June 23, 2022
For the past few years, Landyachtz has been putting out some solid bikes from their headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia. They recently released a follow-up to their popular AB1 gravel bike called the AB-ST. The AB-ST is fast, ready for anything, and truly feels like a whole new direction for gravel bikes. We gave the AB-ST a demo and weren't sorry that we did. Let's go.
In 2020, Landyachtz launched the AB1 (Adventure Bike 1) gravel bike. The AB1 was a serious contender as I was looking for a new bikepacking rig. At the time, I loved the premise of the AB1: positioned as more than a gravel bike, it is a machine that is intended to bring you anywhere, and do anything. Ultimately I opted for a rigid mountain bike, but over the past couple years I have often wondered whether I made the right choice.
For 2022, Landyachtz has launched two new additions to its AB lineup: the AB-AL, which is an alloy iteration of the AB1, focused on gravel racing; and the AB-ST, a slacker, steel version focused on fun. Landyachtz says that the AB-ST is “designed with bikepacking and getting RAD in mind”.
I love how the word rad is starting to take on meaning in today's gravel world. Gravel bikes have been evolving quickly over the past few years, and trying to explain and categorize them is getting tougher and tougher. Terms like monster gravel, monstercross, mountain bike with drops never clearly explain what a bike is intended for.
However, RAD, I understand. Rad is not addressing the category of the bike; rad is a mindset or approach to cycling, and a clear indicator for the people who know. With thru-axles, disc brakes, huge tire clearance, a longer wheelbase and reach, the AB-ST is a gravel bike that really lives up to the rad classification.
Due to supply chain issues, Landyachtz is currently offering the AB-ST (and AB-AL) as a frameset, including frame, fork, FSA headset and front/rear axles. For the purposes of this review, Landyachtz sent me a build including SRAM 12sp Rival, Easton carbon wheels with 29 x 2.25” Nine Line WTBs. 🤟
Unfortunately, I have not ridden the AB1; however, I will boldly state that the AB-ST (most likely) lives up to the anywhere/anything positioning better than the AB1 (or AB-AL). Just looking at the bike makes it fairly evident.
Let's start with the clearance for up to 29 x 2.25” tires. Honestly, my love affair with the AB-ST started at gravel 29er. With huge tires and thru-axles (12x100 F, 12x142 R), the AB-ST really is made for anything you throw it's way. This was my first time running 29ers on a gravel bike, and I was a bit unsure of what to expect. However, after a few hundred kilometers, I can safely say it's exactly what you imagine: they get you up and over pretty much anything, quickly.
|Seat Tube Angle||74°||74°||74°||74°|
|Head Tube Angle||70°||70°||70°||70°|
|Head Tube Length||150mm||170mm||190mm||210mm|
|Top Tube Length||535mm||565mm||595mm||615mm|
On Southern Vancouver Island there is a phenomenon of people “mountain biking on gravel bikes”. This happens mainly because our little island is an underwater mountain and has a limited number of pure long-distance gravel tracks. So if you are looking to do any meaningful off-road distance here, you are most likely hitting some singletrack along the way. I've always considered drop bars on heavy terrain bananas, and held firmly to my belief that gravel bikes simply don't make sense in the singletrack. However, the AB-ST strongly challenges this idea. Once I got used to the narrowness of the bars, the AB-ST was tackling everything my Surly Krampus does. Is it ideal? Maybe not. Is it possible? Absolutely.
For those who really want to push the AB-ST, Landyachtz was wise to include optional internal cabling-in for a dropper post.
The AB-ST has all the mounts. And by all of them I mean… all of them. After a few weeks of riding the bike, I'm still finding mounting options. There is a place to mount a top tube bag, triple mounts on the top of the down tube (double underneath), double mounts on the seat tube, and rack mounts on the seat stays. It has more mounts than my Surly Krampus, which kinda blows me away.
The AB-ST ships with the updated Carbon Adventure (ADV) fork. The fork boasts triple mounts on each side and a rack mount to accommodate pretty much any front end setup you have in mind. (I think this finishes the long list of mounting options for the bike). The mounting bolts are recessed into the carbon so that they sit flush when no cage is mounted, which is a slick touch. However, mounts on raw carbon always make me a little nervous, and I ended up adding some electrical tape down the center of the fork which will hopefully avoid any friction when a cage is attached. That said, the new ADV fork is solid. It's raw carbon finish really lends to the overall look of the AB-ST.
After 2 years of riding a sturdy flat bar mountain bike, it's a lot of fun to be back on some drop bars with my hands on the hoods, and moving fast again. I am loving the quicker cadences and longer distances.
In the gravel, the AB-ST has a whip-like responsiveness to it that I catch myself daydreaming about while at work. The 4130 LY Chromoly is strong and light (a medium weighs in at 6.75 lbs), and makes me feel like I'm a faster rider than I really am. And with the longer wheelbase the whole affair feels fast yet super stable when cornering or descending in rough terrain.
My first time on the AB-ST, the bike brought to mind a Safari Porsche (the car of my dreams). Safari Porche's are essentially repurposed 911s, tricked out for offroading. A super fast chassis with beefier suspension and other accoutrements of off-road driving. This, in a nutshell, is how the AB-ST feels to me. A quick gravel machine decked out for the chonk. If that's not rad, I'm not sure what is.
Returning to the challenge of categories—if I had to make one for the AB-ST I'd call it Fastpacking. I'll leave the actual naming for the marketing experts, but the AB-ST does make me think of the ultra-bikepack racers out there. Bikepack racers require everything the AB-ST has to offer: fast rolling huge tires, a light, flexible frame, and the ability to mount any bag setup imaginable. The AB-ST would be ideal for anyone who's interested in a beefy drop bar bike for racing.
As much as we pretend that color doesn't matter—it really, really does. Of course appreciation for aesthetics is in the eye of the beholder, but I am in love with the color choice on the AB-ST. I asked the people around me at work how they would describe the color and the responses were “milky navy” and “blue steel”, both not wrong. When the blue steel is coupled with the raw carbon of the ADV fork (and in my case, the Easton wheels), the whole machine looks pretty swank.
I should mention one unfortunate bungle, which is that after a couple hundred kilometers, I started noticing small chips in the paint. I spoke to Lucas, Landyachtz's marketing manager about it and he mentioned that the issue had to do with the pre-production version of the bike I was testing.
In the end, I opted to get the AB-ST Ride Wrapped to protect it. This isn't a huge issue, as I planned to have it wrapped regardless—bike bags are hell on any paint job.
Call it what you will—monster gravel, monstercross, mountain bike with drops—it really doesn't matter. Categories are for computers. Landyachtz was right to label the bike as rad and avoid the confusion of trying to properly fit it in some word jumble. The only thing that matters is getting out there and shredding it all, which the AB-ST will help you do, very, very well.
I hope you like seeing the bike in photos, as you'll be seeing much more of it on this site. This was meant to be a straightforward review, and I planned to send the bike back once I was done forming an impression. However, the idea of boxing it up and shipping it back brought on a little heartache; so I bought the bike. Now she just needs a name.
You can get the frameset $1,250 CAD / $975 USD or work with the Landyachtz team to build up your dream machine. Get it here.
|I bought the AB-ST|
|Mounts, mounts and more mounts|
|Quick and nimble|
|Paint started chipping after 200km|
|No build kits, yet|
|Mounting cages on the raw carbon fork makes me squeamish|