Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

All-City Zig Zag review

8 Feb 2022
Verdict:

A throughly modern steel throwback from All City that reminds you why riding a bike is fun

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Comfortable • Versatile
Against 
Would benefit from deeper wheels

The All City Zig Zag is a versatile steel road bike, designed in the United States and manufactured in the Far East which relies on generous tyre clearances and an aggressive geometry for a fun riding experience.

ACE Steel. It sounds like the troubled frontman of a 1980s hair metal band called Eagle Explosion. Or maybe a legendary overweight 1960s baseball pitcher from the Milwaukee Brewers whose ‘lightening curveballs were as sharp as his finely trimmed handlebar moustache’.

What this all-American title actually refers to is the proprietary lightweight steel tubing used by Minneapolis-based All-City Cycles, developed in 2016 and finessed since to create its flagship road bike, the Zig Zag. Although don’t discount there being a band called Eagle Explosion.

Steel is real

The United States is a proud steel nation so it makes sense that All-City not only relies on this material for its range of bikes, but has even gone to the lengths of developing its own in-house tubing and techniques.

In the past, All-City says it had ‘designed and built bikes from some spectacular name-brand steel tubes – Columbus Zona and Reynolds 853’, which is what the majority of the industry does, and for good reason. But now, partnered with a metal vendor in Taiwan, All-City has custom specced its own tubes.

The logic is that while a stock tubeset from Columbus or Reynolds is very good, it is a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Wall thicknesses, diameters and the length of a tube’s butts are preordained, and that might not best suit the frame you want to build.

Thus All-City’s steel is custom drawn with specific bikes in mind. For example, a butt can be shortened in a non-crucial area to save weight or a tube can be made straight gauge with thicker walls for more strength.

It’s clever stuff and certainly a hallmark of what many of the best steel frame makers do. Oh, and in case you were wondering, ACE stands for Air-hardened, Custom Extruded steel, where tubes are extruded from steel billet and allowed to cool slowly in air, which All-City says helps avoid cracking.

The end product is a bike that, when built with a modest component list of Shimano 105 group, alloy Halo Devaura wheels and alloy Genetic finishing kit, can still boast a respectable weight of 9.4kg (size 55cm).

That might not seem impressive when compared to the carbon fibre superbikes that often grace these pages, but it’s still at the competitive end of the steel bike frame market, and would give some carbon endurance bikes a run for their money.

But, of course, weight isn’t really the point with steel. It’s character, and the Zig Zag has that familiar steel ride feel – one of suppleness and smoothness.

This is no doubt helped along by the 30mm tubeless Schwalbe Pro One tyres, but there is no denying that the frame does a great job of absorbing vibrations from the road.

Finding a balance

Speaking of those 30mm tubeless tyres, let’s discuss versatility. The Zig Zag has it in spades and not just because there are eyelets for front and rear mudguards.

Tyre clearance is a claimed 35mm, which not too long ago would have been deemed a gravel width and in Continental Europe would practically be a mountain bike. Even with the 30mm tyres supplied, I felt confident enough to venture onto alternative surfaces when the opportunity arose.

Do this on a standard alloy or carbon bike and you’d get by, but chances are the helter-skelter ride would see you seeking a path back to tarmac before too long.

However, thanks to the natural compliance of skinny steel combined with the Zig Zag’s relatively long 1,019mm wheelbase, there was an assurance about the handling that left me feeling in control at all times, whether negotiating some light singletrack or a winding road descent.

That long wheelbase is complemented by endurance-focussed 583mm stack and 389mm reach figures, which add to the sense of comfort and stability but still allowed me to get in a decent aero position for when I decided to turn the pedals in anger.

Admittedly, getting up to said speed took a bit of work – I blame the 1,745g wheels – but once there I ticked along nicely without too much extra effort. Swap out the Halo Devaura wheels for something deeper and stiffer, say Halo’s 50mm carbon Carbaura wheels, and I’d wager those acceleration woes will disappear too.

On paper, modern carbon bikes trump steel every time – they’re lighter, stiffer and faster. But we don’t just buy bikes by the numbers, we buy them with our eyes and emotions, which is why steel will always have a place.

It evokes a visceral feeling in us romantics that carbon simply never will, and plants a smile on your face that will remain even if you’re getting dropped.

Pick of the kit

Romance BuffTing V2 snood, £20, rmnc.cc

A lightweight, moisture-wicking tube of material in a faux Burberry tartan check that’s worn around your neck and face to keep draughts and chills from getting in. I’ll be honest, they had me at faux Burberry.

There’s not much more to add. We all know what a snood is and we’re all very aware of how useful they are when riding through the winter months. And if you’re wondering, ‘buffting’ is slang for someone who is ‘attractive, glamorous or generally appealing’. Like ‘buff’ with added oomph.

All-City Zig Zag alternatives

All-City Cosmic Stallion

Like the Zig Zag, just more versatile. The Cosmic Stallion (£2,649.99) is for rougher days, with 47mm tyre clearance and a gravel-specific Shimano GRX groupset.

All-City Gorilla Monsoon

The Gorilla Monsoon (£1,300 frameset) is All-City’s cyclocross-inspired ‘monster’ touring bike, with the same ACE steel tubing but a more aggressive geometry to take on any journey you can dream up.

Spec

Frame All-City Zig Zag
Groupset   Shimano 105 R7000
Brakes Shimano 105 R7000
Chainset Shimano 105 R7000
Cassette Shimano 105 R7000
Bars Genetic Flare
Stem Genetic STV
Seatpost Genetic Syngenic
Saddle Genetic STV
Wheels Halo Devaura Disc RD2, Schwalbe Pro One 30mm tyres
Weight 9.4kg (55cm)
Contact allcitycycles.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
$3,100 (approx £2,350)

Read more about: