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Spot Brand Denver Zephyr

October 6, 2016
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Originally known as the place to go for a single-speed mountain bike, Spot Bicycles has grown into a full-fledged bike brand with a full line of steel and aluminum commuters and mountain bikes. With the arrival of their Denver Zephyr (named after the famed train) they decided to switch it up by not only introducing their first stainless steel frame, but their first road bike as well.
We were curious about how a road bike from a bike brand with a decidedly un-road history would end up. The results were surprising.

THE BIKE
It’s not often that a stainless steel bike rolls into our office, but when they do, it is a breath of fresh air. Stainless steel bikes are known to have good ride qualities, but owing to the expense of manufacturing the material, in a market obsessed with weight, and flush with lighter weight and cheaper carbon and aluminum frames, stainless bikes can be a tough sell.

The Denver Zephyr has beautifully shaped stainless tubing throughout the frame with a slightly swooping rear triangle. The front triangle has a fairly traditional shape with small-diameter, round tubing. Owing to their history as a commuter brand, utility is an important theme with Spot, and you’ll find rear eyelets for fender and rack mounting.

Spot used their own carbon fork on the bike with some unique edges that impact the aesthetics of the front end. The bike features a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain accompanied by Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors. The brakes applied their stopping power to DT Swiss spline disc wheels with Schwalbe 28c One tubeless tires.

THE RIDE
Stainless steel is known for its smooth-riding attributes, and we were excited to see what the Spot had to offer. Rolling on large 28c tubeless slicks, we figured comfort could be a key attribute. We were not disappointed. Immediately, we noticed the extremely supple feeling while rolling due to the ability to run low tire pressure. Without breaking our smile, the Denver Zephyr proved to be an energetic, do-it-all bike. Sprinting, climbing, descending, long endurance rides and everything in between, the bike tackled it all with our full confidence.

On fast group rides, where frequent sprints always pose a challenge from the other riders, the Zephyr stayed planted and snapped along fairly quickly. No, it doesn’t have the extreme twitch and stiffness like a full-fledged carbon race bike, but that’s not what it is. While the bottom bracket was stiff enough to feel full power transfer, the chainstays sucked much of the road chatter and perhaps a bit of power. The decision to stay with quick releases, especially in the front, is much appreciated. We feared that thru-axles would have made the bike too stiff and defeated the purpose (and benefits) of the frame material.

When we pointed the bike upwards, the weight was certainly noticeable. Yes, compared to a carbon race bike, the Spot was sluggish to get rolling and required a bit more energy to keep it going. Still, without the expectation of the Spot being a climbing machine, we knew we would be comfortable all day and on any terrain. However, when pointed downhill that extra weight was much appreciated. The Denver Zephyr is fast and the weight in the frame provides a more than stable feel even when fully aero tucked. The combination of the low tire pressure and the supple frame features smoothed out even our roughest roads with ease. In sharp corners the Spot stayed planted and inspired the kind of confidence that kept our fingers off the brakes.

When rides get upwards of three, four or five hours, the Denver Zephyr is most at home. Compliance and comfort become a big factor in long rides to keep the rider happy, and the swooping rear triangle certainly plays a big role in that. The way the chainstays curve up and away from the ground allow the rear end to noticeably flex and dampen the effect of the road beneath you.

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THE SWITCH-UP
Spot boasts the ability to run extra-wide tires (up to 40c in the front and 33c in the rear), so we decided to put that extra space to use. And when a pair of 35c knobby tires was thrown on, we found that a new bike was born. In riding a variety of gravel, traditional-paved and rough roads, our goal was to try and find the limits of the Spot. We weren’t successful. With similar characteristics on the dirt, the Denver Zephyr can do it all, but not all great. The bike’s weight feels more in play and tougher to manipulate through tight dirt switchbacks. The 35c tires fit in both the front and rear with ease, though the rear was pretty tight. Still, the versatility of the bike under all circumstances forced us to choose this bike over others on the day-to-day selection.

THE VERDICT
There are few bikes we ride that could potentially be in everyone’s stable, and we found Spot’s Denver Zephyr gets pretty close. If you aren’t out racing every weekend and just love riding your bike, this stainless steel model could be an awesome option for you. Though we wished this bike could climb a bit better, there is no shortage of carbon upgrades that can easily lighten up the load. But, if you are solely out for smiles, the Denver Zephyr will surely contribute to that whether on pavement or dirt.

PUNCH LINES
• Stainless steel ride and price
• Maybe some paint options?
• A great all-arounder

STATS
Price: $5900
Weight: 20.75 pounds
Sizes: 50, 52, 55 (tested), 57, 60cm
www.spotbrand.com

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