State Bicycle Company 6061 Black Label All-Road review: A little too cheap

State has a strong reputation for great value, but there’s just too much cost-cutting here to make the All-Road an enjoyable bike.

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Story Highlights

  • What it is:State’s stab at a low-priced gravel bike that’s designed to offer a lot of performance for the money.
  • Frame features:TIG-welded 6061 aluminum construction, flat-mount front and rear disc brake mounts, 12 mm front and rear thru-axles, partially internal cable routing, press-fit bottom bracket, integrated and tapered head tube, full-carbon fork.
  • Weight: 10.37 kg (22.86 lb), as tested, small size, without pedals or accessories.
  • Price:US$1,400 / AU$NA / £NA / €NA.
  • Highs:Good frame stiffness and ride quality, confident handling, elegant aesthetics, full-carbon fork, great tires, generally solid spec on paper.
  • Lows:Dangerous mechanical disc brakes, leaky rim, overly cheap finishing kit, poor overall build quality.

For more than a decade now, State Bicycle Company has earned a solid reputation for offering lots of bike for not a lot of money. Although the brand first got its foot in the door in fixies and singlespeeds, State has more recently decided to move upscale into more performance-oriented models like the 6061 Black Label All-Road model being reviewed here. 

I had a good experience with the brand’s Undefeated Road model early last year, and at less than half the cost, its 6061 Black Label All-Road seemed to tick all the boxes for this year’s Field Test grouping. It’s wonderfully inexpensive for what it offers on paper, it looks good, and the geometry seems well thought out. But unfortunately, a lot of key details fall well short of the mark, so much so that this is one of the only bikes we’ve ever tested that we’d characterize as borderline-dangerous to ride.

Meet the All-Road

State follows a solid formula in building the frame for the 6061 Black Label All-Road frame (a name that’s entirely too cumbersome, so I’ll just refer to it as the “All-Road” from here on out).

It’s TIG-welded from 6061 aluminum, and the tubing is mostly nominally round and modestly oversized, with the exception being the dramatically pinched and tapered top tube. The sculpted rear dropouts give the appearance of a fully hollow piece (even though they’re not), and the integrated headset on the 1 1/8-to-1 1/2″ tapered head tube lends a nicely finished look up front. 

State did a great job in crafting the lines of the 6061 Black Label All-Road’s aluminum frame.

Flat-mount disc-brake interfaces are featured front and rear, along with tooled 12 mm thru-axles, and cable routing is internal through the down tube (but refreshingly external otherwise), with lines exiting through a big opening just ahead of the press-fit bottom bracket. Front and rear fender mounts are included, too, although there are just two bottle mounts in the usual locations. 

Quite impressively for this price, the fork is a full-carbon unit that’s heaps lighter than anything with an aluminum steerer that you’d usually find here. There’s also an optional “Monster Fork” upgrade for US$190 that adds three-pack mounts on each leg and another hole at the crown for a rack or light.

Tire clearance is very generous, with the All-Road officially approved for 700c tires up to 45 mm-wide, or 650b ones up to 50 mm. SBC doesn’t even force you into one or the other, as the All-Road is offered both ways — and if you don’t want to choose at all, you can get the other setup fully configured (as in, wheels, tires, rotors, and cassette) for just US$400.

Officially, there’s room front and rear for 700×45 mm tires.

Geometry-wise, the All-Road is also pretty straightforward. State only offers the All-Road in four sizes, each of which is fairly long front and rear, with rangy 435 mm chainstays and wheelbase figures that start at 1,015 mm and stretch all the way up to 1,035 mm. Stability is clearly the name of the game here, although the 68 mm bottom bracket drop at least suggests a modicum of CX-like agility when flicking back and forth through a series of corners.

Stack and reach figures are also about average for a typical gravel bike, being a hair shorter in reach than a comparably sized road racing bike, and also a few millimeters higher in stack. That yields a slightly more upright riding position, though there’s still some leeway for getting reasonably aggressive should you choose to do so.

Claimed frame weight ranges from 1,816 g (4.0 lb) for the XS size, up to 2,157 g (4.75 lb) for the  large. Claimed weight for the standard all-carbon fork is 445 g (0.98 lb).

In terms of spec, you won’t find a whole bunch of recognizable brand names here, as just about everything wears a State logo on it. 

The wheels feature tubeless-compatible double-walled aluminum rims with a 19 mm internal width, laced with 14g straight stainless steel spokes and brass nipples to State-branded aluminum hubs with cartridge bearings throughout. The actual manufacturer? Your guess is as good as mine. But there’s no guessing required with the tires, which for our 700c tester, came from Vittoria in the form of surprisingly high-end Terreno Zero 38 mm-wide tubeless-ready clinchers. 

The Vittoria Terreno Zero tubeless-ready tires are a surprisingly premium spec in what’s otherwise an extremely value-oriented build kit.

