- The Fox AX fork: The most obvious and polarizing feature of the Waheela S is the Fox AX fork. It has a paltry- by mtb standards, 40mm of travel on tap which is adjustable for spring rate, damping, rebound, and compression. It does have a manual lock out feature atop the right fork leg. I set up the air spring over a few rides before I settled upon a pressure I was happy with. I tried to leave the compression as open as possible, and the rebound was set to a faster setting, since medium to large impacts are not common on gravel. The fork felt supple enough, absorbing a lot of chatter. Fox is known for a smooth feeling travel and the AX is no exception to this. Well, that is until you bottom it out. The fork gives you no real ramping up effect, and if you hit something big enough- like an embedded rock on a dirt road at speed, you get a resounding clunk! when you bottom out the AX fork. I liked the fork’s performance most of the time, and it did a great job on washboard or slight “G” outs. But medium to big potholes, rocks, or ruts would get you into a place where the fork was overwhelmed in a hurry.
- The KS E30i Dropper Post With Wolf Tooth Lever: Look, I’ll admit right up front that I was a huge skeptic of using a dropper post on gravel rides. I mean, why? But after using one on the Waheela S, I’m sold. Here’s why- The dropper allows you to lower your profile and become more aero going down hill. Have you ever seen Pro road riders sitting on their top tubes while descending mountain passes? Well, that effect of getting lower is a real benefit and using a dropper, even on shorter descents, is a game changer. Plus, with a lower center of gravity, you are more stable as well. Of course, it works great on single track, as you would expect. The dropper is activated by the excellent Wolf Tooth lever, which is smooth and operates without fail. However, it is set on the upper portion of the bar next to the stem, requiring you to let go of the hood or drop position to activate it. This can be a non-starter, and I would have liked to have had a dummy shift lever on the SRAM Apex brake lever to activate the dropper instead.
- SRAM Apex 1X: This is my first rodeo with a road based 1X 11 gearing set up. I have used 1X to great effect on my personal off road bikes and on test bikes in the past that were mtb’s. The SRAM set up I used had a 42T drive ring up front and a PG 1130 11-42T cassette. Over the first few rides it was, well…….typical SRAM shifting. I happen to be of the opinion that Shimano shifts smoother and faster, but this Apex 1 wasn’t bad. That is, until things got hot and heavy on the ride. I found that the lowest three cogs on the cassette were balky and the drive train just wouldn’t function in those gears if I chose them. It appeared upon closer inspection that the distance between the upper jockey wheel on the derailleur and the cassette was slightly off, and the copious dirt and dust we experienced exacerbated the problem. That said, it worked like a charm when clean. Hmm…….
- Geometry: The featured “cross country-like” handling wasn’t what I experienced, well unless you meant 1990’s XC mtb handling. The Waheela S felt very much like a drop bar mtb from the 90’s. That may be exciting to you, or you may have no idea what that means. I have never really been fond of handling like that, so it wasn’t my cup of tea. The 650B wheels amplified this and on deeper gravel or on sketchy descents, the Waheela S could be a handful to keep straight. 29″er wheels may have been better, but I won’t be able to test that, unfortunately. Otherwise it is a fine riding bike.
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