Stayer Cycles; East London’s self-proclaimed indie bike builders, cycling power couple, and home to the cutest workshop dog. When they announced their new gravel bike, the Stayer Groadinger UG, we just knew we had to get our hands on one for a test ride.
Getting to know Stayer
I’d met Judith (pronounced Yud-it) a few years back at Bespoked. With a selection of their wheels on display as well as a few handbuilt frames, I remembered coming across Stayer in the cyclo-cross scene. Their striking deep carbon wheel builds with simple, bold branding can’t be missed, and they sponsor some top riders too. A master wheelbuilder, this Belgian bike enthusiast with a jazzy blonde top-knot is only one half of the business, as I’d soon learn.
There are quite a few power couples in the cycling industry, and the people behind Stayer have to be one of my favourite pairings. On a trip to London to pick up a custom built Groadinger UG, Stayer’s new gravel bike offering, I relished the opportunity to hang out – alas at a sensible distance – and get to know the team better. While Judith is the brains behind the wheel building side of the business, it is her partner of nine years, Sam Taylor, who takes the torch and steel.
While Sam lit the camping stove in the corner of the North-East London workshop and filled the metal kettle for a brew, Judith introduced me to the rest of the crew; Ev who was helping out with lacing up wheels, Holly, the creative one, and Aoife, who according to Judith was the ‘head of serious emails’.
Having requested some wheel images from Judith a few months back and been supplied with a wheelset on a wonderful pangolin background, I soon realised that serious isn’t something that features all that much in Stayer’s vocab. This is worth bearing in mind when you peruse their website, making the refreshingly relaxed product explanations and brilliantly-named paint jobs make so much more sense.
Oh, and how could I forget? The most cuddly member of the team, Nola. Every workshop needs a workshop dog, and this gentle giant reminded me of Tom Sturdy’s wonderful Albert at The Bicycle Academy.
The Stayer Groadinger UG
The reason why I’d come to London; Stayer’s second gravel model, new for 2020.
GROAD – gravel/road – DING – thing/ding – er you get it
Known perhaps better for their wheels, the R&D process takes longer for new bike designs, framebuilder Sam explained. Second in line to the OG, Stayer’s first gravel bike offering that leans more towards the racing end, the UG, or Ultra Grav has been designed with geometry more akin to longer day rides or multi-day epics; for loading up and heading into the sunset. A third Groadinger model is on the way, according to their website, the Stayer Groadinger OMG, although the team weren’t giving anything away just yet…
After sending the team my fit data a few months back, the UG was waiting for me, not with my name on it, but with some hilarious stickers and accessories that made me sure that Stayer had built this with my tastes in mind. After the review period, the bike will go into a small demo fleet that Stayer will use (hopefully) for events and test rides in the spring.
“This one’s the kinda spunky build”, Holly explained, who’d been photographing a few of the new Stayer Groadinger builds in the studio the previous day. I had to google it, but I’ll take somewhere between ‘full of spirit, courage, and determination’ and ‘synonym for cool or radical’. The two-tone Appelblauwzeegroen house finish (Appel (apple) + blauw (blue) + zee (sea) + groen (green), apparently) is certainly bright and gorgeous, and teamed with the London Bike Kitchen bright blue, yellow and purple bottle, yellow voile strap and hilarious stickers from Path Less Pedalled and Stridsland Journal.
Leg up for a first ride in Epping Forest
Back to the build
Now reviewing a custom build like this is tricky, as the whole premise of buying custom is that you get to specify exactly how you want the build based on your rider preferences. You can get a Groadinger UG frameset from Stayer (retailing at £1,700 with the Ritchey ADV fork and a house paint finish), which actually also includes a Hope headset, Wheels Manufacturing T47 BB, Hope seat post collar, thru axles and a rear mech hanger.
Alternatively, you can add a set of 650b Stayer gravel wheels (with either DT Swiss 350 or Hope hubs for centre lock or 6 bolt disc, with tubeless tape and valves installed) for a total of £2,600 for the ‘rolling chassis’ option.
