Panorama Katahdin v2 Review
I don't keep my crush for Panorama Cycles a secret. For the past 6 years, Simon Bergeron and the team have been building something special in Granby, Quebec that is not only good for Canadian cycling but also good for the world. Their carbon-neutral bikes have changed how I look at bike manufacturers and set a precedent for the rest of the industry. I am also a huge fan of the team of Canadian riders they have been supporting, including Cory Ostertag and Marie-Pierre Savard—who recently came in first and third respectively (both setting FKTs) at the Log Driver's Waltz race in Eastern Canada.
Earlier this year, Panorama released the second generation of its Katahdin gravel bike. The bike is named after Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine, not far from Panorama headquarters. The name Katahdin comes from Abenaki, the language of the local Penobscot people, and translates to “great mountain”. The mountain is in a remote area of northern Maine which happens to be a mecca of gravel riding and marks the end point of the Appalachian Trail.
The first version of the Katahdin bike was originally inspired by cyclocross geometry. This second version was completely redesigned from the ground up to be a more versatile gravel and bikepacking rig. The updates completely reimagine how the bike feels, and introduce a slacker head tube angle and a longer wheelbase. It's been a long time since I rode a composite bike that I can lift with one hand, and I was excited to try the Katahdin.
Let's take a look...
The Katahdin ships with two build options or as a frameset for anyone that is looking to build their own. The two build kit options effectively let customers choose between setting up the bike for ‘mountain gravel'—with SRAM Rival 1 and 650b wheels, or for 'groad touring'—with Shimano GRX 2x and 700c wheels. However, you can also get in touch with the team and have them build you anything your heart desires, assuming the components are available.
The first thing that hits your eyeballs looking at the Katahdin is its color. There simply aren't many burgundy bikes out there. Initially, I couldn't tell if I liked the color or not, but it has grown on me over the past months. I can safely say that it stands out from the crowd, which is always a good thing. The Katahdin got a lot of looks on one ferry crossing from a team of black-on-black gravel hipsters from Vancouver—which I found amusing. Bucking even more minimalist trends, the beefy downtube is accented by a fantastic illustration of a howling wolf by Canadian illustrators Pellvetica.
Overall, the bike looks clean, made in part by its internal cabling. The Katahdin comes equipped with frame holes for an internally routed dropper post, as well as ports for a dynamo hub in the fork. Having these ports is a fantastic option for any gravel machine that's planning on getting into some mischief.
The Katahdin v2 boasts mounts on mounts on mounts. It feels like there are mounts everywhere which will make any bikepacker happy. The Katahdin is the first bike I have ever ridden that has 3 bottle mounts on the inside triangle, but it's worth noting that you would probably need shorter bidons. Still, pretty awesome. The seat stays have upper mounts and lower ones near the dropouts to fit a rack or Tailfin, and the fork has a triple mount for any fork bag system. The mount threads are stainless steel and cleanly recessed into the carbon.
|Head Tube Angle||70°||70°||70°|
|Seat Tube Angle||74°||74°||74°|
|Head Tube Length||145mm||165mm||185mm|
|Seat Tube Length||450mm||480mm||510mm|
|Top Tube Length||546mm||562mm||575mm|
Build, Build, Build
Commenting on build kits always feels tough considering the delays and substitutions that brands need to make in order to ship bikes these days. However, it's even tougher to separate a bike from its build decisions. As I mentioned above, the Katahdin has two build options that would fundamentally change the feel and maybe even the use(s) of the bike.
The bike that Panorama sent me was actually a hybrid of the two options they offer—a decision I assume was made due to wheelset availability. The bike I tested was a Rival 1 groupset, but with the 700c wheels that normally ship with the GRX 2x option. I'll admit this was my first time riding a 1x drive with a set of 700c wheels, which took a bit of getting used to. More on that in a bit.
The build is solid. Over the past few months I've been learning to love the SRAM Rival 1, a shift from riding the Landyachtz AB-ST. The Yokozuna brakes are a nice touch with their compressionless housing, as is the carbon seat post. But for me, the star of the build is the Ritchey Comp Beacon drop bars. There's something about these bars that I just can't get enough of. I initially thought they would be too shallow of a drop but they somehow seem to fit me (and the Katahdin) perfectly. They are flared, wide (46cm), and ready for anything.
I took the Katahdin out on my favorite local century ride here in Victoria. A perfect test track that goes through some steep, punchy hills that eventually flatten out into some fast gravel bliss.
