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    Otso Journal

    Tour Divide 2021: Ken's Waheela C Setup

    Ken Zylstra is hitting the Tour Divide for the first time this year on his Waheela C. In our interview with him, he is referring to this attempt as his "Lemonade Ride" in response to some recent life changes. See his loaded rig and learn more about Ken's preparation ahead of the big event.

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    Etter Olson 2020 Look Back

    Perhaps like everyone, we had PLANS for 2020: international research (a collaboration with a Palestinian cycling club), bike tours, laid back bikepacking trips and more intense races. We planned to ride around things (Great Salt Lake, the Cedar Mountains, and Minnesota), through things (really big trees in Big Sur and the arches around Moab), across things (the Flint Hills of Kansas and the state of Utah) and over things (clear sandstone in Capitol Reef and endless gravel roads of the West Desert). In short, we hoped to ride the Waheela Cs through as many adventures as we could.


    Perhaps we should have taken the first day of our March tour through Big Sur as an indication of what was to come.

    Central Coast Tour (March 2-8)

    We left Fairfax in the cold, and by the time we had crossed the bridge into San Francisco, it had started raining, and raining hard. The state needed the rain, we didn’t. We took 6 days to ride from Fairfax to Santa Monica. Rolling along the beaches, over bridges, and through the forests of Big Sur. News of the pandemic chased us down the coast. On the last day of the tour, we learned that our spring break (we’re both professors) would be extended and we would be teaching remotely for the rest of the semester. We sat on the Santa Monica pier contemplating our return to Salt Lake City. Should we just keep riding? Skip the drive home and head to Vegas by bike? Alas, there was work to do, courses to prep. As we left LA, we heard news that restaurants would start closing. In Vegas, we saw people crowding the sidewalks for the last time as casinos closed the next day. We made it home just as travel and gathering restrictions were put in place here. We settled in to bend the curve and keep ourselves, and those around us, safe.


    #TWCC2020 (July 11-18)

    As everything got cancelled, we started dreaming up things that we could do close to home, and ways to try to bring other people into the adventure without actually riding together. We needed something to plan for, something to train for. The answer? This Week Contains Centuries. We’d ride 7 centuries in 7 days. For most of them, we’d leave from the front door (and sometimes swing back home to check on our foster dog who we weren’t sure could be left alone for so long) and we’d finish each day with a beer on the patio of a local brewery or some ice cream from the local ice cream shop. We encouraged people to plan their own big rides that week and make per mile pledges to organizations focused on racial equity, justice, and representation. And so, with the plan in place, we took 7 rides in 7 days, each of them just over 100 miles long. In a year that seemed to go on forever, we put 7 centuries into a week.


    Emigration Near the Equinox (September 20)56

    The year dragged on. Summer turned toward fall and in that moment of balance, with 12 hours of night and 12 hours of day, I (Brent) asked a question. How many times could I ride up and down Emigration Canyon between sunrise and sunset? The climb is a staple for cyclists in Salt Lake, not super steep or super long (7.6 miles and 1,286 feet of elevation gain) and the road had been closed all summer while they repaved it. At dawn, I left the park at the base of the canyon and started climbing, and descending, and climbing, and descending. Twelve hours later I stopped with an answer to his question: just over 10.


    Stupid Pony Gravel Race (October 2)

    Two weeks later, 28 or so other riders and I waited, hidden by the pre-dawn dark and distanced from each other at the start line of the Stupid Pony, a gravel race along the old Pony Express route across Utah. The 217 mile route included a couple miles of pavement, finely ground dust, some climbs that seemed endless, and 7 miles of washboards that fit right in with the rest of 2020. We worked to keep our distance at the start line, but on the road, in the big emptiness of the west desert, fellow riders were a rare and distant sight. Seventeen hours later, again in the dark, I rolled onto the old Air Force base in Wendover, on the far western edge of the state, picked up a finisher’s horseshoe, ate a couple slices of pizza, and promptly fell asleep on the porch of the Officer’s Hall. In the morning, Connie joined for a recovery ride in the emptiness of the Salt Flats.


    Belgian Waffle Ride - Cedar City (October 17)

    We’ve been trying to link up with our friend Toby (“Why doesn't anyone ride crits anymore”) H. for a cycling adventure for years, but the timing and travel (he lives in Indiana) has never quite worked out. So, when he called us last November (2019) and said he wanted to come out to ride the Cedar City edition of BWR, it didn’t take us long to find a way to make it work. Eventually, it became exceedingly clear that it didn’t make sense to travel all the way across the country for a day of bike racing. So, Toby stayed home and did his own big ride in Indianapolis while we headed south for another ride over gravel through the desert. Honestly we felt ambivalent about the ride and all the people in the midst of the pandemic. We kept our distance from the groups that formed and were diligent with our masks while we enjoyed the views, dirt, single track, and occasional hike-a-bike. 124 miles after the start, we finished with the requisite celebratory beer at the brewery.

