FARA F/Gravel Bike Review

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FARA is a small bike company based in Oslo, Norway which was set up in 2015 by Jeff Webb, a Canadian ex-pro racer and it (currently) offers three styles of drop-bar bikes: a road bike, an ‘adventure’ road bike and the one I’ve had on test for about five months, the FARA F/Gravel.

Fara F/Gravel bike

Pros

  • The ride of the bike. It’s a fun machine.
  • The Campag Ekar brakes. Wow!
  • The overall look and detail of the bike. The hidden luggage and mudguard bosses, the depth of the paintjob. All very well thought out.

Cons

  • The downtube hatch door. It’s currently the only thing that lets the bike down.
  • The gearing. Personally, I’d like the option of lower gears – like a 40T or even 38T chainring
  • I’d like to see the option of running ‘moto-style’ UK-way-round brakes on the order form.

FARA’s head office is in Oslo, and it also has its own office in Taiwan. From these two bases, the plan is to ‘do stuff that bigger companies can’t (or won’t) do’. This involves having customers more involved in the bike-speccing process, allowing a pretty bespoke service (if you want it) where you can spec every component on the bike if you want. Alternatively, you can buy a stock set-up bike and it will be delivered to you, having been assembled by Fara’s workshop teams.

Raw carbon frames are custom designed in Oslo and made in China. They then come to FARA’s workshop in Taiwan, where they’re finished and painted. Stock bikes are then kept in Taiwan or sent to Fara’s office and shopfront in Oslo where customers can test-ride bikes, take part in group rides and all sorts of fun stuff. You can even ride offroad from Oslo airport to Fara’s Flagship store, 85% on gravel trails. There’s a global staff of 15 employees and every bike is built up for the final customers.

One other way that Fara has tried to differentiate itself is in having bespoke bikepacking bags made for its frames. They (obviously) fit exactly, but in addition, there are many hidden bosses around the frame where the firm’s bags can attach, using FidLock snaps for an ‘easy on, invisible when off’ fitment. There’s even a tab on the back of the seatpost for the base of the seat bag to attach. This all means that the (quite beautiful) paint finishes don’t get scuffed by bag buckles when loaded up. And when unloaded, the bike looks as sleek as anything.

Anyway, that was a quick intro on the company, on with this FARA F/Gravel test bike! As I mentioned, I got the bike in just before Christmas and it was ridden often throughout the winter and spring.


The carbon frame and forked FARA F/Gravel has a big, bold look. The styling is very subtle, with the FARA logo only visible in direct light on the large, square section downtube. The matching carbon fork features a heap of mud room, with triple bosses for bolt-on luggage. The headset is one of those new-fangled ones with hidden cables, which aesthetes will love, but your bike mechanic will not. There’s an option to spec the F/Gravel with 650B wheels for chunkier trails, or 700C (as here) for a more all round gravel bike. Both wheel sizes can accommodate tyres up to 50mm.

Moving further down the frame, there are a load more bosses visible (and some almost invisible): a pair on the top of the top tube, three bosses under the top tube and even one on the seatpost. These are to accommodate FARA’s optional custom luggage system that bolts directly to the frame, avoiding the need for straps that might wear the paint.

We get a downtube stash box under the bottle cage, something that’s common in mountain bike frames, but rare on a drop bar bike. Although the concept doesn’t seem to be patented, perhaps the various closure systems are, as FARA has adopted a system that sees the front of the ‘door’ slot into the top of the access hole, with the bottom of the door secured by a rubber strap fitting over a tab. This did nothing but rattle for the whole test and FARA has assured me that a new, more secure system is already in production. Peering inside sees a neat construction, along with foam covered outer cables for the rear brake and mech.

And what a mech! This particular FARA F/Gravel has been built through the company’s online configurator with Campagnolo’s 13 speed EKAR gravel groupset. (Although now, I see that this spec has made it into the production line). This is the first time we’ve seen the Campag Ekar system here at grit.cx and, well, you can see what we thought in the next section. In terms of looks, there’s a beautiful carbon crank and a shiny dome of 13 steel sprockets with a 10-44T ratio. The gears are shifted by a U-shaped lever on the right hand brake hood and a more standard paddle behind the brake lever.

The wheels, meanwhile, are Fulcrums (a brand owned by Campagnolo) with the ubiquitous Panaracer Gravel King tyres. They came with tubes fitted, which rode without trouble for th months I had the bike, so I didn’t bother converting them to tubeless.

The Ride

The FARA sizing chart of your height to suggested frame size is quite unaccommodating, with no crossover between frame sizes. At 175cm, I’m slap-bang in the ‘53cm frame’ line, so that’s what I ordered. On paper, the F/Gravel is a bit long for me, with a 56cm top tube on a medium sized frame (386mm reach). However, as often happens, once you’re riding, those numbers melt away and I was left with just a sensation of a roomy cockpit, and longish stem, but with compact, short-drop bars that helped offset any over-long sensations.

You’d expect some components to change with frame sizing – there are three sizes of stem as you go up the frame sizes, handlebars too, but also the cranks change from 170mm on the smallest size, to 172s on the bigger three sizes. The chainring jumps from a 40T up to a 42T on those sizes too.

The overall effect of the bike at rest is of a beautiful, but very off-road capable machine. There’s huge tyre clearance at either end, with room for much bigger tyres than the 43mm Gravel King Panaracers it came with.

