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Review: The Warakin Ti gravel/dropbar MTB is another reason to check out Otso Cycles

The Otso Warakin Ti: A Versatile Titanium Bike

The idea of a bike capable of fitting tires of different sizes to cover multiple disciplines is very appealing. However, often this idea falls short in reality, as manufacturers fail to consider the effect that differences in tire height have on bottom bracket height and handling. That’s why I am such a fan of Otso bikes. Their adjustable Tuning Chip dropouts not only adjust the wheelbase, but also simultaneously adjust the bottom bracket height. This means that the bike performs as it should, even when you change tires.

A Titanium Upgrade

I am also a big fan of titanium frames, so when I heard that Otso was going to release a new version of their Warakin All-Road/Gravel/Dropbar MTB in Ti, I was excited to take it for a spin. Due to some COVID-related delays, interesting product developments, and the birth of my first child, that quick ride turned into a six-month-long review. Normally, when this happens, it’s not because I don’t like the bike… If you were a fan of the Warakin Stainless, you’ll probably be a fan of this Warakin Ti as well. As the name suggests, the biggest difference is the switch to titanium.

Tuning Chip Dropouts and Adjustable Fork

The Warakin Ti frame is specifically made in Taiwan with seamless 3AL-2.5V B338 Grade 9 titanium. It features external cable routing for easy maintenance and a 68mm BSA threaded bottom bracket. The frame has a 44mm head tube with an upper ZS44/28.6 and lower EC44/40.0 headset to accommodate the tapered Lithic Hilli carbon fork.

12mm or 15mm Thru-Axle – Your Choice

The Lithic fork is one of the product developments I mentioned earlier. It seems that the market has spoken, and 12mm thru-axles have become the standard for the front end of road and gravel bikes. When the Warakin Ti was released, the Lithic fork still came with a 15 x 100mm thru-axle. At this point, I’m sure I’ll be receiving more bikes and wheels to review with 12mm front axles, so I asked Otso/Wolf Tooth Components about the possibility of an adapter to fit 12mm wheels on the Lithic fork. It turns out they were one step ahead of me (as always). 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 converts existing 15mm thru-axle forks to 12mm thru-axle forks. The downside is that it is more of a factory option that requires the application of adhesive, so it’s not something you can easily switch from 12mm to 15mm. Technically, the dropout shelves still have the same size for the 15mm dropouts, so aligning the hub requires a bit more care with the 12mm adapter kit. Customers purchasing a new Warakin Ti will have the option to specify whether they want the 15mm or 12mm fork included in their build. If you already have a 15mm Lithic fork but want it to be 12mm, Otso/Lithic/Wolf Tooth Components (all part of the same company) will sell you a conversion for $50. That includes the price of the new 12mm axle, the adapter kit, the labor to install it, and return shipping. Considering a new WTC 12mm axle costs only $39.95, it seems like a pretty good deal.

Customizable Options

When specifying your Warakin Ti, you also have the option to select the new Whisky No. 9 MCX fork, which adds three accessory mounts to the legs for an additional $100. The fork also features a 12mm thru-axle and clearance for 700c x 51mm tires. This addresses another consumer request: more mounts. Personally, I still think this frame could use top tube mounts, but it wouldn’t be the first titanium bike without top tube mounts that I’ve fixed with the WTC B-RAD Strap Base. Other than that, the Warakin has plenty of mounts: a three-pack mount on the downtube, two additional bottle cage mounts, as well as mounts for fenders and a rear rack. If I needed more space for a top tube bag, I could have moved the rear bottle cage mount down with a WTC B-RAD mounting base, allowing me to use a half-size bag. That’s rare for a bike my size.

Geometric Considerations

This brings me to the geometry and the fairly high seat tube for the effective frame size. For me, the geometry lends itself to sizing up: I usually ride a 52cm or so, but I feel comfortable on the 54cm. Compared to something like the new Devinci Hatchet, the Devinci in a 52cm (which is the size I would ride) has a reach of 388mm and a stack of 544mm. Compare that to the Otso 54cm, which has a reach of 381mm and a stack of 570mm. It’s true that it’s not as high in the front as the new Kona Libre, with a reach of 383mm and a stack of 590mm for a 49cm size, but in relative terms, the Otso is slightly higher in the front than many gravel race bikes. This allows you to make the front end even higher by adding a stack of spacers, or keep it relatively low by tightening the stem.

ShockStop Suspension Seatpost?

This also makes the seat tube quite high. While this reduces exposed seatpost for some, it also means there is more space in the front triangle for frame bags, large water bottles, or whatever you want to carry. For me, it also meant that I had little space to mount a light when I was using the RedShift ShockStop seatpost. Initially, I mounted the light on the seatpost, just above the seat clamp, but on hard impacts, the seatpost’s rear bumper would hit the light, so I had to move it to the frame, which seemed to work. I hadn’t initially planned on using the ShockStop seatpost, but the original unnamed aluminum seatpost that came with the Warakin kept slipping. Friction paste and tightening the clamp didn’t help, and I soon realized that the original seatpost was too small and not perfectly round. Since the Warakin Ti uses a 27.2mm seatpost, and the ShockStop seatpost I had was also 27.2mm, I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by the seatpost’s action, as it moves through the travel much smoother than most suspension seatposts I’ve tried. Honestly, the Warakin Ti frame rides well enough that it doesn’t need a suspension seatpost. 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 seatpost, this one seems to be the most suitable. I should also note that switching to a new seatpost completely solved the slipping issue. I have no doubt that Otso would have warranted my seatpost if I had mounted it on a customer’s bike, so the important thing here is that it seems to be a specific issue with the component, not the frame. Additionally, since Otso allows you to choose most components for your build, you could forgo the suspension seatpost altogether…

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