Once we really got into the ride, it took me a bit to get accustomed to the Katahdin. In the more technical hills, I had to check myself while descending on gravel, reducing speed and even stopping one or two times completely. To me, it felt like the whole bike was crying for some beefier tires. With a long reach, wheelbase, and 70 degree headtube angle, 40mm doesn't seem like enough tire to me. If you are looking at getting the Katahdin with 700c, and have any chonky roads in your future, I would suggest going with a larger tire width; 45mm would probably do the trick, but why not go all the way and max it out at 50mm?
Once we got through the hills, the Katahdin and I found our flow together. And when the route hit some flatter, flowy gravel track the bike was in its element. I was able to not worry about the tire size and really open the Katahdin up. It was whippy, snappy, responsive and most importantly, it was fun as hell. The frame stiffness and power transfer of the bike seems to be off the charts. Whether that's while climbing, or up out of the saddle in a sprint—the Katahdin wants to move. Almost like an electric car, from a standstill the bike's pickup is insane and seems to get up to speed faster than most bikes I have ever ridden. Climbing in lighter gravel was also a dream. The combination of the frame stiffness and wide Ritchey bars helped get me up rolly hills quickly and efficiently. And then ripping on the way down led to some serious smiles in the saddle.
One interesting thing to note about the Katahdin was how quiet it is. This may be due to the huge, threaded bottom bracket, or composite everything… unsure. But there was a point where I was in the trees and felt like I was on a cloud hovering above the ground. It took me some time to realize that the feeling came from the Katahdin being virtually silent. I was alone, flying noiselessly through the trees and having one of those moments that only off-road cycling provides. Love.
In today's world, even with the endless library of marketing vernacular, it's almost impossible to classify bikes effectively, especially when you take what is essentially a race bike and redesign it to be a versatile-gravel-bikepacking bike. I'll admit I have struggled a bit to understand exactly what the Katahdin is for; but this thinking might be me trying to fit the bike into a clean category, which simply does not exist. Yet. The easiest way to think about the Katahdin might be in a series of questions:
Can I bikepack with the Katahdin? Definitely—the mounting options and slack geometry make it ideal. However, you may want to stick to dirt roads and flowy gravel tracks versus technical backcountry roads. Also, I would make sure to get some ride wrap on that carbon before strapping bags to it.
Can I gravel race the Katahdin? Absolutely—the Katahdin wants to fly. And my guess? This is where the bike would really shine—on single or multi day gravel events where speed, stiffness and power matter.
Can I set up the Katahdin for the mountains? Again, it seems so. The max tire clearance (700x50 or 650x2.1) allows you to run the thing like a rigid mountain bike as well. I may try the Katahdin with 650b wheels and report back on it. Stay tuned.
Is the Katahdin happy on the road? Actually yes—it's super stiff, fun and fast on the road. Maybe the best road/off-road/multi-surface bike I have ever had the privilege of riding. You would easily be able to swap out larger tires for something more streamlined and keep up to your roadie pals.
I hope these questions above illustrate what I mean—the Katahdin might be impossible to categorize. However, that is because it seemingly is able to do a bit of everything and quite well. If I were forced to give the Katahdin a classification, it would be something like Ultralight Groad Packer. Haha, oh man. Let's keep that name between us.
The Katahdin comes with a 5 year warranty. The Rival 1 option comes in at $3799 CAD and $4,249 for the GRX 2x version. Get it here.
Update: The Katahdin on 650b
After publishing this review, Simon from Panorama asked if I was interested in trying out the Katahdin with 650b wheels. Yes, I was. And, I'll admit, taking the Katahdin into the chonk on a set of 700c wheels may have been a bit unfair of me. As I was swapping out rotors and freewheel bodies I was a bit dubious on how much of a difference the wheels would actually make. I totally ate those words. The Katahdin seemed to transform into a whole new machine.
The 650b Katahdin is what the machine is meant to be. It was confident, nimble and whip fast in the gravel. I took the bike for a 100km rip and I have to say, it was one of the best days I have had on a gravel bike to date. Eveything seemed to come together with the wider wheels. What was before fragmented and awkward for me, was cohseive and whole. The bike flew and I was grinning ear to ear the whole way!
Don't get me wrong, the Katahdin is still great on 700c and I'd even like to try it at the max 700c clearance of 50mm. My money is on that being rad as well. But like so many things in the cycling world, it all comes down to the type of biking you want to do. Get the 650b Katahdin. ✊
|It's light, stiff and fast|
|Looks great: the color and art set it apart|
|The bike is truly versatile and multi-modal|
|Fantastic build and groupset options|
|The Katahdins carbon footprint is zero|
|Three bottle mounts on inside triangle|
|700c 40mm isn't enough tire any backcountry adventure|