NORDEST Super Albarda Review
Following more than 1,000 miles of pedaling aboard the NORDEST Super Albarda, Sven Garbe weighs in on how the brand’s latest wallet-friendly gravel bike’s bold geometry and bikepacking-oriented design translate to real-world riding. Find his full review here…
Most companies take a rather cautious approach to geometry changes: a few millimeters here or there, one or two degrees slacker or steeper. However, NORDEST Cycles recently took a more drastic approach with their Super Albarda, one of two gravel frames in their current lineup. While their Albarda 2 could be described as having typical geometry, its sibling represents a bold approach in rethinking traditional geometry. While some of its numbers could make you think it’s a drop bar mountain bike, it’s not designed with suspension forks or super-wide tires in mind. Rather, I would still call it a true gravel rig, but slightly different than one might expect. The following are my thoughts, likes, and dislikes after riding it for more than 1,000 miles in various setups.
NORDEST Cycles is a small Spanish company based in the Canary Islands. Its founder, Pedro Jeronimo, has plenty of experience creating custom titanium frames. They offer direct sale frames and kits at competitive prices. Last year I was given the opportunity to review their Britango hardtail, which struck a nerve with its fun and versatile performance. So, I was more than eager to try out Pedro’s unique take on gravel bikes, and for this review, I took a look at both the carbon and steel kit.
The frame is manufactured from double-butted 4130 Chromoly steel and offered as frame only (574€) or kit with a frame, stem, headset and either steel (799€) or carbon fork (949€). If you crave something more light and shiny, the frame is available in titanium (1,749€) and can be customized at 1,999€. A full build is not available.
The Super Albarda is designed for a 400mm tapered fork with 52mm rake and is compatible with up to 650B x 2.10” or 700 x 50mm wheels. Cable Routing is external and it’s designed for BB86 press fit bottom brackets. There are two color offerings: black or a very light blue. It offers loads of mounting options, including rear rack mounts, two bottle mounts in the main triangle, one below the downtube, and three mounts on each fork leg. There are also two mounts on the upper side of the top tube.
My kit came with very little user information. There’s a QR code on the box that leads to a manual, but it’s very basic, as is the case with all NORDEST bikes. A little more specific guidance would be appreciated, such as a torque chart. Apart from that, it came with C-clips, bolts for every mount, and two rear derailleur hangers, which I appreciated a lot.
I opted for the colorful blue scheme as I really liked the eye-catching yet clean and simple paint job. As with their other bikes, it’s sporting NORDEST’s unique head badge on the head tube. It’s raw aluminum, so no paint will be rubbed off by handlebar bags.
All in all, the frame appears very sturdy and tough. I was glad about the external cable routing, which makes build up and maintenance much easier. However, the frame’s press fit bottom bracket stands in contrast to its otherwise simplistic ethos, which somewhat reduced my initial euphoria. That being said, once installed, it’s performed flawlessly up to this day and I forgot about it after some time. Not surprisingly, the Super Albarda’s beefiness comes with a price, with the medium frame weighing in at 2.59 kg.
Both forks come with three rear-facing bottle mounts on each leg, as well as front rack and light mounts. They don’t offer internal routing for a hub dynamo, though. The weight for the carbon fork is 465 grams and 1.1 kg for the steel version.
Tire clearance is a bit of a tricky topic. While the carbon fiber fork is advertised as clearing 47mm tires with ease, I was very disappointed when my 45mm WTB Riddlers cleared the fork with only 1-2mm on each side. This was a shame, as I otherwise really liked it. Lightweight, all the mounts I could ask for, and a great look. I addressed this issue to Pedro and he told me that a new carbon fiber fork will be available in September, solving this problem. He provided me with the steel fork, which is designed for tires up to 50 mm width, leaving a more suitable 5mm of clearance on both sides for those Riddlers.
The frame officially allows riders to mount 50mm wide tires. Personally, I consider this a bit generous as well, and I wouldn’t recommend exceeding 47mm if riding in wet and muddy conditions.
I like my gravel rigs simple and mechanical, in contrast to my mountain bikes. So, I started with the carbon kit and equipped it with Shimano’s 2x GRX Drivetrain, running an 11×40 SLX Cassette combined with 105 levers and TRP Spyre brakes.
