FoundryOverlandReview2015-1

With the ever expanding presence of cyclists taking to gravel roads, an equally expanding range of bicycles is complimenting this rapidly growing segment of the market. Manufacturers of all sizes are producing a gravel bike, with design features and sometimes frame materials, differing greatly.

Foundry Cycles of Bloomington, Minnesota, is a subsidiary of Quality Bicycle Products, the largest distributor of bicycle products in the United States. At Foundry, the mantra “Racing Matters”, means something real. Racing, coupled with research, testing and good design, boded well in our first impressions of the Foundry Overland. Since that time, we’ve put the Overland through the wringer.

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The Overland differs from many of today’s bicycles, in that the frame is constructed from 3AL/2.5V Titanium, a departure from the trend of carbon. Titanium is enjoying a renaissance these days, and is the near perfect material for a true gravel bike. Rather than leaving the Overland naked, Foundry dressed it up with a semi-gloss paint treatment along the top side, perfectly complimenting the Whisky #9 CX thru axle fork. The paint is akin to fitting the bike with a nicely tailored suit – sharp.

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There are no disappointments in the ride quality of the Overland. From its wheelbase, fork and compliant chainstays, the Overland laps up rough gravel roads and provides a comfortable, stable and predictable ride. It corners with confidence and is perfectly at home on a long, technical descent, or local group road ride with fast road tires; something I did on more than one occasion. The Overland garnered plenty of attention from fellow cyclists, visually it is a treat.

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If you’ve wrenched on your own bike, you’re aware of the pitfalls of internal derailleur cable routing – gunked up cable liners that invariably cause shifting drag. The Overland features external cable routing, providing you’ve installed a mechanical drivetrain. External, fully-housed cables are a huge positive in my book, simply for the ease of maintenance. Electronic drivetrains are catered to, courtesy of the ports located at appropriate points along the frame.

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The stock build of the Overland is kitted out with SRAM’s Force 22 hydraulic brake drivetrain, Zipp Service Course stem, handlebars and seatpost, DT Swiss R24 DB Spline wheels, Cane Creek headset and Clement MXP 700c x 33mm folding tires. Stock saddle by Velo. Bottle cages and pedals are not included.

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Drivetrain performance was flawless, attributed to the professional assembly by the blokes at Foundry. The SRAM Force hydraulic brakes performed beyond my expectations. Excellent modulation and the best brake lever feel I’ve encountered to date with road / cyclocross hydraulic brakes. There is no vague, empty hyperspace feeling on the initial lever stroke -the time between squeezing the lever and brake pads engaging the rotor- the brakes feel akin to a well configured set of road caliper brakes, but with more power.

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Thru axles front and rear provide secure attachment of the wheels to frame and fork, and help stiffen against braking forces.

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The Whiskey #9 CX fork sports a recess at the bottom of the fork legs, to aid with alignment of the front wheel during installation. This is a very nice touch. Typically, swapping wheels on a thru axle fork can be an exercise in juggling.

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The DT Swiss R24 DB Spline wheels roll nicely, but their low 24 spoke count front and rear, and proprietary straight pull bladed spokes, aren’t a good match for a gravel bike. I would prefer a higher spoke handbuilt wheelset, assembled from parts that are easily attainable from a local bike shop, should a breakage occur. With road tires fitted at 90psi front and rear, the DT R24 wheels were a little harsh for my liking. In their defense, they rode nicely on dirt and gravel roads, helped by the bigger tires and lower air pressure. On the positive, they remained perfectly true and hub engagement was rapid.

Clement’s MXP 700c x 33mm tire may be good for cyclocross, but they’re too narrow for gravel and sandy roads when the going gets deep. A pair of 40mm tires would be the ticket to gravel success. Despite this, the MXP’s are fast on most dirt, gravel and pavement surfaces, with excellent grip when cornering.

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For the duration of the review period, Zipp’s Service Course handlebar, stem and seatpost were set and forget. No issues, no complaints. Bear in mind these parts may require substitution at your Foundry dealer for optimal fit. I opted for a longer stem and setback seatpost over the stock units supplied. Likewise, I swapped the stock Velo saddle for my preferred saddle, the Fizik Arione. Like many things in life, saddles are a personal choice, and the Velo didn’t agree with me.

