers change quite a bit across sizes, so check out Otso’s site for complete geometry information.
Unique to this frame is the use of Wolf Tooth’s flip-chip adjustable dropouts. I fiddled with the mechanism, and it takes no more than five minutes to adjust your chainstay length from 420 mm to 440 mm, with subtle changes to head tube angle and bottom bracket height, as well (about 0.2 degrees on each). Those changes affect how the bike handles and the tire size it will accept, which makes the Warakin truly more versatile than some of its category siblings. And because the rear disc brake mount and derailleur mount are each attached to the flip chip, their alignment self-adjusts. We’ve seen this feature on mountain bikes for a while and I’m actually intrigued to see it on a road bike, especially since Otso/Wolf Tooth kept the setup so simple.
The price of the Warakin—complete—starts at $3,200 and weighs 22.8 pounds. Practically speaking, the frame is ready to go wherever as a light tourer or commuter with rack and fender mounts plus three bottle mounts. It has a threaded bottom bracket (yay!) and clearance for 40-50 mm tires, depending on which chainstay length you’re using.
That’s a great deal, especially since you get disc brakes, thru axles, a carbon fork and a Shimano 105 build at that price. Alchemy sells a stainless frameset with a carbon fork plus headset (but nothing else) for $3,500. Soma Fabrications used to sell a stainless frame, but it no longer seems to be available. Spot Bicycles has a complete stainless bike, the Denver Zephyr that will set you back $5,400.