As I mentioned, this is the first time that grit.cx has had a chance to test Campagnolo’s first (and currently only) gravel groupset; EKAR. It features 13 speeds, mechanical shifting and hydraulic brakes, all of which are routed internally on the FARA F/Gravel. The gear changes will be familiar to anyone who’s tried a Campag road groupset – they’re very chunky and direct – a world away from the mouse-clicks of SRAM and Shimano’s electric groups, though not that far from the click and ‘chonk’ of SRAM’s DoubleTap mechanical shifters. The chain travels happily up and down the block and the shifting feel is on the good side of positive feeling.

If you’ve grown up with Campag, this’ll make sense. If not, you’ll get used to it.

Shifting up the block is done via a familiar-feeling lever behind the right hand brake lever blade. Shifting back down is via a down-press on a vaguely V-shaped lever that sits at the side of the lever hood, where it’s easily reached whether on the tops or in the shallow drops. It’s a lot more effort than the push-buttons of electric systems, but it has the advantage of being tactile enough that the rider can shift confidently while bouncing down chunky terrain.

Brakes

The Campag EKAR brakes are astoundingly good. Super powerful and progressive and capable of some sustained power with tons of feel and control, whether on the hoods or the drops. Unfortunately, my bike was set up ‘continental’ style, with the rear brake on the right, so I had to always think twice before slamming on. Despite that, I had zero issues with the brakes, even on long days out and I wish all of my mountain bikes had brakes this good. I’m not alone, either, as the EKAR brakes came up with other gravel journalists who’d tested the group. I’m not sure if you can spec Left lever – rear brake in the bike builder, but I have asked Fara to clarify.

Handling

But we’re not here to hang on the brakes, are we? We’re here to ride fast, right? And this is something the F/Gravel does exceptionally well. In general, the bike has the feel of a well-sorted gravel bike. It holds speed well, takes mellow gravel with ease and is a hoot on the twisty singletrack.

The 10-44T cassette with 42T chainring puts the FARA F/Gravel into the ‘rolling hills’ category of gravel bikes. Those of you who’ve heard my theory about the ‘two gravels’ – that there’s ‘London/USA gravel’ and ‘Northern gravel’ will find this bike about halfway between the two extremes. The 42/44T lowest gearing was still pretty tall for the chunky gravel climbs that I like to do (my own gravel bike runs a 38T) but there’s no option in the bike builder for a smaller ring (unless you also get shorter cranks…) but the (claimed) 8.3kg weight wasn’t a real burden on the hills. The shallow drop Ritchey Venturemax were very comfortable and the shallow/modest flare drops allowed easy access for more control on descents.

I’m lucky enough to have some good 20-30 minutes gravel descents around here (with associated grovelling climbs) and the F/Gravel is an absolute speed monster on descents. I had misgivings about how compliant the sizeable carbon forks might be, but there was plenty of give to them and I could descend like a loon while still being pretty much in control. Did I mention how awesome the Ekar brakes are? Even with 160mm rotors? This combo of surefooted descending with reliable brakes encouraged all sorts of late braking moves.

The F/Gravel made for some very fun adventures and I found myself taking the sketchier alternative trails whenever I could as I knew that the bike would make it through just fine. For the rougher type of gravel riding that I like to do, I’d have liked the opportunity of a dropper post, but for the endless moorland/gravel forest tracks that most of Fara’s customers are going to be doing, that’s an unnecessary luxury.

So, would I change anything? Apart from having the brakes the UK way round? I’d thought I wanted bigger tyres, but found the 43mm Panaracers to be fine, in the dry at least. I guess the only thing that I’d be keen to be improved is the door on the storage hatch, but Fara assures me that that’s already in hand. For the same money as my Ekar groupset, you can get a SRAM Rival AXS wireless group – and I can see that being a hard decision. The Campag group is excellent, but the simplicity of the AXS group might win out for me. For another €500 I can pick Shimano’s 2×11 Di2 GRX groupset, which might ease my gearing concerns, but I think I prefer the look and simplicity of the one-by.

In terms of pricing, you can get a similarly specced, delivered-to-your door bike from other manufacturers for less money if you’re prepared to shop around. However, the Fara brand reckons that its small operation, custom-build options and classy paintjobs will make up that difference, and its pricing compares well to other top tier gravel brands like Ridley. And, with the Fara’s small numbers and custom-built options, you’re unlikely to ever bump into someone else running exactly the same bike on your local ride.

FARA F/Gravel

Overall

The FARA F/Gravel is a new name to many of us, but the bikes it produces are well thought out and excellently put together. It arrived beautifully boxed and was ready to ride after 15 minutes of spannering and checking. The quality of fit and finish is also very impressive and that Fjord Green paintjob is a stunner in sunlight.

If you want a bike that’s well future-proofed for anything you might want to do on a gravel bike, then the FARA F/Gravel is definitely worth a look. Run it as a fast and light summer gravel machine (or hell, it’d make a fab road bike for most people), run it on 43s, loaded with bespoke luggage for a Dales weekender, or run it on 650Bs with some chunky 50mm tyres for some proper off road fun.

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Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • FARA F/Gravel Bike Review
  • amandawishart
    Full Member

    Nice door!

    johnnystorm
    Full Member

    How slack is this Fara?

    chipps
    Full Member

    71/73 angles, @johnnystorm

    rOcKeTdOg
    Full Member

    Gravel bikes are getting just like cars in that a “new bike just out” gets announced and it just looks exactly the same as loads of others. Barring the fact that some are same mould copies of other bikes and it basically comes down to two triangles I just long for something different

    This bike is the same, take the graphics off and it could be one of a few bikes already on the market today

    Ben_Haworth
    Full Member

    @johnnystorm totes slacks 👖

    johnnystorm
    Full Member

    @ben_howarth

    😉

    Apols to @chipps for having taken me seriously.

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)

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