Gravel end of season. Romet Boreas 1 – riding impressions

Gravel – this word is used in all cases among cyclists in recent years. A combination of a road bike and a cross-country bike is breaking all records of popularity. We have let ourselves be carried away by this worldwide fashion, testing this type of equipment for the second year in a row. This time it was the Boreas 1 model from Romet.

All kinds of muscle-powered motorcycles have experienced a boom in recent decades. At the beginning of the 1990s these were broadly defined as “mountain bikes”, which then evolved into many sub-genres that have been triumphing in subsequent years. It is similar with gravel, but the beginnings of its evolution should be sought in road cycling.

What exactly is gravel? It is difficult to explain, because the boundaries are still quite fluid and expand with each season, and each manufacturer defines its approach to the subject differently. According to Romet, it’s a gravel bike whose segment is growing rapidly and still looking for new solutions. It is also a bike whose hybrid constructions were created in the “niche of custom modifications”.

As you can see for yourself – there are no unified specifics here, there is a lot of freedom in interpreting the phenomenon that gravel has become in the cycling world. But despite everything, we can distinguish a few features which a gravel bike should have in order to be included in its category.

– Handlebar – a typical “lamb”. But slightly flattened with ends spreading to the sides.
– Frame – usually aluminum, steel, less often carbon fiber. It is supposed to be heavier and usually stronger than a road bike.
– more comfortable geometry, allowing you to ride in a less reclined position and cover longer distances comfortably
– additional bottle mounts. The more the better
– mandatory mounting points for panniers and racks
– Uterrain tires. Front and rear forks with off-road capability
– Large range of rear cassette gear sizes for easier off-road riding

Well, if we’ve got the basics figured out, then the Boreas 1 – all white and blue – can take to the stage. It’s that piece of equipment that was making the end of the cycling season more pleasant, when the days were inexorably getting too short for afternoon bike trips out of town, and the thermometer mercilessly reminded us to pull an extra layer of thermal clothing from the bottom of the drawer.

Let’s start with what strikes at once, that is the visual side. The Boreas 1, although it is the second cheapest gravel in Romet’s range, looks very attractive and hardly anyone will say that it is budget equipment. An interestingly shaped aluminium frame, well-designed decals and favourably juxtaposed colors make the bike very appealing.

This is not only my observation. Already on the first ride it gets interesting when suddenly I get a lot of greetings from riders passing me. “Hello”, “hello”, “hey”. – I hear every now and then at my address and I can hardly keep up with returning these very nice gestures. My friend, who accompanies me in testing the Boreas, remarks that during the first quarter of an hour there was more of that on the route than when riding around a small loop of Bieszczady on an old MTB.

And he is right. The fact is that riding a gravel bike looks simply “fashionable”. It is nothing bad to be in line with the current trends. But does the Boreas fit into the canyons of its segment? Yes and no.

If we take the above guidelines deadly seriously, the Boreas 1 does not quite pass the visual test for a racy gravel bike. Its lambskin could be a bit broader and more lopsided, the tires more balloon-like, and the frame could have more places for bidon baskets. In terms of practicality – a bigger cassette would be useful. You can already see that a few teeth may be missing here, especially as the crank mechanism is equipped with only one “top”.

So what is “yes”? Comfortable frame geometry, rack and pannier mounts, and a “graveling” sticker on the seat tube, clearly assigning it to the bicycle “caste”. Just in case anyone had any doubts.

Well, that’s enough of that, because that’s not why you take a bike for a test. Already on the first day I made two trips with Boreas. First, it was a trip into the urban jungle, a battle with dug-up streets, sharp edges of kerbs and riding intermittently through heavy traffic.

It was not very pleasant, so for the evening I planned something completely different – a route Cracow – Ojców – Cracow. A bit city, but also delicate terrain with a typical road return. My first collected impressions told me pretty much everything I wanted to know about this bike. The Boreas is fast, well balanced, easy to feel, no problem to ride without grip even at higher speeds. It accelerates well and is easy to maintain that speed.

Minuses? As a faithful MTB fan, I cannot wholeheartedly admit that this is an off-road bike. Very thin 700x35C tire when faced with cobblestones, crushed concrete or other challenges of uneven surfaces makes most of the vibrations absorbed by our arms, legs or four letters sitting on the saddle.

But nothing else can be expected. After all, it is a rigid construction. However, what the gravel loses in the field, it gives back on the road. That day I broke all my section times and speed records on the said route. And my MTB companion, riding with me on 29-inch wheels, could not keep up with my pace. Asphalt climbs, straights, descents – there the king had only one name.

There were still quite a few such trips. And every day I understood myself better with Dębica’s gravel. I discovered that instead of potholes, he prefers hard forest tracks and rocky paths. I found the most comfortable grip for my handlebars. I added accessories which made it much easier to use. I added accessories which made the use of the bike much easier: SPD (I recommend replacing it with this type of pedals right away), my favorite bottle basket, or a bag on the top frame tube for my phone and small accessories.

The routes I took varied in length and ranged from 10 to 50 kilometers. Neither during nor after the ride I noticed any symptoms: back pain, numbness in my hands, or even excessive fatigue. Boreas 1 is a comfortable travel companion and you can safely think about taking it on a day trip. Of course, assuming that you have chosen the right frame size for your height. Me measuring 182 centimeters, I decided on the “L” (56) and it was a good choice.

Now, let’s take a look at the technical issues, i.e. the equipment of the Boreas “single”. Preventing the question about a rigid axle, I will answer right away – no. There is no rigid axle. Besides, it is difficult to demand such a thing from equipment with a budget of up to four thousand PLN and all competitors think the same. So what is on board?

The frame is already mentioned aluminum (6061 + carbon fork), the equipment is Sram Apex 10 speed (rear derailleur, brake levers, handlebars, crankset. Brakes: mechanical Sram DB BB5R. Schwalbe G-One Allround 700x35C tires stretched on Alexrims ATD550 rims. The handlebars, stem and seatpost are Romet products, and the saddle is Italian Selle Italia X-Base. The bike weighs 10.6 kilograms.

How does it all come together? Quite pleasant and enough for an amateur cyclist or someone who is just starting his adventure with gravel bikes. During the few hundred kilometers of testing I could only have reservations about two things: squeaking brake discs and a strange runout of the rear wheel. The squeaking stopped with time, the beating did not progress, but until the last day I could not determine where it came from. For the sake of fairness I would like to add that the bike I received had been tested by other cyclists, so I was not dealing with a factory “new” bike. I absolve Romet – in the 2020 season the whole of Poland got back on their bikes, so it’s no wonder that all the stock was swept away.

Summing up a few weeks of adventures with Boreas 1, I have to write that it is a very decent machine. The disadvantages I mentioned are really small things, which may apply to a single unit and do not affect the overall positive perception of the equipment.

And while purists will be indignant that it is not a pure-blooded gravel bike, because it does not resemble anything produced by niche manufactures in distant California, everyone else can safely invest money in a Boreas and, without adding any ideology, simply ride it for hundreds of kilometers every season.

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