An incredibly capable gravel machine that feels remarkably light for a steel frame and ploughs through most off-road terrains with buttery smoothness
Super capable on the rough stuff
Comfortable Columbus steel soaks up all the bumps
Big tyre clearances
Lightweight but robust
Hand built frame and wheels
No rear rack mounts (but available as an option)
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If you’ve never heard of Stayer before, that’s because it’s a very small outfit in East London that builds what I believe to be some of the most beautiful steel-framed gravel and adventure bikes currently available. Headed up by cycling power couple Sam and Judith (pronounced Yu-dit) Stayer Cycles offers several models of off-road adventure machines, from the chunky tyred OMG to the Groadinger UG, which it describes as an “ultra grav grav kitchen sink gravel bike built for adventure groading and fast off roadin’.”
I was not only fortunate enough to get my hands on a Groadinger UG for testing, but since Stayer had never before had a request for an extra small frame — all its bikes are made to order — I offered up my measurements to help the team bring an XS frame into its line-up for the first time. It seems a fair exchange: Stayer gets an extra frame size and geometry to offer its clientele, and I get a custom made-to-measure gravel bike to play with.
Stayer’s wares don’t stop at frames either, as it also hand builds its own wheelsets for everything from gravel and all-road, to fixed crits, cyclo-cross and road racing. My Groadinger UG frameset came complete with a set of Stayer Gravel / Adventure Disc wheels as well.
As we’re currently in the midst of a parts shortage, the build I’ve been testing is made up of components that could be easily obtained. For the purpose of this review, I’ll only be focusing on the frameset and wheelset, but I will comment on particular components that have contributed to the overall ride feel, and of course, the verdict.
Keep reading to find out how well the Stayer Groadinger UG stands up to the best gravel bikes on the market.
Design and aesthetics
I think it’s fair to say that the overall aesthetic of the Stayer Groadinger UG is simple and elegant. With its straight lines, round tubing, wishbone seat stay and selection of beautiful (mostly pastel) colours, it almost looks too delicate to get muddy. Don’t let its looks fool you though, I can attest to its hidden burly nature.
Geometry-wise, the Groadinger UG is definitely designed with endurance and comfort in mind, with a pretty relaxed ride position. The team worked with Tim from Soigneur Bike Fitting to develop what it calls a “gravel-optimised” geometry designed for long days in the saddle. In size XS it features a 70.5-degree head tube angle and 74.5-degree seat tube angle, while the relatively high stack and short reach (534mm and 362mm respectively) place the rider into a relaxed and comfortable position.
Meanwhile, Stayer’s wheels are pretty distinctive looking, with their deep, matte-black carbon rims and large white decals.
Of course, when discussing aesthetics I’d be remiss not to comment on the colour options. Stayer Cycles offers five in-house options, some with suitably bonkers names (you certainly can’t deny the brand knows how to get its personality across despite taking up such a small corner of the market). My model is painted in Swamp Dip, which Stayer describes as “a double dunk in Shrek soup”, and which I deem to be a very pretty pistachio-like colour. You can also get it in How Now (a warm, cream colour), Chillymanilly (pale pastel blue-green), Appelblauwzeegroen (a beautiful mixture of apple, blue, sea, and green), or rAWrAW (phosphate dipped and clear-lacquered, so the welds and “all those perfect imperfections” are on full display). You can also choose your own RAL colour or organise a custom design with your painter of choice.
As a made-to-order frameset, the Groadinger UG is pretty versatile and can be made how you want it. Hand-built and TIG welded in Stayer’s workshop in London, it’s constructed using Columbus Zona, Life, and T45 tubing. Zona, which makes up the majority of the frame’s tubing, is a seamless non-symmetrical tube with cylindrical butts that strikes a healthy balance between weight, strength and durability.
It’s compatible with 1x or 2x setups, and comes with a choice of Ritchey or Whisky carbon forks. It’s flat mount, but also post mount compatible, and accommodates 140-160mm disc rotors, while the stainless steel dropouts are designed around 12mm Thru axles. The spacing at the rear is 142mm, and thanks to the wishbone seat stays, there’s plenty of space for 650b x 2.1in / 52mm and 700c x 40mm tyres.
The frame comes with mudguard mounts as standard, and you can choose to have up to three bottle cage mounts. Other optional extras include Di2 internal routing and rear rack mounts (which my test model doesn’t have). I could argue that the lack of rear rack mounts is a significant oversight, and that it should just come as standard, but with the current trend towards saddle bags and compact bikepacking bags, it’s not necessarily what the bike is built for, and since there’s always an option to have them included, it doesn’t give me a huge amount to complain about.
As I mentioned before, you have a choice of forks, between the Ritchey WCS ADV (which mine is equipped with), and the Whisky No.9 Road Plus fork. Both made of carbon, the key difference is that the Ritchey features three luggage mounts on each fork leg and accommodates wider rubber than the Whisky. A 100x12mm Thru axle comes included, as do mudguard mounts. You can carry a maximum of 3kg per side, so opting for the Ritchey fork affords you an extra 6kg of carrying capacity in total. If neither of those floats your boat, Stayer also offers Lauf, Enve and Columbus forks.
