Featured Bike: The Open Cycle U.P.P.E.R. of Selene Yeager aka The Fit Chick!

open upper gravel bike review

“At OPEN, our motto is “working hard to stay small”. We’ve done the “big company” thing, and it was time for something different. So we design the bike we want to ride ourselves, we produce them, sell them to like-minded people and that’s it.”

open upper gravel bike review

“Staying small forces us to focus on what matters: Product development, taking care of customers (shops and consumers), and not much else. No sponsorships, no marketing, no complete bikes, no flashy offices or employees; we simply don’t have the time for any of that.”

open upper gravel bike review

“So if the simplicity of nice bikes, nice rides, nice company and nothing else are what you’re after too, join us at OPEN.”

open upper gravel bike review

With that said, let’s dive into Open Cycle’s flagship bike, the U.P.P.E.R. – Open Cycle introduced the original “Classic U.P.” a few years ago, in a design that incorporated a road cycling position but with frame clearance for mountain bike tyres. Wild stuff.

open upper gravel bike review

“Get out of town on asphalt, hit the gravel roads or switch to singletrack. Your position gets you there fast; the big tires make you unstoppable.”

open upper gravel bike review
Image from OpenCycle.com

The most noticeable traits with the original Open “Classic U.P.” was a design that could accept 650b or 700c wheels, and its unique drop-down driveside chainstay design. This design wasn’t new at the time, but the boffins at Open Cycle (boffin meaning a very smart bloke), realized how good it was, and tweaked it for use on an all-terrain carbon frame with 21st-century technology. Arguably, these design features made the Open Cycle U.P. an overnight hit.

open upper gravel bike review

The lads (Gerard and Andy) at Open Cycle aren’t complacent, and have introduced two new Open Cycle U.P models since the introduction of the “Classic U.P.”, namely the “New U.P.” and the “U.P.P.E.R.”

The bike featured in this article is the top-tier, superlight U.P.P.E.R. which features the Open “U-Turn” fork and flat-mount disc brakes. Its owner is none other than Selene Yeager, otherwise known as “The Fit Chick” (link to her website).

open upper gravel bike review
Above, Selene dropping JOM. Photo by Peter Bakken.

Selene has been a long time writer at Bicycling Magazine, and is the author / co-author of more than 20 books. Additionally, Selene is a very talented cyclist, one who has personally dropped me on multiple occasions. Being dropped is part and parcel of being an average bloke on a bicycle, but to be dropped by Selene, that’s quite the honour!

open upper gravel bike review
Selene snapping her Open U.P.P.E.R. Photo by Peter Bakken.

open upper gravel bike review

Starting at the front end of the bike, Selene’s U.P.P.E.R. is kitted out with SRAM’s Force 1x / single chainring drivetrain. The shift levers feature a pronounced extension, which doubles as a comfy place to perch one’s hands on the levers, and where SRAM hides the hydraulic braking goodness. This article isn’t a product review, but SRAM’s hydro shifter levers are a marvelous bit of kit with great braking feel, power and modulation. The shifting’s pretty good too.

open upper gravel bike review

Selene rides a size Small U.P.P.E.R., fitted with an appropriately sized 70mm 3T  stem. Torx bolts are the fastener of choice, a marked improvement over allen key bolt heads that can round out… ’tis never pleasant.

open upper gravel bike review

open upper gravel bike review

Selene’s computer mount is typical of current out-front designs, although the Wahoo Element Bolt mount and computer itself are designed with aerodynamics in mind. One could question the aero benefit of a svelte computer on a gravel bike, but I digress…

open upper gravel bike review

Above, the left side SRAM Force brake lever is devoid of a mechanism for shifting a front derailleur, brakes only.

open upper gravel bike review

The hydraulic rear brake housing and solitary derailleur cable housing receive the pro treatment. Heat-shrinked to enter the Open U.P.P.E.R. frame as one unit, this common trick used on race bikes in the World Tour circuit keeps cables looking neat and tidy, and probably saves about .0000001% of aerodynamic drag.

