Earlier this year, Locke Hassett had the pleasure of spending a few months riding Breadwinner Cycle’s Bad Otis. This modern 27.5-inch wheel hardtail – with snappy short 415mm chainstays, 66° headtube angle, and 160mm of front suspension – presented him with some interesting considerations about mountain bikes, the sport as a whole, and what it means to him. Continue reading below for Locke’s in-depth review of the Bad Otis, along with some other relevant revelations…
Breadwinner describes the Bad Otis with this statement: “As mountain biking has evolved, we wanted a bike capable of shredding new-school flow trails. The challenge: build a bike to handle jumps, big berms and rooty, rocky descents with the simplicity of a hardtail. Our solution: Slack head tube angle, 160mm travel fork, dropper post, short chainstays and 27.5’’ wheels, and a 1x drivetrain. Simple, reliable, and ready for the latest enduro-style trails.”
Overall, that description is pretty darn accurate. Hopefully my impressions can illuminate some quirks of the long travel hardtail, and celebrate them as well. My goal as a reviewer is to be as objective as possible, but when it comes to a bike like this where it is so apparent how much thought and artistry went into it, it can be hard to be critical. I will try and do my best here.
When I was originally asked to review the Bad Otis, fitment was the most important initial consideration. Taking a look at the effective top tube number I was sent, I compared it to my own hardtail and the numbers seemed pretty close. Then, without really looking at the bike too carefully online, I said: “Yes! I’m down for this review!” Reviewing bikes is a blast, so I rarely need any incentive. I knew it was a progressive geo hardtail, and I knew that Breadwinner makes insanely good-looking and functional bikes. I intentionally didn’t read much or look into the bike anymore for the purpose of simply riding it the way it looked like it wanted to be ridden.
Unboxing this bike, the first thing I noticed was a 160mm, Fox 38 Factory fork. Ok, cool. This bike has more fork than my last long travel full suspension. Let’s go. The next thing I noticed was the paint job. All I could say was “WOW.” Apparently, the paint was inspired by 80s Ducati motorcycles, and aesthetically speaking, it is the most beautiful bike I’ve ever gotten to ride, which is no surprise considering it was built up for the Chris King Open House.
One of my coworkers at the bike shop was staring at it, clearly confused. He checked under the saddle to see if the dropper was an AXS Reverb, only to find that it was a standard dropper post, with exquisitely executed internal routing. That isn’t an easy task on a steel hardtail, and Breadwinner achieves it by using small brass guide tubes inside of the main frame tubing. Those small details, from the intricate head badge to the shapely dropouts and smooth welds really show how much thought and craftsmanship go into these bikes.
I also noticed that the derailleur cable was externally routed, and not sheathed in full-length housing, but rather routed around the bottom bracket shell with a plastic guide. Though this does save some weight and make cable maintenance easier, it felt like a bit of an odd choice for a bike that is clearly meant to get dirty. For what it’s worth, this never was an issue, but it’s noteworthy. I reached out to ask about this design choice, and got a response that makes a lot of sense:
“Tony and I have long felt that the open cable with minimal friction points is the best way to go. That being said, cables and housing have come a long way and obviously, we don’t have to deal with pivots and wacky frame designs. The cable stops and housing are the lightest option also with no added housing or guides. I have certainly experienced more issues with housing that faces up allowing water to enter on the ends and corrodes the cable. Our routing is the best option in this regard, looks the cleanest and allows the frame to remain strong with fewer holes and heat for braze-ons.”
The frame tubing is a mix of Columbus and Reynolds, with some extra consideration put into the seat tube for both accommodating a dropper post and a lot of forces. The tubing doesn’t feel oversized to me, but it does seem to be a bit bigger in diameter than steel mountain bikes with less aggressive riding in mind.
