A look at a very popular, and affordable, "All Road" bicycle.
State Bicycle Company is a direct-sales brand that has earned a solid reputation for delivering great values in city bicycles, performance focused fixed-gear bicycles, and aluminum track style bicycles since 2009. Most recently, they ventured beyond the "urban" market and began offering geared road bikes. Now, their latest offerings are two bikes that create the State Bicycle "Off Road Division".
The "Off Road Division" includes two models: a budget-priced 4130 chromoly steel model and their "race-ready" 6160 aluminum/carbon fiber gravel bike. The website summarizes the niche SBC is targeting, "You’ve perfected your routes, threaded gridlocked road and conquered your streets. You’ve explored your city. Now, you’re ready to Explore Your State. Say hello to the newest and most tenacious members of the State Bicycle Co. family: The Off-Road Division. This premier line of resilient All-Road, Adventure, and Gravel Bicycles was consciously built to take you as far and wide as your spirit of adventure can go. We believe that riding offroad bikes should be as affordable as it is fun. As with every State Bicycle Co. creation, you can expect nothing less than sincere craftsmanship and high-integrity components through and through. his premier line of resilient All-Road, Adventure, and Gravel Bicycles was consciously built to take you as far and wide as your spirit of adventure can go. We believe that riding offroad bikes should be as affordable as it is fun. As with every State Bicycle Co. creation, you can expect nothing less than sincere craftsmanship and high-integrity components through and through."
Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to ride the SBC 6160 "Black Label All-Road" model and would like to share my impressions. The bike is very attractive, with a luminescent "Deep Pacific Blue" paint job on the TIG welded aluminum frame. The black State Bicycle logos are nearly hidden within the dark paint job, and it is complimented by the black carbon fiber fork. The brake and gear cables are neatly internally routed for a clean look.
I received the 6160 and assembled in my home-based bike shop. The shipping box arrived undamaged and I unpacked the bike. The first thing you will notice is that EVERYTHING is labeled SBC! State Bicycle Company has the sale volume to have nearly every part private-labeled. This includes the handlebars, stem, saddle and seatpost, crank, rear derailleur, and rims. The only "name-brand" parts I found were the Vittoria Zero tires and Shimano Tektro disc brakes.
The assembly was straight-forward - if you have some bicycle repair experience and the necessary tools. You need to install the handlebars, tighten the stem, and insure that the threadless headset is adjusted properly. I removed the rear wheel and found both 700c wheels to be true and the wheel bearings ready right from the box. Both wheels were installed using the stock thru axles.
I installed the aluminum seat post and saddle. I had upgraded the saddle from the stock, unpadded, minimalist plastic model to a Stella Italia Turbo for moderate comfort. After checking the position and tightness of the brake levers, I centered the Tektro brakes on the discs - a very easy process with the Allen adjustment bolt on each assembly. The bike assembly was completed with checking the crank arm tightness with my torque wrench, installing the pedals, and then adjusting the indexing SBC 11-speed rear derailleur.
Looking over the finished bike, there was nothing about the SBC components that was either impressive or deficient. They all functioned properly. I can see no reason to automatically discard and replace any of the stock components. Any dedicated rider will eventually NEED to replace a derailleur and this can be done easily - when required. (Some brands may require matching "brifter" shift levers, however.) The logical time to upgrade the derailleur would match replacement of a worn-out cassette and chain. Likewise, you can make upgrades to the crankset or headset - but it will likely be for cosmetic reasons rather that functional deficiencies. The mechanical brakes mount to flat bases which will also adapt to hydraulic brakes, if you choose to make a switch at a later date. However, this is an expensive conversion which will require matching brake levers. Many gravel riders are perfectly satisficed with mechanical brakes, and these brakes are one of the reasons the 6160 is priced at only $1,399.99.
The stock SBC 6160 All-Road was equipped with 700c wheels (19mm interior width) laced to sealed bearing hubs with 28 spokes. The stock tires were Vittoria Terreno Zero 38mm, which I found to be both compliant and offer great traction on the premium gravel (crushed red granite, the Wisconsin State Mineral!) we enjoy in Central Wisconsin. The narrow rims would also work perfectly with narrower tires, 32mm for example, for hard-packed gravel and road riding. The 6160 aluminum and carbon bike is light, stiff, and responsive and would be a great Century bike!
However, one of the most attractive features of the State Bicycle All-Road models is the availability of reasonably priced wheel sets. Both the SBC 6160 and 4130 All-Road models can be purchased with your choice of 700c or 650b wheels - or BOTH! These wheel sets share the identical hubs and brake rotors. If you choose to use the same rear cassettes, you have two sets of wheels with the identical gear ratios. (The 700c x 38mm wheels and tires have nearly identical outside diameter as the 650b x 47mm wheels and tires.)
After riding the 700c wheels for a few weeks and several hundred miles I switched over to the 650b wheels. These rims were outfitted with Vittoria Terreno Dry tires, which I converted to tubeless. (State Bicycles are supplied with "tubeless-ready" wheels and tires. Conversion requires installing the tubeless rim tape, a tubeless valve, and the latex sealant.) I was pleasantly surprised how well the 650b wheels compared to the higher pressure 700c wheels. Many people assume that the larger diameter 700c wheels are always faster. However, the wider but smaller diameter 650b wheels can actually be lighter - especially after converting to tubeless. If your riding is mostly on unpaved roads, I would recommend the more comfortable 650b wheels and the cushy 47mm Vittoria tires. Tire selection can be confusing. For a thorough discussion of tires, rims, and pressure for gravel riding see the previous article, "Choosing Tires and Wheels for Gravel Cycling and Bikepacking."