The 1×11 transmission is easier to figure out than the wheels. Although it’s all also emblazoned with the State logo, the “clutched” rear derailleur (more on that in a bit) and integrated brake/shift levers are clearly made by Sensah, a well-known Chinese brand that seems to specialize in direct-to-consumer sales. The levers operate the same way as SRAM’s DoubleTap system, although in this case, the whole brake lever blade swings inward: just a little for harder gears, further inward for easier ones.

The cassette offers a fairly wide 11-42T range, and the forged aluminum crank sports a single 42T narrow-wide aluminum chainring for a 1:1 climbing gear. The chain is supplied by YBN.

Brakes are another mystery, comprising basic cable-actuated flat-mount mechanical disc calipers with single-piston movement and 160 mm six-bolt steel rotors front and rear (although I can’t confirm the manufacturer, I found a set that looks nearly identical on Amazon that retails for US$34 per pair). Although the calipers themselves look rather basic, they still incorporate independent adjustment for both the inboard and outboard pads — which is actually pretty rare — along with integrated barrel adjusters and bellows-type cable seals to help keep contaminants from making their way up into the housing.

Who actually makes these brakes? It’s a mystery.

Finishing kit is also State-branded, including a very compact-bend and lightly flared aluminum handlebar, a forged aluminum stem with a four-bolt faceplate, and a single-bolt aluminum seatpost (31.6 mm-diameter) secured in the frame with a conventional aluminum clamp and topped with a Fizik Arione knockoff saddle. 

Total weight for our small-sized sample was 10.37 kg / 22.86 lb without pedals or accessories. Retail cost? An attainable US$1,400 (State doesn’t sell the All-Road outside of the United States, so official pricing in other currencies isn’t available).

Hitting the road — quite literally — and beyond

Consumer-direct bikes are often some of the most interesting to review as they’re less constrained than major brands when it comes to using major-label stuff, and they seem more willing to be a little more adventurous with spec in order to save a few bucks. The results aren’t always for the better, but when someone nails it, it’s always uplifting to see a tiny brand figure out how to offer someone a great bike at a lower price than what you might find from a better-known outfit.

This State All-Road, however, doesn’t quite get there.

Let’s start with the good stuff here first, eh?

The frame actually seems pretty decent. The ride quality is rather average, although that’s hardly a bad thing given the cost. It’s reasonably comfortable on a wide range of ground surfaces, although bigger impacts still deliver a pretty good kick through the thick-walled and oversized seatpost (a slimmer one would be better). Steering is precise and solid, and although there isn’t a whole lot of massaging going on with the frame tubes, the All-Road is nevertheless reassuringly stout when you mash on the pedals. 

It looks good, no?

The handling definitely sticks to the more stable end of things. The steering geometry is responsive enough, and the All-Road doesn’t require you to aggressively push the inward side of the bars down into the corner to initiate a turn. From there, though, that long back end really kicks in to slow things down. Overall, the All-Road is tossable enough, but it’s generally more content to take it steady. If you’re one to shut your brain off during a ride and instead prefer to just keep the pedals turning while you enjoy the scenery, there’s plenty to like here.

We also noted the bike’s generally premium aesthetics. The dark green paint shimmers in bright sunlight, and the black logos are subtly hidden, almost as if State is sufficiently confident in its brand at this point that it doesn’t need to visually shout to the world who it is. It’s a good-looking bike.

The Sensah transmission genuinely surprised us with its competence. Although the shifter action itself is identical to SRAM DoubleTap, the feel is quite different. The action is lighter with less tactility to the clicks, and the whole thing feels a bit less precise in general. Because the whole brake lever swings for shifting, it’s also just as easy to change gears from the drops as it is from the hoods. Speaking of which, the hood shape was generally well received, too, with a meaty, tapered body that offers plenty of girth for your fingers to wrap around, and a nicely textured rubber cover that’s comfy even without gloves.

The Sensah rear derailleur looks like it has a pulley cage clutch, but it’s actually just an adjustable spring tension.

Chain movement is reliable and consistent for both upshifts and downshifts, and the drivetrain runs pretty quietly. We noted some flexiness in larger cassette sprockets, but it was really only noticeable when shifting under particularly heavy load.

That rear derailleur “clutch” wasn’t really much of a clutch, though. Instead, it’s just an adjustable spring tension on the pulley cage. We maxed it out for testing, but even then, there was more chain bouncing than we would have preferred. Nevertheless, none of our testers ever dropped a chain, even on rougher sections of trail that were littered with bigger rocks and roots.

And what are these tires doing on a bike this inexpensive? The Vittoria Terreno Zero tires were definitely a standout here, offering a noticeably fast roll, excellent grip on tarmac, and impressively reasonable purchase on hardpacked dirt. The nearly-slick tread pattern obviously is outside of its comfort zone on loose surfaces, but even then, it wasn’t as bad as we expected.

I genuinely liked these shifters.

So what was bad on the All-Road, you ask? Unfortunately, just about everything else.