The Gravel / Adventure Disc wheelset comes in both a 700c or 650b option (I got the latter), and are built around DT Swiss 350s. You can also choose to upgrade, with SON dynamo hubs on offer amongst the choices.
The matte black carbon fibre rims are asymmetric, and reinforced for extra strength on mixed terrain. Their hookless design allows you to run fairly low pressures in the tyres, and they’re best suited for tyres ranging between 35 and 45mm in width, though mine are shod with 47mm Teravail Rutland tyres.
The wheels also come with a choice of freehub bodies, including Shimano/SRAM 8-11spd, SRAM XDR, Campagnolo 9-12pd and Campagnolo Ekar N3W.
As I’ve already alluded to, due to limited availability, the team at Stayer Cycles built me a bike with what they had to hand and could get hold of, so there’s a bit of mixing and matching at play, but overall the build works.
I’m running 2x Shimano GRX 810 drivetrain components, with 46/30 11-34 gearing. I’m also running the GRX 810 flat mount brakes with 140mm rotors.
The 165mm crankset comes courtesy of Rotor, the headset and seatpost clamp are Hope, the bottom bracket is Wheels Manufacturing, and an Ergon SMC saddle sits at the top.
Finishing kit includes a Thomson Masterpiece Ti seatpost and silver Thomson Elite stem, which holds Ritchey Comp Logic Curve bars wrapped in Zipp CX Service Course bar tape. Finally, the 47mm Teravail Rutland tyres came setup tubeless out of the box.
I’ve ridden the Stayer Groadinger UG in all sorts of conditions, from tarmac and light gravel towpaths, to blue mountain bike trails, loose gravel lumps and absolute slop. Heavy rain and blistering sunshine, this Groadinger has seen it all, and accompanied me on everything from short loops of some of the best bridleways in the south west, to an all-day grind at the Brother Cycles Big ‘Un in Kent, and many scenarios that fall in between.
Surprisingly, I’ve not had to do much, if anything at all, to finetune the fit. As I mentioned before, the XS Groadinger UG was built around my measurements, so naturally it fits me really well. I’ve been tempted to replace the Ergon saddle a couple of times but it’s never bothered me enough to actually get around to doing it. Build-wise if I were to change anything, I’d swap out the front hub for a dynamo and have a couple of rear rack mounts, but those are more wishlist items than actual needs, and their absence is nothing to worry about.
From my time on the Groadinger UG I’ve come to the conclusion that it is possibly one of the most capable and well-built steel gravel bikes I’ve had the pleasure of testing. Despite feeling pretty light compared to some other steel bikes I’ve ridden, the Groadinger UG ploughs through and over most rough terrain with huge confidence and agility, all while feeling incredibly comfortable and looking gorgeous.
As I expected to be the case, the Columbus steel soaks up most of the bumps and, even after all-day rides off-road, I’m yet to find myself with aching arms or rattled joints.
Meanwhile, with their deep-set carbon rims, the Stayer Gravel / Adventure Disc wheels feel fast off-road as well as on, slicing through headwinds pretty well considering the size of the rubber wrapped around them.
The DT Swiss 350 hubs are a favourite among cyclists because of their reliability, proven power transfer and light weight. With these hubs at the centre, the Stayer wheels are quick to engage and accelerate, it doesn’t take them long to pick up speed, and once there it’s very easy to hold. Even with the Teravail Rutland tyres, with their tri-level lug pattern for maintaining traction and shedding mud, you don’t lose much pace when hitting the tarmac, and the whole ride feels efficient, comfortable and, most importantly, fun. Meanwhile the rims are strong and durable, having taken a fair amount of knocks (and slides on slippery rocks) and still looking practically new.
I had a feeling I was going to enjoy riding the Groadinger UG, but I didn't expect to love it this much. With a fleet of bikes vying for my attention when I head out (some mine, some for testing), it’s the Stayer I go back to time and time again. I crave my next mudslide ride, and count down the days until I can ride it again.
It’s difficult to put into words how much I adore this bike without my review reading like a love letter. Perhaps it is a love letter though since, after all, I think so highly of this bike that I’ve made the decision to lay down my own money to buy one. What better endorsement can there be than that?
Tech Specs: Stayer Groadinger UG gravel frameset and wheels
- Price: from £1,700 (frame and fork), £1,190 (wheels), and £2,550 (rolling chassis)
- Frame: Columbus steel
- Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, Custom
- Colours: Chillymanilly, rAwrAw, Swamp Dip, How Now, Appelblauwzeegroen
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Mildred joined as Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews and BikePerfect in December 2020. She loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike, and does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors.
Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall.
Height: 156cm (5'2")
Rides: Stayer Groadinger UG, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Marin Larkspur, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike
By Will Jones