After riding some of the most expensive gravel bikes on the market, it's heartwarming to find such a capable bike, that has been built with so much care and attention for such a fair price. The Stayer team have created a bike that fills a gap between gravel and mountain bike, to give an access all areas pass for riding untamed wild terrain. It's a bike which shows how much can be achieved with well thought out geometry and wide tyres, negating the need for any additional gimmickry. As they say, necessity is the mother of all invention, and Stayer have certainly built the mother of all Gravel bikes with the Groadinger UG.
Perfectly balanced agility and stability
650b hand built Stayer wheelset compatible with 2.1" tyres
Semi-bespoke build with tonnes of personalisation options
Value for money
Unable to find a reason not to buy this bike
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I love the idea of gravel bikes, the problem is that gravel bikes haven't really loved me. The terrain where I live means that gravel has two distinct definitions:
1. A driveway
2. A bridal way that should probably be tackled on a full-suspension mountain bike or on horseback.
We do have the odd gravelled disused railway line and canal towpath, but for riding bikes, the first is not the most inspiring out and back straight line, and the second is so well used by walkers that it's often pedestrian pace only.
Even with one of the best gravel bikes, finding one that is full equipped for dealing with rocks, roots, muddy and sandy steep inclines and declines that the British isles are blessed with, has been impossible. Until now.
Something truly gifted has emerged from a small independent workshop in East London (Leytonstone to be specific): the Stayer Groadinger UG.
Frame and finishing kit
The big deal here is that each Groadinger UG steel frame is handmade in Stayer's workshop. For an off-the-shelf standard frame option, Stayer has worked with Soigneur Bike Fitting to create a unique geometry for each size, which, across the board, is geometry focused on all-day comfort. At 5ft7", but long-legged and with short arms and torso, I found that the small was an ideal size. With a handmade bike there is of course the option of choosing to pay a little more and get a custom-built frame that is specifically sized for you.
When speaking to Stayer about the Groadingers raison d'etre, head frame builder Sam Taylor said: "The UG is our do-everything off-road bike. It developed on from our OG frame design which was very much a short chainstay cross bike for racing and riding single-track.
"The Groadinger UG was our effort to make something a little less race orientated and tweaked for longer rides and bike packing without making it any less off-road capable and shreddable as a fun bike that you really want to ride. Designed as a gravel bike around a 650b wheel size the UG is a capable lightweight off-roader that also copes with road riding pretty well."
Crunching the numbers and you can see this aim reflected in the bike's geometry. If you compare it directly to something like the Specialized S-Works Crux, a duel-purpose high-performance gravel/cyclocross race bike, you're getting a much more upright design. The stack, 547mm for the Crux compared to 548 for the Groadinger, is much of a muchness, but when it comes to reach, the Crux measures 10cm longer than the Groadinger. While there's minimal difference when it comes to head tube angles with the Groadinger UG just 0.25 slacker than the Crux at 71 degrees, it's combined with a longer head tube, 115cm Crux compared to 130cm Groadinger, and you get a sense of the difference in rider position.
But don't assume it's a super slack offering either. Coming at the numbers from the other angle and comparing it to the Evil Chamois Hagar gravel bike - which deals in mountain bike geometry - this is in no way a loosey-goosey ride either. You can see finer analysis on the Chamois in the review, but the point to take home is that if you want a super slack bike look over there, not here.
Stayer is transparent about the Groadinger's construction process.
"We build with a mix of Columbus tubing for the main frame and Columbus and T45 aerospace tubing for the rear triangle" Taylor said. "The machined parts all come from Bear FrameWorks.
"We mostly use a lightweight, off-road specific, tube choices for the frames varying slightly between sizes, mostly so that the small and extra small aren't overbuilt and everyone gets the same steel feel from their Stayer."
This small supply chain also allows for custom frame sizes to be made at request for just an additional £350 on the total build price. It's not something that will appeal to all, but a good to know for folk who fall outside the off-the-shelf bike size.
When it comes to the fork, the offering is either Stayer's own made steel adventure or a choice of aftermarket carbon forks. Our test bike came with a Ritchey Carbon WCS ADV (although this is soon to be discontinued due to the lack of reliable supply). The brand says it leans more towards off-road riding, with lots of multipurpose mounts and compatibility of either 140 or 160mm rotors.
This is another area where investing in a bike from a small independent brand is so beneficial as you really can pick and choose your own, with 'Build Examples' listed on Stayer's website over the more generic 'Spec'.
There's a choice on every element, and of course, you can always just go for a frame-only option. Personally I think you would be missing out on how well the Groadinger rides if you don't team with a pair of hand build Stayer hoops; each pair is laced up specifically to your requirement based upon factors such as your weight and riding style. Stayer's wheels, tested independently of the bike, have proved a winner among the Cycling Weekly tech team before.
For our test bike we had a pair of 650b 35mm Toray T700 carbon rims, teamed with Hope RS4 centrelock hubs, and a SRAM freehub. The wheels weigh in at a claimed1480g (a 700c pair would be about 1530g).
While tyre choice is as personal as a saddle selection, Stayer selected the tubeless-ready Travail Rutland 2.1 for our test rig, giving an inclination as to where Stayer wanted us to ride this bike as soon as it was out of the box.
On board, our bike was equipped with 1x SRAM Rival e-Tap, although you can spec exactly what you prefer, it's just a matter of letting Sam know if you want a 1x or 2x frame build.
Cockpit-wise - again, a personal choice - ours was donned with Ritchey WCS Aluminium stem and carbon handlebars.
If the wide gravel tyres weren't a big enough clue to the bike's capabilities, the first ride certainly was.
