Steel was, is, and always will be real. I’ve been holding off writing a thorough All City Macho King review until I had a chance to put it into action on trails, gravel, and a serious pavement ride. We can confirm; it rocks.
Not My First Rodeo
This isn’t my first Macho King, but it is the first of the “LTD” variety. This bike is a previous vintage which means you’ll get Reynolds 853 steel tubing, a Whisky No. 9 thru axle carbon fork (it’s QR in the rear) and a SRAM Rival build. I’ve been a huge fan of SRAM 1x stuff; in fact, my first Macho King, way back in 2016, was almost identical.
Where the build gets fancy is the wheels. Instead of stock, this bike came with HED Ardennes+. HED makes great wheels and I have a custom pair built for my All City Nature Babe, which is essentially a dedicated singlespeed version of this bike. These Ardennes offer a nice wide 25mm width (21mm internal) and have been nothing short of bombproof on my SS.
Newer models of the Macho King are built with its own A.C.E tubing., which I haven’t ridden, but hey, I do love an acronym.
All City Macho King LTD Build List:
Size: 52 (more on that below)
Groupset: SRAM Rival 22 (set-up 1x)
Crank: Shimano GRX
Chainring: Wolf Tooth 46t
Cassette: SRAM Force 11-32
Seatpost: Thomson 27.2
Handlebar: Whisky 420
Seat: Fizik Arione
Pedals: Shimano XTR SPD
Tires: Panaracer GravelKing Slicks 28mm (road) Continental TerraTrail 40mm (gravel)
Wheels: 3T Discus Team (road), HED Ardennes+ (gravel)
Wide Load? Yeah, Kind Of.
The All City Macho King tire clearance isn’t chunky. With carbon bikes, designers can get pretty crafty when it comes to the carbon layup and even raising the drive-side chainstay. With steel, you just can’t mess with the classic lines; and that’s okay. The bike still clears a 40mm tire easily and I think you could run 42s with the right combination in the rear.
Putting a wider tire on a 700c wheel gets you close to making a decision; at what point should you maybe just ride a mountain bike? That added width is certainly more valuable here in the sandy north of Michigan, where floatation counts for more than traction. You might be able to squeeze a 45mm with a set of 650 wheels…but don’t quote me.
How Does the Macho King Ride?
After several years and tens of thousands of miles on a carbon bike, the smooth ride of steel is refreshing, especially riding singletrack ahead of Mud, Sweat and Beers earlier this spring. That supple ride quality makes a difference on the trails and could certainly reduce fatigue in longer gravel events.
That buttery-smooth ride does come with a price, though. There just isn’t the snap you get with a carbon bike, but since I’m not a sprinter and not much of a racer anymore anyway, I’ll gladly pay the price in a townline sprint or two this summer.
There is a notable drawback to steel that you can’t get around. It’s heavy. With gravel wheel and 40mm tires, it’s around 23 pounds. Even with light carbon road wheels, it’s 22 American pounds. If you’re a weight weenie, you probably weren’t looking at this bike anyway…but continue to not to. It’ll break your arms.
Get the Fit Right – All City Macho King Geometry
The King and the entire All City line-up do require some number crunching. In short, these steel frames run at least a size bigger than your carbon or aluminum frame. Steel bikes also tend to have much taller head tubes and longer top tubes, so make sure you check your current bike’s numbers. Be prepared to use stems and head spacer stack to get your geometry right.
To use myself as an example, I used to be 5’9” (I’m closer to 5’8” if I’m not lying) and have ridden size 54 road bikes in every possible brand; Focus, BMC, Specialized, Salsa, you name it, dead on 54.
All City? 52. And that 52 is actually a 55cm top tube.
The All City Macho King rides incredibly well on trails and gravel and you’ll have no problem keeping up on your local weekend group ride. Are you going to win a sprint? It might be 5 Watts harder with this bike. Are you going to be a climbing genius? You’ll be pushing a bit more weight up every hill. Overall, it’s worth it and it’s already achieved “Top 3 Favorite Bike of All-Time” status. (The top two are the Salsa Colossal Ti and Focus Cayo Disc 3.0).
- Excellent ride quality
- No proprietary parts!
- No integrated stem/cables
- No internal cable routing
- Not as stiff as carbon (or aluminum, for that matter)
- Heavy. Very heavy.