Gravel riding has been exploding in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. With gyms closing their doors for safety purposes, many people have turned to cycling as a form of exercise and bike lovers everywhere have taken to gravel riding as a form of cross training. To make switching between gravel/road bikes and mountain bikes more seamless, we developed our Coast product line with MTB geometry in mind. Read on to see how the product reviewers at La Bicikleta feel about switching to the wider Coast Drop Bar and adding comfort to their bike with the Coast Dropper Post.
La Bicikleta Review: The Coast Gravel Collection
Gravel continues to gain popularity, however there are still few brands that offer specialized components. The few brands that do offer them, sell them at exorbitant prices. Tired of this situation, PNW Components launched its Coast collection, specially designed for those who love to grind gravel. Since its inception PNW has set out to deliver high quality components at an affordable cost, and they have done very well.
Coast Drop Bar and Stem
The Coast Drop Bar design is inspired by MTB theory and seeks to attack the deficiencies of the drop bar in off-road conditions. It is wider than a road bar, offering greater stability, control and comfort. The design of the drops is short, both in reach and in drop, and has a flare of 20º.
It is made of 6061 alloy, and as PNW indicates, this material offers good absorption of vibrations and gives it the stiffness necessary for agile and precise control.
To complement its handlebar, PNW designed the Coast Stem (available from 60 to 100mm in length). When using a wider drop bar, such as the Coast, it is recommended to combine it with a shorter stem to achieve an adequate riding position. As a general rule, PNW suggests that for every 20mm wider the Coast Drop Bar is than your current handlebar, you should reduce the length of the stem by 10mm.
The Coast Stem is compatible with 31.8mm diameter handlebars and has a 7º rise. As a bonus, a removable mount is included on the stem faceplate and is compatible with some action cameras and bike lights.
Coast Dropper Post
The Coast Dropper Post is a novel seatpost that combines the comfort of air suspension with the versatility of a dropper post. It is not suprising that a dropper has been included in this collection as they are gradually gaining popularity among gravel and adventure cycling lovers.
The dropper is available in 30.9 and 31.6mm diameters, both with 120mm travel. There is also a 27.2mm diameter version with 100mm of travel. In any of the three measures you can choose internal or external cable routing. Finally, to complete the system, you can choose from a selection of dropper levers, two of them specifically designed for use with the drop bar. The Drop Bar Lever, as its name implies, is designed to be placed in the drop of the handlebar, while the Road Bar Loam is placed at the handlebar's widest part, close to the stem.
Suspension stiffness can be calibrated through a Schrader valve. Depending on your weight, you can increase or decrease the air pressure (200 to 300 PSI) with a suspension pump.
It is important to mention that the seat suspension does not replace the rear suspension of a bicycle. Its function is only to provide greater comfort when rolling on uneven terrain.
Experience with Coast Components
Our setup consists of the 480mm wide handlebar and a stem of 70mm in length. Before installing these components, the bike was equipped with a 420mm drop bar and 100mm stem.
The dropper post is the 27.2mm diameter with 100mm travel model and is externally routed. To operate the dropper, the Road Bar Loam was installed.
The Coast Drop Bar and Stem in Action
If you haven't experimented with drop bars for gravel riding before, you'll probably feel the handlebar is too wide at first. However, it won't take long to get used to, and experience, its benefits in off-road conditions.
The vast majority of gravel adventures have at least some paved section, and for this reason we decided to test the new setup on and off the roads. One of the first things to note is how easy it is to change the position of your hands. The short drop and reach makes moving from the handlebar's hoods to the drops very natural and comfortable.
The 20° flare (angle at which the drops flare outwards relative to the rest of the handlebar) is not only comfortable enough when looking for a more aerodynamic position, but also offers very good control and stability on loose terrain. In my case, it is rare to descend a trail in the drops with a handlebar without flare, since it is quite uncomfortable in the area of the wrists. With the Coast Drop Bar, any descent is pleasant.
Finally, the shorter drop gives us a more agile bicycle, a quality especially necessary on more technical roads. As indicated by PNW, the materials used do a very good job of controlling vibrations and offer a good response when maneuvering the bike on gravel roads.
Coast Dropper Post Performance
This was our first experience with a dropper post on a gravel bike and the result was amazing. As mentioned above, PNW offers different configurations for the Coast Dropper Post. In this case we opted for the external routing option and the Road Bar Loam Lever. The main reason was that this routing configuration allows for easy installation.
The first surprise was how well the air suspension works. It is very easy to calibrate and PNW has a table with the suggested pressure according to your weight. Once you achieve adequate pressure, the suspension goes almost unnoticed, becoming apparent only during some medium to heavy impacts. Personally, I liked this quality a lot. In the sections when you need to accelerate, the suspension does not compress when pedaling, so you will not lose energy.
If you think gravel is fun, a dropper will add a few more levels. The dropper, in the selected configuration, has a weight of 540g. At first I was not convinced that I would leave the Coast permanently on the bike. That changed when descending the first off-road trail with the seat down. The ability to lower the seat allows you more flex in your knees when descending rough roads. With this you can lower your center of gravity, achieving greater stability and control.
Another determining factor for a dropper to perform well is the speed with which the post extends. In this regard, I think the Coast has quite adequate speed. It is not so fast that it can harm you, but it is not so slow as to make you lose your rhythm.
One thing to note is that the 100mm of travel may be too long for cyclists with short legs. In my case, the height was almost exact, leaving a couple of millimeters between the seat clamp and the dropper's collar. Before purchasing any dropper, it is important to consider the geometry of your bike, especially the angle of the top tube and the height of the seat tube.
If you need help determining the correct sizing of your dropper post, consult our article on How to Size a Dropper Post.
The Final Verdict
Overall, I really enjoyed the Coast collection. I am very satisfied with the performance they offer and the versatility they have given the bike. The quality and finishes are the result of years of experience from Aaron and Emily (co-founders of PNW Components). Although the company is relatively new, they have been involved in the industry for many years.
The design of each of the components is quite good and every detail has been considered. The materials used in the PNW components are of the highest quality and the best, at an affordable price. Without a doubt, an excellent alternative to upgrade your bike without spending more.
The Coast collection is ideal for anyone looking to improve performance on their gravel bike, without spending too much. Since they won't cost you an eye, the components can also be a good alternative to upgrade your commuter bike.
In the specific case of the dropper, imagine that you reach the intersection, lower your seat and put both feet on the ground. Or maybe your bike is loaded with gear. If you have the possibility to lower your seat, it will be easier to put your leg over the bike when getting on and off the bike. Imagine the possibilities.
If you have any questions regarding our Coast gravel components, or any of our products, please reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.