The new Shimano GRX drivetrain is here, and so is our test group. Initially, I had plans to build up the T-Lab X3s with the new group, but that bike had been in our hands for nearly a year so it was time for it to head home. Back to the drawing board.
While debating what to request to hang the new 12-speed parts on, I thought, “what better bike to test out the new GRX group than the bike that I’ve been riding with the old GRX group for years?”
That bike is an absolute favorite of mine: the Otso Warakin Ti. The only catch was that the sample I had for my review was one of the very first frames that Otso had ever received from their frame builder. As a result, it was not suspension corrected and it didn’t have routing for a dropper post.
Otso was one of the first brands to offer a suspension-corrected gravel frame with the ability to run up to 29 x 2.1” tires, and since they updated the frame I’ve been dying to try it out. Once the gravel bike stars aligned, I ended up with the latest version of the Warakin Ti frame, a Fox 32 Gravel fork, and a complete Shimano GRX & Pro build to tie it all together. Time to get started.
Otso Warakin Ti All-Road / Gravel / Adventure Frame
As mentioned, the Otso Warakin Ti is already one of my favorites. I’ve only ridden it in a rigid configuration and with the non-suspension corrected geometry though, so this one is different. Built from seamless 3/2.5 B338 grade 9 titanium, the frame features internally double-butted tubing on the front triangle. The finish is interesting but minimal with subtle bead-blasted graphics. I’ve put the very first generation through hell, and it’s still riding – and looking as good as ever.
If you order a frame from Otso, you can either choose just the frame for $2,950, or add the Lithic Hilli carbon fork with triple mounts for another $250. Frames also include a Wolf Tooth Performance headset and seat post clamp, all in your preferred color along with the bolt kit and headset spacers.
I’m riding a 54cm – make sure you look at the geometry chart before ordering. Even though it’s labeled a 54cm, it has an actual 53cm top tube and seat tube, and fits smaller than the size would suggest. On the scale with headset, seat post clamp, Tuning Chip dropout system, and rear axle, the frame weighs in at 1,950g. The fork with crown race and axle adds another 610g.
Fox 32 Taper Cast Fork
After riding the RockShox Rudy on the T-Lab X3-S, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an adventure bike with a suspension fork again. The Fox 32 Taper Cast fork ended up being the starting point for this build, and I’m excited to compare it to the RockShox Rudy Ultimate. I just wish I could find some olive decals to replace the orange graphics to better match the bike.
Shimano GRX RX820 1 x 12 Drivetrain
Onto the heart of the build, the new Shimano GRX 12-speed group. The original Warakin was set up with the Shimano GRX 800 1x group with an 11-40t cassette. So the new group with a 10-51t cassette should provide some welcomed range. For the actual weights of the group, check out our original post here.
For this build, I requested the 1x group with a 172.5 crankset with a 40t chainring. I also requested the dropper post-compatible STI lever – more on that below.
Originally, this group was intended to go on the T-Lab X3-S, so it shipped without a bottom bracket (Shimano doesn’t make a BB386). After changing plans to build up the Warakin, Enduro Bearings stepped up with one of their XD-15 BSA threaded bottom brackets for Shimano. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a new Shimano crankset spin so smoothly. It will be interesting to see how this holds up comparatively.
Integrated Dropper Lever
If you’ve spent time on the GRX 800 shifters, the 12-speed version will feel very familiar. This is good, because the ergonomics of the previous version were excellent. The only complaint I’ve ever had with them is the challenging fit of the hood – which continues to this generation as well. After peeling back the hoods to connect the brake lines and bleed the brakes, it’s very difficult to get the hood to cleanly fit back into place.
You have a choice when it comes to brake levers for a 1x group. There are two different LH levers – one that is just a brake lever, and one that is a brake lever and a dropper post lever. In theory, this should make for one of the best dropper levers for dropbars. The lever uses the same motion as you would to shift, so it’s very natural and easy in multiple-hand positions.
However, you need to run the cable with the cable head up at the shifter. That will limit you to what dropper posts you can run since many have transitioned to running the cable head at the seatpost. I found that the compatible Shimano PRO Discover 70 dropper post was just too long for my saddle height on this frame. I had a CrankBrothers Highline XC dropper that was short enough to run, but it requires the cable head at the post so it’s not compatible with the Shimano lever. Anyone with a longer seat post extension likely won’t run into this issue, but for us short people on frames without much room for a dropper, it’s something to consider.
I haven’t given up on a dropper post for this bike, but will need to sort out the remote and post compatibility first.
While the brakes look similar, there are some substantial changes. The pads no longer use a flat blade screwdriver for the retaining pin, instead moving to a 3mm Allen bolt. More importantly, the entire bleed system had changed with a separate bleed port on the side of the caliper, and a threaded ‘control valve’ on top. Now, you connect the hose to the bleed port and then control the flow of fluid by turning the Allen screw on top.
The brake pads themselves are also different and now feature a substantial chamfer at the bottom. This was likely done to make it easier to insert the wheel as it will feed the rotor in between the pads better. But since the pad material is the same size, you’re going to see a smaller contact surface on the rotor. Initially, I thought I had something wrong with the caliper adapters on the new build because the pad looked like it was sitting higher – it was just the visual difference of the chamfer.
C32 Carbon Wheels
The WH-RX880 wheels are a C32 model, which simply means they’re carbon with a 32mm depth. You’ll find the same C32 designation on other wheels like those in the 105 lineup, but it’s the WH-RX880 number that distinguishes the model (technically WH-RX880-TL-F12-700C). These tubeless wheels have a 25mm internal width, 24 spokes per wheel, and include the necessary Micro Spline freehub for use with the cassettes needed for GRX 12 speed.
Whenever we get a new Shimano group to build up, they will typically include a complete PRO cockpit. This is a 44cm PRO Discover 12 degree flare aluminum bar with an 80mm Discover stem. Their Gravel Comfort Tape was also included, which is actually pretty nice. It feels like a very robust, tacky bar tape with a 3mm total thickness. The backing is ‘Smart Silicone adhesive’ which helps it stay in place without actually sticking to the bar when you go to remove it. The tape is also extra long with 230mm rolls for wider bars or closer wrapping.
The last part of the PRO package is the Stealth Offroad saddle. The shorter saddle comes in 142 or 152mm widths, and it’s specifically padded for gravel & MTB racing.
There aren’t any specific GRX pedals, but like other parts of the group, it borrows from the Shimano MTB lineup. Shimano’s XTR pedals are an obvious choice here, and you’ll have a choice between the standard axle length, or one that is 3mm shorter. That works out to 52mm or 55mm for the crank-to-pedal center measurement.
As it sits with a Zipp carbon seatpost, the complete build with pedals and 45mm Pirelli Cinturato Gravel RC tires is 22.5lbs. That’s roughly 1.25lbs heavier than the outgoing Warakin with a rigid carbon fork, GRX 800 group, and similar GRX carbon wheels.