To complement its beefy-looking geometry, I added Salsa’s 440mm wide Cowchipper bar, adding plenty of control off road. A 50mm stem is provided with the kit, making up for the bike’s long reach. To top it all up, I used this build as a reason to review Scribe’s awesome Gravel Wide++ Wheels in 700c. Their inner width of 25 mm should have been a perfect match for my rubber choice of WTB’s 45 mm wide Riddlers, but as mentioned before, clearance at the fork was very limited. Even though I was provided with the kit for this review, I was not willing to destroy a brand new and otherwise great carbon fiber fork on muddy rides or due to wheel flex. As such, I swapped the tires for WTB’s 40mm wide Byways after a couple of rides. I kept this configuration for about 600 miles before installing the steel fork and coming back to those Riddlers.
My component choice worked out quite well and turned out to be a great match for the frame. Complementing the nature of this bike, WTB’s Riddlers performed beautifully too. The Byways were a great pick on dry hardpack or on wet winter days when I stuck to pavement, but once the road gets rougher, this bike asks for bigger and more aggressive rubber. Tires that are too skinny or don’t offer an aggressive tread won’t let you reveal true potential.
Despite the heavy frame, I ended up at 10 kg (without pedals) for the carbon kit. The steel fork added another 600 g. All those components made a gorgeous bike, really suited the frame’s character and intended use.
- Frame NORDEST Super Albarda (Size M)
- Fork NORDEST Super Albarda Carbon/Steel Fork
- Wheels Scribe Gravel Wide++
- Tires WTB Byway (40mm)/WTB Riddler (45mm)
- Brakes TRP Spyre
- Crankset Shimano GRX FC-RX600
- Deraileur Shimano GRX RD-RX810
- Cassette Shimano SLX 11-40
- STIs Shimano 105
- Saddle Velo
- Seatpost Kalloy
- Handlebar Salsa Cowchipper 440mm
- Stem included 50mm stem
- Headset Cane Creek Forty
I’ll admit that I was initially very skeptical of the Super Albarda. The geometry just seemed too far off from the well-established angles and conventions of the gravel world. With a 68º head angle, 80mm BB drop, 411mm reach (medium) and 420mm Chainstay, it sits right between Salsa’s Cutthroat and Evil’s Chamois Hagar, one of the few bikes that exceeds its slack head angle. Also, the front triangle looked immensely long and big. Basically, I was expecting a very stretched out and sluggish feel.
But once I finished the build and went for the first ride, I was immediately won over. It felt really different and unusual, but in a very appealing way that kept me wanting to take it for another spin. Compared to bikes with more traditional numbers, I had the impression of sitting much more inside the bike than on top. Due to the low bottom bracket, the rider’s position is rather upright and quite a low center of gravity, creating a very stable feel that is amplified by an enormous wheelbase of 1084mm.
The sizing was on point, too. At 173cm and with relatively long legs, I find myself often between S and M frames. NORDEST’s sizing differs a bit from other brands, and luckily their M fits me just about perfectly, which I already enjoyed aboard Britango hardtail. Compared to more road-oriented bikes, steering felt less nervous and nimble, but stable and confidence-inspiring, especially on fast descents and rough sections. Getting behind the saddle and rolling down really steep sections was a blast and easily done. Another great perk: toe overlap is non-existent, and I would be surprised if it even occurs at the smallest frame.
The bike did not feel sluggish and seemed playful due to its short chainstays. However, this is a double-edged sword. The bike’s front end feels planted, as mentioned, but the rear end, on the other hand, could maybe use another 10mm of chainstay length as it sometimes lacks stability at high speeds. I wonder if such short stays are really necessary, as most riders probably won’t throw this bike around tight turns and into berms and would rather trade a bit of playfulness for additional stability.
From my experience, this bike likes to be ridden a bit like a mountain bike. That’s to say shifting your weight front and back and leaning it into turns. It might feel unusual for riders with a road bike background, but I found it to be one of the most fun aspects, making it unique.
