Why Cycles R+ Review: Splitting Time.
Why Cycle? This is the question that lies at the heart of new bike brand from Utah. Anthony Pease takes the R+, their featherweight adventure rig, across tarmac roads, forest tracks, goat paths, hike a bikes and chunky downhills, to see if they’ve figured out the answer…
For the past 20 some odd years, my cycling background has been biased towards the mountain biking end of the spectrum. But over the last two or three, I’ve found myself leaning towards road riding. This is partly due to the fact that I now have a family and time itself has become a valued commodity. Road bikes have begun to appeal more and more, given how much ground they can cover quickly. Which has lead me to wonder whether such a bike could apply to my bikepacking lifestyle. Would I be able tackle bigger weekend trips more quickly on a gravel adventure rig? Would it be as versatile as my MTB? Questions were mounting… and an offer to try Why Cycles’ R+ lead to some answers.
Based out of Ogden, Utah, Why Cycles popped onto the scene this year with three bikes in their arsenal — the TF dirt jumper, the S7 27.5+ hardtail, and the R+, a dirt road, drop handlebar bike. All three share titanium as their frame material of choice.
Why Cycles’ founder, Adam Miller, was formerly the owner of Borealis Fat bikes. After selling the company, Miller took time out to answer his personal question of “WHY” he loved building bikes for people. Which formed the foundation behind Miller’s decision to start Why Cycles: to create bikes that where, in his words, “incredible in all types of cycling disciplines and ones that customers will keep for a lifetime.”
The R+ is Why Cycles’ take on the all-road adventure bike. To quote from their literature, it aims to “extend the limits of what other drop bar bikes can do”. Like the other models in their lineup, the R+ is constructed of a combination of 3/2.5 and 6/4 titanium and decorated with a few subtly etched graphics. The frame features 1.5 to 1 1/8″ tapered headtube with an integrated headset, a threaded 68mm bottom bracket, and internal routing for all cables, including a dropper post. The frame features 142×12 rear hooded thru-axle dropouts. While completes ship with 1x drivetrains, it also has provisions for a clamp-on front derailleur with 50/34t clearance.
Attention to detail is obvious from all angles. For off-road adventure, the R+ features multiple bottle cage mount positions (including bosses on the underside of the down tube), tyre clearance for 700×44 or 27.5×2.1 tyres, and standard rack and mudguard mounts. The R+ geometry tends toward off-tarmac adventure. It has a slightly longer frame length to help eliminate toe-overlap and a marginally lower bottom bracket height for increased stability, as well as a short stem and moderately wide bars to help with offroad handling.
The frame also comes complete with distinctive etchings. Seeing photos online, I was initially worried might look a little over the top. In the flesh they’re reassuringly subtle, allowing this machine stand out from its competition. Amongst the various “Why” logos and imagery that are neatly positioned around the frame, there’s a great quote from author James E Starrs on the inside of the chainstay that reads: Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. Made in China at a small scale factory, the R+ frame also comes with a reasurring lifetime guarantee and a crash replacement program.
In terms of distance, I’ve covered over 500km on the R+ so far. This includes putting it through its paces on pavement, forestry tracks, and anything else that fallen before me. Immediately evident was the bike’s playful feel. In fact when I first rode it, all I wanted to do was zip down a section of road, bunny hop onto the verge and hack it through the woods…
In case such behavior is deemed irresponsible on a drop handlebar bike, my shake-down ride took place in the Lake District and my chosen path was the road; up and over the Kirkstone Pass and onto Windermere. For those familiar with the area, this is quite a climb and an even better descent. The result? According to Strava, I laid down my fastest time up the hill and wasn’t far away from my best descent time either. Aside from being surprisingly fast, the beefy tyres, quality bar tape and Enve fork make for a really comfortable road ride.
But how do such tyres facilitate my playful off-road antics? Let’s just say the next day was a learning curve. The R+ has such a confidence inspiring ride that it led me into a remote valley and ultimately an unrideable way out — unless on a bigger bike with far more voluminous rubber. Over the 15km hike-a-bike section that ensued, I well and truly discovered both our limits…
A few months later – covering an even mix of road, singletrack and gnarly downhills – and I am still in awe at what this bike is capable of. It inspires the kind of confidence I wouldn’t expect from a bike of this genre. From what I can gather, the R+’ only real limiting factor is the tyre size of my current setup. Part of me wants to pop on some 27.5 wheels and 2.1 tyres and see how far I can push it. Even as it is, there aren’t many places I wouldn’t ride it.
One important detail to note was that the R+ was set up tubeless out of the bag. I say bag, because all Why Cycles bikes get delivered in an Evoc Pro personalized bag. Now that’s a nice touch! The rims are Knight Composites 29 Race, laced to Project 321 hubs front and rear, using Sapim CX-Ray spokes. Such a wheelset proved light and super stiff. Although I hadn’t previously heard of Project 321, a little research showed that these hubs should be easily serviceable if need be. The Force 1×11 drivetrain is faultless. I hadn’t ridden SRAM before and at first had reservations about the Double TAP shifters. This proved unwarranted as within a few kms I was shifting without thought. In addition, the Force hydraulic disc brakes provide more than adequate stopping power. The R+ comes with a 42T front and 11-36 rear cassette. If top speed isn’t a priority, changing to a 40T front chainring could help out on the steep accents. Otherwise, the frame is set up to take a front mech, allowing from a greater gear range.
