Review: Carver Ti All-Road

Tester: Karl Rosengarth
Age: 59
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 150 lbs.
Inseam: 32”

Carver’s Ti All-Road is a mountain biker’s road bike. With a design aimed at mixed- surface comfort and stability, the All-Road stands ready for rough road rambles, gravel grinds and singletrack shortcuts.

The Bike

Built from 3/2.5 titanium alloy, the All-Road comes with a lifetime warranty and crash replacement discount. Stock frames come in 2 cm size increments and retail for $1,400. For $200 additional, you get the option of making custom geometry tweaks and/or adding a few braze-ons (typical 6-8 week turnaround). Our size 56 cm frame features the optional $500 Pinion drive interface.

The Pinion P1.9XR gearbox provides nine speeds spanning a 568 percent range. Carver’s rear sliders permit proper tensioning of the Gates Carbon Drive belt. All-Road frames come with the customer’s choice of Paragon dropout inserts. Ours features vertical wheel slots, making it a breeze to remove and reinsert the quick-release wheel while maintaining proper belt tension.

The All-Road fits tires up to 700×45, and with WTB Riddler tires of that size, the bottom bracket sits 11 inches off the ground. The belt drivetrain determines the chainstay length, which measures 18.3 inches on our setup. Frames come standard with rack, fender and three water bottle braze-ons, though with the Pinion drive, only a small bottle fits under the downtube (and inserting/removing requires turning the front wheel to the side).

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The Ride

Carver’s 710 mm wide MyTi Carbon bars, lifted with a 1.5 inch stack of stem spacers, put me in a comfortable, heads-up riding position that inspired confidence, even in sketchy conditions. The All-Road felt at home zipping down gravel roads and romp- ing over roots and rocks on local single- track. The titanium frame and Carver Carbon CX Disc fork combined to provide a supple ride over uneven surfaces without feeling flexy or imprecise.

I dig flat bars, but If you prefer your road bikes with drop bars, the All-Road’s stack and reach are on par with other “adventurous” road bikes. Spec’d with drop bars and skinnier tires, the All-Road should make a fine gravel race bike, or a sporty scoot for everyday escapes.

The low-slung, central location of the Pinion gearbox made its 4.9 pounds weight less noticeable than the rearward weight bias of internally geared hubs. I appreciated the balanced feeling, especially when venturing onto dirt or skittery gravel. Speaking of low-slung, the bottom bracket height is suitable for mild, but not gnarly, singletrack, so don’t think of the All-Road as a mountain bike surrogate.

The Pinion changes multiple gears with one twist of the control, and it allows shifting while at a standstill or with the cranks rotating backwards. While the transmission upshifts (to higher gear) under load, the design prevents downshifting if the pedaling pressure is too high, so plan on soft pedaling or coasting while downshifting.

When transitioning from coasting to pedaling, the gearbox would often emit an audible “click” or “thunk” as the gears engaged. When I asked, Pinion told me: “With a draggy freehub body the belt or chain drives the output shaft a few degrees forward, unloading the pawl from the tooth it is engaged with. When you get back on the gas the pawl pops back into place producing a thunk or click. Pinion has made a rolling design change to the shape of the pawls and teeth they engage to mitigate this feeling and sound.” Good to hear it’s being addressed, as the thunking got annoying at times.

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Conclusions

Carver designed the Ti All-Road to fill the popular gravel grinding, light touring and bikepacking niches. I’d have to say “mission accomplished.” The All-Road this is a very versatile platform, and I can envision builds ranging from fast and furious to rough and ready. With both stock and custom options, your road to adventure could be named Carver.

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Specs (based on size tested):

Reach: 14.8”
Stack: 23.1”
Top tube: 21.7”
Head tube: 71°
Seat tube: 73.5°
BB height: 11”
Chainstays: 17.9-18.7” ( min-max, with Pinion drive option)
Weight: 25.1 lbs. with pedals
Sizes: 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54, 56 (tested), 58, 60, 62, 64, 66 cm
Price: $1,900 Pinion-compatible frame ($5,672 as tested)

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Review: Tout Terrain Tenami Xplore

The Tout Terrain brand is really built around the open road. The bikes and their designs have evolved from first-hand experience on long distance tours and expeditions. A big brother to the classic Silk Road model with 26-inch wheels, the Tanami has 29-inch mountain bike wheels and can fit up to a 2.0 tire for flotation and comfort on bad roads and gravel. Because of the taller wheels it’s only available in sizes large and extra large. Most Tout Terrain bikes are built to order to a customer’s specifications, but you occasionally see models like our test bike pre-configured in local bike shops.

