This article first appeared in the May 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
While I was taking a water break on one of my local trails in the Salt Lake City foothills, a jogger stopped to ask me about the bike I was riding.
“Wow, that’s a really nice-looking bike,” he said. “What is it?”
“Why,” I responded.
“I just want to know the brand,” he said.
“Why,” I repeated.
“What are you talking about?” he asked, a little exasperated. “Just tell me what it is!”
“Why,” I said yet again.
I’d been dying for someone to ask me that exact question as soon as I received the bike from Why Cycles, and I was enjoying my own little Abbott and Costello routine too much to drop it. The runner, not getting the joke, glared at me and jogged away in a huff. I could have told him “What’s on second,” to give him a hint, but I was too pleased with myself.
Why came out of left field (zing!) in 2016, started by three industry veterans who wanted to make “straightforward, clean, eye-catching bikes done right,” as it states on the website. Currently, Why Cycles sells five models: a dirt jumper, a fat bike, a gravel bike, a fairly traditional mountain bike, and the Wayward you see here. And you can have them in any frame material you want, as long as it’s titanium.
The Wayward V2 is a 29+ hardtail made for loaded bikepacking, mountain biking, and everything in between. It’s a model of versatility with mounts galore (including for a rear rack), sliding dropouts to accommodate geared or singlespeed drivetrains, and even a seatstay break in case you prefer belts to chains. It can accommodate a rigid or suspension fork, features internal cable routing for clean lines, and boasts room for full-on 29 x 3.0in. tires, which happens to be my personal preference for a bikepacking rig.
This was my first experience with a space-metal bike, and as such I won’t attempt to compare the Wayward to other titanium bikes. But I can say that every element of the frame on my test model looked pristine: the finish was lustrous, the graphics subtle, the tubes curvaceous, and the welds tidy. Titanium is well known in the bike world as an expensive frame material, and the Wayward looks the part. But compared to many other titanium bike brands, Why bikes are reasonably priced because they’re made at a small outfit in northern China and sold consumer-direct. So you pay less for a Why, but from what I can tell, you don’t get any less.
Rivers of ink have been spilled on the wonders of titanium and its benefits for bike frames. While I try to avoid hyperbole, I will say this about this particular titanium bicycle: it’s magic. Yes, it’s light, and yes, it’s beautiful, but much more importantly, the Wayward rides lightly and rides beautifully. What I mean by that is the inherent compliance and springiness that titanium bikes are known for manifest in the Wayward in the form of increased traction on climbs, a liveliness under acceleration, and a damped, muted feel on rough descents.
I happen to own a similar bike that makes for an apt comparison: my carbon 29+ bike has similar geometry numbers to the Wayward, weighs nearly the same, and even has the same wheels. But when ridden back to back on the same trails, my carbon bike bounces and skitters on rough terrain where the space-metal bike just seems to sail right along. Similarly, my hands feel the buzz much more on rough descents while riding my bike, whereas the Wayward takes the sting out of even the harshest impacts. Like I said, magic.
But it’s not just the fancy frame material that makes the Wayward such a pleasure to ride; the fact is, this Why is a big bike. As modern mountain bikes have grown longer, lower, and slacker, so too have many bikes in the bikepacking category. Personally, I think a long bike pays dividends for long days in the saddle, especially if you’re loaded up. A longer wheelbase gives you better traction, better high-speed stability, and increases frame compliance. And a longer reach feels more comfortable over the long haul, at least to me.
Case in point: while I was testing the Wayward, my wife and I set out for our first ride on the Wasatch Crest Trail, a must-ride singletrack epic here in Salt Lake City. I did a bad job researching our route, and what I’d thought would be a fairly simple 20-mile outing with about 2,000 feet of climbing became more like 40 miles with over 4,000 feet of gain. For those of you keeping score, that’s double. The Wasatch Crest lived up to its reputation, but we were underwatered and underfed for the long slog to close our loop. I may have caught my wife looking up divorce attorneys on her phone. It was the most out of gas I’d been in a long time, but the Wayward just wouldn’t quit. Those little individual assists in traction, compliance, and liveliness combined to form something that felt akin to cheating. And in the best way possible.
