When it comes to nice steel bikes, there has always been a divide between the Asian-made frames at an affordable price point, and the USA made frames that typically cost three times more than the imports. Wraith is a new company that wants to challenge that standard, and offer good quality American made frames at a reasonable cost.

Offered at $1,350 including a full carbon fork, it brings the cost of an Ohio-welded Columbus Life and Zona steel within reach for most of the buyers that would typically choose an imported frame (without fork) around the $600-$700 price point.

The greatest part about the Paycheck is that while it is affordable, there are no cut corners. In fact there are even some pretty cool, unique features.  Take a look past the jump to see how it looks at first glance and first ride….


We received the Wraith for testing after the ‘cross season was well over, shortly after posting the news about the brand’s launch. But since the gravel scene has grown out of the upper midwest, and we have had a pretty low snow year, the Paycheck was tested as a gravel bike. As you read this review, keep in mind that the Paycheck is a ‘cross bike, and while a lot of people use cross bikes on the gravel there is a difference in riding types, and can affect how a bike is perceived. With that in mind, the Paycheck is most definitely a cyclocross bike.  It is short in the top tube, high, steep, and has a pretty low overall stack. Because of this, the bike is really not that comfortable for more than an hour, but it is extremely fast handling and responsive, exactly what you would want to suffer for an hour on a taped course.

I took off on the first ride without looking at the geometry chart. After building lots of similar bikes over the years, I did not want any pre-conceived notions influencing my judgement of the bike. Within the first mile, I thought to myself, “wow, this is most certainly a pure cyclocross bike.” The fit and handling of the Columbus Zona machine was very impressive when out of the saddle, as it felt more like a stout alloy frame under torque than a comfortable steel. The short chainstays and steep head angle keeps the overall wheelbase pretty short, so much so that even this large-sized bike had toe overlap with the front wheel and my size 11.5 feet. The only geometry number that didn’t jive with how it feels was the 70mm BB drop, the riding of the bike made it feel much higher.


The paint and graphics were nice and simple. A single color without powdercoat and single color decals are unique and attractive, but not garish. The gray finish is nice because it could be built up understated, or go along with any anodized bling accessories the owner chooses.


Our test bike was delivered with a full SRAM CX1 Hydraulic kit and Novatec CXD disc brake wheelset. This groupset made for an excellent ride that really let the frame shine through, as the kit worked without complaint. The only strange thing to note is that the 58cm test bike was supplied with a 42cm bar. Maybe this was intentional for the tightness of a cyclocross course, but I would prefer a wider bar.

Wraith1 wraith2

One of the most important features to any cyclocross bike is mud clearance. The Paycheck delivers with a smart design that deletes the chainstay bridge for the most mud clearance possible down below, and a gorgeous curved seatstay bridge that gave monstrous amounts of clearance to the 40c tires.

Wraith3 wraith4

Offered as a frame and fork for $1,350, the build spec is up to the purchaser, so I really only have one critical comment for the frame. On both rear dropouts, there was welding cutaway on the upper hoods. This is caused by the welding material removing some of the dropout material, and is typically a sign of going too hot or fast during welding. This small mistake is something that is typically not allowed on the quality control process of imported frames, and should most definitely not be seen on an American made product. Hopefully, this is just a small company using a blemished frame for their review bike. The good news is that in the end, it doesn’t affect how the bike performs, as it’s just a cosmetic flaw, the full weld was completely intact.


It is great to see small companies trying to bring manufacturing back to the USA, and also attempting to change the status quo by getting price competitive with the imported product. $1,350 isn’t cheap, but factoring in that it includes a full carbon fork, there is a pretty good deal to be had. The fork is an open-model imported product from a company called Carbonage, and is the same model that you may see being sold aftermarket by other US companies for around $450 a Whisky No.7 CX Disc fork, which retails for $395. So, if you follow that train of thought, $950 for a US made steel frame is attractive enough that I would highly recommend sending your paycheck in Wraith’s direction.



  1. since when is the absence of metal at a triangulation point cosmetic? since when is evidence of improper welding cosmetic? if all you’re capable of competently commenting on is the race geometry and paint colors, both of which could be reviewed purely by the press release, it was smart of Adam to send you a compromised frame.

  2. why a top pull front derailleur ??
    sizing is a little wacky, slope the TT’s on the smaller sizes. Many people who would need a small are going to have slammed seats with a 53cm ST.
    And the med and med/lrg are basically the same size i dont see the point. And a 56TT as your biggest bike?

    also suspicious of this claimed weight “You wouldn’t expect a frame/fork/headset/collar at this pricepoint to come in at 3.15 lbs.”

    So a carbon disc fork is probably around 380g, headset lets say 60g, seat collar 10g. That leaves 2.15 pounds for a 56cm steel frame? Thats like what carbon road frames weigh. I guessing someone made typo.