Finally, and this is not an issue reflective of the Foundry Overland, but most gravel bikes in existence today. While the Overland’s 41mm of tire clearance is enough for most gravel cycling, it isn’t optimal for tricky UltraCross events such as Iron Cross, Savage Cross or Hilly Billy Roubaix, where wider tires are better. Wider tires provide a real measure of safety descending gnarly gravel roads, where fist sized gravel chunks are common. At minimum, I would like to see clearance for a 1.8″ tire on a bike like the Foundry. That is perfectly attainable without resorting to goofy angles, or chainstays requiring MTB cranksets to clear them.

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These minor niggles aside, the Overland is a bike I do not want to return. Its sublime ride was appreciated during my recent recovery from a broken clavicle – as in I was riding way too early post injury – not recommended! Unfortunately, I cannot vouch for the Overland’s performance on a cyclocross race course, but I suspect it would perform favorably.

Priced at $US 4,695.00 for a complete bike with the above-referenced build, Foundry’s Overland is a fantastic do-it-all bicycle. Alternatively, you can build it yourself beginning with the frame and fork for $US 2,495.00.

Photos and article by Gravel Cyclist.
Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.

FoundryCycles.com

26 COMMENTS

  1. “At minimum, I would like to see clearance for a 1.8″ tire on a bike like the Foundry. That is perfectly attainable without resorting to goofy angles, or chainstays requiring MTB cranksets to clear them.”

    Dumb! Reviewer clearly has no idea what he is talking about, you would either need a super long chain stay length or some crazy chain stay plate / elevated CS, etc.

  2. I still don’t understand why these bikes go “weight weeenie” and forgo rack mounts in the rear on a bike that sans used by a dedicated professional gravel racer, will be an “all-around” bike. What was saved, 150 grams?

  3. also worth mentioning that 1.8″ is ~46mm so we’re not talking about massive changes or anything – and this goes BOTH ways to design and the reviewer.

  4. Agreed, what’s a “super long” chain stay anyway and why is it bad for this type of bike? It’s not as though this bike has short chain stays or that you’d want them…except for gravel crit racing of course.

  5. elvis – a 46mm tire is huge (25% more cross sectional area) compared to a 41mm tire.
    From a frame standpoint, its 2.5mm give or take. From a tire volume standpoint its huge, while its not huge from a bike designer standpoint (at least for a bike like this). The line needs to be drawn somewhere though and I am sure someone will say it needs 2.2 in. tires.

  6. Its super dumb to pain a TI bike that’s gonna be ridden on gravel. Paint does not stay on titanium. Unless they have some magic sauce, this thing will have chips all over it after an hour of riding in gravel. Outside of that, cool bike

  7. “Those wanting bigger tires and short stays should check out Monstercrosser … Room for 45c tires, disc brakes, and 440mm chain stays.”

    Don’t know how short 440mm stays are to a rider who thinks that’s important for this class of bike.

    The Moots Route 45 supports 45mm tires and a road double/triple but has 450mm stays. It also fits a 650B x 2.0″ tire in the rear with a 40mm rim (although I only know of one tire that size). 2.2″ tires fit using narrower rim widths so long as it’s 650B (which you should wantfor proper BB height with the larger tire anyway). The Moots is somewhat costlier but supports full custom and is sexy. Can’t see why anyone would prefer this over the Moots.

  8. I looked in the Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale catalogs. Cyclocross and gravel bikes are different. Please correct the article to reflect that you will need two bikes to tackle these types of wildly different riding.

  9. My gravel bike has 470mm chain stays. Fit’s 700 x 45mm tires (with fenders) with ample mud clearance and can run any crankset. Or it can fit 650b x 50c with fenders. And the chainstays are round not ovalised so it rides really nice.

