If pressed I’d always describe myself as an off road rider first and road rider second, I’d much rather ride a half mile of technical trail than 10 miles of tarmac, however scenic the view. I started my off road riding bike journey on a mountain bike and so I was excited when, after dropping the guys at Stanton Bikes a message they said they’d love to send their new gravel bike out for review. This excitement was because Stanton is well known in the off road riding world for their range of superbly riding steel and titanium mountain bikes. Their take on the gravel bike would be an interesting one to try out.
There aren’t too many Titanium gravel bike frames on the market but as mentioned Stanton have had Ti MTBs in their line up for a while so they know what works and the best place to get them manufactured. Made from triple butted 3AL 2.5V titanium alloy the frame has that lovely “ping” you only get from Ti when you flick it with your finger. The tubes are internally butted to give compliance where it’s needed and stiffness where it’s not. The bottom bracket area for example has no side to side twang, which some Ti frames I’ve ridden previously have had.
The frame has generous clearance even with the 47mm tyres fitted, in fact with the correct rims maybe even larger would fit too. The headset is integrated and thank you Stanton, the bottom bracket is external and threaded! The cable routing is internal with swappable stops if you want to run mechanical or electronic gearing. As is becoming more popular now and shows Stanton’s MTB back round the frame allows for an internally routed dropper post although the test bike came fitted with a standard post. The welding is neat and tidy and there is a range of options for finishes, including the Cerakote as seen here.
The frame has three bottle cage mounts, two inside the main triangle and one under the downtube. Rack and mudguard mounts are fitted too. The frame has a slightly flattened section under the downtube which is not mentioned on the Stanton website as a feature but if you are shouldering this bike over a gate or the 3 peaks CX race that little bit of flat tube will be a little more comfy than a normal tube digging in.
Interestingly Stanton have decided to not use the usual flat mount caliper fitting and instead have opted for an I.S. (international standard) mount. This is found on a lot of MTBs and needs an adaptor to fit brake calipers too.
Although Stanton only have this available as a frameset it’s worth noting that depending on your choice of brake caliper when you build the bike the I.S. mount can be quite fiddly to set up. The test bike came with Hope’s 4 pot RX+ calipers and because of the design of the calipers the only way to align the brake is through use of shims/washers which can be a nightmare of lost washers and some swearing! Shimano and Sram calipers are much more straight forward because an adaptor makes their post mount caliper style a lot less expletive inducing. Choose your brake carefully.
Update: Stanton supply an adaptor so fitting your choice of caliper shouldn’t be an issue
The fork is full carbon, both steerer and blades and has just as generous clearance for tyres as the frame. It comes with mudguard mounts but no other mounts which is quite unusual as Stanton say the bike is ideal for bike packing. The fork has a flat mount brake fitting.
Titanium I always describe as having the ride characteristics of steel with the weight of aluminium and the Switchpath conforms to this. Titanium is not super light compared to carbon fibre but it has a far superior ride quality. The ride is comfortable over all surfaces but because of the design and butting of the frame tubes this doesn’t mean there’s unwelcome flex or the feeling that you pedalling power is being lost. Hit a climb with some momentum and stand to put power down you can feel the bike surge forward in response to your input. Over the other side of the hill when you get your hands on the drop bars and stay away from the brakes the bike will go where you point it without being deflected by trail hazards like roots and rocks. The carbon fork does a good job of smoothing out the smaller gravel sections to cut down on hand and shoulder fatigue without ever feeling like a wet noodle when sprinting.
Descending fast on loose gravel brings that “Ting Ting” noise back as small stones hit the down tube but by then you are grinning so much you probably won’t notice. The other good thing about a bare Titanium frame is that blemishes can just be polished out. So if you are serial bike cleaner who loves a shiny bike at all times you will love Titanium!
Tight switchback trails on a bike called a switchpath you’d think would be somewhere it would excel and it does and this is because of the geometry of the bike. If you read Stanton’s description on the Switchpath page on their website (link below) you’d think they were trying to distance the bike as far away from a road bike as possible.
“You can sleep easy knowing we’ve drawn a line in the gravel and come down firmly on the side of the mountain fraternity. This is as close to the r*@d as we can cope with“
the above statement is quite interesting as the geometry of the bike is quite a lot closer to a road/CX bike than a mountain bike unless it’s one from the 1990’s, Stanton even mention this in their model overview. with gravel bikes now getting head angles over 72 degrees the Switchpath’s 70 degrees is quite conservative, but I’ll admit still slacker than a road bike. This doesn’t hold the bike back though, far from it, its a quick turning speed machine if you want it to be. which brings us to bike packing.
If you want to load up the bike with bike packing bags and use it for long self supported adventures you’ll need to get creative and maybe invest in a rack as apart from the three bottle cage mounts and the rack/mudguard mounts there is nothing else on the frame to bolt to. The quick handling might not be what you want on a fully loaded bike though.
Sizing, the Switchpath comes in 4 sizes, 51, 54, 55.5 and 57cm. I usually ride a 56cm frame or thereabouts and the 55.5 was the only size available for this test. It tuned out to be a size too small for me and this manifested itself by me getting a lot of toe overlap. Toe overlap happens when your foot is on the pedal at the 9-3 position and the turn of the bars makes the front tyre rub on your shoe. Not ideal on tight off road turns. The next side up is around 10mm longer and might have stopped this. Again though the top tube/reach on the biggest frame size is quite near traditional road bike numbers.
The Stanton Switchpath is a great riding bike, it’s quick and agile handling will delight anyone who loves a responsive bike. For Three peaks CX racing or a quick blast after work it excels. Stanton are probably going to cringe to see me write that if you are coming from a predominantly road bike back round or you’re someone who is still riding you ATB from 1995 you will feel instantly at home. if all you’ve ridden is one of todays long, low and slack MTBs you’ll need a period of adjustment but the adrenalin rush will be great!
The Stanton Switchpath Ti with prices starting at just over 2k can be found here