Why R+ 500+ Mile Review

It’s been awhile now that I’ve owned the Why R+, a gravel/adventure bike that is one of the four currently in production as part of Why Cycles’ fleet.  While I’ve had it, it has been used as a commuter, a trainer, and a race bike.  I’ve taken it on smooth, well-maintained dirt roads, compacted gravel, chunky big gravel, tame singletrack, various types of tarmac, and many things in between.  I’ve easily put over 500 miles on the bike at this point, and probably closer to 1,000 miles.  However, until a few weekends ago, I was missing an important component of judging the all-around usefulness of this bike: a bikepacking trip.  Having completed the 125 miles Oregon Stampede route on the bike, I feel like I can now do a thorough review of the R+ and the many purposes it will serve in my own personal fleet of bikes.

The general schema of this review will include the following: 1) Modifications I felt were necessary investments, 2) the bike’s ride quality, 3) strengths and complaints, and 4) a general summary of the bike.  Hopefully this information is helpful for those looking to upgrade or transition to a new rig in the summer riding season.

Bike: Why R+

Purpose: Road/Gravel Adventure Bike

Stock Build (for my bike – builds vary):

  • R+ medium frame
  • Reynolds ATR full carbon wheels
  • Maxxis rambler tires
  • Full SRAM Force 1x group with 175mm cranks and 42t ring
  • Easton EC70 handlebars
  • Easton EA90 stem
  • Easton EA70 seat post (replaced)
  • Ergon saddle
  • Lizard Skins 2.5 DSP bar tape

Modifications

This bike serves many purposes for me, from roadie trainer to multi-day adventure bike, so the modifications are many.  Does this mean that it doesn’t come ready for adventure out of the box?  NOT AT ALL.  It is actually more of a testament to the bike’s versatility, in my opinion.  That being said, here is a list of changes I’ve made to the bike:

Industry 9 Ultralite 235 Alloy Wheelset: In addition to the Reynolds ATR Full Carbon Wheels my bike came with, I got another set of 27.5 wheels that I can put higher volume tires on, for multi-day trips that involve more varied terrain.

Maxxis Re-Fuse 700X32c Tires: This is the set of tires that will be on my Reynolds wheels most of the time.  They are great for road and somewhat more manicured gravel roads, so for my normal routine, they’re perfect.  I may still use the Maxxis Rambler 40c tires if ever doing a race or ride that has more demanding gravel sections.

Maxxis Pace 27.5X2.1 Inch Tires: These tires will be used for most of my bikepacking expeditions on the R+.  The Oregon Stampede, the Oregon Outback, if I ever do the Tour Divide (2019?), etc.

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Shimano SLX 11X42 Tooth Cassette: This is the cassette I use on my 700c wheelset.

Shimano SLX 11X46 Tooth Cassette: This is the cassette I use on my 27.5 inch wheelset.

Syntace HiFlex Full Carbon P6 Seatpost: I initially bought this seatpost years ago for my Marin PM2 mountain bike, based on a review by Lael Wilcox.  However, I ended up going with a dropper post and have never looked back on my mountain bikes.  So this seatpost sat in my gear “junk drawer” until I got on the Why Cycles bandwagon, sold my road bike, and made the R+ my go-to everything bike. And as far as seatpost go, I do not believe there is a more comfortable one out there for gravel and adventure bikes.  It is not cheap, but definitely worth the investment if it’s going on a gravel-specific bike.

Problem Solvers Bottle Cage Height Adapter: This little contraption helps lower my seat tube water bottle cage in the middle triangle, and is a bikepacking necessity if you use a half-size framebag, as it lowers the water bottle so that it doesn’t rub against the framebag.

Ride Quality

If you read my review on the Why S7, you know that my transition from steel to titanium was not easy, but I am now a true believer in whatever magical properties make titanium’s ride quality so special.  I believe that titanium eats up the chatter of the road better than other frame materials, making my body less fatigued after a long day in comparison to my various steel bikes I own (have owned).  While there are of course many contributing factors to ride quality (i.e. bike weight, body weight, level of fitness, terrain, and lots of other junk I’m sure), despite it all, titanium has made it that much easier to get on my bike day after day, with less rest in between.