In short, the Bad Otis is a progressive, modern hardtail with a long and slack front end, short rear end, 27.5” wheels, and a whole lot of party up front. When I assembled the bike, I stepped back to look at it. The stance was aggressive, but not imposing. Smooth lines, skinny steel tubes, and stunning welds had me a bit perplexed. This piece of art is clearly meant to be ridden hard, but has the elegance one would expect from something built for an art show, which, in a way, it was.
The Bad Otis is clearly a hardtail that is meant to be less about efficiency and more about going hard. The model I had had a 620mm effective top tube, which is 5mm shorter than my current size medium Esker Hayduke. Now, I am only going to make comparisons to my Hayduke to discuss fit, because they are radically different bikes. The chainstays are short at 415mm, and the headtube is slack but reasonable at 65°. The 76° seat tube was a little slacker than I like for climbing, but also made it easy to manual and get over the rear wheel when things got steep.
Overall, I feel like this geometry was solidly in the “shreddy hardtail” realm without approaching absurdity. With long travel hardtails out there with head tube angles slacker than 64°, it’s nice to see a modern, aggressive hardtail with a big fork that doesn’t look like it fell out of Dali’s Persistence of Memory.
It is worth noting that the big fork and slack front end combined with a top tube that fit my short torso meant a significant slope in the top tube, and left me with little to no standover clearance. Now, I don’t really care about standover. I have short legs and at this point having no standover is just part of bikes for me, unless I am sizing down and riding something that won’t suit my riding style. It’s also worth noting that these are custom frames. Certain geometry key-points are kept, but you have a lot of wiggle room when considering buying a Breadwinner. For those of you who aren’t built like a brick with legs, you might be just fine. Prefer a steeper (or slacker) seat tube or head tube? Talk to the people welding your bike together and express that, and figure out something that works! That’s the beauty of working with a frame builder!
Get Up (To Get Down)
There’s no getting around it. The Bad Otis is not a climbing bike. A long front end and short chainstays paired with small wheels tended to give it a fulcrum-like feeling on really steep stuff, and the lack of a rear linkage and shock meant that keeping traction over square edges was a matter of skill and luck (both of which I’ve been short on lately). Lines that I cleaned on my Esker Elkat with its Orion suspension took a few tries on the Bad Otis, but that’s a bit of an apples and oranges situation. Of course a bike with a Dave Weagle suspension is going to climb up rocks well, especially compared to a hardtail, and that’s true of any hardtail. Navigating switchbacks and steeper terrain meant a lot of shifting weight forward and loving 52 tooth cassette cogs. The Schwalbe Magic Mary tires it came with didn’t help with technical rocky climbing, but tires are easy to change. Schwalbe tires are a rare sight in the Rockies, and it’s not because they are bad, but because there are better rubber compounds suited for this area. More on that later though.
Having said that, this bike is not meant to be setting KOM’s on climbs, and neither am I. A little extra body English on tougher sections is fine by me, and I didn’t really expect impeccable climbing performance. Spinning up mellower climbs and fire roads was just fine, and though the bike is steel and has a big ol’ fork, it was shockingly light. I didn’t bother weighing it due to it being custom and fully kitted out with carbon bits, but even on heavier builds with less carbon, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could keep the complete bike under 30lbs or just over. I would guess mine came in at around 27lbs. Not bad at all considering you’re packing an EWS ready fork to wherever you’re going.
Getting Down and Dirty
This is where I got confused about the Bad Otis. I knew it was going to go fast and get rowdy. On my first ride on it, I huffed and puffed to the very top of one of the Front Range’s gnarlier riding zones. This area is a mix of backwoods freeride trails and super chunky moto lines. I love it there. I had only ever ridden there on my Elkat, which is ridiculously good at dealing with square edges. I started descending some chunky, square, rocky moto trail with the same level of carelessness I had become used to on that trail and I was quickly reminded that I was not on a bike with 150mm of rear travel. Square edges are going to snag rear wheels, and especially smaller ones. I found myself feeling a bit uncomposed, and a little spooked at times as I bounced through rock gardens.I would be lying if I said that at first, I was a little disappointed, or at least confused.