The Tanami Xplore frame is built from good ol’ steel, like a touring bike should be, in this case Dedacciai chromoly. The rear rack is welded right into the frame and rated to 88 pounds. Since it’s likely to be subjected to heavy wear, the rack is made from stainless steel, as are the dropouts and all the braze-ons. The frameset also has standard dropouts, three bottle cage mounts and mid-fork eyelets.

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As Americans we’re used to seeing drop bars on touring bikes, but in Europe it’s much more common to equip them with flat bars, a setup I prefer myself when running panniers. With the right grips and some bar end handles it’s easy to have a couple hand positions and control all that weight. Plus at touring speed it’s not like I’m in a big hurry anyway. I much prefer the upright comfort.

At the heart of the Tanami Xplore is of course the Pinion P.18 gearbox. Similar to a car or motorcycle gearbox, it houses most of the whizzy, toothy, spinning bits inside where they are protected from the elements. Tout Terrain has been building bikes around the internally geared Rohloff Speedhub for years, and the 18-speed Pinion is a natural extension of that indestructible ethos. It offers nearly all the benefits of a Rohloff hub, but with better weight distribution thanks to having the mass right at the bottom bracket. Tout Terrain also offers the standard Tanami model with the Speedhub.

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Similar to a Rohloff, the Pinion is shifted with a dual cable system, so your shifting options are limited to the factory twist shifter. The twist shift design is perfect for a transmission like this, since it can shift to any gear at any time without stopping at the gears in-between. It can also shift while stopped, which is a feature I didn’t realize how much I loved until I used it. Each shift indexes with a nice thunk, and you can upshift to a harder gear even while pedaling hard. Downshifting, on the other hand, can sometimes get hung up. I found it a bit temperamental about having to lift off the pedal pressure just right to let it shift. It often occurred when transitioning from a flat or downhill up to a steep hill, which is exactly the worst time to get stuck in gear.

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Once you get your pedal-pushing power transferred through the gearbox it’s delivered to the special rear cog via a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. The belt is a perfect companion to the gearbox, since it needs virtually zero maintenance and is built to last a long, long time. It runs smoothly and quietly, and I appreciated not having worry about getting my pants leg stained from grease too. One downside to the belt drive: If you are on tour in the middle of nowhere and have a problem with it, you’re likely going to be stuck there for a few days until the UPS carrier arrives with a replacement. A traditional bike chain can be found at any bike shop and even some big-box stores.

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At first I wasn’t sure how the proper tension was achieved on the belt, but then I realized that the entire Pinion gearbox itself pivots slightly to take up the slack. Removing the rear wheel from the vertical dropouts is simple, and you’re guaranteed the same belt tension when you reinstall it. Both front and rear wheels use traditional quick release skewers.

At this price you better expect to get some bells and whistles on the Tanami, and it includes the dynamo hub that powers an included headlight. In fact, the dynamo cable routes right through the fork leg for a clean look. Tout Terrain offers a handful of other dynamo options to suit your needs too, including integrated USB charging.

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What I’d really love to see is a center stand. The U.S. distributor of Tout Terrain, Cycle Monkey, included a carbon fiber UpStand, which attaches to a small tab at your rear hub and detaches to store on the seat tube. While it worked great when the bike was empty, a pair of full panniers were too much for its 25 gram tube. A few cool features are found hidden near the headset: a pair of bumper tabs welded into the head tube prevent the handlebars from rotating more than 90 degrees in either direction, and a small steering lock holds them in place while you’re loading and unloading the bike.

On the road the Tanami feels much like, well, a hybrid. Like many stout steel bikes, it has a smooth and planted feeling on the road. Even loaded down for a 100 mile mini-tour it never felt wobbly or uneasy. The integrated steel rack plays a big part in that.

Quirks aside the Pinion is a great system that I have no doubt would stand up to some serious abuse. Tout Terrain markets itself as a “buy it once, buy it for life” kind of brand, and with an eye-bulging price tag it’s not likely you’d be buying anything else quickly after. While the Tanami has more than enough pedigree to tackle an around-the-world expedition, I have to wonder how its lack of sex appeal will draw in American audiences. After all, our country has never been quick to embrace practicality. It’s a flawless execution of a vision, but like everything in life, you have to pay for what you get.

Price: $7,000
Sizes: L, XL (tested)
Weight: 36.5 lbs with pedals

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This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times #44. Read more reviews here and subscribe to our email newsletter to get content like this delivered weekly to directly to your inbox.

 

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