Csepel is not generally recognized as a major player in the premium segment of the bike market, but this may change with the Hungarian brand’s recently introduced gravel bike, the Deepspace. Made from quality steel tubing, equipped with highly esteemed components, this top-tier model is certainly worthy of a bicycle manufacturing heritage that dates back to 1929!
Why would one choose a steel frame bike in the age of carbon? Csepel purposely stepped out of the mainstream in order to create a unique gravel bike. The question whether they succeeded in to pleasing their target audience, and if the century old frame material is appropriate for the new genre of adventure bikes will be dealt with in the present review.
Csepel is undoubtedly the best known Hungarian bicycle brand, popular not only locally, but also in many parts of Europe. If we stop people on the street in Budapest to name a bike brand, the immediate reaction will be Csepel, which began producing their first bicycle way back in 1929 in the legendary Weiss Manfréd Acél- és Fémművek factory on Csepel Island, in heart of the Hungarian capital.
Those who have been following the progression of this renowned cycling brand are aware that they have never been shy to develop new ideas, novel bikes. In recent years the company has been renowned for entering niche market segments and sidestepping mainstream cycling trends. Csepel is also the fan of steel as the frame material which is deeply rooted in the brand’s rich traditions. The new model fits perfectly into the company philosophy as it cater for the newly emerging gravel market, originated in the United States, but progressively spreading to other parts of the globe like Europe. Thus far from a mainstream bike, Deepspace was purpose built for tackling gravel roads, riding long distances and perhaps exploring new places in the form of the now popular bikepacking style.
Moreover the frame material is also quite unique in the age of carbon and aluminum bikes. Steel once ruled the bike world, nowadays it’s almost exclusively found in the lower price segment, where quality is not the top priority for bike manufacturers. Deepspace endeavors a return to the tradition of high-end steel frame manufacturing with top-notch Cro-Mo butted tubing and fine craftsmanship to boot. A steel gravel bike is truly a niche product, catering primarily for the connoisseurs, who request hand made products when it comes to bike riding. In addition, quality steel tubing has some objective advantages over carbon and aluminum, making it more than desirable for those looking for comfort and reliability over minimizing frame weight.
The frame is constructed from 4130 Cro-Mo steel alloy, and the tubes are butted, hence they have variable wall thickness for better load bearing while lowering weight. Like most bike parts, this frame is not made in Csepel like in the old days, rather it’s manufactured in the Far East in the same renowned factories where the best modern steel frames – such as ones made for Ritchey– are produced. Hence it’s certain that the quality will be up there with the best the market offers when it comes to steel. It’s important to add that the engineering and the design of the frame was done locally, and the final assembly is also completed in Csepel by the local work force.
The technical details I have just outlined can also be read from the frame decals. These logos are a strange sight, but may actually serve a purpose. For example if something was to go wrong during a bike tour far from Western civilization, a qualified welder or mechanic should instantly know what material he is dealing with and how best to repair the defect. This scenario is unlikely to happen as the frame is extremely strong, everything on this bike was designed with ultimate reliability in mind. The frame itself – unlike in the case of the carbon and aluminum counterparts – should in theory last a lifetime. Steel does not fatigue, it can safely be overloaded, and even in crashes it tends to behave in a predictable manner. This allows the rider to continue the journey until mechanical assistance is found.
Deepspace’s slender steel tubes also leave ample of space for the tires, allowing wider tires to be fitted in the frame. The maximum size according to the manufacturer is 700c x 42mm, or alternatively 650b x 47mm. So it’s compatible with both popular rim diameters, widening the scope of its application even further.
Studying the frame geometry chart tells us that the Deepspace is on the sporty end of the gravel bike genre. Unlike may gravel offerings nowadays, it bears little resemblance to mountain bikes, the kinship is with the road touring category. This is good news for those like me, who prefer to be efficient on the bike, disliking the laid back, comfort-oriented body position. The geometry information Csepel provides us includes some useful extras like stack and reach, attesting to the fact that the Deepspace is a well-thought-out design. Furthermore, it is offered in no less than 5 frame sizes while many gravel bikes on the market come in 2-3 for sake of convenience and reduced costs.
We find plenty of attachment points on the frame and fork for various accessories, like several bottle cages, fenders (mudguards), racks of all types and special bikepacking gear. I recon there is no touring or commuting accessory on the market that this bike could not accept. It proved to a challenge when it came to play a guessing game of what goes where!
The test bike is equipped with a complete Shimano 105 (R7020) component set: that’s the hydraulic disc brake version for readers is versed in the technical jargon. The Deepspace model line will also be available with other group sets, including higher and lower end ones from both Shimano and SRAM. I think it was a wise choice from the designers to introduce the model with the 105, since it has proven to be a top-performing, reliable group, offering the best value for money for the cyclists at large. There is one unusual feature on the Deepspace, namely it has post mount brake attachments instead of the presently prevalent flat mount type. It’s likely that steel frame construction necessitates this technical approach, but it makes little difference when it comes to performance and braking power.
