Dirt road riding has come on in a big way in a short amount of time. Companies are branching out beyond the run-of-the-mill cyclocross or road bike with some breathing room at the rear end and offering purpose-built, dedicated gravel machines.
One company at the forefront of “groading” is Utah-based Why Cycles, and its offering is the titanium R+.
Racking up big miles with beautiful scenery was a pleasure on the R+ Russell Eich / Immediate Media
Why Cycles R+ frame features
- Grade 9 3/2.5 titanium frame
- 6/4 titanium head tube, bottom bracket and machined frame parts
- Internal cable routing
- Integrated standard 42mm upper cup, 52mm lower cup headset
- Threaded 68mm BSA standard bottom bracket
- 12 x 142mm axle spacing
- 12mm thru-axle dropouts, 1.75mm thread pitch, replaceable hanger
- Bottle mounts on seat tube, down tube and bottom of down tube
- All standard rack and fender mounts
- 31.6mm seatpost, internal dropper post compatible
- 34.9mm seat clamp
- 160mm rear, direct mount standard brakes
- 700 x 44c, 27.5 x 2.2in tire clearance
- Bikes ship in an Evoc bike travel case and include multi-tool
It’s refreshing and beautiful to see the level of detail and concern that has gone into the R+.
The graphics are very subtle yet far removed from the stale, generic fare found on the flanks of most bicycles. The looks aren’t flashy or loud, but on closer inspection, it’s easy to see that it’s something special.
The brushed detailing found throughout the frame was a classy touch Russell Eich / Immediate Media
The welds are clean and tidy (Why Cycles’ bikes are welded in Taiwan), the tube shapes complement each other, and the internal cable routing is a sheer thing of beauty with scalloped openings, not just some random rubber plug taking up space.
Why Cycles even ships its bikes in an Evoc bike travel bag rather than a standard cardboard box. That level of attention is unique.
Simply put, the R+ is pretty much as close to a custom bike as a regular production bike gets. If you haven’t yet, scroll through the gallery above.
An impeccable build
Why Cycles offers stock builds as well as custom. The build I had on test was the Force Carbon kit with custom wheels, and there was nary a part I’d consider swapping.
An Enve carbon fork lead the way, SRAM Force 1x provided the gearing and hydraulic disc braking, and an almost too nice for gravel Reynolds carbon rim and Industry Nine hub wheelset spun up the mileage.
Easton’s carbon seatpost and bars paired with an alloy stem, and even the bar tape, fitted my preference — the very soft, wonderfully tacky Lizard Skins tape.
41mm of carbon aero goodness sliced through the dust Russell Eich / Immediate Media
When asked whether Why was going to offer a Lauf suspension fork build kit, Why Cycles co-founder Adam Miller said: “The Enve fork is more popular right now, but it is crazy how quickly the Lauf is gaining in popularity. A lot of customers choose our R+ for an all-around road and gravel bike, and might mix some cyclocross racing in there too.”
Miller also added: “However, we’re seeing more customers choose the R+ for a more bikepacking/adventure oriented bike, and for this setup, the Lauf is absolutely amazing.”
About the only part I would have changed was the Ergon saddle, which is a bit odd since I’ve got along well with Ergon perches in the past. However, this SMA3 version didn’t work for me.
Oh, the ride
Titanium is one of four common bicycle materials, the other three being chromoly, aluminum and carbon. The main difference is the ride, with titanium often described as ‘magical’ and the ‘benchmark for all others’.
Ti also has a certain air or prestige about it, is often touted for never losing its ride quality and is regularly used for custom, bespoke or lifetime bikes. The R+ makes the most of those positives.
Self-proclaimed bike nerd Miller noted: “We make unique bikes that we like to ride, and fortunately other people do too. My goal is to create the best possible products, and we do a crazy amount of real-world and lab testing in order to do this… all of our products are tested to exceed ISO standards and we also do a fair amount of testing above and beyond the standard ISO 9000 tests.”
Limits were tested on the R+, from smooth gravel hardpack, to singletrack, to long forgotten forest roads above 2,800 meters Russell Eich / Immediate Media
With that in mind, I rode the R+ almost everywhere. Everywhere meaning pavement, gravel roads, forest roads and singletrack.
Where I ride in the Rocky Mountains, simple gravel road forays inevitably pass by a lot of trails that wander off into the forest. More often than not, the pull of the woods was too strong and off the gravel I went.
With the carbon fork leading the way, the supple 40mm Maxxis Rambler tires, and the smooth titanium frame, things went surprisingly well on singletrack.
It’s nowhere close to a mountain bike, but on the same token, it was light years more capable than a regular road bike, and more confident and controlled than most cyclocross bikes when nearing the limit of traction and bumpiness.
Back on the road, the aforementioned Rambler tires were the biggest source of drag. They’re easy to swap out though. The frame and fork, as well as the gorgeous Industry Nine hubs and Reynolds carbon rims, had plenty of stiffness to stand on and smash the pedals.
Titanium’s plague of a wallowy or noodley bottom bracket area didn’t impact the R+. Even if it did, the prodigious rear tire/chainstay clearance would likely eliminate any rubbing.
On gravel roads, especially hardpack dirt roads, the R+ absolutely sailed. It was very composed, easy to ride fast, and never did anything unexpected. Being fully rigid at both ends, sure it was bumpy, but also perplexingly smooth at the same time. It was kind of magic.
An Enve cross fork was fitted. A Lauf minimal suspension fork is an option Russell Eich / Immediate Media
Comparing it back to back on the same roads as a Scott Addict Gravel 10 bike, it was shocking how much difference there was.
The R+ was smooth and seemed to shave all the rough edges and nasty vibrations off the ride. The Addict Gravel felt like it always wanted to go faster, as if it’s sole purpose was to go and go, faster and faster. But with that urgency came bone-rattling stiffness.
Why Cycles R+ pricing and availability
The R+ is available now and can be ordered through Why’s site or over the phone. Why gives a 30-day guarantee if you’re not fully satisfied.
Force Carbon Kit: £4,713 / $5,899 / AU$7,732 (based on current exchange rates) with Project 321 hubs and Knight Composites rims
Rival build: £3,355 / $4,199 / AU$5,504 (based on current exchange rates) with Industry Nine aluminum wheels and a Rival build with hydraulic discs
Frame only: £1,638 / $2,050 / AU$2,687 (based on current exchange rates)
Frame + Enve fork: £2,036 / $2,549 / AU$3,341 (based on current exchange rates)
Frame + Lauf fork: £2,196 / $2,749 / AU$3,603 (based on current exchange rates)