Otso Warakin 105 Review ReviewNovember 10, 2017
- Good for bikepacking
- Steel frame offers smoothest ride
- Adjustable chainstay length
- Very wide (21mm inner) rims
- Costly for component group
- Mechanical disc brakes far inferior to hydraulic
- Heavy, especially for the price
The Otso Warakin’s frame is TIG welded, custom-butted austenitic stainless steel making for an elegant look, and a timeless experience. It is immediately apparent when riding the Warakin that ride quality was paramount in the build. Whether a true gravel grinder, or a mixed use bike with touring capability, the Warakin threads the “do anything” needle. With a variety of braze-ons, the Otso can be a light duty tourer, a true gravel warrior, or even out on the roads with some slicks and your Team 7-Eleven jersey. The Warakin frame is pretty stiff with no discernible flex, even when out of the saddle. Yet it has a vibration dampening quality that is undeniable, and goes beyond fat tires and bar tape. Otso’s patent pending Tuning Chip enables 20 millimeters of chainstay length adjustment (functionally moving the rear wheel fore/aft at a slight angle). This changes the overall geometry of the bike slightly, transforming it from a longer stable gravel monster to a quick and perky cyclocross machine.
At 23 pounds, the 105 version of the Warakin is a reasonably light bike. There is good compliance in the frame where you want it, and stiffness in the bottom bracket, wheels and bar where you don’t. Shimano 105 cranks make for a plenty stiff platform and there is no noticeable sway in the frame or fork during an out-of-saddle sprint.
When climbing on the Warakin you immediately appreciate the quality of the build. The 71.5 head tube angle feels slack, but not overly relaxed. The 565 effective top tube length is stretched, without feeling too long. Shimano 105 11-speed cranks are stiff. The Lithic Corundum handlebar featuring 16 degrees of flare is a stiff and enjoyable bar under hand, adding to the in/out of the saddle climbing pleasure. The FSA Omega stem is also robust. Shorten the Tuning Chip adjustment, and the Warakin is a much livelier ride, albeit less so on the climb.
The carbon fiber front fork that is stiff, 40c Schwalbe G-One tires, a longish top tube with a stiff and stable bar all come together to make for a confident downhill ride. The Shimano CX77 mechanical brakes disappoint on the downhill: they’re noisy with sub-standard braking power. With the Tuning Chip in the longest effective wheel base setting, the Warakin refused to drift in the corners, move the Chip forward and the characteristics transform into a nimbler ride, though less stable on high-speed gravel downhill.
Components: Drivetrain, Shifting and Brakes
Shimano’s 105 11-speed drivetrain and derailleurs feature reasonably crisp shifting. When riding bikes side by side, testers really noticed the difference in shifting between 105 and Ultegra: The Ultegra is smoother, requiring considerably less effort at the shifter, and results in crisper gear changes. The other feature immediately noticeable is the Warakin’s Shimano CX77 mechanical (cable) disc brakes versus the Ultegra’s hydraulic discs. The upgrade to hydraulic is well worth it when available. The Shimano mechanical disc brakes greatly lack the power needed for off-road riding, especially when fully laden with gear. There’s also far inferior modulation, and one-finger braking is not an option at speed. There are good mechanical brakes to be sure, but unfortunately the Shimano CX77 mechanical brakes spec’d on the Warakin with 105 perform poorly even by mechanical brake standards.
Lithic Beryl hubs spinning Lithic 21 mm (internal width) rims come stock on the 105 Warakin. The hubs are of reasonable quality, and the rims performed well across all testing, though they are not the lightest set up. One of the calling cards of the Warakin is the ability to run wider tires, which is valuable indeed. Our wheels were wrapped with 40mm G-Ones, however the bike comes typically with Schwalbe Sammy Slick 35 mm – but with the Tuning Chip set all the way back, the wheels and frame can accommodate tires up to 50 mm, which is extremely wide for this category.
At $2,900 the Warakin with Shimano 105 is certainly not an inexpensive bike, and is the highest priced in this group. However the ability to change positions through the Tuning Chip makes it more versatile. It is a gravel monster, a light touring-capable bike, and it could easily handle a cyclocross race — herein lies its added value.Continue Reading
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.