Concerning the wheelset, this bike certainly stands out from the crown. The DT Swiss ER1600 Spline wheels definitely launch the Deepspace into the premium market: it’s not the type of hoops you’d likely to find on run-of-a-mill gravel bikes! This makes sense as the wheelset is undoubtedly the next most important element of a bike next to the frame, and can transform the ride experience way more than any of the other components. The ER1600 Spline from the legendary Swiss brand is light – though resilient – features high-end technologies such as the proprietary Spline lacing, last but not least, it’s fully tubeless compatible. The designers chose the Schwalbe G-One Allround to top off the fine wheelset, one of the best gravel tires around, which has a reputation to be apt for all kinds of terrain and ride conditions.
The accessories are partly in-house parts bearing the Csepel logo, but the most important ones – the saddle and handlebar tape – are part of the exclusive Brooks collection. It’s rare to see desirable aftermarket items like this on a production bike, these ones offer extra comfort and convenience over the run-of-a-mill parts usually fond on bikes that stand on the shop floor. For example, the bar tape offers a sure grip in both wet and dry conditions, while the saddle is truly a joy to sit on. It’s worthy of the British firm’s fine reputation and century-old tradition.
Let’s not overlook the design of this new bike! Deepspace has slender steel tubing which gives it a graceful character, an object that’s a joy to look at and admire. Then there are the rear dropouts which are a work of art, and will captivate the hearts of steel bike enthusiasts. These dropouts remind me of a fine steel MTB I used to race on back in the days. There is something about these steel bikes that bring out true affection, in stark contrast to carbon and aluminum models where we have trouble recollecting even the basic frame shape a year after having sold them. The finish of the frame is also quite special, the shimmering brownish paint is adorned with a tree leaf pattern making the Deepspece the perfect complement to rides I had in late September.
Having written a litany about the technology and the design of the bike, I’m still the bad with describing the ride experience. I received a size 54 for my 179cm stature, which turned out to be the perfect. Having set the saddle height and installed my pedal of choice, I headed out for the first ride. Since I live on the second floor of a block of flats, I needed to carry the bike over my shoulder, and quickly came to appreciate the traditional road frame geometry with plenty of space in the front triangle. Hence this bike may be a good for cyclocross since it’s easy to shoulder when running or hopping over obstacles and climbing staircases. Unfortunately there is a bolt head just where my legs touches the fork, which would have to be covered with a plastic dust cap or tape if the bike is carried on a regular basis Also keep in mind that the Deepspace frameset weights about a 1kg more than a similar size modern aluminum gravel model, so prolonged shouldering could be a burden. But a bike like this is meant to be ridden and carried around, so all the above could be completely irrelevant…
The first ride aboard the test bike took me over my favorite so-called gravel terrain, one that begins with a 20km paved road section. It’s a good test to see how nimble and responsive a bike is, and I’m happy to report that the Deepspace behaved much like a modern road endurance rig. It has road-like handling with plenty of punch when it comes to sudden accelerations and short climbs. The heavier than average frameset is well-compensated for with the light wheels, and equation is probably in favor of the Deepspace. There is just enough stability in the handling to make off-road riding a pleasant experience, but the frame geometry doesn’t go overboard in this sense, hence avoiding the sluggish manner that plagues so many gravel bikes on the market. The ride feel reminded me of the long miles I spent on various steel frame bikes a decade back. This all became especially apparent once I left the pavement to venture on some gravel roads and trails in my area. There is a certain sense of dampening the road irregularities that most bikes these days fail to provide. So there is no bone jarring harshness on bigger hits and regular road chatter, helping to spend more time in the saddle. And spending that time on the Brooks Cambium C15 is indeed a special experience: it’s comfy, offers good vibration damping – important traits that pays dividends on a gravel-oriented bike. This all results in a more pleasant ride experience both on and off road.
All in all, the Deepspace handled quite well on most types of terrain. The tires are polyvalent as advertised, but tend to lack traction loose trail conditions. This is certainly something the rider has to watch out for. Moreover flat prevention was probably not at the top priority when Schwalbe designed this G-One Allround, so it may not the best choice for adventures far from civilization. So the jury is out whether this is the best tire for a bike like the Deepspace, likewise the handlebar could have done with a little more flare in the drops to aid stability on off-road descends. Though it’s fine for general road riding.
On of the highlights of this test bike was the complete 105 hydraulic disc group set. It provides unparalleled precision despite the fact that the rear cables are routed inside the housing from the shifters to the derailleur. The routing to front shifter is pretty ingenious as it runs bare to the bottom bracket, but then enters a protective casing thus avoiding being clogged up with dirt. Another revelation for me was how comfortable the Brooks handlebar tape felt under my hands – it provides plenty of grip on rocky off-road descents even without gloves or being sweaty after a longer climb.
To sum up my experience aboard the new Deepspace, I have to say it’s a well-thought-out gravel offering, providing most of the attributes of steel bikes with very few drawbacks. It’s the rig that I’d choose to ride to the end of the world and back. And I wouldn’t have to worry about road quality when leaving the modern civilization. If you are considering trying out the new form of cycle touring often referred to as bikepacking, the Deepspace is likely to be your best choice. It offers attachment of all the gear one could imagine, there is plenty of comfort for the long miles. It’s also resilient, reliable, and in case of some mishap in a far-away location, the frame could be repaired even by the average mechanic.
The frame or the complete bike is available for order. For more information please click this link!