MEET THE OPEN UPPER
We’re not normally ones to get twitterpated about new bikes. Call us jaded, or call us bored of all the “it’s 2% laterally stiffer and saves .0003 watts in a very specific crosswind” marketing schtick. And we’re not head-over-heels excited about this new bike, either: We’re impressed. Why? Meet the UPPER, Open’s evolution of the UP. And Open, in their typical understated style, have presented it as such. Instead of proclaiming it to be the latest best-in-the-world bleeding-edge tech (and accompanying “But I thought the last bike was the best in the world?” response), it’s billed as an UP on a diet with a few new features, not a complete rethink of the previous bike.
What’s new? The UPPER takes the UP’s highly-capable design to go anywhere and do anything – and drops 220g from the frame, making for an 880g frame weight (which we verified on our scales). It also introduces what’s become the standard for drop-bar disc bikes, flat mount brakes. And, Open developed their own fork for the UPPER, instead of using a 3T unit that also sheds weight, and introduces a 12mm front thru-axle instead of the 15mm TA normally seen on mountain bikes. They call it U-Turn, and it’s been visually slimmed down from the bulbous look of its counterpart. Geometrysizing remains identical to the UP, but the UPPER drops the color choices of the other bike, available in only one patina: Black. All told? The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
We built the UPPER with a decidedly Above Category kit, one that we’ve been honing after abusing the UP in various situations over the past year. The tried-and-true SRAM 1×11 drivetrain is present, but we added a few special touches. Red shifters and an XX1 rear derailleur take the build top-shelf, along with the hair-lighter XX1 10-42 cassette.
One of our UPPER’s party pieces? SRM’s brand-new Origin powermeter. The new modular system is the lightest crank SRM has built, using Look’s skunkworks-look carbon crankarms. It’s mated to a 42t BOR narrow-wide ring using the Shimano bolt pattern, and the whole crank spins on a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket – of course.
After being less-than-thrilled with Speedplay’s MTB-specific Syzr pedals, we’ve swapped to the Pave for off-road use. We’ll see how they hold up in technical conditions.
The cockpit is made up of Zipp’s SL Speed carbon bits, with their oversized/matte look complementing the UPPER’s sedate satin perfectly. Brooks swoops in for the saddle and tape duties: A one-off Chpt. 3 finish on the Cambium saddle is mated to contrasting rustic red leather bar tape. Zing.
Drawing on our past experience with the UP, we’ve gone with a 650b ENVE M50/White Industries wheelset and huge Compass slick tires. Why? We found that the UP with higher-volume 700c feels extremely stable and hooks up in most conditions, but it can also be ponderous and hard to lean into a corner. But, we really love the massive amounts of grip and off-road traction from a fat tire. How do we solve the handling issue without losing contact patch? Easy, shrink the wheel size. The Compass Switchback Hill is one of the lightest fat slicks on the market, rides like a dream, and is tubeless-ready – choosing it for the build was a no-brainer. In dry conditions, this setup should afford plenty of traction off-road, while staying lithe and snappy on tarmac.
Expect an in-depth review on the UPPER in the coming weeks, as we put the latest minimal machine from Switzerland through a crucible of abuse over pavement, fireroads, singletrack, and anything in between. In the meantime, we have a selection of demo UPPERs available at Above Category for San Francisco locals. Email us
to schedule a time to take one out on our backyard playground of mixed terrain, and thanks for reading.