The idea of a bike that is capable of running different tire sizes to cover multiple disciplines is very appealing. But far too often, that idea falls short of reality as manufactures fail to address the effect that differences in tire height have on bottom bracket height and handling.
That’s one of the reasons I like Otso’s bikes so much. Their Tuning Chip adjustable dropout system not only adjusts the wheel base, but it simultaneously adjusts the bottom bracket height. That means the bike rides like it should, even as you change tires.
I also happen to really like titanium frames, so when I heard that Otso had a new version of their Warakin All-Road/Gravel/Dropbar MTB coming out in Ti, I couldn’t wait to give it a spin.
Thanks to some COVID related delays, a few interesting product developments, and the birth of my first kid, that quick spin ended up as a 6 month semi-long term review. Usually when that happens it’s not because I didn’t like the bike…
If you were a fan of the Warakin Stainless, you’ll probably be a fan of this Warakin as well. As the name would imply, the biggest difference is the move to titanium. Specifically, the Warakin Ti is built in Taiwan with seamless butted 3AL-2.5V B338 Grade 9 titanium.
Cable routing is kept external for easy maintenance, and there’s a 68mm BSA threaded bottom bracket as well. The frame runs a 44mm head tube with a ZS44/28.6 upper and EC44/40.0 lower headset to allow for the tapered steerer on the Lithic Hilli carbon fork.
12mm or 15mm Thru Axle – Choose One
That fork is one of the product developments I spoke of earlier. The market seems to have spoken with 12mm thru axles becoming the standard for the front of road and gravel bikes. When the Warakin Ti was launched, the Lithic fork was still shipping with a 15 x 100mm thru axle. At this point, I certainly have more bikes and wheels coming in for review with 12mm front axles, so I asked Otso/Wolf Tooth Components about the possibility of an adapter to run 12mm wheels on the Lithic.
Turns out, they were one step ahead of me (as usual). Due to overwhelming consumer response, they have come up with a solution to the problem – both for new bikes and existing customers. Their answer is an adapter that turns existing 15mm thru axle forks into a 12mm thru alxe forks. The downside is that this is more of a factory option that requires a bonding agent to be applied, so it isn’t something that you can switch back and forth from 12mm to 15mm. Technically, the dropout shelves are still sized for 15mm end caps as well, so locating the hub takes a bit more care with the 12mm set adapter.
Customers purchasing a new Warakin Ti will have the option to specify whether they want the 15mm or 12mm fork included with their build. If you already have a Lithic fork that is 15mm, but you want it to be 12mm, Otso/Lithic/Wolf Tooth Components (all the same company) will sell you a conversion for $50. That includes the price of the new 12mm axle, the adapter kit, labor to install it, and return shipping. Considering a new WTC 12mm axle costs $39.95 alone, it seems like a pretty good deal.
When spec’ing your Warakin Ti, you also have the option to select the new Whisky No. 9 MCX fork which adds three pack accessory mounts to the legs for an additional $100. The fork also has a 12mm thru axle and 700c x 51mm tire clearance. This addresses another request from consumers – more mounts.
Personally, I still feel that this frame is in need of top tube mounts as well, but this wouldn’t be the first titanium bike without top tube mounts that I fixed with the WTC B-RAD Strap Base.
Otherwise, the Warakin has plenty of mounts – a three pack mount on the downtube, two more bottle cage mounts, plus fender mounts and a rear rack mount.
In a round about way, that brings me to the geometry and the rather tall seat tube for the effective frame size. To me the geometry lends to going up a size – I’m usually riding a 52cm or something around there, but on this I’m comfortable on the 54cm. Compared to something like the new Devinci Hatchet, the 52cm Devinci (which is the size I would ride) has a 388mm reach, and 544mm stack. Compare that to the 54cm Otso with a 381mm reach and 570mm stack. Granted it’s not quite as tall in the front as something like the new Kona Libre with a 383mm reach and 590mm stack for a size 49cm, but relatively speaking the Otso is slightly taller in the front than many gravel race bikes. That allows you to make the front even taller by adding a fat stack of spacers, or keep it relatively short by slamming the stem.
ShockStop Suspension Seatpost?
This also makes for a seat tube that is fairly tall. While this cuts down on exposed seat post for some, it also means there’s more room in the front triangle for frame bags, big water bottles, whatever you want to carry. For me, it also meant that I had limited room to run a light when I was running the RedShift ShockStop seat post. I was initially running the light on the seat post just above the seat post clamp, but on big impacts the rear guard on the seatpost was hitting the light, so I had to move it to the frame which seemed to work.
I hadn’t initially planned to use the ShockStop post, but the original no-name aluminum seat post that shipped with the Warakin kept slipping. Friction paste and tightening down the clamp didn’t help, and it wasn’t long until I realized that the stock post was undersized and not perfectly round.
