OTSO Voytek ReviewMay 5, 2017
- Lighter than most
- XC Feel
- Rides like a Plus and a Fat
- No quick release rear axle
- Rear traction an issue on seated climbs
- Tires not grippy enough in snow
The OTSO Voytek is a hard tail fat bike that blurs the lines into a plus size bike. Otso focused on a narrowing of the “Q factor,” which is bike-geek for the distance between the pedals. Generally less narrow is better, and fat bikes typically have wide Q factors to accommodate getting the chain by the fat tires. Narrower is better for pedaling through corners, hence the XC feel; it's also more efficient. The impact of some XC thinking is a bike that isn’t quite fat- and resides in a category of its own—a category we liked!
If a 4-season rider asked me what single bike to buy for rear round enjoyment, the Voytek would be top of my list. It is in a class by itself with 4 inch tires, 100mm of front suspension, and a hard tail. The Voytek is positioning itself as the quiver killer: the one bike that can do it all. In the snow testing the Voytek offered less traction and float than others, whenever the snow wasn’t perfectly packed, but it hooked up well on hard pack holding an edge well in off camber situations. On the trail, it rides more like a plus-sized bike, which is a high compliment. At 28 lbs, the Voytek really can do it all, better than most.
A carbon hardtail bike with a low Q-factor and 4-inch tires should perform well in this area, and the Voytek does. There is no flex in the set up, and if it were not for the forgiving ride of the Terrene Wazia Light tires, it could error on the side of too stiff. Race Face Aeffect cranks with 175mm arms came on our ride, with a 32t Wolf Tooth CAMO front ring, and Race Face bottom bracket. There is no wiggle here. Some of the vicious efficiency reared its head on the climb where getting the rear tire to grip was challenging. Learning tire pressures on the 4 inch tubes is required to maximize traction through mixed surfaces.
The Voytek features a carbon frame and stiff aluminum cranks, and while not the lightest bike we rode, it climbs efficiently. Rear wheel traction was an issue on dry surfaces and especially difficult on cruddy snow. Tire pressure almost certainly played a role, and learning the pressures for mixed snow and dirt conditions is critical on a bike of this nature. The cockpit was typically open with a wide FSA aluminum bar and FSA Omega short stem making for good climbing posture, and the lack of weight was an added benefit.
Narrower bottom bracket width enables the rider to pedal through corners on the Voytek which, when paired with the 4-inch Wazias, gives the bike a more XC feel. The RockShox Bluto with 100mm of travel is stiff torsional yet compliant enough to smooth out the rougher edges on trails. Not a big hit fork, but perfectly matched with a large tire size for smoothing the rocks and snow. The geometry of the bike is balanced for climbing and descending, yet we felt confident on some abrupt drops riding the Voytek, which is due to the 69-degree head tube angle, 26-inch wheel size, and large front tire with suspension.
Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
Shimano XT shifter, derailleur (rear only) and chain work together to provide the crisp shift that is discernibly XT. Light pressure for action, quality shift and solid performance was our experience. The Shimano XT cassette 11-42 chained to a 31 tooth front ring felt a bit challenging on the steep climbs/rotten snow efforts. Shimano XT MB8000 brakes were spec’d as well. These brakes continue to impress in terms of stopping distance, lever action and are quiet.
The Voytek features tubeless ready 70mm lithic Rhyolite rims of aluminum rolling on DT Swiss 350 hubs. DT Swiss hubs are always a nice touch, and the wheels stayed true through some relative abuse and true mixed surface riding.
Voytek has blurred the lines between a fat bike and a plus size tire mountain bike, and as such $4,000 without suspension and $4,200 with suspension seems very reasonable for this bike. For some this will be a year-round rig that does everything adequately, and considering it replaces two or three other bikes at that price, it seems an excellent value.
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.