The titanium manifesto above segues wonderfully into the R+’s many talents as a categorized ‘adventure’ bike.  It works flawlessly on the road, and I feel as comfortable pushing my watt limit in a draft line as I do grinding it out on a gravel or dirt forest road.  The bike is incredibly lightweight, which makes it hyper-responsive when predictably sliding through gravel turns or narrowly avoiding potholes while cruising down a hill at 40+ mph, and since the bike comes with the highest-end build possible, namely a SRAM Force drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes, predictability makes for a confidence-inspiring ride day after day

As for Geometry, the bike is a thoughtful mix that reflects its symbiosis with road, gravel, and dirt.  Of particular note, in my opinion, is the short chainstay, somewhat long top tube and stem, and low bottom bracket.  It’s the perfect mix for a do everything bike in my opinion.  The short chainstay makes for a very responsive and agile bike.  At 420mm, it’s only 3mm longer than my old road bike, as a comparison.

Following along with the road bike comparison, it has a slightly longer top tube and stem than my old road bike as well.  However, that doesn’t mean you’re stretched out in an aero position on the R+.  It has a steeper seat angle (73 degrees) and slacker head angle (71.5 degrees) than my roadbike, effectively making for less reach overall.  It also makes it better suited for control on steep gravel and dirt descents, and the low bottom bracket adds an additional sense of control over the bike when riding on technical terrain.  Despite having a low bottom bracket, I have had no issues with pedal strikes when riding particularly chunky gravel or unmaintained dirt roads.

While talk of bike specs and geometry may sound like a bunch of convoluted jargon, then let me end by saying that the thoughtful touches in geometry on the r+ make for a bike that is a balance of responsive and stable, with all-day comfort being more attainable for me than any other bike I’ve ridden.

From Why Cycles’ website.

I think it’s also worth noting that I’m comparing this bike to my road bike, not my commuter or touring bike.  Weighing in at under 20 pounds with bottle cages, this bike is VERY light and, when paired with an all-day riding geometry, means afternoon rides that you better remember your high-visibility gear and lights for, because you’ll likely want to keep riding long after the sun goes down.

As far as bikepacking prowess is concerned, this bike is pretty dialed in.  Although very light, the bike does well under a load, and plays VERY nicely with framebags, seatbags, and handlebar bags. One of the most notable bikepacking-friendly touches is internal cable routing.  Some people might scratch their head at this comment, but in my opinion, internal cable routing is a must when bikepacking.  Framebags, in particular, cause a lot of stress on external cables because the straps for securing the bags latch right over them on most external cable builds.  With internal routing, though, this is not a problem at all, and makes for much quicker setup.

Whether riding road, gravel, dirt; loaded with gear for the weekend or staying ultralight for a double-century, the R+ will basically fit whatever mold you need it to when outfitted with the right stuff.  Time to move onto the easier-to-read strengths and complaints.

Strengths

Ride Quality: The ride quality already mentioned is, in my opinion, the biggest strength of this bike.  Titanium for president.

Endless Build Options: Dirt road warrior, gravel king, road fiend, strava chaser, commuter, touring companion, and the list goes on.  You name it, the R+ does it.

Super light: Yeah, mine weighs in around 19 pounds with pedals and bottle cages.  As light as a competitive road bike, and as stable as a touring bike.  How’d they do that?

Reliable: With all the riding I’ve done, I have had 0 mechanicals, which holds true to my experience with the Why S7, which has ridden around 2,000 miles at this point and completed the entire Colorado Trail.  Why Cycles are built to last.

Solid components and build:  SRAM Force drivetrain, hydraulic discbrakes, Easton Carbon handlebar, Reynolds Carbon wheelset, and the Lizard Skin bar tape.  What’s not to love?

Soapbox time: of the components, I’ve been pleased with it all, but surprisingly pleased (maybe because I didn’t expect it to make such a difference?) with two specific aspects: the gear shifting levers and the bar tape.  Leave it to a ’boutique’ bike company to include such thoughtful details in their build.

