Returning to Minneapolis from my solo bike trip in Scotland, the last thing on my mind was riding bikes. Turns out pushing your fat bike through rivers, bogs and pouring rain for three weeks makes you want to never look at a bike again. I needed a break and I had planned on recovering by a lake for the rest of the summer. That is until I received an email that my new gravel adventure bike was ready in Bloomington, Minnesota.
The folks at Otso had reached out to me weeks before I left for my bikepacking trip. They wanted me to be an ambassador and were offering up a Warakin. Not really knowing much about the company besides them being based in Minnesota, I visited their website. Staring back at me from the screen was a shiny silver bike. If it were a human form I imagined it would be a knight of sorts with glimmering armor. Love at first sight.
I should probably preface this review with the fact that I have never owned a “gravel” bike. My Cake bike has been my sole companion for completing gravel and cyclocross races along with bike tours for the past four years. Would I say that I’m an expert gravel bike reviewer? Absolutely not. My motto for most bike adventures is to just ride at something as fast as I can and hope that I can monster truck over the obstacle and my bike doesn’t explode. If the bike survives, it’s good. Am I a gravel bike rider? I do in fact ride on some pretty chunky gravel down here in the desert. So yes, I am. But my gravel racing career has mostly consisted of solving the mystery of how many inches of burrito I can eat before I feel like I’ll die. It’s 13 inches. So the review for this bike will be mostly through the lense of someone who just really loves to ride bikes for the single purpose of getting from point A to point B, whether that’s on gravel, road, dirt or through swamps.
First and foremost, the Warakin is a good looking bike which in turn makes me feel really cool riding it. That’s the reason we all ride bikes though right? To feel cool and look good? The color scheme is not what I typically go for (my fat bike is hot pink with rainbow sprinkles), but it did remind me of medieval knight’s armor sans sword sheath so I’m a fan. I also decked my bike out with gold accents and purple grips to spice it up a bit. I was super stoked about the option for 650B wheels as these feel more manageable for my small frame to control on chunky descents. Initially, Otso did not offer the option of flat bars for their custom bike configuration and as I am not a fan of drop bars as they tend to over extend my torso and for me they are just uncomfortable. Plus it is real hard to fit my handlebar bag I use for touring between drop bars. So I chatted with them about these concerns and they added a flat bar build as an option for everyone!
Since I do not participate in a lot of gravel races, this bike has been ridden almost solely for bikepacking. Hills and multiple bags do not slow this bike down one bit. This was probably the most impactful difference for me. Again, I’ve never owned a gravel bike, so perhaps most gravel/non fat bike folks will be like DUH! But I am so much faster on this bike when touring. How many more miles could I put in each day without my knees feeling like they were going to explode?! I was able to easily transfer most of my touring bags over to this bike with almost zero hiccups. My jumbo jammer clears the front tire, my porcelain rocket bag clears the rear tire with no rubbing and I’m able to strap on a few feed bags to the bars without the front feeling ridiculously heavy. My friends over at Hoot Ventures made me a custom half frame bag for my water storage and food. Since the lithic carbon fork does not have any mount points, I had to get creative about how I was going to store water. This was my only concern with this bike, but rumor has it that Otso is working on a fork with mounts for all your water and peanut butter carrying needs. Despite my fork not being able to carry my water, the frame bag fits a 2L sack of water and I am still able to have a water bottle mount. With those three bags, I am able to pack everything I need for anything from weekend tours to week long adventures without the bike feeling overloaded. I know as a smaller framed human, it is so frustrating trying to find bikes and bags that are able to fit everything necessary without those bags falling into your tires, rubbing on components/your own body and not having areas that feel overstuffed. Happy to say that the Warakin has presented none of these issues.
Summer plans for the Warakin and myself include escaping the Tucson heat and heading back to the Midwest to ride along Superior, forested roads through the Upper Peninsula, as well as strapping it to a packraft to float down some rivers. There are no foreseeable bike explosions in the future. Can’t say the same about foot long burritos.
Frame: Otso Warrakin Stainless
Fork: Lithic Rigid Carbon 100×15
Wheelset: Race Face Aeffect 27.5
Stem: Race Face Aeffect 70mm
Seatpost: Race Face Aeffect
Headset: Wolf Tooth Precision Gold
Bars: Race Face Aeffect cut to ~720mm
Brakes: Magura MT4
Grips: Wolf Tooth Fat Paw Purple
Cranks: Shimano FC-RS510 with 44t Wolf Tooth Chainring
Saddle: WTB Volt Comp
Tires: WTB Venture/Byway
The bike as built retails for $3,335 or the frameset can be purchased for $1,450 on its own. Otso has a handy bike builder built into their site to help you pick the perfect build for you, so you can customize to your heart’s desire, and if you see that flat bar build option, you’re welcome.