Climbing on the NORDEST Super Albarda is quite a pleasure. I was somewhat worried about the front wheel lacking traction, but this was never the case. Thinking about it further, a 68º head angle isn’t an issue for mountain bikes, so why should it suddenly be one when climbing a gravel bike? The short chainstays led to a welcomed surprise, as a lot of my weight was distributed to the rear wheel, providing plenty of traction on steep, loose climbs. Repeatedly, I was expecting my rear wheel to spin out, but it almost never happened.
Riders should keep in mind that I made these observations with a medium frame. Taller riders will need to pull out their saddle more, leading to a lower effective seat angle due to the bent seat tube. So, their center of gravity will shift even further back. I used a post with some setback, so this might not be an issue with zero setback posts.
Obviously, many of these strengths turn to weakness once you hit pavement. The Super Albarda is no slug and is certainly a much faster ride than any proper mountain bike would be, but it’s not designed with perfect aerodynamics and efficiency in mind. Riders searching for a bike that still allows them to ride among their fit road bike buddies may want to look elsewhere. However, if you’re not chasing records but want to comfortably enjoy long days in the saddle, the Super Albarda is worth a look. Also, its tracking abilities are a great match for aero bars, which I used extensively.
All in all, I’d suggest this bike caters to mountain bikers’ needs more than those of a roadie. I felt so at home on it because I’m used to bikes with similar numbers. On my first ride, my main thought was: “This is how a gravel bike should feel.” I appreciate the low head angle and don’t really care about the missing snappiness. Cruising down rocky descents, leaning back and rolling down a steep step here and there with ease put a wider grin on my face than any Strava KOM. At the same time, I always felt comfortable on long rides, covering a lot of miles.
From time to time I enjoy a short and crisp road ride, but I wouldn’t want to pay money and make space for another dedicated bike. Inflating the tires left me absolutely satisfied, knowing I would ride the exact same bike two days later to places no skinny tires could ever take me to. The Super Albarda simply fulfilled my idea of a fun and versatile ride. Riders with a road bike background might have a different experience and would possibly prefer something more direct, nimble, and efficient.
Loading It Up
After covering a lot of miles on day rides without any luggage, I was keen on testing it out on longer trips. The first thing that stood out was its huge front triangle. I believe there are very few gravel bikes that offer more storage space. Without question, a custom frame bag would be a worthy investment to take advantage of all that room. Second, due to the long wheelbase, I was able to fit a 2L Klean Kanteen below the downtube. Adding the top tube mounts, fork mounts, and rear rack mounts, this bike is ready to be loaded up. Taken together, those mounting options are more than sufficient for me, but I should mention that some competitors’ models offer even more storage options, such as seat stay mounts.
To summarize briefly, the handling characteristics didn’t really change once I strapped on my gear. Compared to my previous, more traditional bikes, the added confidence and fun at high speeds and rough sections were significant. The stability of the front end helped a lot when weighing it with heavy gear. Even when fully loaded, the sturdy frame didn’t make me experience any unpleasant flex. My low and upright riding position left me relaxed and with little fatigue, despite hours in the saddle. All these aspects really work well together, demonstrating that this bike is obviously designed with bikepacking in mind.
- Model Tested: Nordest Super Albarda
- Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
- Price: 574€ (frame only)
- Manufacturer’s Details: NordestCycles.com
- Geometry is super fun and capable off road
- Bikepacking-oriented design with lots of mounts and huge front triangle
- Sturdy construction
- Good value
- Heavy frame
- Tire clearance a bit too narrow
- Nervous rear end
- On the slower side on pavement
NORDEST Cycles’ Super Albarda stands out in a crowded market and I really appreciate Pedro Jeronimo’s bold approach to offering something different instead of playing it safe. There are some drawbacks to the frame, such as its heavy weight and slightly overstated accurate tire clearance. Its riding characteristics are polarizing and don’t emphasize efficiency and speed on smooth surfaces.
Riders who are willing to sacrifice a few watts in return for loads of fun and good times should take a closer look. While at a very competitive price, its features make it an outstanding choice for bikepackers. If you care more about adventurous paths to remote places than fastest times on smooth tracks, this rig might be the tool for your job. However, potential buyers should carefully select their fork. If you plan on mounting wider tires, you will need to go for the steel kit or await their new carbon fiber fork, which will offer more clearance than the current model.
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