Otso Waheela C – The Best All Around Gravel Bike?

Introducing the Otso Waheela C

The Otso Waheela C is extremely versatile. It’s a bike that can easily handle gravel rides as well as single track and is equally adept as a road bike. While it is a billed as a gravel bike, I prefer to consider it an all-road bike as it has proven itself to be both versatile and competent on paved as well as unpaved roads and trails. This bike can do just about anything!

The Waheela C has plenty of clearance for 700c x 54mm, 650b x 54mm, or 29" x 2.1" tires. It is also equally happy shod with 700 x 28 road tires. The Otso adjustable “tuning chip” rear dropout allows you to adjust the wheelbase and bottom bracket height. This allows you to tune the bike’s handling based on your tire choice.

The Otso brand might not be the best known. They are a small manufacturer located in Burnsville, Minnesota. Otso is part of the Wolf Tooth family that also includes Lithic forks and handlebars. All three brands feature well thought out, and meticulously engineered designs.

Otso offers consumer direct sales, but they also have a network of dealers too. I purchased my frameset through my local dealer, Suttons Bay Bikes.  If you decide to purchase a bike from Otso, consider your local dealer first as you’ll have local support and experience, and possibly a better price or discounts on other purchases. As a former bike mechanic and shop owner with 25 years of experience, I built the bike myself according to my own specifications.

When I first unboxed my Otso,  I was happy to see the great care that was taken to protect the frame and fork in shipping. The shipping carton was heavy duty, foam wrap and padding generously cocooned the frame and fork. The included small parts (seat clamp, headset, cable ferrules) were packaged separately to help protect the frame.

The frame is light! Weighing in at 1340 grams (size large), it provides a great start for a light overall build. The Lithic fork weighed in at 540 grams (uncut). Depending on parts and frame size, a sub-20-pound build is reasonable to achieve. Otso lists a claimed weight of 1024 grams for a size medium.

Otso Waheela C – The Best All Around Gravel Bike

Frame Details

The frame is constructed using EPS molded carbon fiber and carries a 5-year warranty. Upon inspecting the bottom bracket cable access door, the carbon appeared well compacted with no obvious voids or loose fibers.

The matte gray finish is flawless. Otso recommends using Muc Off Matt Finish Detailer to keep the finish clean. Unlike many bike companies, Otso offers multiple paint options.

The Otso Waheela C is one of very few carbon fiber gravel bikes with threaded bottom brackets. Otso uses a 68mm threaded bottom bracket. For me, a threaded bottom bracket is essential.  Press-fit bottom brackets are notoriously creaky and typically just a manufacturing short-cut to reduce costs. The bottom bracket facing, and threading were perfect.

The frame design allows for a narrower Q factor than other bikes with equally wide tires.

You can run either single or double chainrings. The front derailleur mount allows you to use up to a 53-tooth double chainring as well as accommodating compact chainring cranksets. If you choose a 1X setup, then a 50-tooth chainring is the largest that will fit.

The frame and fork have plenty of tire clearance for wider tires as well as fenders. The Waheela C can also fit up to 29" x 2.1", 27.5" x 2.1", or 650b x 54mm tires.

Otso Waheela C Fork Brake Cable Routing
Otso Waheela C Fork Brake Cable Routing

The adjustable Tuning Chip dropouts allow you to shorten the wheelbase and allows for a wider range of wheel and tire size combinations. With the stock Tuning Chip, you have two choices, either long or short. An optional “middle” chip is available.  This results in a change of 20mm and drops the bottom bracket by 4mm in the forward position.

While I have tested the bike using the forward position, I’ve chosen the longer wheelbase option as my preference. I switch between 700 x 28 road tires and 700 x 48mm depending on where I plan to ride and personally haven’t felt the need for the shorter wheelbase option.  The machined parts are impeccable. My father was a machinist and I’ve had some experience myself so I can vouch for the quality.

Otso Waheela Tuning Chip Dropout
Otso Waheela Tuning Chip Dropout

The frame and fork both use 160mm brake rotors and flat mount brake bosses.

The frameset has a full compliment of bosses. It includes three sets of water bottle bosses including a dual position set on the down tube so you can choose a higher or lower position based on your personal preferences. A third under the downtube boss is available for extra water bottle. I selected the standard fork that includes fender bosses, but no water bottle mounts. Otso has recently added water bottle bosses as an option.

All the threading (bottom bracket and bosses) is clean and free from burrs. The headtube and fork crown were also faced properly machined for the headset.

Overall, the attention to detail is refreshing to see.

The frame has internal cable routing and is compatible with electronic or mechanical drivetrains and can run a dropper post. The rear brake routing has a dedicated internal channel that makes hose or cable installation as easy as it gets. There is a cable access door located under the bottom bracket. This area is completely separated from the bottom bracket itself, so everything stays clean and isolated.

The front brake cable/hose is external and is routed behind the fork leg. This is meant to allow easy fork changes in case you might swap a suspension fork from time to time. Yes, the frame geometry is designed for either rigid or suspension forks. Properly sized, the hose does not contact or rub the frame.

