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"Bicycle Times", January 1, 2013

All-City Space Horse




Back in issue #13, Matt (art director for our mountain bike mag, Dirt Rag) reviewed All-City’s Nature Boy, a singlespeed cyclocross bike with a bit of versatility and utility incorporated in terms of fender and rack mounts. This time, we visit All-City’s king of versatility: the Space Horse. This rig has been developed to cover all the bases, from commuting through urban environs to exploring far-reaching rural paths.

All-City designed the Space Horse around what they’re calling “rugged road” geometry, mixing aspects of traditional road and touring geometries to yield a bike that’s lively, yet able to confidently haul up to 50lbs. of gear. This Horse, after all, offers rack and fender mounts front and rear, as well as semi-horizontal dropouts — run it geared or singlespeed.

The Space Horse’s chromoly steel frame is treated with an electrodeposition (ED) coating inside and out prior to painting. This ED coating seals the metal’s surface through an electrochemical process to provide stellar resistance to corrosion, which bodes well for the bike’s longevity.

On the road, the Space Horse is an eager and willing companion whether traversing silky-smooth pavement or rough forest roads. The stock 35mm-wide Freedom tires roll reasonably well on road and grip respectably for mild dirt excursions. Those looking for a bit more off-road grip can run up to 42mm-wide knobbies without fenders. Handling is relaxed by road bike standards, but will still feel plenty quick for those coming from a mountain bike background. Unloaded, the frame feels stiff and predictable — no strange handling traits here. While loaded, frame stiffness was more than sufficient for the intended load of 20lbs. front and 30lbs. rear.

This complete Space Horse retails for $1,450 with a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and hubs, Tektro cantilever brakes, and Alex Rims. It’s been quite a while since I’ve spent much time with integrated shifters, and I’m impressed with how well the newest generation of Shimano’s 10-speed drivetrain works — even on the “budget” Tiagra models. This Tiagra group shifts flawlessly, has held up well, and offers extremely comfortable hand positions on the hoods. The compact 34/50-tooth crankset and 12-30-tooth cassette offer plenty of gearing when not touring, but loaded riding over seriously hilly terrain may require a gearing swap. Overall, the package is well-suited to the bike’s intended use, though I wouldn’t complain about more braking power when piloting a loaded bike down steep hills in wet conditions — modern disc brakes have spoiled me in this regard.

For many, the Space Horse’s appeal will lie in its versatility and good looks. This same versatility may also be the Space Horse’s Achilles heel; like most of these highly versatile bikes, it just doesn’t offer the sex appeal of a ‘cross race bike or a ride-the-Divide adventure bike. In many ways, the Space Horse is like a reliable Toyota Camry: it’s affordable, it’ll haul a reasonable amount of stuff, it’s extremely versatile, and it’ll run forever — all admirable traits.

Perhaps it’s best to think about the Space Horse as a prettier and slightly higher quality Surly Crosscheck — given its ED frame coating with nicer parts — that’s been beefed up just a little for touring stability. To be fair, I intend that comparison in the nicest way possible. Surly’s Crosscheck is the benchmark of value within this category of bikes. All things considered, the Space Horse represents a huge bang for your buck. It’s a great jack-of-all-trades bike designed by bike people, for bike people. If you’re in the market for this sort of bike, the Space Horse is a worthy candidate. Personally, I’d be over the moon for a disc brake-equipped version — that would be the cat’s meow.

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