I wasn’t completely sold on the idea behind SRAM’s gear lever system.  I’d grown accustomed to Shimano’s click and push levers, as I had it on almost all my bikes, and I thought it would be confusing to use the same motion for both up and down shifting.  However, that quickly becomes second nature, and what SRAM offers through this difference is brake lever stability.  Both brakes do not try to tilt in when your hands aren’t firmly stabilized on the handlebars, which happens more often than expected when riding gravel.  I have found this to be quite confidence inspiring, and while I mean no disrespect to Shimano, I do not miss the finicky ghost movements of the right brake now that I’ve moved on.

The R+ also comes stock with Lizard Skins 2.5 DSP bar tape, which is the most comfortable tape I have EVER used without question.  Sometimes you don’t know what bar tape will feel like until you’ve used it for a while, and I’ve never been particularly picky about it, probably because you use it for about a year and then replace it.  However, Lizard Skins are such a comfortable material that I will never use a different tape.  So thanks Why Cycles for exposing me to it.

Complaints

If you have read my other bike reviews, you know that I try to be as honest as possible about what I do and don’t like about the bike.  With the R+, my complaints are quite few, but there are things that I would change if it were me building the bike.  Of course, if it were me building the bike, there would be so many other glaring issues that no one would buy it in the first place, so take my complaints with a grain of salt.

Small Gear Range: The stock gear range is not adequate, in my opinion.  Because it comes with a 1X system, any buyer should go into the bike knowing that the gear range is going to be lower than its 2X and 3X counterparts, with the benefit of simplicity, since 1X systems do not have any front derailleur.  But speaking as someone whose major strength as a rider is climbing monster hills, a 42 tooth front and 36 rear simply does not provide the gear ratio needed for truly steep and long hills, ESPECIALLY if the bike is loaded with gear.  I had to replace my non-bikepacking wheelset with a 42 in the rear, and put a 46 on my bikepacking wheelset.  I know that this is often a cost-savings choice for bike companies, but as this bike is advertised as an adventure bike, I personally think this upgrade should be made as a stock option for the bike.

Toe Overlap: Keep in mind that many size medium frames have this exact same issue, but when I’m riding switchbacks on the R+, on more than one occasion I have been jostled by an unsuspecting hit of the toe that can be rather disconcerting depending on the technicality of the terrain.  The toe overlap is most noticeable on the 700c tires though, so if on a true outdoor adventure, most riders will likely purchase a 27.5 wheelset anyway, which mostly takes care of the toe overlap issue.

Bottle Cage and framebag Don’t Play Nice: Okay, this truly is a minor gripe, but the bottle cage mount on the seat tube is a bit too high if trying to use a half frame bag for bikepacking.  I ended up purchasing a Problem-Solvers Bottle Cage Height Adaptor to lower the bottle cage and fit my frame bag for bikepacking.  An easy fix, but still worth noting for all the bikepackers out there.

Hub Engagement: It’s probably because I’m spoiled by my MTB’s top of the line Project 321 Hub, which engages IMMEDIATELY with the turn of the pedal stroke, but there is a noticeable ‘dead space’ in drivetrain engagement on the Reynolds ATR Full Carbon wheelset stock hub.  However, I don’t believe Why Cycles is selling kits with this wheelset anymore, so this gripe of mine is likely irrelevant as I’m writing it.

Complaints Caveat: Whenever I list my ‘complaints’ about a bike, I feel like it diminishes the incredible strengths the bike has to offer.  With the R+, the improvements I would make in no way take away from its overall value, as I likely have found THE BIKE that I will use for all things road, gravel, and dirt from now on.

Does this look like an unhappy face after 75 miles of bikepacking? I think not.

Summary

If looking for a bike that will do everything short of technical mountain biking, from road to singletrack, then the R+ is the adventure bike to add to your arsenal.  With an excellent build, lightweight and responsive frame, and all the advantages that come with the magical properties of titanium, the R+ opens up all sort of riding possibilities, be it tarmac, gravel, or dirt.  This versatility makes riding simply more fun.  I can chase Strava KOMs and seek out less-traveled gravel roads all in one afternoon ride.

In the past, I’ve never had trouble deciding which bike to use if I have a free day: mountain bike wins every time.  But the R+ has officially made choosing a ride and terrain for the day a dilemma.  And I’m not ashamed to admit that I have reached for the R+ over the S7 MTB on more than one occasion.  Thanks Why Cycles for creating the bike dilemma of my dreams.