    Making the frame rear centre longer means that for any given bump size that the rear wheel goes over, the rider is displaced less vertically. This means more comfort and more speed as less forward momentum is lost due to the vertical weight shift of the rider. It puts the rider weight more central on the bike. Think of being in a long wheelbase luxury car vs a short wheelbase hatchback.

    As soon as the industry gets over it’s current 25 year obsession with short chain stays, the sooner we will have better riding bikes (both more comfortable and with even better working drivetrains). Trail orientated mountain bikes and trials bikes perhaps being the two exceptions to this.

  10. Veganpotter I asked one of the guys at my bike shop the same thing about painting Ti and what he said was that they do it to blend in the black colored fork. We both have a Gen 2 Fargo Ti and he painted his steel fork a gun metal gray while I got the gray niner fork and they both seam to match the Ti very well. Me personally I would paint the carbon fork to match the frame because it gives it a clean look

  11. I guess I am just stupid, but I am gonna say it anyway. Gravel bike = ‘cross bike. Case in point: 2012 Ridley X Night, I ride that silly thing for an hour at lungburster pace on my local ‘cross park, then go ride 130km of wildly mixed surface (50km paved, 70 km downgraded jeep track / double track, 15 km single track). I don’t see the ‘cross specificity in my 5 hour slog any more than in the 1 hour sufferfest… Somebody do some ‘splaining, because I don’t see it. Nice looking bike BTW

  12. @carbonfoder

    If you were going to look at the differences, a true cross race bike would have a slightly higher BB, from 60-70mm drop to give the pedals more clearance on deep mud and to make hopping obstacles easier.

    The gravel bike would be 70-5mm BB drop. A cross bike would be lower in the head tube while the gravel bike would be taller for a higher stem position.

    The gravel bike should have longer chain stays for more comfort, stability, and to fit fenders. The cross bike needs to keep them shorter to keep weight over the rear wheel for traction in mud and up slippery climbs.

    Of course on a cross race bike not only do you not need, but you do not want all the extra braze-ons for bottles, fenders, racks etc as they are points to collect mud.

    A cross race bike works best with a horizontal or close to horizontal top tube for shouldering the bike easily (somewhat size dependent of course), whereas a gravel bike could have a sloping top tube.

    And finally a gravel bike is not a gravel bike unless its given a silly tag like “gravel grinder”.

    I heard some states are looking at passing a law that only allows bikes approved by the UCI as designated gravel bikes to be used on gravel roads due to safety concerns. As soon as rider goes on to a sealed road section they must be on an “Endurance Road Bike”.

  13. Have a nor of threshold. It is my cross bike, my gravel bike, and my road bike. Running 28mm road tires works wonderful for road and gravel. Have cross tires for cross racing.

  14. These TI bikes must be pretty heavy because every review excludes the weight of the bike. Can you put it on a scale please?

  15. @Mindless – or you had an injury like a spinal fluid leak where true singletrack MTB is no longer an option. Thanks for understanding!

    I’ve got a Niner RLT. It has clearance for 44mm tires (or a 1.75″ 29er. I don’t get why 46mm seems crazy?

  16. “As soon as the industry gets over it’s current 25 year obsession with short chain stays, the sooner we will have better riding bikes (both more comfortable and with even better working drivetrains). Trail orientated mountain bikes and trials bikes perhaps being the two exceptions to this.”

    Well said Craig. I’d add that even mountain bikes were not historically obsessed with short stays. 26ers never had stays as short as possible since handling was compromised. It’s only with the early 29ers that CS lengths became long and the focus shifted to believing that shorter is better. 650B fit into 26er frames because they always had ample stays.

    Short stays on a gravel bike are ridiculous.

    Agreed on the differences between gravel and cross as well. Longer wheelbases, less bar drop, lower bottom brackets, more generous tire clearance, more relaxed handling. Like many road bikes, cross bike are designed for racing and are not as well suited to what many do as a result.

  17. Awesome bike!But regarding geometry…does it fall in between a typical cross and gravel bike? Is that why it can work pretty well for both?

  18. Apparently everyone who isn’t interested in the things mindless is interested is a wuss. We truly do live in an enlightened age.

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