The Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel is made to explore the boundaries and expand your horizons. To do so, it took its geometry cues from the mountain bike sector, combined with big tire clearance and mounting points for days. Is that enough to blur the boundaries and even replace your mountain bike? Read on for all the details.
The Black Edition of the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel is an adventure gravel bike, made to handle all eventualities on the rougher, off-road end of the gravel spectrum. For the bikepacking adventurers amongst us, the black steel bike also comes with plenty of mounting points, allowing you to fit mudguards, racks and lights with internal cable routing for a hub dynamo.
To provide a suitable riding position in rough terrain and on the trails, the geometry was inspired by that of mountain bikes, featuring relatively slack head and seat tube angles. Thanks to the frame’s generous tire clearance, there’s enough room for up to 700 x 54C rubber. To provide this much room in the frame, the drive-side chainstay had to be dropped.
There are other interesting design elements besides this, such as the partially internal cable routing – the brake and shifter cables are routed externally around the cockpit before disappearing inside the fork leg and down tube – or the kink in the seat tube to allow for bigger tires. The Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel weighs 10.17 kg in size L, is priced at € 4,785 and leaves little to be desired in terms of workmanship. The weld seams and steel frame look solid, giving the impression that it’ll last a lifetime.
The refined and discreet weld seams of the steel frame are a feast for the eyes.
The Rennstahl Trail Gravel in detail
The Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel is exclusively available with the 1×13 EKAR gravel groupset from Campagnolo. On our test bike, this relied on a 38 t chainring and 9–42 t cassette. This gearing setup allows you to keep pedalling for a long time as you approach higher speeds while offering a wide enough gear range for steep climbs. However, due to the bike’s relatively high weight, you’ll need strong legs if you’re going to be pedalling up long mountain passes with your bikepacking bags strapped to the bike. In terms of shifting, the gearing increments of the 13-speed Campagnolo EKAR drivetrain are good. The shifting precision and speed are acceptable for a mechanical drivetrain and much better than earlier batches of the EKAR groupset, though we recommend taking the time to adjust and fine-tune it.
For the rubber, Rennstahl rely on a set of 700 x 50C Schwalbe G-One Bite tires fitted to carbon wheels from Parapera, their sister brand. The 45 mm deep rim profile performs well in terms of aerodynamics and the 24 mm internal rim width provides ample support for high-volume tires. Like the wheels, the carbon handlebar is supplied by sister brand Parapera. At 440 mm wide with an 18° flare and 15 mm rise, it looks rather big, though it suits the adventurous character of the 853 Trail Gravel, allowing you to always stay in control. The carbon Rennstahl seat post has been flattened at the top, which should allow it to flex more easily and generate added comfort.
Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel
Seatpost Rennstahl Carbon 27,2 mm
Brakes Campagnolo EKAR 160/160 mm
Drivetrain Camapgnolo EKAR 1x13 (38 t x 9–42 t)
Stem Parapera 80 mm
Handlebar Parapera 440 mm
Wheelset Parapera 24 mm internal width
Tires Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 50C
Size S M L XL XXL
Weight 10.17 kg
The geometry of the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel
For optimal trail performance, the geometry of the Rennstahl Trail Gravel took its cues more from the mountain bike sector than from road or gravel racing bikes. The most striking aspects of the geometry are the slack seat and head tube angles, the high bottom bracket and the long top tube. As a result, the riding position is more upright and shifted further to the back of the bike, which should give you a better overview and more freedom of movement in demanding situations on the trail. You’ll find all the geometry figures in the table below.
|Top tube||540 mm||565 mm||585 mm||605 mm||630 mm|
|Seat tube||470 mm||500 mm||520 mm||540 mm||570 mm|
|Head tube||130 mm||155 mm||170 mm||185 mm||210 mm|
|Chainstays||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm|
|BB Drop||71 mm||71 mm||71 mm||71 mm||71 mm|
From gravel highways to trails – The Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel in review
Aboard the Rennstahl 853, the wide Parapera handlebar and high-volume Schwalbe tires make you feel like you could just roll over everything in your path. Paired with the bike’s bombproof look and feel, it’s bound to instil you with peace of mind and confidence. When you start pedalling on a compact surface, you’ll initially be surprised at how efficient it feels despite the wide tires and relaxed geometry. However, it isn’t made for long, high-speed stretches – the riding position just isn’t aggressive enough. That’s not to say the bike isn’t efficient, which you’ll appreciate on relaxed tours and bikepacking expeditions.
On the other hand, the Rennstahl feels rather sluggish when accelerating, which is due to the meaty tires and the bike’s weight. As such, it feels noticeably more at home on the descents than it does on the climbs. The handling of the 853 Trail Gravel is largely determined by the slack head angle. When riding slowly, you’ll feel the bike tipping from side to side as you turn, which you might be familiar with from mountain bikes. The faster you ride, however, the more this effect diminishes, offering plenty of straight-line stability. The slack head angle and wide tires also influence the bike’s precision. When dropping the tire pressures for a more comfortable ride on rough terrain, you’ll notice the lack of precision most. That said, it remains precise enough and, together with the bike’s agility, you’ll always be able to hit your chosen line on winding flow trails.
Agile and quick – The Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel bike isn’t just a blast to ride on flow trails, it’s surprisingly efficient on hardpack too.
Typical steel – despite the flex in the seat stays, the frame of the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel is rather stiff. While this is good for efficiency, it comes at the cost of comfort. On the Rennstahl, you’ve got to rely on the carbon seat post and handlebar and the high-volume 700 x 50C tires as your main sources of damping. Still, the bike isn’t the most comfortable. The good thing about that, however, is that it can easily cope with heavy loads.
In terms of stopping power, the brakes on the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel from Campagnolo’s EKAR groupset tick all the right boxes. They offer plenty of reliable stopping power, even after several hard braking manoeuvres with a fully loaded bike, and they’re easy to modulate. The Schwalbe G-One Bite tires can transfer this stopping power best on compacted gravel. On asphalt and loose ground, you’ll have to be more careful, but that’s to be expected from these tires. The same applies to cornering grip, which is excellent on compacted dirt. These characteristics are in line with the bike’s intended use on flow trails. The wide handlebar, braking power and grip are sure a recipe for confidence, making you feel indestructible aboard the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel.
Our conclusion on the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel
The Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel is a versatile adventure gravel bike, featuring excellent steel workmanship and lots of attention to detail. If you’re a fan of steel and want a reliable companion for leisurely bikepacking trips, flow-trail fun and tours where you don’t know what you’ll find around the next corner, this is the bike for you. If, however, you have a need for speed and maximum performance, you’ll be better off with a bike that has skinnier tires and more aggressive geometry.
- excellent workmanship and high-quality finish
- all the mounting points you need
- lots of tire clearance
- efficient on trails and hardpack
- tires are the main source of comfort
- relatively heavy
For more information about the Rennstahl 853 Trail Gravel, visit rennstahl-bikes.de
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Words: Photos: Benjamin Topf