I say at first, because my perspective quickly changed. After that ride, I began to re-frame my expectations and try to play to the bike’s strengths. Sure, it is a hardtail, but that doesn’t mean it has to be limiting, and having a big fork doesn’t always mean you need to hit the chunk as hard as possible. Once I started seeking out trails that had more jumps, berms, grade inversions and drops, a lightbulb went off. This bike isn’t about all out speed and efficiency, and that is exactly the point. It is about having as much fun as you can, and it does that exceedingly well.
When I took the Bad Otis to trails that allow you to open up and hit every jumpable line, it never ceased to make me whoop, and had no trouble keeping up with my fast friends riding carbon squishy bikes. On the chunky moto stuff that I went back to, I just re-framed my mentality. I wasn’t going to keep up with a skilled rider on an SB130 on the chunkiest of terrain, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to have a blast. On one of our rootier and loamier trail segments here, I had way more fun than on my full suspension. The photoset of this bike was taken on a very well built, new school flow trail in Santa Fe that has a great mix of natural features and more manicured sections. I rode that trail just as playfully as I would have on a full sus, if not more so. I even hit some surprise drops that should have ended badly, but the Bad Otis handled them just fine.
Cornering on berms was a zen like experience on this bike, and more natural corners were just fine thanks to the wheel size and 42mm fork offset. When it comes to jumps, I often get a bit more rear wheel kick than I like on a hardtail, partly due to poor technique but also due to the whole hard-tail thing. That was less of an issue than I expected, probably due to the short chainstays. As far as landing jumps go, I was also surprised. Usually, hardtails mean harsher landings, but the compliance of the frame coupled with a great wheelset and smart geometry meant that my landings were pleasantly smooth.
It turns out, when you combine a lightweight and compliant frame with geometry that begs to leave the ground, and re-frame your expectations to be about fun rather than speed, the beauty of a long travel hardtail becomes apparent. And honestly, that’s more important to me. I don’t race. I ride to smile and laugh and have a damn good time. This bike does a great job at facilitating damn good times. I’m not going to pretend it can compete with 29er full suspensions on technical, natural terrain. But that’s not really the point of a bike like this, is it? That’s also a somewhat fruitless comparison in the long run. Hardtails in 2022 across the board aren’t going to maintain traction over rough terrain when comparing it to the countless offerings with moving rear linkages, but that’s not really the point of a hardtail in 2022. The point is to have a beautiful bike that is simple to maintain, fun to ride, and doesn’t make you think too much. The Bad Otis checks all those boxes.
The Build: Considerations and Opinions
This bike is stunning, and there is no arguing against that. This build was top of the line, with an XX1 drivetrain, Chris King bearings, ENVE cockpit and Astral Wheels, and that massive Fox 38. It’s no surprise that a build that would approach 5 figures would be gorgeous, but the attention to detail of this build was really impressive. I was a bit confused that the dropper post was a Reverb and not a Fox Factory Transfer, as the gold would’ve looked great, but who knows with supply chains being what they are and have been.
Astral makes the majority of their rims in Oregon, and uses house branded hubs made by White Industries. My rims were the Backbone X, with a 30mm internal width. The wheels weren’t overly stiff, and when combined with the steel frame, the bike rode super smooth. I never felt like I needed to worry about the rim integrity, and of course the lower weight meant getting off the ground was a breeze.
The Fox 38 fork performed exactly as you would expect. Laterally stiff, plush and capable. There isn’t much more to say about it. It’s a top shelf Enduro fork made by a company that doesn’t compromise. I’m a set and forget kind of guy, so the adjustability of the FIT damper series isn’t that important to me, but I’m also a sucker for gold, so, yay Kashima.
