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Premium drop-bar brands, Allied and OPEN, have both announced the launch today of new gravel bikes. Both are designed to meet the growing demand for ever-expanding tyre sizes. Both are pitched at the upper end of the market. Both are 1x specific. Both have shouty ALL-CAPS names. And both feature eye-catching chainstay geometry, in a bid to increase tyre clearance without affecting snappiness.
So what are the two brands offering?
The OPEN WI.DE
OPEN were one of the originators of the gravel bike segment, with the release of their U.P. (Unbeaten Path) ushering in an era of 700c/650b cross-compatibility, along with the now reasonably common sight of a dropped driveside chainstay. The brand expanded their offering with the lighter-weight U.P.P.E.R. and New U.P., which updated the frameset to flat mount instead of post-mount disc standards.
The newly released WI.DE (Winding Detour) will sit in the range alongside the U.P. family, offering greater tyre clearance and what the brand describes as a focus on “allroad-gravel-extreme rides” in comparison to the U.P’s “road-allroad-gravel spectrum”. Tyre clearance pushes out to 2.4” while still offering “a performance road position for the rider and [fitting] narrow road cranks”, according to company co-founder Andy Kessler.
OPEN have doubled down on the dropped chainstay of the U.P., with both sides now dipping to allow greater chainring and tyre clearance while staying short at 420mm.
Gerard Vroomen, OPEN co-founder and WI.DE designer, explains that the dropped chainstays “create a very efficient box structure for the monostay behind the BB”, reducing weight and increasing tyre clearance. The increase in tyre width means that the WI.DE is 1x specific, unlike the U.P. which could accommodate both 1x and 2x drivetrains.
There are mild geometry changes, including a taller headtube, and the addition of a new extra small framesize. The frameset also comes equipped with a mounting point under the bottom bracket for a toolbox, adaptor-free mounting for disc calipers front and rear, and provision to mount OPEN’s as yet unreleased De-Fender mudguard system, due late 2019.
Frameset price is US$2,900. Find out more at OPEN’s website.
Arkansas-based Allied Cycle Works have a multi-surface bike already, the Alfa AllRoad, but with tyre clearance for that model topping out at 700x38mm, the company admits that “when things get really rowdy it leaves a little to be desired.”
The ABLE, which the company is unveiling to coincide with this weekend’s Dirty Kanza, “tilts more towards the ‘mountain skinny’ end of the gravel spectrum”, according to Allied. Like the OPEN WI.DE, the ABLE manages to squeeze in a larger tyre without blowing out chainstay length; its rear centre is also 420mm. Allied’s approach to this engineering problem is by elevating the chainstay, however, rather than dropping it.
It’s not a common approach these days, but the raised chainstay was a regular sight on mountain bikes of the early ‘90s from brands including Nishiki and Mantis.
In the case of the Allied ABLE, that allows rear tyre clearance to expand out to 700×43/650×47 (rear), with the Allied fork able to handle 700×47/650×55. The frameset is 1x specific, and designed with an increase in mounting points – three bottle cages, top-tube mounting for a bento box, and hidden fender mounts.
There are also several changes to the geometry compared to Allied’s road and AllRoad platforms. These moves with a view to increase stability and performance off-road, including a slacker head angle (71 degrees) and a slightly taller stack.
All frames are built in-house in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the company is headquartered. Following a messy internal management struggle and the layoff of 15 staff members this week, Allied will doubtless be hoping that the ABLE helps give the company a boost going into summer.
Allied is offering the ABLE in three complete builds: Force 1 at US$5,299, Force AXS for US$7,400, and a range-topping Red AXS for US$9,499. Find out more at Allied’s website.
A day for weird chainstays
It’s early in the new season’s release cycle, but today’s release of both the ABLE and the WI.DE speaks volumes for the trends informing the gravel space.
Tyre size continues to push outward. Dual compatibility for 650b/700c is increasingly widespread. People want to carry stuff, and they want bikes that will perform capably on a diverse range of surfaces. The unconventional chainstay arrangements we see here might be a shake-up, but don’t be surprised if these bikes foreshadow market trends into 2020.