    Refine some stuff then that’s a sweet frameset @ $1350

    also get rid of those stupid drop outs, it makes it useless for certain trainers, trailers etc.

  3. just looked at their road sizing too and its is weird. 50.5 TT and 52 ST ??? who is that even for? All leg 5’6″ woman maybe ? Never seen a bike company that didn’t have a size i could at least kind of ride.

  4. $1350 for a 4130 frame and a no-name carbon fork? You can buy a standard Gunnar CrossHairs for $900 using much better quality tubing and without the defective welds. For $1250 you can get the Gunnar made to measure.

  5. Thanks for all of the positive comments and suggestions. Since we work in smaller batches refinements to geometries can always be made. We’ll never be able to satisfy everyone nor have the liquidity short term to increase geometry depth.
    Thanks for noticing the rear dropouts Tim. You called it. Exactly why this frame was put into the demo fleet. Personally have a bike or it’d be mine! 🙂
    Scott, scale shots are on the IG page. While weight is of little concern to me personally, other’s like to know. Columbus Life tubing is the upper end of the Columbus range leading to weight savings.
    We’ve gone through various manufactures of forks in an effort to find enough quantity on hand as the bike are ready to be delivered. We’ve used Enve, Easton and Whiskey on the frames.
    The bike reviewed wears a whiskey No7.
    We’ve been speaking directly to the producers in the far east to circumnavigate the layers of added cost we’re currently being charged. It’s entirely possible and our ultimate goal to have our own non branded fork soon.
    We’re really proud of the first three waves of Wraiths out and about around the world. In the future when we have started to mature we’ll be able to take trainers and trailers into consideration. Right now it’s not a concern. Concerns include redefining value and giving many more folks the ability to buy a nice steel american bicycle. You can always email us with suggestions and questions.


  6. h said, “since when is the absence of metal at a triangulation point cosmetic? since when is evidence of improper welding cosmetic?”

    Since forever. Author got it right in calling it a “blemish”. So the weld filet went right to the edge of the dropout. BFD. Says to me that there was enough heat involved to get good mixing of the base and filler materials.

  7. I like this bike. Two things holding me back from purchasing it. 1) Their largest size (56cm TT) is a bit too small. I’d like to see them offer a bike with a 57ish cm TT. 2) I understand that it’s a CX race bike but I’d really like to see two sets of bosses for water bottle cages.

    @Chris – I believe it’s $1350 for frame and fork.

  8. As Chris mentioned Gunnar makes a solid steel bike. Made in America, been around for a good while. By all means, hats off to Wraith for bringing affordable U.S. made steel frames to the marker. But Gunnar has been in the game for awhile and is a solid option for anyone looking for a quality steel bike.

  9. Don’t know why you guys are b*tching so much – although this is the BR comment section – but nothing wrong with this guys business model or the geometry. Lack of larger sizes is odd, tho. The reviewer is selling it short by saying it’s only good for an hours ride, with 40c rubber on it too. People are getting so used to tall headtubes they don’t know how to react to an aggressive bike.

  10. I ride a Wraith road frame – the Hustle – and I love it. The welds are immaculate and it rides like a dream. Complete bike under 16.5lbs. Also, you won’t find a tapered head tube on a Gunnar, or a Columbus tubeset.

  11. The Crosshairs has much less mud clearance than the Wraith and I wouldn’t call DOM OX Platinum tubing better quality than seamless Columbus Life.

  12. Everyone’s always got something to whine about in the comments. I have a paycheck, it was built by Chris Igleheart, as most of these are. Chris knows what he’s doing, as does Adam. You want a frame that looks like a show bike and you will pay twice as much. These bikes are all business, hand built, and affordable.

  13. “Offered at $1,350 including a full carbon fork, it brings the cost of an Ohio-welded Columbus Life and Zona steel”

    This is an incorrect assumption. The bikes aren’t welded in Ohio. The company is in Ohio, but these frames are batch welded by contractors in the USA. This shouldn’t sway your option about the quality whatsoever though, it’s still a handmade MUSA frame with nice steel.

  14. “Offered at $1,350 including a full carbon fork, it brings the cost of an Ohio-welded Columbus Life and Zona steel”

    If I am not mistaken, the original post has been edited since I made my first comment yesterday. The original article made no mention of Columbus tubing and only mentioned 4130. That’s a completely different story.

  15. “A single color without powdercoat…” is also incorrect. Wraith frames are powdercoated a single color [a sweet looking gray I might add] without a clear coat. You can pay more to have it wet painted in the color of your choice. The powder coat on my Wraith frame is smooth and even with a modest level of gloss to it. Totally utilitarian, cost-effective, quality-where-it-counts, plain old good bike making.

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