- Frame Why R+ (Medium)
- Fork Enve Cross Disc
- Headset CaneCreek 40-series IS42/IS52
- Rear Hub Project 321 your color choice
- Front Hub Project 321 your color choice
- Rims Knight Composites 29″ Race
- Spokes Sapim CX-Ray
- Tubes Tubeless set up included
- Tires Maxxis Rambler 700x40c 120tpi
- Bar Easton EA70 44cm
- Stem Easton EA70 100mm
- Post Easton EA70 31.6
- Saddle Ergon SMA3 Standard Black
- Shifters Sram Rival 1×11 speed
- Brakes Sram Force Hydraulic Disc
- Rotors Avid Centerline 160mm
- Rear Derailleur Sram Force 1×11 speed
- Chain Sram PC1170
- Cassette Sram PG1150 11-36
- Crankset Sram Force 42t 175mm
- Botrtom Bracket Sram Threaded 68mm BSA Standard
- Grips Lizard Skins 2.5 Black Tape
So, on to the all important part. What’s the R+ like for bikepacking? Immediately noticeable is all the free and clear space on the frame, thanks to neatly internal cable routing and the lack of front mech. And given the frame is made from titanium, there’s no need to protect it from abrasion, as these can be easily polished out in seconds. For me, this durability is one reason why such a material comes into its own for bikepacking.
Given the drop bars, it was also really easy to mount a handlebar bag. On an MTB, cable routing can be a faff, unless it’s initially set up with bikepacking in mind. On a drop bar bike cables tuck neatly out the way, ready for you to secure a bag or harness. I loaded mine to the maximum width acceptable between the drops and must admit that my thoughts often drifted towards whether fitting a flared bar would be beneficial.
For my test trip – a 130km overnighter with a bothy stop – I packed relatively light. But despite adding a fair amount of heft relative to the weight of the bike, it truthfully had no ill effect on the way the R+ rode. Inside my Apidura bags, I carried my winter sleeping bag, sleeping mat, lightweight cookset, spare clothes, down jacket, water filter system, tools and spare tubes, charging station, food, and camera. Although laden, the R+ still felt fast on all but the most technical terrain.
In all honestly, I have struggled to pull faults out of this bike. Those I did find were easily remedied once I familiarized myself with and adjusted to the riding style. At first I was rubbing my heels against the flared rear chainstays, but that hasn’t really happened since, and may have been due to the fact I run my cleats slack on off-road bikes. The only part I changed from the stock build was the saddle, which is a personal preference on any bike. My only quibble was in the tyres which I sliced on a few occasions. This could be down to my riding style, given that I was hacking the R+ down trails as though I was on an aggressive mountain bike. Thankfully, it was nothing that fresh Stans Notubes sealant couldn’t fix; since then, I’ve enjoyed trouble-free riding for several hundred kilometers. I did wish for a smaller chainring occasionally on those killer Lake District hills, but 95% of the time the 42 chainring/11-36 cassette combo was acceptable.
- It’s super lightweight, fast on the road and gravel, and holds its own on the rough stuff.
- Multiple cage mounts, rack mounts and provision for mudguards.
- Being able to run up to 700×44 tyres or even 27.5×2.1 helps this bike attack anything that you throw at it.
- It’s comfortable. Any chances of a harsh ride are all but erased between the large volume tyres, Enve fork, Lizard Skins padded bar tape and well thought frame geometry.
- The attention to detail is amazing, clean cable routing, provision for a dropper post and the etching on the frame helps the R+ stand out.
- Multiple build kits including the optional Lauf fork. It is also sold as a frame/fork in case you’d like to build your own dream bike.
- It’s delivered to you in an Evoc Pro bike bag; surely a help when you plan your overseas adventures.
- The 42×11-36 1×11 drivetrain may hinder some when tackling steep climbs, or when the legs are tiring after a long day in the saddle.
- The carbon seatpost might be an issue if you use seat clamp mounted packs and can scuff easily unless protected.
- No bottle bosses on the Enve carbon fork.
- Flared chainstays may be an issue for some with large shoe sizes.
- Maxxis Ramblers felt a little puny.
- Model Tested: Force carbon kit
- Size Tested: Medium
- Size Available: S, M, L, XL
- Weight: 17.2lbs (7.8kg)
- Price: $5899 (£4800)
- Rider height: 180cm
- Rider weight: 74kg
- Contact: whycycles.com
Why Cycles brand this as an extremely versatile bike and I would have to agree. Not often have I jumped on a bike and loved pretty much everything about it from the beginning. The R+ ticked many boxes for me and if you are after a do-all bike, it should definitely make your shortlist. It’s lightweight, fast on the road, and slots into a bikepacking role perfectly. I revelled in the distance I could cover, especially over such a short period of time: being able to make the most of roads and forestry tracks has opened up a whole new world of weekend bikepacking potential.
I started racing mountain bikes 20 years ago and still compete to date as and when I can. Although I am often seen at races and events, I am usually behind the camera these days. Due to my photography and love for camping in the wild, it was inevitable I would develop a love for bike packing. This last year my attention is turning to long distance riding, races and events.
Height: 5’10” (178cm)
Weight: 165lbs (75kg)
Inseam: 33” (84cm)
New in bikes
- Jun 12, 2019Rigs of The 2019 Tour Divide
- May 31, 2019Tim Fairbrother and his Brother Cycles Big Bro
- May 28, 2019Five More Bikes from Bespoked UK 2019
- May 27, 2019Rocky Mountain Solo Review: Making Roads Great Again
- May 24, 2019Bespoked UK 2019: Stayer Cycles’ Dirt Drop MTB