The All City Cycles Space Horse is another one of those ‘one bike does it all’ types, it’s built to be a commuter, a roadie, a tourer and a singletrack slaying gravel bike. To keep matters simple, there is just one spec level available from Ison Distribution but it is one that sports pretty good kit attached to the double butted 612 Select cromoly steel tubing for a £1,600 price tag. For your dollar you get a straight steerer tube, steel forks, a threaded bottom bracket, quick release axles front and rear, all the rack and fender mounts you could ever wish for, plus enough space in the frame to add a frame bag and two water bottles, something we've tried and tested with Passport Cycle Accessories bike packing bags.
The Space Horse colourway is delightfully retro with a modern twist, the frame is protected by Electrophoretic Deposition, where the frame and fork are placed in a paint bath where an electric charge is applied. This fuses a thin layer of black satin coating to the tubes inside and out. This coating acts as both a rust preventative inside and a primer out making sure you’ll be lovingly looking after this design for years to come.
Componentry wise there is a full Shimano 105 groupset with a 50/34 crankset and an 11-28T cassette, TRP Spyre Mechanical disc brakes (160mm rotors) and a 21mm internal width 700c Halo Vapour wheelset. Elsewhere the wheels are shod with tough Surly Knard 41c tyres which provide a good compromise between rolling resistance and grip in the brown pow using well spaced shoulder knobs. The build is finished off with parts from Genetic, a brand also distributed by Ison. It’s worth noting that the build here offered by Ison differs quite a lot from All City Cycles' own builds over in America, on the other side of the pond you get a SRAM drivetrain with Promax mechanical disc brakes. We tested the 49cm bike (530mm top tube) which has 700c wheels fitted, the two smaller bikes in the range are available only with 650B wheels and 45c tyres.
Once you’ve finished admiring the bike and have hopped aboard, you’ll find the steel frame provides a well cushioned ride, this along with the large 41c rubber ensures many of the potholes and vibrations encountered on any road or gravel ride are rolled over with ease and maximum comfort. It’s no featherweight at 11.4kg (25.1lbs) without pedals, but it’s a real workhorse as happy transporting you over tarmac with some extra wind in the tyres as it is letting things get loose on lower pressures down the single track, steel tubes providing flex and vibration damping when you want it and therefore grip. Things only get slightly ‘twangy’ in the fork department when rattling down some serious chunder on bridle paths. It’s not a race machine, but that’s ok, it’s not meant to be either, this is a bike where the joy of the ride on a beautiful machine is worth more than a quick time or the increased effort in getting to the destination. A carbon fork would help the Space Horse loose a bit of weight and calm the front end though.
On the road the longer wheelbase of the Space Horse means it’s a pretty stable ride and a comfortable place to be. Setting off down dirt singletrack and the Space Horse holds lines well without the 71 degree head angle feeling too twitchy, The head tube is pretty short and the relatively wide Genetic Flare bars with a 130mm drop means getting onto the drops is a rather long way down and leaves rather a lot of weight on the front when descending, not ideal. The feeling is disconcerting and also means reaching for the brakes is a stretched affair too. My longer legs and choosing to roll with 700c wheels (only available on larger frames) made the decision for the choice of the 49cm bike, smaller bikes would come with narrower bars but no change in the drop, unfortunately.
Mechanical disc brakes are the norm at this price point, unless you look at brands such as Sonder or Verenti, these TRP Spyre’s are frankly either on or off and if they are on then you have to commit a lot of energy and force through the hands to make sure they stay that way. The wooden, lack of feel is unnerving and you’ll find it hard to feather the brakes, the whole setup forces you to think early about your speed and braking points. Braking with your hands on the hoods is a tense affair with arms tending to feel rigid due to the force needed to make the deceleration happen. Once applied though the brakes do pull you up to a stop adequately and have been reliable in all riding conditions.
The gearing does an adequate job of seeing you up and down hills, but should things get slightly steep it'll require the granny ring and a lurch out of the saddle whilst ploughing on standing up. The front chainrings are rather big and coupled with an 11-28T cassette means you’ve got some seriously steep gearing for off road excursions. You’ll hardly ever spin out downhill but you’re also likely to find steeper uphills an effort, or worse, unrideable if fully loaded with this gearing. Longer than average chain stays (435mm) and a 74.2 degree seat angle gives the Space Horse good climbing credentials and whilst long chain stays don’t equate to the most flickable rear end whilst descending, for this kind of bike the former seems more applicable anyway. To live with this bike long term we'd swap out the cassette for something with a few more teeth.
The combination of the above means that whilst this bike is happy being a pony of many professions, it will be much happier traversing tarmac or going on gravel rather than stretching to singletrack. It’s described as a ‘road bike meets tourer’ and it really is just that, it’s a bike to churn out the gravel miles in comfort and with character. We’ve thrown it down some singletrack and whilst it’s a lot of fun in its attempt to conquer skinnier trails, it really is a bike for pointing at the gravel road horizon, settling in and seeing where the adventure takes you.
Rachael is happiest on two wheels, she's been riding bikes for a good few years now after horses got too expensive! Partial to a race or two Rachael also likes getting out into the hills with a big bunch of mates. She's been writing - for publications such as Mountain Biking UK and Flow magazine - for as long as she's been riding and is equally happy getting stuck into a kit review as she is creating stories.
graeme.barker1 year 7 months ago
Crikey, prices on QBP brands has skyrocketed to the point they're just bad value. Having ridden a space horse, it's a lovely bike but that's waaaaay too much for what it is.
Also, needs a triple with that cassette you maniacs (yes I know there isn't a 105 5800 triple chainset or shifter)
tsarouxaz1 year 7 months ago
who hooooo, another overpriced junk from the overpriced giant of america!! at least you morrons put some hydraulic brakes for that price, or at least some hyrd calipers. mechanical brakes on a 1600 quid bike??