Finally the wait was over and I took delivery of my new Tripster ATR V3. I’ve been riding a Tripster since it was launched as one of the very first gravel/adventure bikes with what was back then ground breaking geometry and tyre clearance. With that first bike I headed east and cycled to China and the rest is history. I have ridden across about 45 countries and maybe 60,000km on the V1 and V2. Given my miles on the bike I fed into both redesigns and it’s great to see a few refinements from myself and other ambassadors incorporated in the V3. My miles in Scotland and the rough gravel up here means I’m excited the V3 gets wider tyres and even more capable of adventures.
To give some context to this review I ride on smooth tracks right through to pretty rough gravel tracks, tarmac miles and blue/red MTB trails and that’s all on my daily gravel bike commute through Glentress Forest in Scotland! Then stripped down I need a gravel bike to go fast in events like the Dirty Reiver and finally built up as a reliable expedition bike to bikepack adventure into some of the remotest corners of the world. I wanted something fast, comfortable and reliable – after all ATR stands for Adventure, Tour and Race.
What has changed from the Tripster V2 to V3?
Having ridden the bike it is clear a lot more has changed than I thought. I think it immediately looks more stylish than the comparably utilitarian V2 and the other ‘evolutionary’ steps forward include…
- The geometry has been tweaked, the reach and wheelbase measures about 15mm longer than the V2 in 60cm with the small sizes getting lower top tubes too. As mountain bikers will know the longer reach allows a shorter stem for snappier gravel and off road handling while a longer wheel base adds stability at speed. I wanted this change as I liked running a shorter stem on the V2 but this impacted the reach measurement of the bike.
- Somehow they have made the rear triangle even MORE compliant with pretty novel flattened and snaking seat stays. It was immediately noticeable as soon as I got on the V3 and the V2 was already super comfy. This complex design is why it costs a bit more too I suspect.
- Lazer etched decals – I’ve no idea what this actually means but all I know is they look awesome and means the graphics don’t rub off from bikepacking bags as easily.
- The Range fork – I really wanted a fork with anything cage bolt holes and 700x50mm clearance and Kinesis have delivered both. Anything cage bolts let you store bags, water bottles and pretty much…. well anything on the fork and great to see this spec’ced.
- Flexible bottle cage bolts. It still has bolts for 3 cages but the V3 lets you better use all the frame space with a frame bag. This is by shifting bottle cage locations, simple but makes a huge difference to what you can carry inside your frame.
- New seat tube joint and chainstay braces to improve strength and aesthetics. I do think it looks sleeker than the V2.
- The Frame also uses an improved cold drawn tubeset too, this removes possibility of the heat causing weakness.
- The cable routing has been improved, the V2 was a bit fiddly. The internal cable ports are also redesigned to be more reliable.
My Build kit
A build for speed and comfort to match the frame’s intentions. I wanted to test the new Shimano GRX too;
Wheels – Reynolds ATR 650b or Sector GCi 700c
Bars, stem and seat post – Ritchey Venture max bars (the best flare bar on the market), Ritchey WCS 70mm stem and Ritchey WCS seatpost.
First Impressions of how it rides
I have ridden the bike for 6 months now and most days on local loops under lockdown (May 2020). To show the true versatility it has been used to set KOMs (some I previously set on an XC MTB which was interesting) to carrying a 16kg baby + seat on the back for picnics in the hills! The first thing you notice about the V3 is the good looks (it shouldn’t be important but it is!) and when you hop on the bike you immediately notice the compliant rear end, it is so comfy on the rough buzz of gravel tracks. Compared to a cheap Ti frame with straight tubesets it will night and day, let alone a stiff carbon gravel bike. You feel like you are gliding over smaller stuff with the 42mm tyres and the 2.1 Sparwoods feel like a MTB but you can still sit at 20mph on road for long sections.
I think the new Octane coloured Brooks C17 saddle really sets off the laser decals. My old Brooks Cambium saddle was great, the organic cotton/rubber design isn’t to everyone’s taste but I love it and was so comfy I had to get another on this bike. This has aluminium rails which are noticeably more forgiving (but obviously heavier) that the carbon ones I had before.