The Wasatch Crest Trail also has some pretty rough descents. It’s a trail on which I would otherwise ride my full-suspension bike, but the Wayward is so capable as a pure mountain bike that I had no trouble charging rocky, technical lines at unreasonable speeds — all while riding the trail for the first time. I also found myself setting personal records on both climbs and descents at my local haunts. It’s the first bike I’ve ridden that truly made me question the need for full suspension.
Not that forgoing full suspension will necessarily save you money. All told, the bike I tested retails for over $6,000, but that price includes some fairly high-test equipment: a 12-speed X01 Eagle drivetrain (including carbon crank arms), which provided all the gear range you could want and shifted flawlessly; Industry Nine Backcountry 360 wheels, which are pricey and stiff but well-suited to the dual tasks of trail riding and loaded bikepacking; and a jaw-droppingly beautiful titanium handlebar from Oddity Cycles that costs $350 (!) on its own. I haven’t had great luck with SRAM brakes in the past, but the G2 RSC hydros worked well enough unless I was on a particularly long, fast descent, where I would experience some fade. I expect larger rotors would solve that problem. The RockShox Yari fork was nicely supple but is no longer on offer; Why now specs the better, lighter Pike Ultimate instead. The Crank Brothers dropper went up, and it went down — no surprises there. What did surprise me were the Terrene McFly tires, which rolled efficiently enough, though not as quickly as my go-to WTB Rangers, but held tenaciously in corners. They’re a great tire for splitting the difference between bikepacking and trail riding.
You can certainly save some coin by forgoing the Oddity bar and stepping down to GX Eagle, which is what I would do. (The Oddity bar is also 22.2mm, which requires a shim to fit in a standard 31.8mm stem.) Heck, if you want to build up a Wayward yourself, Why sells a bare frame for $2,449, which ain’t bad for titanium, or a frame and fork combo for $3,049, which is also a fine deal considering you’re getting a top-spec fork for $600.
(If the notion of spending three grand on something you can’t even roll through your door yet seems crazy, remember that value is always relative. To put the Wayward’s price in something resembling context, a Salsa Timberjack titanium frame will run you $2,700.)
If you’ve read between the lines of this review, you’ll have gleaned my opinion that this bike belongs to that rare, storied category of bicycle: the quiver killer. There are a lot of versatile bikes out there, but compromises abound. On the Why? Not so much. If you want a bike that can charge as hard as you dare on the roughest of trails one day and schlepp your gear on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route the next, and with that special titanium look and feel, then you already know the answer.
Sizes available: M, L, XL
Size tested: L
Weight: 28.6 lbs. (without pedals)
Head tube length: 116mm
Head tube angle: 67°
Seat tube length: 460mm
Seat tube angle: 73°
Top tube: 645mm (effective)
Chainstays: 435–450mm (adjustable)
Bottom bracket drop: 70mm
Bottom bracket height: 312mm
Fork offset: 51mm
Standover height: 754mm
Frame: Why Wayward titanium, bottle mount on seat tube, triple mounts on top and bottom of down tube, bolt-on framebag mounts, rack and fender mounts, sliding dropout, frame break on seatstay
Fork: RockShox Yari RC, 120mm
Handlebar: Oddity Lowrizer titanium, 800mm width, 45mm rise, 10° backsweep, 22.2mm clamp
Stem: Truvativ Descendant, 50mm length, 31.8mm clamp
Rear derailer: SRAM X01 Eagle
Shifter: SRAM X01 Eagle
Brakes: SRAM G2 RSC hydraulic disc
Rotors: SRAM Centerline, 180mm front, 160mm rear
Crankset: SRAM X01 Eagle DUB, carbon, 32T, 175mm
Cassette: X01 Eagle, 10–50T, 12spd
Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB, 73mm threaded
Headset: Cane Creek 10-series
Seatpost: Crankbrothers Highline dropper, 31.6mm diameter, 150mm travel
Saddle: Ergon SM10 Sport
Hubs: Industry Nine Hydra, 110 x 15mm front, 148 x 12mm rear, thru-axles
Rims: Industry Nine Backcountry 360, 32h
Spokes: Industry Nine alloy straight-pull
Tires: Terrene McFly, 29 x 2.8in., Tough casing, tubeless ready
Contact: Why Cycles, 770 Industry Way, Unit B, Carbondale, CO 81623, 970.456.7336, firstname.lastname@example.org