Since starting this review, you can also get a full build from Stayer, including a GRX build with alloy Stayer wheels (£3,950), with Stayer carbon gravel wheels (£4,350), or with GRX Di2 (£4,950 alloy wheels, £5,350 carbon wheels). All builds are available with either 650b or 700c wheels. Check out the full info pack here.
Here’s the full build details of the Stayer Groadinger UG with mechanical GRX and carbon wheels. You’ll notice that my test bike has different bar tape (fizik Terra, which I replaced with Genetic Silicone bar tape), Rutland Teravail rather than WTB Venture tyres, and a Rotor chainset rather than GRX, which is specced on the models available to buy.
|Columbus Zona, Life and T45 steel tubing, TIG welded, Stayer house finish and painted decals, 3 bottle cage mounts 142×12 mm thru axle
|Ritchey ADV fork (or Whiskey RD+), 2.1″ clearance 650b or 40 mm 700c, 12 mm thru axle
|Wheels Manufacturing T47 68mm
|Shimano GRX RX10 flat mount hydraulic, Shimano 160 mm rotors
|Shimano GRX RX810 48/31 chainrings, Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette, Shimano GRX RX812 11-speed rear derailleur (Test bike: Rotor 2X)
|Zipp CX (Test bike: fizik Terra/Genetic Silicone)
|Ritchey Comp, Hope seat post collar
|WTB Venture 650b x 47 mm, set up tubeless (Test bike: Teravail Rutland 650b x 47 mm),
|650b Stayer Gravel carbon wheelset on DT 350 hubs
Optional extras include; a custom colour fade on ready to paint frames, extra mounts, Di2 routing and custom sizing for £250. With sizes ranging from XS to XL, they should fit most well.
So, how does the Stayer Groadinger UG ride?
The Stayer Groadinger UG has been my go-to gravel bike for the last two months, from quick-and-dirty local loops to some mega day epics like the Brother Cycles event recce in Kent.
From autumn into winter, on and off road, gravel, tarmac and pure mud, we’ve pretty much seen it all. The only thing that I regret that we have not been able to do has been to bikepack; as in the latter month of the test we’ve been in UK lockdown 2.0 which forbids any overnight stays away from home.
It didn’t take long to fine-tune the fit. I replaced the layback Ritchey WCS seat post with a PRO Discover in-line of my own and the fit was spot on. In fact, the more I rode the Stayer, the less I noticed the fit, as it became my bike of choice for both muddy and winter road miles.
I was apprehensive at first about the wide 47 mm Teravail Rutland tyres that the team had fitted for me, wider than my usual 40 mm choice. All anxiety was soon cast aside as the widely spaced knobs of the wide tread hooked up beautifully in the Kent filth while friends old and new slithered about on the clay soil, scraping great chunks of mud out from between the forks and tyres.
Of course, the 2X set up took a little getting used to too, as I’ve been riding 1X for quite a long time, but with the mix of riding that I’ve been using the Stayer for that’s been really handy.
Speaking to the team, they’re happy to make small changes to these complete builds depending on your preferences, but for the full custom experience it’s best to purchase the ‘rolling chassis’ option from Stayer (frame, fork, wheels and a few other bits) and then ask your trusted bike mechanic or shop to help you build up the rest.
In case you hadn’t already got the jist, I really liked this bike, and it’s been a bit of a heart-wrench to send it back. Trying to put words to why is a hard task, especially when I try to factor Sam, Judith and the rest of the team’s warm welcome out of the equation.
Simply put, it’s a classic. Columbus steel tubing, round profile finishing kit like the seatpost and bars, plenty of tyre clearance and a groupset comparable to road; this is a build that can be as versatile as you want it to be.
Sure, the first Stayer gravel bike, the Groadinger OG, may feature subtle geometry differences which make it optimised for racing, but there’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t race on this bike too. When you start really cranking the pedals, the Stayer Groadinger UG certainly goes.
With the same bike, you can also bolt on some fork cages, load up a handlebar pack, seat post bag (even a small half-frame bag in this small size) and head off for days or weeks at a time. From my big days out, especially combined with 650b x 47 mm tyres, I haven’t felt significantly sore or uncomfortable at all.
The build has everything that you need for brilliant off-road fun, and nothing that you don’t. No gimmicks, no unnecessary answers to problems that can be solved by adjusting tyre pressure/width. It’s simple, and that’s really no bad thing.