Riding the Otso Waheela C

Comfort

This bike is a joy to ride! It’s comfortable and stable. Often “comfortable and stable” would imply slow or sluggish but that’s not been my experience.

I’ve put nearly 2000 miles on my bike both paved, gravel, and dirt singletrack too. My longest ride has been five hours. I’ve ridden on 700 x 28, 700 x 35, and 700x 48mm tires. I mention this as tires are the number one influencing variable and despite the range of tires and pressures, I’ve not experienced any vibration or feedback from the frameset.

The frame has been extremely neutral. It just disappears below you. It is stiff with no noticeable bottom bracket flex. There’s no hesitation or wind-up like some steel frames exhibit during acceleration.

Cornering and Handling

Despite a relaxed geometry, the bike rides very instinctively and neutral. It responds well to body English and counter steering. “Pushing” the bike sideways at speed to avoid potholes or trail hazards works as well as any bike that I’ve ridden. It also bunny hops well too!

While obviously not a criterium bike, the Otso hasn’t let me down in the cornering department. With its higher bottom bracket, you have plenty of pedal clearance. I’ve yet to notice any instability that can be associated with higher bottom brackets. The head tube angle and fork rake provide plenty of stability, but it hasn’t hampered its ability for high-speed cornering.  Making mid-turn corrections are confident and precise. Of course, it is not as quick handling as a dedicated road racing bike, the Waheela is no lumber wagon either.

Out of the Saddle Climbing is Great!

Climbing out of the saddle is stable and well balanced. This was one of the first things that I noticed. Unlike some long wheelbase bikes, the Waheela C is nimble when out of the saddle, allowing for easy corrections to your line. As a bigger rider (6ft, 200lbs) I don’t spend much time climbing out of the saddle but it sure is nice to have a bike that allows you to switch up your climbing style - especially on long climbs. This stability also encourages you to power over shorter climbs out of the saddle too.

Descents

The bike has been a joy for high-speed descents both paved and gravel. The bike has been reliably stable at speeds over 35 mph. I’ve maxed out at 43mph on pavement and 38mph on a gravel. The bike responds well to subtle weight shifts and air braking with your knees or elbows. The Waheela C has been just as confident on high-speed descents as my custom Nobilette where I hit 58 mph in the Smoky Mountains.

Otso Waheela C Review
The Otso Waheela C is perfect for when the pavement ends.

Conclusion

The Otso Waheela C is a fantastic bike. It’s suitable for gravel riding and racing, as well as an all-around all-road bike. The attention to detail and overall quality is well above average and frankly some of the very best that I have seen in 25 plus years of selling bikes and 40 plus years of cycling. The Waheela beats the pants off other better-known brands. If you are considering one of the more mainstream or mass-produced bikes like the Trek (Checkpoint, Domaine), Specialized (Diverge, CruX), or Salsa (Warbird, Cutthroat or Warroad), look at an Otso first. You'll get a better quality bike, more versatility, and a far better value for your money.

Depending on your riding style or needs, you might want to consider two wheelsets for a wide range of usage. I’ve chosen a pair of Shimano Ultegra wheels with Renee Herse Oracle Ridge 700 x 48mm tires for gravel and a set of Rolf Elan’s with Renee Herse Chinook Pass 700 x 28mm tires for paved roads.

Take a closer look at the Otso Wahela C at the Otso website.

 

Frame Otso Waheela C
Fork Otso Rigid Carbon 12x100
Headset Wolf Tooth Precision Headset
Seat post Ritchey WCS Carbon LINK FlexLogic
Seat Post Clamp Wolf Tooth 34.9mm
Saddle WTB SL8 Team 142 Saddle
Handlebar Ritchey WCS Butano 44cm, 31.8, Black
Handlebar Tape ESI RCT Silicone
Stem Ritchey Comp 4 axis, 110mm
Stem spacers Ritchey WCS Carbon 5MM (stack of 4)
Rear Derailleur GRX RX810
Front Derailleur GRX RX810, braze-on, bottom pull
Crankset GRX RX810-2
Bottom Bracket Shimano Ultegra BBR60
Shift/Brake Levers GRX RX810
Brakes GRX RX810
Brake Rotors Shimano SM-RT99 160mm
Cassette Ultegra 11-34 CS-HG800-11
Chain CN-HG701-11
Pedals Look X-Track Race Pedals
Wheelset - Gravel Shimano Ultegra WH-RS770
Tires Rene Herse 700C x 48 mm Oracle Ridge TC
Inner Tubes Schwalbe butyl
Wheelset - Road Rolf Elan
Tires Rene Herse 700C x 28 mm Chinook Pass
Inner Tubes Schwalbe extra-light butyl
Front through axle Wolf Tooth
Rear through axle Wolf Tooth
Water Bottle cages Elite Custom Race Plus

 

Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds. No compensation from the manufacturer or distributor was received.

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