open upper gravel bike review

open upper gravel bike review

Above, these bolts negate the archaic practice of lashing down a top tube bag to the frame, provided you have a compatible bag / storage box.

open upper gravel bike review

The Easton EC90 SL crankset can be switched between a 1x or 2x configuration in a matter of minutes, thanks to its clever direct mount chainring design. Easton also makes some neat 2x gravel chainrings. For the record, Selene turns over a 38 tooth chainring.

open upper gravel bike review

A well-used pair of Shimano’s XT MTB pedals transfer Selene’s power into the drivetrain.

open upper gravel bike review

The SRAM Force 1x clutch derailleur is a capable unit, but it has a lot of ground to cover with Selene’s bike.

open upper gravel bike review

SRAM’s biggest cassette for the gravel application is a 10-42, but the e*thirteen TRSr 11-speed cassette on Selene’s bike ups the ante to a 9-46. You read that correctly, 9-46. Wow.

open upper gravel bike review

Constructed from aluminium and a single piece of milled, heat-treated cromoly steel, the cassette weighs about 303 grams.

open upper gravel bike review

The cogs are spaced as follows: 9-10-12-14-17-20-24-28-33-39-46

Devotees of 1x / single chainring drivetrains may love this cassette, but its massive six and seven teeth! gaps on the bottom end of the gear spectrum will draw ire from the 2x / double chainring crowd. Don’t you hate these first-world problems?

open upper gravel bike review

The Open U.P.P.E.R.’s downtube has provision for a 3rd bottle cage, although chances are, it may become a wee bit muddy at times.

open upper gravel bike review

Above, a relatively light dousing of mud after this ride, part of the event preview for unPAved!

open upper gravel bike review

Above, plenty of clearance around the Schwalbe G-One in 700c x 38mm, which likely measures 700c x 40mm mounted to the DT wheelset on this bike.

open upper gravel bike review

The Open U.P.P.E.R. uses the 386 EVO bottom bracket standard. “The wide (86mm) BB shell is perfect to attach the dropped drive-side chainstay to. Furthermore, it fits most of the cranks on the market, from Shimano and SRAM but also smaller brands like THM and Rotor.”

open upper gravel bike review

Above, Schwalbe G-One mounted to the DT Swiss ERC 1100 Dicut 47 carbon wheelset.

open upper gravel bike review

open upper gravel bike review

DT’s venerable 240 hub internals are at the center of this wheelset, along with 12mm thru-axle on the front wheel, DT aerolite straight pull spokes front and rear and center lock mounting for the brake rotors.

open upper gravel bike review

Thru-axle on the rear wheel, this time 142mm x 12mm. DT Swiss tout this wheelset as featuring the company’s AERO+ technology, but one has to question, how aero is a wheel once you’ve got a 700c x 35mm tyre or greater mounted? Someone should probably do a wind tunnel test… Gravel Cyclist doesn’t have the funds available, sorry trendsetters!

open upper gravel bike review

Above, SRAM’s excellent Force hydraulic brake calipers (flat-mount to the Open U-Turn carbon fork), paired with the company’s Centerline steel brake rotors in 160mm. Weight weenies will note the Carbon-Ti thru-bolt. These are light and expensive, but far superior to traditional quick-release thru-bolt designs.

open upper gravel bike review

Flat-mount for the rear SRAM Force hydraulic brake caliper, 160mm Centerline center lock SRAM disc brake rotor, and another dosing of weight weenie goodness with the Carbon-Ti thru-bolt.

open upper gravel bike review

The well-executed internalized rear brake housing follows a very clean path directly to the rear brake caliper. No kinks or bends.

open upper gravel bike review

open upper gravel bike review

The Brooks Cambium C13 saddle is a huge departure from the traditional line up of Brooks saddles. Easton’s lightweight EC70 zero-setback carbon seatpost keeps Selene’s saddle firmly in place.