Now, back up top there, I mentioned the Schwalbe tires and my distaste for them. I have only owned one set of Schwalbe tires, the Marathon Plus touring tire, and they were incredible. I take no issue with Schwalbe tires in general, but there is a reason they are very rare to see in the Rockies, and almost non-existent in the desert Southwest. They get eaten alive by our rocks, and don’t give the type of traction needed for dry terrain, weather that be decomposed granite, sandstone, or any combination of inorganic soil. Perhaps there is a model out there that would do fine, but I have yet to be introduced to it.
The Magic Mary’s have massive knobs that are spaced fairly widely. I actually stopped on a ride to see if I had broken a spoke or if my axle was loose due to feeling a lot of lateral flex out back. Everything was fine. It was the tire itself that was flexing wildly, and I imagine it was the knobs that were the culprit. The wide spacing also meant that surface area was less than ideal for spinning up rocks, and they lost traction from time to time. I was able to ride a few sections of trail that were more organic, and one that was pretty muddy in places, and it was made apparent to me why folks who live in wet places love these tires. I am just not graced with enough precipitation to appreciate them. I didn’t specify tire preference to the folks at Breadwinner, and didn’t bother to change them out during the review, mostly because I wanted to see how they would hold up and get a chance to spend some time on tires I rarely see, let alone ride.
My only other nag with the build was the saddle. You read that right. A Radavist contributor doesn’t love Brooks Cambium saddles. I did appreciate that this bike was spec’d with a narrower saddle for getting out over the rear wheel, but I just never found it super comfy. You can pummel me in the comments, but my butt has its own opinion. Saddle choice is completely a personal preference however, and I can’t argue that they are some of the best looking saddles out there.
On the other hand (or on both of mine while riding) the DMR Deathgrip grips were fantastic. I’ve seen them out and about, but haven’t gotten to try them until now, and I was really impressed with the comfort and control they offered.
As finicky as I know Reverbs have been in the past, I had no issues with this one whatsoever. I still don’t really understand the benefit of using fluid over a cable to actuate a dropper post, but I’m not an engineer. The SRAM G2 brakes worked great, and even if I have my own preferences, they are clearly a huge jump in terms of quality and reliability from older Guides.
The question I kept asking myself during my time with the Bad Otis was: “who is this bike for?”.
The Bad Otis (or any shreddy hardtail for that matter) isn’t going to be able to compete against a modern full suspension when it comes to super technical terrain. 27.5” wheels don’t go as fast or roll over and through stuff as well. It’s pretty dang slack for bikepacking, and covering that paint with a frame bag would be a crime (though you can get bolt on bag mounts for it if you want). It’s not the fastest, not the most efficient, and for a bike that will end up costing as much as a higher-end full suspension, it is hard to make a case for the average mountain biker to buy one.
Perhaps that’s exactly the point. In my opinion, the Bad Otis isn’t really for your average mountain biker. It’s for someone who either already has their uber-efficient bikes and wants a functional piece of art that they can party on, or doesn’t care about efficiency and just wants to have a blast while turning heads. There wasn’t a single ride I had on it where a stranger didn’t ask about it, which is always a cool feeling. It’s for someone who cares a lot less about watts and milliseconds than they do about laughing in the woods with their friends. It’s the sort of bike that takes a bit more skill and thought to ride, but once you’re used to it, it has a tendency to make you forget about everything and hit that side jib or whip off any feature you see. Having to put yourself in T-Rex mode for a steep uphill is easy to get over when it’s so fun to go back down. This bike is for someone who appreciates impeccable craftsmanship paired with fun geometry, and maybe lives somewhere with new-school trails. It’s for someone who wants to ride like they are a kid again and take a pause every time they see their bike in the garage to gawk and grin.
The bike’s namesake comes from a friend of the Breadwinner folks who would comment on anything that was wonderfully rad and out of the ordinary and refer to it by saying “that’s bad Otis right there.” I think that sort of sums it all up. This bike isn’t about the status quo: it’s about jumping over it and laughing midair.