Considering it’s a drop-bar bike, I’ve found the Groadinger UG to be surprisingly capable off-road, even with the more challenging conditions that we face heading into a British winter.
Apart from some expected cable stretch early on, I haven’t had any mechanical issues with the bike, and no tubeless issues either. It’s worth mentioning though, if you want to go for a steel frame, you’ll need to treat it internally every six months to prevent rust corrosion.
Staying with the frame itself, the paintwork has really impressed me. Even though it’s been through a lot, it still looks near-perfect, which was more than what could be said for my own steel frame with wet paint after the first couple of months.
Even after I’d fitted a GravelHugger mudguard on the back for the last few rides as the trails turned really wet, including helitape on the stays to protect the frame, removing this didn’t affect the paint at all. I can confirm this fits really well too!
Back in the Stayer workshop, Sam had mentioned about the paint process. First, the steel frames are phosphate dipped to prevent corrosion both internally and externally, before the house finishes are applied. These power coat finishes have been selected for their earthy tones.
‘We want to reflect our surroundings and blend in a bit,’ Sam explained, ‘and I can also totally see why those colours might have been developed to be more hardwearing as they would have links to military use.’
I have to make another admission; I’d never ridden carbon wheels before this build. These Stayer 650b Adventure wheels were hand-built, just like the frame, in the East London workshop, using Stayer’s strengthened carbon fibre rims, strong Sapim CX-Ray spokes, laced onto DT Swiss ST350 centrelock hubs and finished with black brass DT Swiss Squorx Pro nipples.
The rims are hookless with a wide 24 mm internal, ideal for tubeless set up, and to reduce the risk of pinch-punctures when using low pressures. Stayer recommend pairing these with tyres between 35-50 mm wide, and with the 47 mm Teravail Rutland tyres I certainly had no issues at all.
I somehow expected these carbon rims to be fragile, but in fact they were far from it. Unlike many alloy rims in my garage, they’re totally un-dinked (yes, that’s a technical term). I suppose it’s price that’s put me off carbon disc wheels in the past, and indeed if you’re pining after this build but need to shave a few pounds off, by opting for the alloy wheel build, you can save yourself £400.
Stayer Groadinger UG: the verdict
Let’s be honest, it looks bloody lovely. The steel tubing, signature wishbone seat stays, deep (ish) section (35 mm) carbon rims and overall simplicity dressing in a striking not-quite-green, not-quite-blue tease, the Groadinger UG is gorgeous bike to look at. It might sound vain as hell, but I honestly think that’s really important, especially if you’re about to drop what some might spend on a second-hand car on it!
Once you swing a leg over, you get a real feel for how brilliantly it rides too. As I said before; everything you need and nothing you don’t. If you’re looking to make an investment to last for years and not just the next season, I think the Groadinger UG would be a fabulous choice.
Without getting to meet the team behind Stayer it’s already a neat build, but learning more about their (pretty hilarious) personalities and generosity in supporting local riding initiatives is enough to make you want to support them even more. After all, I feel like that’s a large part of why some riders choose to go custom rather than support larger bike brands.
At £4,350, the bike is priced somewhere between big brand box-builds and fully custom handbuilt frames. Stayer is among a slowly growing number of British framebuilders to offer a number of models in set sizes, which helps to simplify the process, and therefore help reduce the overall cost. Having said that, there is still the option of custom sizing if you want to go for it, but just at a little extra expense.
This bike was a size small, (I’m 165 cm/ 5 foot 4), so there’s also an option XS for smaller riders which I’m very happy about as it all too often gets neglected.
Alas, the Stayer is going back and into the small demo fleet for spring. If I didn’t already have my Mercredi, I’m not sure it would be going back to London!
Stayer Groadinger UG£4,350 (approx $5,760 €4,880)
Steel craftsmanship at a reasonable price with a versatile build spec, oh and it's gorgeous!9.5/10
- Classic steel frame, made by a brilliant team
- Versatile build that could match the whole off-road drop bar spectrum
- Robust yet eye-catching paintwork
- You'll always have to line up the rims for photos!!
Last modified: 7th December 2020