    In the end, we each managed to put almost 5,000 miles on the Waheelas this year, including time on pavement, gravel, singletrack, and some time stuck on the trainer (hiding during Zoom meetings). We missed our friend who couldn’t travel, so we raced in masks without him through Southern Utah and lamented the cancelled events and plans. We had adventures and covered miles close to home. We learned more of the streets in our neighborhood and the roads through the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Mountains. In a year that asked us to respond to unexpected circumstances, we needed our bikes to match our creativity and needed them to be ready for whatever we threw at them. The Waheelas were.


    New Voytek Colorways Now Available

    The Voytek has new paint, graphics, and three colorways just in time for winter riding. This is same Voytek that changed the world of fat bikes in 2016 with its narrow Q factor, agile handling, and incredible versatility. Four years later, the Voytek still has the narrowest Q factor of any fat bike—183mm compared to the typical 210-230mm of other fat bikes—and it is chosen by beginners and seasoned fat bikers alike.

    The three new colorways are Blue & Goldenrod, Black & White, and Purple & Watermelon. Three high-contrast color pairings were designed to stand out against a bright, snowy setting. There's a third color on each of these new frames, too, just for good measure. The Custom Bike Builder has options for an accent color for anodized bits and components.

    Here's how the Voytek is different from other fat bikes:

    • Narrow Q factor: A narrow pedal stance keeps your weight closer to the centerline of the bike, which creates responsive, tight control when cornering. It also allows for more natural biomechanics, reducing the knee and hip strain when pedaling that you might find on other fat bikes.
    • Adjustable geometry: With a quick change in Tuning Chip rear dropout positions, the wheelbase can be extended or shortened by up to 20mm, thus changing bottom bracket height by up to 4mm. In the forward position, it's an aggressive, responsive Voytek ready for racing. In the rear position, the Voytek has that same intuitive handling but with added stability to make it easier to ride in deep snow or adverse terrain.
    • Versatility without compromise: The Voytek blends the lines of plus and fat, keeping the party going all year long. When the trails are packed with snow, it can ride 4.6” tires. When spring comes and the trails turn to dirt, wheelsets are swapped to ride plus until winter returns.
    • Lightweight EPS molded carbon frame: A versatile bike must meet the technical specifications of versatile riders. The lightweight frame will meet the demands for any 10K race, multi-month backcountry tour, or anything in between.

    The Voytek is available as a frankset (frame, fork, cranks) and as a complete bike. Base build includes Shimano SLX 12-speed and 26", 27.5", and 29" wheelset options. The Custom Bike Builder allows upgrades on just about every detail of the bike, from tires, to drivetrain, to headset color, and more.

    All three new colorways, as well as some replenished inventory of our Matte Slate & Gray and Navy & White frames, are available now via our Custom Bike Builder and within our network of Otso dealers.

    Warakin Ti and Warakin Stainless Pre-Order

    The Warakin Ti and Warakin Stainless are now available for pre-order. Inventory of these bikes was depleted over the summer and we have another supply in the works. This includes framesets and complete builds, which are expected to ship in mid-December. All options via our custom bike configurator are available for these pre-order complete builds and framesets.

    A few updates are in the works for Warakin Ti and Warakin Stainless. Both models will have an added notch for dropper post routing, a new 420mm axle-to-crown fork, and a slightly shorter head tube to accommodate the new fork. Geometry is unchanged. The Warakin previously used a fork with a 400mm axle-to-crown. This new fork length will allow for greater tire clearance and feature a 12mm axle. The addition of a notch for dropper post will provide routing for a cable-actuated dropper. The Warakin Stainless will have updated graphics as well.

    We released the Warakin Stainless alongside the Voytek in 2016 when Otso was first created. It is a capable all-road bike with tire clearance for 700c x 51mm, adjustable geometry, and a superior ride quality. We've seen it in gravel races, cross-country tours, commutes, CX races, singletrack, and everything in between. The overwhelmingly positive feedback we've received from Warakin owners kept us from making any changes to the frame itself for the bike's first four years. We believe these changes will meet updated rider needs while staying true to the original Warakin.

    The Warakin Ti was launched just this year, in February 2020, as an experiment of sorts. Everything is the same between the Warakin Ti and the Warakin Stainless, with the exception of the frame materials. We first tested the bike in 2019 to see how the Warakin geometry could be translated to a new material that is significantly lighter than stainless steel. The result is a spirited ride quality that begs to take the long way home. It was too much fun for us to keep to ourselves. Our first batch sold out quickly and we expect this next order to do the same.

    Pre-order of the Warakin Ti and Warakin Stainless requires full payment. Refunds are available, less $100 that covers expedited shipping from the factory to our workshop. Placing a pre-order today ensures that you will receive a frameset or complete build in this December shipment. The following supply without pre-order is expected to arrive in spring 2021. Explore pre-order options for Warakin Ti and Warakin Stainless now to get started.