I spent a good amount of time on the R+ this fall. From after work rides to mid-day 20 milers, and even some exploratory rides in the Crested Butte backcountry, but when I was invited to ride with Adam and crew on a little desert jaunt in the San Rafael Swell, I was excited to see how the bike would handle loaded.
Loading the Bike
The first thing you will notice when loading up the R+ is the ample frame space. I tested a size large, and if I had purchased a custom frame bag, I could fit a crazy amount of gear in the front triangle. The titanium frame allowed me to strap the bags directly to the frame without worrying about damage. There is only a little scuffing noticeable to the finish of the titanium, which are just battle scar bikepacking memories. The internal routing is also a nice touch to keep things neat while preventing the dreaded cable to frame bag rub.
The bike also has plenty of space for a saddle bag, even if you plan on running the biggest tire width on the bike, which has a capable clearance of 700×44 or 27.5×2.1. An issue I did run into was a very small amount of seat post clearance on the size large frame I tested. On the upside, I had loads of frame space, and because I’m all about frame space, I opted to test a size large over the size medium. Having very little exposed seat post did inhibit a proper fit of the Alpamayo Design Harness bag, not the end of the world, but something to note when purchasing. For reference I come it at 5’10” with a 32″ inseam.
This was my first time connecting a handlebar bag to a drop bar bike, and man, it was super easy. Unlike flat bars where you need to maneuver around break and shifter levers, as well as their associated cables and housing, the drop bar made for a clean assembly. If anything, the bar was a bit narrow, but with proper handlebar bags and stuffing techniques, the interference is minimal. A nice alternative would be some sort of flared-out bar, like the Salsa Woodchipper, or a bar with more width – but the bike came stock with a Easton 44cm bar.
With all the space and capabilities for mounting on this bike, you should be set with storage spots, I know I was. But if you need extra space, consider using the down tube space, or top tube – I would not rely on mounting anything to the carbon Enve Cross Disc Fork. Oh, and I can’t forget, with any drop bars, mounting stem bags to them does take away some hand positions. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the ease of loading the bike, and only came across a few hiccups along the way – which probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t load gravel drop bar bikes often.
Testing the bike unloaded was fun, it handled washboards the best a rigid titanium bike could. It was quick to respond to power transfer, balanced well on steep climbs and descents in a way I thought was only capable on a mountain bike. I was pleased, but the real test would come loading it down.
Before the trip I change a few things, and would have changed more if I owned this bike. The first being the stem, this bike is and has been proven to be a flyer in the cyclocross discipline, but if you’re not participating in any of those shenanigans, consider flipping your stem. Flipping the stem from the negative position to the positive position gives you an enormous comfort difference, something that is very important when you are on the bike all day. The other thing I would have done but did not get around to was switching out the chain ring. Why Cycles spec’ed the bike with a rather steep 42/36 ratio. For bikepacking, I would have gone down to the 38 tooth, but even a 40 tooth would be easier on the legs. If you want the range, the bike is also compatible with 2x drivers.
Our trip started in a very sandy wash with a few technical features, and while the sand held me back, the 40c tires on the R+ still were very much capable in those conditions. It was refreshing to ride a 22.5″ internal width 29er rim with 700 x 40c tires. It certainly gave me a bit more confidence compared to my road bike, I just had to reminded myself that I had a relatively aggressive wheel combo that could accomplish more than what my mind thought was capable.
After the sandy wash, we encountered climbs with small ledges where I found myself pulling up on my bars. I also found myself, more times than not, taking the easiest path available, even if it meant quickly weaving from side to side on the rough road. While some pitches were more difficult than others, I noticed how stable the ride was, tracking and moving me forward while being extremely responsive to my movements.
Where the bike really shined was the well-maintained gravel roads. Did I mention this thing is fast? Right when we hopped on the gravel graded road, Adam and I just took off. I basically gave it everything I had. I think we kept a click of 15 to 20 mph up a steady hill before we leveled out and realized we absolutely crushed ourselves, for no apparent reason. The R+ is a bike of speed, there is no way around it. Even loaded, it hooks up well and turns loose at the stomp of your pedal. I can only imagine it would be a fun cyclocross bike, and if you threw on some skinny tires, it could also keep up with your roadie friends on the tarmac.
That evening, we sat around the fire reminiscing of a quality 50+ mile day, some fast, some slow, but loads of fun. It reminded me about the dedication one must put into starting a bike company from the ground up. I seriously cannot imagine the time and energy it takes, I can only assume it takes over your life. It was good to get Adam’s perspective on his bikes; he’s not one to shy away from the concept that one bike can be the best for all applications, and it’s clear that these bikes are designed to do more than what the eye may see.
For example, Adam Looney, a good friend of Adam joined us on the trip. Looney was rocking a Supple 7 frame, with Enve 29er M50 Fifty rims and 700x40c tires. The Supple 7 is built around the 27.5+ platform, yet goofy Looney was going to town, making it look easy. Sure, Adam is a quality rider, but it just goes to show these bikes are designed for more than what meets the eye.
The next day started off mellow, but finished with a bang. It’s funny what a full day of riding a loaded rig can do to your confidence, especially on a relatively new bike. I had finally worked out hand position kinks, one that would plague anyone that is new to drop bar bikes. I found myself in the drop position a lot for technical descents, but for the most part, I became conformable with my hands on top of the bars.
Once the afternoon hit, we started to descend some chunk which was quite the eye open experience on the ridged R+. As confidence grew, I explored the capabilities of the R+, and while I would have loved to ride with the Lauf Grit fork that Adam has on his bike, I was surprised by the way the rigid rig rode down rock drops and back up them. Yes, I was careful, but I took to the technical features with confidence by the end of the day. I have always heard that learning to ride on a hardtail will make you a better rider. Well, I can verify that riding a rigid drop bar gravel bike, loaded, will certainly do that too.
Ordering and Final Thoughts
So if your in the market but in-between bike choices, this might be the kicker – it would be for me. The R+ comes shipped in a super nice Why Cycles/Evoc co-branded Bike Travel Bag Pro. The bag fits most bikes on the market today, including road, mountain and of course the Why Cycles R+ and Supple 7. The bag has a value of $440, so this is certainly a nice feature, one that would help out plenty of bikepackers who travel.
You can visit Whycycles.com for ordering – all of their bikes are currently shipping as we speak. The R+ FORCE CARBON KIT (tested) starts at $5,899 with a weight of 17.2lbs (medium). The R+ RIVAL KIT starts at $4,199 and weights 19lbs (medium). Both builds are available with the Lauf Grit Fork. You can also purchase a frame or frame and fork combo for $2,050 and $2,549 respectively.
As with any bike, the R+ has it’s strengths and weaknesses. I certainly held back in some terrain, yet excelled in others. The extreme lightweight built was awfully nice, but at the same time, I think there could be some improvements with bikepacking in mind, but in reality, they would not be expensive after market changes. Could you ride this down the Divide? Sure you could. It might not work well in areas like Fleecer Ridge, but it would work. I do say so with confidence, the R+ will work on whatever you throw at it, even if it does take some walking.
Check out some more photos from the overnighter we had…