Long-term test: Open U.P. – Bike Magazine Australia

Over the last few years, I started using my ’cross bike as my road bike. It allowed me to piece together loops mixing paved and dirt roads where I saw more squirrels, rabbits, and deer than cars. A skilled rider could take a regular road bike with 28mm tires on routes like these, but not everyone is comfortable with that, and some may want to venture into terrain, like singletrack or rugged fire roads, that would challenge even seasoned riders. That’s why the Open U.P. exists. It lets you match tyres and wheels to your skills and local routes. 

U.P. stands for “unbeaten path,” and Open’s carbon, multi-surface road bike took me to places I’d ridden by but never explored before. It feels natural on pavement and somehow still takes to the dirt like it was designed for it—a blend I’ve yet to experience with other bikes.

The Open U.P. rides so beautifully that I extended my routes farther than usual, venturing to fire lookouts and abandoned campgrounds in the middle of nowhere. It feels smoother than a race-bred ’cross bike, and that’s particularly noticeable when it’s outfitted with smaller tyres on pavement. Flattened and curved seatstays promote rear-end and pedalling stiffness and help generate an excellent ride quality that rivals that of many endurance road bikes. It shines most on dirt roads with 40mm-ish-wide tires, where it seems to float over choppy sections that cause stiffer bikes to chatter and skip.

In very general terms, the Open’s geometry is similar to a cyclocross bike, but with roughly 5mm shorter chainstays and a bottom bracket that is about 5mm closer to the ground. It handles a bit quicker than you’d expect, and has that “sit-in” feel that often characterises bikes with a lower bottom bracket—the bike is more stable, a little easier to get on and off of, and the handlebar is effectively higher.

Open cleverly drops the drive side chainstay to create clearance for up to a 50-tooth chainring while keeping the chainstays to a short 420mm, with clearance for up to a 54mm-wide tyre. Much like the current crop of 29er mountain bikes with plus-tyre compatibility, this road bike can also accept 650b wheels with high-volume tyres because the outer diameter ends up being similar enough to a traditional 700c wheelset to not upset the geometry and handling. I’ve found that the secret to setting up a bike like this is to choose the smallest, fastest-rolling tyre that you’re comfortable with in the dirt so that riding on the road is still efficient and fun. I briefly experimented with 2.1-inch-wide mountain bike tyres and found them to be a little overkill on the dirt and slow on the pavement for my taste. But the bike handles well in this setup, and some folks will appreciate it. I found my sweet spots in Schwalbe’s G-One HS 38mm, WTB’s Nano 40mm, and Horizon’s new 47mm tyres (which are 650b).

The slack, 72.5-degree seat angle is designed to be used with a zero-offset seatpost, but I prefer a steeper seat angle to get my fit right. On the flip side, I loved the aggressively short head tube, but some may find themselves with a big stack of spacers under their stem.

Gravel and adventure bikes are not for everybody. Compared with your typical endurance road bike, they tend to be a little overbuilt and too attentive to stability for people who mostly stick to pavement. But the U.P. is special because it also rides so well as a road bike that you can almost forget it’s capable of much more with different tyres. If you are lucky enough to live anywhere near rural dirt roads and ever wondered where they go, the question really isn’t whether you should buy an Open U.P., but rather what colour it should be.

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