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All-City Space Horse touring bike review

7 Nov 2018
Verdict:

A sparkling thoroughbred that'll happily run all day

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,800

Quick road centuries, gravel racing, commuting, and of course loaded touring. Even if you own a different bike for everything, it’s still necessary to have one that can do it all.

That bike is the Space Horse. At least, so All-City reckons.

Its geometry mixes road and randonneur, with a relatively short rear end and a lower-than-average bottom bracket for agile handling when riding unburdened, and increased stability when its saddlebags are full.

Buy the Spice Horse road touring bike from All-City

The frame

Very classic and minimalist, the Space Horse’s frame is instantly endearing. With straight tubing and classic non-compact geometry, the flat-crown lugged fork is the icing on top.

Actually, scratch that. The sparkly paint is the icing on top. With a head tube that pokes up above the top tube, its stack is moderate, yet standover remains acceptable.

A retro-style brazed-on seat collar looks great, as do the cast dropouts, while a modern replaceable derailleur hanger is a sensible concession to the modern world.

All the cables run externally, and the bottom bracket is a standard BSA 68mm fitting. Made of anonymous double-butted Chromoly steel, All-City has made a special sticker that sort of looks like one from Reynolds. 

We can’t say we noticed the difference. It rides as smoothly and swiftly as you could hope for a bike of this type, which is to say moderately.

With room for 42mm tyres and mudguards, you could just about fit broader if you ditched the fenders.

A tiny niggle, but we would have appreciated a third set of water bottle mounts on the underside of the down tube to allow for extra capacity when crossing deserts, tundras and whatnot.

Groupset

Sram’s 11-speed Rival groupset is seen here in single-ring format. With a 44-tooth chainring mated to a SunRace 11-42 cassette, it provides as easy a low gear as you’d find on even a rangey double set-up.

Thankfully, it’s just enough to stop you getting into trouble when laden and pointed uphill. With no need for a front mech, shifting is simplified, weight saved, and aesthetics improved.

Many riders will have formed an opinion on Sram’s DoubleTap shifting, where one lever controls both up and downshift. We’ve certainly made peace, if not friends with it.

The cable-operated TRP Spyre-C brakes are easy to adjust, their power increased by the use of 160mm rotors.

Finishing kit

Provided by the distributor’s unfortunately named Gusset house-brand, we were far more taken with the parts than their moniker. In particular, we liked the tough inline seatpost.

Captive steel hardware and twin bolts make it easy to adjust and likely to prove indestructible. The saddle is also likely to suit most tastes, with a conventional profile that won’t scare the horses and an above average amount of upholstery.

The bars are conventional road models. At 46cm wide they’re broad, but nothing like the huge flared models on other touring bikes.

Wheels

Touring bikes can be a little light on the sauce, so it’s rad to find a properly zippy set of wheels on the Space Horse in the shape of Halo Vapours, which sport an almost instantaneous engagement, thanks to a 120-point pickup hub. 

This means they transfer power the moment you push the pedals. It also means they emit a voluble 'rzzzzzz' noise when you freewheel.

Very low in mass and with a wide 21mm internal rim width, they’re ready to be set-up tubeless too. Clipped to them are burly Surly Knard tyres.

A full 41mm wide, they’re knobbly enough for gravel, but thanks to a close-packed centre tread, they also roll acceptably well on the tarmac. 

First impressions

With a first turn of the pedals, the Space Horse rumbles along. However, once up to cantering speed a tight frame means it doesn’t feel lumbering.

In fact, it’s impressively fast-turning for a touring bike thanks to its comparatively sharp angles. Boosting this speedy streak are light wheels.

Despite being shod with broad Surly Knard 41mm tyres, they help the Space Horse feel more thoroughbred racer than lumpen packhorse.

It’s an intriguing proposition that’s nippier than we’d expected.

On the road

The Space Horse’s wheelbase is short for a touring bike, while its head angle isn’t excessively slack either.

A blast to hack around on, this whippier than average geometry paired with gnarly off-road tyres seemingly mark it out as an ideal steed to equip with bikepacking bags for mixed-terrain jaunts.

Yet while it does well as a bikepacking mule, it also fares just as competently on-road with heavy panniers.

Proving less ponderous than more raked-out alternatives, yet never feeling too twitchy, we ended up spending a good deal of our time aboard rolling on more conventional tarmac-oriented tyres.

Swapping these in made it livelier on the road, albeit at the expense of some gravel ability.

Regardless of how you run it, in keeping with the bike’s generally expeditious leanings, the front end is quite low.

Good for regular road work, after a few hours we found it a bit of a stretch to keep a hold of.

If you’re set on more leisurely riding, it’s probably therefore best to flip the stem upwards and bring the bars higher.

Handling

With a stiff frame and light wheels, the Space Horse possesses a decent turn of speed, making it an efficient platform for a number of different applications.

Off-road, we love the reliability of Sram’s 1x11 groupset. Easily able to haul itself and panniers up the most beastly of hills, on the tarmac the large jumps between each gear might bother some riders.

Still, none are likely to be left short by the huge overall range provided by the 11-42 cassette. TRP’s Spyre brakes are good for cable-actuated models, although they won’t be out-stopping any hydraulic-powered alternatives.

At least they allow the levers to remain small and good-looking. At a full 46cm across, the handlebars are very wide.

Giving plenty of scope to manhandle the bike, they suit its mixed abilities without looking too unusual on the road.

Over loose terrain, or when supporting additional kit, the tyres provide tons of grip and cushioning, although their weight holds the bike back slightly on paved surfaces. 


RATINGS

Frame: Retro-style straight tubing and classic geometry. 7/10 
Components: Wide-range 1x gearing and decent finishing kit. 8/10 
Wheels: Zippy wheels shod with fat gravel-friendly tyres. 8/10 
The ride: Once up to speed, it's zippier than expected. 7/10 

Verdict: A sparkling thoroughbred that'll happily run all day.

Buy the Spice Horse road touring bike from All-City

Geometry

                                     
Size 55cm
Weight 11.4kg
Top Tube (TT) 555mm
Seat Tube (ST) 565mm
Stack (S) 589mm
Reach (R) 379mm
Chainstays (C) 440mm
Head Angle (HA) 72 degrees
Seat Angle (SA) 73 degrees
Wheelbase (WB) 1030mm
BB drop (BB) 77mm

Spec

All-City Space Horse
Frame Double-butted, lugged steel fork
Groupset Sram Rival 1, 11-speed
Brakes TRP Spyre mechanical discs
Chainset Sram Rival 1, 44t
Cassette SunRace, 11-42
Bars Genetic Flare
Stem Genetic SLR
Seatpost Genetic
Wheels Halo Vapour, Surly Knard 41mm tyres
Saddle Gusset
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