Although the tires were great, the wheels were anything but. In particular, the front rim had a hole at the (non-welded) seam that was so big that it absolutely refused to seal until we loaded the tubeless sealant up with a bunch of clothing lint (graciously donated by our rental house’s dryer filter). It wasn’t some weird one-off, either, as we heard from plenty of owners — and certainly shop mechanics — who’d had similar issues with their All-Road wheels, too. 

Granted, it’s not at all unusual to see a pinned seam in an aluminum rim for a bike this inexpensive. But for the edges of the extrusion to be so rough that the rim won’t even hold air doesn’t exactly inspire confidence about the overall quality. It’s something we’ve never experienced at CyclingTips, including on the US$800 Triban RC120 we also tested at Field Test.

That sealant you see there? It’s leaking through a gaping hole in the seam of the rim. From what we’ve heard, this isn’t exactly a one-off occurrence, either.

Speaking of which, that Triban also blew the State out of the water in terms of braking performance. Both bikes featured simple single-piston mechanical disc-brake calipers, but whereas the ones on the Triban worked very well, the ones on the State were so bad that we all eventually refused to ride the bike any more than necessary for testing. They were that bad — and it wasn’t just related to initial assembly or tuning, either.

Spring tension was brutally high on the caliper arm, and even after lubing the cable, there was so much friction in the cable and housing that none of us felt comfortable using anything less than two fingers on the brake lever — preferably four. And even when the brakes did engage, they were so grabby that it was nearly impossible to come to a consistently controlled stop without undue jerkiness or even skidding. 

That crash reel we’ve shown in a couple of the videos from Field Test so far? I may poke some fun at CyclingTips senior tech editor Dave Rome from time to time, but that wreck was absolutely due to the crummy brakes on the State. Coaster brakes on kids’ bikes work better than these things, which should be banished from the planet, never to be seen again.

“It’s hard to articulate just how bad these brakes were,” Dave said. “I was getting muscle fatigue on the shortest of descents while still feeling like I was out of control. A good disc brake should allow for easy one-finger braking; these required three.”

The mechanical disc brakes were far and away the worst feature of the 6061 Black Label All-Road.

Even with the understanding that this was a budget bike, so much of the ancillary kit was just woefully chintzy. The edges of the stem faceplate were very crudely finished, for example, and although the bend of the drops was perfectly acceptable, the bend up top used such a large radius that it dramatically decreased the effective width of the bar.

The serrations on the seatpost cradle were also too rough to get an ideal angle on the seatpost, and even then, I’m not sure it would’ve mattered since the saddle was so brutally uncomfortable. Not one of us deemed it even mildly acceptable. If you’re going to mimic a high-end saddle, why choose one that so many performance-minded riders already can’t sit on without feeling like their pelvis is being split in two?

And finally, there’s the matter of build quality. Consumer-direct bikes can — and often do — offer superb value, but a lot of that is also reliant on the bike arriving at your doorstep fully tuned and mostly ready to ride. 

Our State All-Road, however, arrived with a horribly bent rear brake rotor and a rear derailleur hanger that was even more mangled (the box looked completely fine, FYI, so this seems to be more a matter of poor packaging design and padding than mishandling). As already mentioned, the brake cable and housing are unacceptably cheap, there was way too much inner cable sticking out past the caliper clamps (excess cable can get caught in the rotor), and neither brake was adjusted well in general. Even the bar tape was wrapped from the top instead of the ends, which would invariably lead to some gnarly unraveling in short order.

The bar tape looks good, but that’s only because I re-wrapped it.

In fairness, this is the sort of thing many consumer-direct brands will cover if a bike arrives at your door in less-than-ideal condition and you need to tap the expertise of a shop mechanic to sort out. Likewise, State would have provided a new front wheel to replace our leaky one. But should you have to resort to either one? I’d argue no, and no shop mechanic was going to make these brakes work as well as they should.

A nope sandwich

That’s how my eight-year-old described a dance class she attended with a friend the other day, and it’s unfortunately the first thing that came to mind when I was figuring out a one-line descriptor for the State All-Road. 

Are these criticisms overly harsh? Sure, the All-Road isn’t exactly going after the premium end of the market here, but to most people, US$1,400 is still a lot of money. Particularly when you consider the Triban RC120 was barely half the cost and was a better bike overall, it’s harder to give State a pass. Inexpensive and/or heavy parts? Fine. But non-functional ones? That’s just unacceptable.

“On paper, this bike ticks all the right boxes and it’s easy to see why so many find this model appealing,” Dave said. “However, having now ridden one, there are too many blatant cost-cutting decisions that haven’t just created a so-so-performing bike, but one that’s potentially dangerous, too.”

There’s a decent bike in there somewhere, but State Bicycle Company definitely needs to fish for some better-quality parts (and better assembly quality, too).

The frustrating part of all of this is that the All-Road really should have a lot going for it. But unfortunately, there are just too many glaring errors in the execution for us to recommend this to anyone. 

Sorry, State, but that’s a no from us.

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CyclingTips Field Test group bike tests are never paid for by the brands that make those bikes, but they’re still only possible with some outside assistance. CyclingTips would like to thank Assos for their generous support of this year’s Field Test.

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