open upper gravel bike review

“Cambium saddles are made from a vulcanised natural rubber top that follows the movements of the rider for responsive control and all-day comfort. Suspended over a one-piece braided carbon frame.”

open upper gravel bike review

All of Selene’s spare gravel cycling essentials as they relate to her bike, are contained in Speedsleev’s Ranger. This neat unit can hold 2 x road tubes, 1 x mountain tube, 2 x 16-20 gram Co2 cartridges, 2 x tyre levers, 1 x inflator and 1 x multi-tool.

open upper gravel bike review

Selene has chosen PDW bottle cages, namely the Lucky Cat Cage (rear) and the Owl Cage (downtube and beneath).

open upper gravel bike review
Meow.
open upper gravel bike review
Selene laughing it up with JOM at the unPAved preview. Photo by Peter Bakken.

Selene Yeager’s Open U.P.P.E.R. Carbon Gravel Bike:

  • Frame: Open U.P.P.E.R. Carbon, size Small.
  • Fork: Open U-Turn.
  • Headset: Cane Creek.
  • Stem: 3T 70mm.
  • Handlebar: 3T Ernova Team Stealth carbon.
  • Bar Tape: Unknown.
  • Brakes: SRAM Force Hydraulic.
  • Brake Rotors: SRAM Centerline 160mm, center lock.
  • Brake / Shift Levers: SRAM Force 1x 11-speed.
  • Front Derailleur: N/A.
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM Force 1x 11-speed with clutch mechanism.
  • Cassette: e*thirteen TRSr 11-speed 9-46.
  • Chain: SRAM PC-1170 11-speed.
  • Crankset: Easton EC90 SL with 38 tooth chainring.
  • Bottom Bracket: 386 EVO, unknown brand.
  • Pedals: Shimano XT.
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss ERC 1100 Dicut 47 carbon.
  • Tires: Schwalbe G-One 700c x 38mm.
  • Saddle: Brooks Cambium C13.
  • Seatpost: Easton EC70 carbon 27.2mm.
  • Bottle Cages: PDW Lucky Cat and Owl.

Open Cycle

6 comments on “Featured Bike: The Open Cycle U.P.P.E.R. of Selene Yeager aka The Fit Chick!

  1. G’day mate,

    I think you mean “honour.” 😉

    In relation to the Carbon-Ti thru-bolts, in what way are they superior to q/r-type thru-bolts? I can clearly grasp that they are lighter but, after all these years of using regular ol’ q/r’s, the idea of having to fumble for a tool in order to remove a wheel just does not come naturally!

    Leaving aside my cranky old bloke biases for a moment, though, I have seen tooled thru-axles (not these particular ones, admittedly) come loose and cause rotors to rub and shifting to, err, shift, and not in a good way. Applying 10Nm to the stubby allen-key that most people carry with them leaves a good indentation in the hand, which probably dissuades them from tightening them sufficiently. The cam on a good q/r-style thru-axle (e.g. Paul Components) cannot loosen (it has to get tighter before it can loosen) and is, I submit, a superior technical solution than the type that requires an allen-key.

    1. Hey John, thanks for that catch… this is the trouble with living in the USA for 20 years, and only going back to the homeland once a year for a month!

      Regarding Carbon-Ti thru-bolts, personal opinion here. I’ve had some annoying experiences with clunky (and heavy) QR thru-bolts, much prefer this type. Most of my road bikes are fitted with the old Control-Tech Ti allen key quick non-quick releases… see a pattern forming here haha. I carry Spurcycle’s toolkit with me, so I figure, so no extra hassle for me as I have multiple allen key sizes in that convenient and small package.

      Your notes about Paul Components are spot on. They probably make the nicest QR type thru-bolts going. I’d like to see them make derailleurs again…

      1. JOM,

        It can definitely be a battle persuading software auto-correct to spell correctly, when you speak a variant of the Queen’s English but live in the US!

        Point taken regarding thru-bolts. There are definitely some clunky q/r versions out there!

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