Since the Warakin Ti uses a 27.2 post, and the ShockStop post I had was also a 27.2mm post, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised with the action of the post as it moves through the travel much more smoothly than most suspension posts that I’ve tried. Honestly though, the Warakin Ti frame rides well enough that a suspension post isn’t really needed. And even as good as the ShockStop post is, I’m still not a fan of any suspension post. But if you like the idea of a suspension seat post, this one seems to be the one to get.
I should also point out that moving to a new seat post completely fixed the slipping issue. I have no doubt that Otso would have warrantied my post if this was on a bike for a customer, so the important thing here is that it seems to be a one-off issue with the component, not the frame. Also, since Otso allows you to pick most of the components for your build, you could skip the cheap 300g aluminum post entirely in favor of something lighter for an upgrade. While the Warakin Ti isn’t really set up for a dropper post, there is also the option of a KS eTen dropper with 100mm of travel and external cable routing.
One of the reasons it takes me so long to review Otso’s bikes is that I feel like I need to ride them in as many configurations as possible. For the Warakin Ti, that meant riding it with 700c x 32mm road slicks in the front Tuning Chip position, 700c x 45mm gravel tires in both the front and middle positions, and full on 29 x 2.1″ mountain bike tires in the rearward position.
Note that while it’s not available yet, Otso is working on a set of single speed chips for the Tuning Chip dropout system. That’s why the frame has a little cutout at the back of the dropout. Otso hasn’t given us a time frame, but has said that they have a few prototypes that they have been working on. My guess it that since the existing Tuning Chip system has proven to be so effective at staying tight and creak free, that they’re trying to come up with a sliding system that is just as impressive. Probably not an easy task.
It’s amazing how different the bike can feel from one set up to the next. With the new Bontrager Aeolus Pro wheels and 32mm tubeless road tires, the Warakin was no slouch on the road. I managed to get a few personal top 3 results on a handful of climbs with this setup which seems so odd on a bike that begged you to ramp of curbs, and veer off-road on every little trail you can find. Having the tuning chip in the most forward position also means the bottom bracket is at its highest setting. That prevents any unwanted pedal strikes with the ground while turning and pedaling – no matter how hard you try. I wouldn’t go smaller than 32mm tires on this bike, but they still feel plenty fast for something that’s not a pure road bike.
Switching over to gravel with 700c x 45mm WTB Riddlers, moving the Tuning Chip back to the middle position drops the bottom bracket by 2mm to make up for the difference in tire height. With this set up, the Warakin handles gravel and dirt with the best of ’em.
More importantly, it has real tire clearance for muddy adventures. Many companies will claim a bike has tire clearance for a certain size tire, only for you to find out that the stated clearance isn’t valid if there’s mud in the picture. With the Warakin, even with the worst mud, there is cavernous clearance for the 45mm tires to keep on rollin’.
Finally, there’s the set up that Otso sent the bike with – 29 x 2.1″ Schwalbe Racing Ray up front, and a Racing Ralph out back. These were mounted to HED Eroica GP aluminum wheels which are decently wide at 25mm internal. Running the wheels in the most rearward chip setting, the bottom bracket is at its lowest setting to make up for the monster tires.
Even with the 2.1″ tires, the tire clearance is still adequate – probably similar to what you’ll find on many bikes. It’s not quite as good as the gravel set up, but that’s to be expected. Really, it’s just impressive that Otso has managed to package all of this in a frame that still has a 146mm q-factor with a Shimano RS510 crankset.
The longer reach numbers of the effective frame size really help out here with preventing any toe rub from the huge tires. That, and the wider bars and shorter stem make it much more manageable in technical terrain. With these tires and bars, you’re really only limited to the abilities of a fully rigid MTB without a dropper post. That is to say that you can tackle almost any trail – but riding extremely technical rocky sections at speed is a bit of a handful. Fortunately, the bike is geared low enough that you can pick your way through just about anything if you take your time. If your perception of dropbars is that you’ll be forced to stick to the pavement or wide open gravel, bikes like the Warakin Ti will change your mind.
Riding it Home
If it’s not clear, I really enjoyed this bike. If I owned a Warakin Ti, I think most of my time would be spent on the road or gravel set ups (probably with a 700c x 50mm tire for gravel). But the ability to run 29er tires is very tempting when considering future off-road bikepacking trips. To me, that’s the beauty of this bike. As a daily driver in your preferred set up, the ride is amazing. Add to that the ability to build it out as a completely different bike for that occasional adventure, and you have a bike with real, functional versatility. Not to mention it’s titanium. Everybody loves Ti.
For more on the Warakin Ti including pricing and further tech details, check out my first post here. As pictured, this build would run $4,825. Also, we know that bikes are really hard to come by right now, but at the time of posting Otso still has 49cm and 52cm Warakin Ti frames in stock!