I'm blessed with miles and miles of Peak District bridal ways, and quiet lanes. But benign gravel it is not.
To give you an idea as to what this style of terrain is, I require you to imagine a mud swamp, throw in rocks and boulders in a non-uniformed pattern, point it up at about 30 degrees then add a waterfall.
I've said it numerous times, but just to reiterate, the majority of England and Wales just doesn't have the endless miles of topography that 99.9% of gravel bikes require to enable full enjoyment.
Without doubt, the Stayer Groadinger UG fills this gap.
It's agile, allowing me to pop a front-wheel over stone steps, while the rear wheel just nimbly follows. This is a huge deal as anyone who has ridden up steep rocky territory will know. Not having to grovel to get the rear wheel over an obstacle can make the difference between clearing the whole trail section and having to bail due to oxygen debt. The ability to save on that small repetitive hard cranking of pedals is enormous when riding for several hours.
The partnership between handling, the 650b wheels and Travail Rutland 2.1 tyres is sublime. My confidence grew on every ride. I haven't had such a tyre crush since I discovered the Goodyear Eagle F1 road bike tyres. They're malleable, but durable. I'm not a trail rider with the lightest technique, and once mentally and physically fatigued, I have a tendency to point and shoot at objects with little skill and these have not once let me down in a couple of months of hard winter use.
They're the Alex Honnold equivalent of gravel tyres, somehow finding grip that you thought was questionable in even chancing.
This, with the responsive handling and relatively lightweight nature of the bike, means that you're able to zigzag across paths, finding options and riding them as quickly as your eyes communicate with your brain.
In fact, probably faster. A couple of times I had to actually just stop mid-section and allow my brain and body to realign timing as I was suddenly clearing way more tricky terrain than ever before. Excited and nervous at the anticipation of how far could I get on some of the most technical climbs I've ridden for years, that I forgot to breathe, requiring me to pause in order to dial into the ride again.
It's a similar report for the descents. I found myself nailing gnarly, steep, rocky steps with soft mud ready to suck in a front wheel.
My issue here was not only trying to keep my brain and body aligned on these tricky sections but physically holding on to the bars. On steep, technical descents, the drops would make me overly low down and front-wheel heavy. On the hoods, I had swifter handling, but I struggled to feel in complete control of the brakes, making me choose between covering brake leavers or holding on.
It's not something to penalise Stayer for, just to be aware of if you're weighing up the Groadinger UG over its hardtail mountain bike option, the Groadinger OMG. If nothing else gives you the idea as to the bike's true capabilities, in that if you have the confidence to try something, the bike will be with you all the way.
On the road, the bike chips along nicely. For me personally, I was glad of the mental respite of having to deal with dodging and clearing objects coming at me so thick and fast on every ride, that I subconsciously used each link-up road as recovery time to grab a drink, snack and generally pull myself back together.
It was only when tackling the same cycling routes on my mountain bike that I realised how well the Groadinger UG spins on tarmac. The Travail Rutland 2.1 tyres and Stayer Wheelset duo have significantly less rolling resistance than the knobbly trail-ready 2.3" Maxxis High Roller II tyres. Teamed with the high gearing ratio of the SRAM e-Tap groupset, it allowed me to use road sections, even when climbing, as my recovery between technical off-road sections.
In summary I adore the Stayer Groadinger UG. It's a bike that demonstrates the power of well-thought-out geometry and wide tyres - with those, the need for additional "compliance" features (arguably, gimmickry), feels negated.
It's going to be incredibly hard to part with this bike, it's gifted me my confidence back for tricky off-roading. It's quietened apprehension, fearing certain sections that have previously dominated my mind on a ride, and gone from dreading 'that bit' to "I'm going to try that again" believing that that lip/ rock/ root is now surmountable.
Our test version (in images and spec below) would retail at £4,853, which isn't far off top-draw options all the way through the build.
But there is a huge amount of customisation available, which will vary the end price tag. The team at Stayer has said that for a full build, you can expect to pay between £3,600 and £6,500 for full builds, depending on the component choices and specs.
In terms of our version, yes nearly £5k on a bike is a lot of money. However, it's still £2.5k cheaper the aforementioned Specialized Crux Pro, and around £400 cheaper than a lot of the other gravel bikes we've reviewed recently which don't have nearly as much craftmanship.
There's also an argument for admitting that's just how much it costs. With Stayer there's no shareholders to pay out to, reams of overheads and marketing budgets that would add to the cost of the bike.
With Stayer it's just people making a modest living making really, really nice bikes. If raw materials become cheaper, I bet your bottom dollar that saving will be passed on to the customer, or re-invested in the Stayer Ultra Distance Scholarship, or training up new members of the team.
For anyone toying with the cost outside the UK are sold minus VAT but then expect your domestic tax to be applied on import. Shipping is currently quoted for at the point of sale as the costs for this are fluctuating significantly currently. Usually for wheels it is around £100 to the USA and around £30 to EU.
As is the perk of an indy brand, the team is keen to talk to folk directly about their bike needs, so head over to Stayercycles.com for more info on how to get in touch directly with the workshop.
- Frame: Columbus and T45 aerospace steel
- Forks: carbon Richey WCS ADV
- Groupset: SRAM Rival e-tap AXS 12speed 40t /10-42
- Wheels: Stayer 650b 35mm Toray T700 carbon rims, Hope RS4 Centerlock hubs
- Tyres: Travail Rutland 2.1
- Bars: Ritchy WCS carbon
- Stem: Ritchey WCS Aluminium
- Seatpost: Ritchy Comp
- Saddle: Fizik Luce S-Alloy
- Weight: 9kg / 19.84lbs
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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