I also chose the 47mm tires for a Spring gravel grinder - the "Snacking Bear" 62-mile race at Cable, Wisconsin. The course followed roads through the Chequamegon National Forest. The road surface varied from small stones to rough cobbles to sandy washouts and exposed tree roots. The narrower 38mm tires on 700c rims would have had plenty of traction, but the wider tires provided a great deal more comfort and less neck and back strain.
I found the SBC 6160 All-Road to be very responsive and simply a blast to ride. I grew up on double-butted steel racing bikes and there is no comparison! The 6160 combination of stiff aluminum frame tubes and the short-rake carbon fork is lightning fast. But the longer wheelbase of the gravel bike compared to modern road bikes makes the SBC 6160 All-Road a fun and comfortable road bike, too. The fact that State Bicycle can't keep these bikes in stock is a testimony to the number of cyclists who agree that if you could only have ONE bike, the 6160 All-Road would be a great choice. No wonder gravel bikes are outselling every other category.
I would also choose the 650b x 47mm combination for ultralight bikepacking on the 6160 All-Road. The added traction and load capacity would be an advantage over the narrower wheelset. Going tubeless would be highly recommended to eliminate pinch flats, not to mention punctures from road debris, thorns, etc. But if I was primarily interested in bikepacking versus gravel grinders I would opt for the next larger frame size. I have fairly long legs and a 34-inch inseam. I selected the "medium" for this review and you can see from the photos that the bike fit placed the saddle about 3-inches above the level of the handlebars - the preferred competitive position for power and aerodynamics. However, for long-distance bikepacking I would want the saddle and handlebars to be roughly level to ease neck and back strain, and would choose the large frame.
There are two qualifications I offer in regards to loaded bikepacking. First, many bikepackers are wary of carbon fiber. Today, you can purchase carbon fiber frames, handlebars, stems, rims, and crank arms. The advantages are remarkable stiffness, vibration-dampening, and weight savings. The disadvantage of carbon fiber is - and always will be - catastrophic failure after impact with sharp rocks or punctures. Still, racers have relied on carbon components on every road race, MTB, and ultra-endurance event, including the 2,768-mile Tour Divide. You need to make your own informed decision if you are planning an extreme adventure on your 6160 All-Road with the carbon fiber fork. Don't embark on the journey without an honest and thorough inspection of the fork - and employ a trusted bike mechanic if you feel unqualified. If you are 100% sold on the advantages of carbon fiber, then you may also want to consider the "Monster Fork" option offered by SBC. This carbon fork offers mounting points for accessories as well internal routing for dynamo hub wiring.
Finally, the 6160 All-Road is equipped with a "1X" drivetrain, found on the majority of current mountain bikes and gravel bikes. The advantages are lighter weight with the elimination of the front derailleur, shifter, and cables along with lower maintenance. The disadvantage is limitations in the gear range and 11 widely-spaced rear cogs. The stock 6160 is equipped with a 40-tooth chainring and an 11x42 cassette. This means the lowest gear is 40 x 42, which is a gear ratio of 0.95. Most extended bikepackers will want a lower gear ratio. SBC offers a reasonably-priced replacement All-Road chainring with 38-teeth. In my opinion, the 38T is the minimum you should have for any hills and this lowers the gear ratio by 5% to 0.90. For bikepacking in the mountains, you will want an even lower "granny gear" and will need to swap the rear cassette (and possibly the 11-speed derailleur for a model that can accommodate a larger low-gear cog or add an extended hanger.)
I have not had the opportunity to ride the SBC 4130 All-Road bike. This model shares most of the components with the 6160 aluminum/carbon All-Road, so I can assume the functionality is that same as noted above. In my opinion, if you are buying this steel-framed bike you are not a gravel racer, but have single-track riding and bikepacking in mind. The frame is equipped with braze-ons for fenders and rear rack, and the steel fork has mounts for cages or front panniers. Given the intended uses, I believe most buyers will be happiest with the more versatile 650b wheel option.
The 4130 chromoly steel bike is not excessively heavy at just under 30-pounds. Riders heading into the remote back country, or embarking on an extended tour know that strength and durability under load is far more important than shaving a few pounds. Chromoly steel is still the choice of round-the-world bike tourists. For that reason, I do not advise spending any money to upgrade to a carbon fork.
Let's be honest: this bike is too heavy to be a good choice for either gravel racing or serious road riding. For gravel grinders, save your money and get the 6160 "race-ready" All-Road model. SBC also offers a much lighter, livelier and less expensive 4130 road bike. However, the 4130 could be a competitor in many multiday mountain bike events. The steel frame and fork is bulletproof and has clearance for up to 53mm (2.1-inch) tires. The SBC 4130 All-Road is available with Vittoria Barzo MTB tires - although my favorite is the Vittoria Mezcal, converted to tubeless. Note that 2.1-inch tires are rarely labeled "650b". In the wider sizes, these tires are usually labeled 27.5". It's unnecessarily confusing - see the previous article for more information: "Choosing Tires and Wheels for Gravel Cycling and Bikepacking."
I also offer the further qualification in regards to loaded bikepacking, as also mentioned for the 6160 All-Road. Both the 4130 and 6160 All-Road models share the very popular "1X" drivetrains that have become the industry standard for mountain bikes and gravel bikes. However, the stock 4130 is equipped with a 42-tooth chainring and an 11x42 cassette. (This is odd considering the 6160 is speced with a 40T chainring?) This means the lowest gear is 42 x 42, which is a gear ratio of 1. Most extended bikepackers will want a lower gear ratio everywhere other than the plains. Happily, SBC offers replacement All-Road chainrings in both 40 and 38-teeth. In my opinion, the 38T front chainring should be the first thing you change on the 4130 if you plan to venture into the hills. The 38 x 42 ratio lowers your "granny gear" by a welcome 10% to 0.90. Learn more about the 4130 All-Road in this post from the SBC blog.