The V3 feels snappier when climbing than the Tripster V2 build I had, this is both the tweaked new frame and lower weight, helped by the new Sector GCi wheels and WTB Riddler tyres set up tubeless at a decent 50psi. I have mostly been riding it with Reynolds 650b and WTB Resolutes to compare it better to my old V2 Tripster and it still feels quicker (the pretty constant PBs prove this!). With 650b wheels it really comes alive and for me the best thing about 650b is the quick acceleration they give, rather than the ability to run wider tyres. It has been used with 650b pretty much all the time to be honest.
The Tripster became the go to gravel bike in 2014 after it was first launched, because it had a dialed geometry and this V3 tweaks it for the first time since – climbing still feels great but it feels more stable and faster on the rougher descents which more and more people are riding gravel bikes on.
I went down from 63cm to a 60cm frame and this feels perfect for me at 6ft3in – I am borderline but a 60 gives a better stand over clearance and ride position. The new longer reach measurements help this fit feel spot on for me while allowing a 70mm stem to give snappier MTB feeling steering. I use the Tripster on the rougher range of gravel so those on road and smoother tracks might want a longer stem.
With Lockdown i have had limited chances for bikepacking, but the bike is perfect and loaded with mounting options as I lik, we headed out with a kids trailer for an overnighter and worked really well. A few bivvy overnighters with simple lightweight kit and the bike has handled wel when loaded. The Ti frame is obviously perfect for avoiding paint rub from bikepacking bags too. I hope we can get out later in the year for more adventures.
Down sides? Well I am still struggling at this stage to find any. The V2 revealed a few niggles in the cable routing and housings overtime but the V3 removes all of them, I also felt the V2 was slightly heavier than it could be and this V3 frame feels lighter. The new Range fork is strong and noticeably stiffer than the previous fork. The fork’s not quite as compliant which contrasts with the comfy rear end, but to have 3 mounting bolts the fork needs this strength and stiffness so it will always be a trade off. I am looking forward to using my anything cages and Apidura fork bags with them after lockdown lets us bikepack again.
The Build kit review
The Shimano GRX RX810 groupset has impressed me and I have written a separate review on it and compared it with SRAM Force too.
The Brooks saddle and bar tape really set this bike alight. The Octane colour is new from Brooks and matches the lazer etched decals so nicely I had to source them for the build. I love the Cambium saddle already and in the C17 it is more comfy than the C13 I had before. I am a pretty narrow shape but this saddle is wider by 4mm feels a better width for me. The Brooks Octane colour bar rubberised tape looks awesome, is grippy in the wet and has held up well (much better than Lizard skins on the V2!) but it isn’t gravel specific so it is thinner and more road spec in terms of comfort.
Ritchey finishing kit is superb, I had the flared venture max bars before. I settled on them after trying various alternatives but I have also now opted for a WCS seatpost and stem on this build for their simple quality.
These Reynolds ATR wheels in 650b have been superb for about 2.5 years now, they are KOM grabbing fast, flawless setting up tubeless tyres and stiff in the corners help compliment the flex in the Ti frame. I am yet to spend much time on the new Sector GCi gravel 700c wheels but I will review when I swap back to them.
It is now almost 6 months on the bike and it is a genuine step forward in almost every respect from the V2. Still only small evolutions but a real step forward in adding features and removing little niggles around cable routing etc. It is comfy but still light and fast, strong and adaptable. It really is a bike that can tour to China (if I was allowed again…) and then race gravel and CX at home. The Range Fork and bottle cage mounts are a statement of intent more towards the adventure and bikepacking than racing. Overall it edges a bit more towards off-road capabilities than road too.
If you want all day comfort on all surfaces this really has to be about the best bike out there and it looks stunning too! After 6 months I still love it!
The Frame and fork RRP is £2,200 and currently on sale at £1980 here