With exquisite attention to detail, understated looks and a cracking good ride on road, forest paths and gravel tracks, with space for wide tyres on 700C or 650B wheels, the new J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel is an enticing choice in the premium titanium gravel bike market.
- Pros: Attention to detail, smooth ride, handles well in the rough or smooth
- Cons: Bit pricier than some rivals, saddle
Ride and handling
Shaking down a rough bridleway, tyres scrabbling for grip on the dry dirt, before emerging back onto a country lane, all smiles and giggles, I'm won over by the J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel with its feeling of control and capability on a variety of terrain.
That's the beauty of riding big tyre road bikes, of course, but not all gravel bikes are cut from the same cloth. With the Atalaya there's enough compliance to help it deal with everything from poorly surfaced country lanes to bridleways and forest tracks.
The geometry helps too. The high-speed stability is very impressive, whether that's on the road or a fast gravel track, but it still turns into corners positively and the WTB Riddler tyres bite throughout the turns. It doesn't have a point-and-shoot responsiveness when you turn up the intensity, but I didn't feel any serious lack of agility when pressed harder.
The ride quality is highly impressive, as good as any of the best titanium frames I've tested. It's compliant but still transmits a little feel through the contact points, and the steering is light and easy. Ride down a bumpy track and the Atalaya won't jolt and buck you about as if you were riding a wild bronco. It's composed and controlled.
Those 37mm WTB Riddler tyres offer a good combination of speed on hard surfaces, enough traction to deal with dry and loose or slightly damp trail conditions, and the ability to cope with mud until it reaches saturated bog levels. Some might prefer a slightly wider tyre, and the frame will take up to a 40mm if you wanted a bigger tyre for extra grip and traction. The WTBs struck a happy medium for the conditions of my local trails during the test period.
Where the Atalaya succeeds is being a really good all-rounder. It'll spend all day on the road, wafting from coffee stop to farm shop, with all the smoothness and comfort you expect from a titanium bike. Feel like untapping your adventurous spirit and it'll wrestle through forest trails, smash along fast gravel tracks and handle all the associated bumps and twists of rough stuffing.
Frame and technical highlights
J.Guillem founder Jan-Willem Sintnicolaas knows titanium (he also founded Van Nicholas many years ago) and it really shows in the Atalaya Gravel. This is no cookie cutter 3AL/2.5V titanium frame, it's oozing with unique details and stunning attention to detail.
The company specialises in titanium, which is probably more popular than it has ever been. It's still jolly expensive compared to aluminium or steel, but it's much more affordable than it used to be when it was a rare material in the 90s. It's lighter than steel, stronger than aluminium and arguably better looking than carbon, and it should last a lifetime.
What sets the Atalaya Gravel apart is the use of cast titanium to create a beautiful one-piece bottom bracket and chainstay yoke and the tapered head tube.
The former is designed to provide the necessary clearance for tyres and chainrings in this tightly packed area, the latter neatly incorporates the internal cable and hose routing, compatible with mechanical and electronic groupsets.
Between those junctions are carefully profiled main tubes with a hand-brushed finish and understated decals, including a hydroformed top tube and press-fit bottom bracket. There are also removable mudguard mounts for that versatility that makes gravel bikes so desirable.
As you'd probably expect, there are flat mount brake callipers, the rear smartly integrated into the dropout, with 12mm thru-axles at both ends.
The fork is made from carbon fibre and is J.Guillem's own design, with a clear emphasis on maximising tyre clearance. Both frame and fork will take up to 700x40mm wheels and tyres or the increasingly popular/curious 650Bx2.1in option: plenty of tyre choice to suit what you want from your gravel bike, your riding style and the terrain you're aiming to ride over. The test was conducted predominantly on 700C wheels with the supplied 38mm wide tyres.
The Atalaya Gravel is available in just four sizes, which is limiting compared to other larger scale titanium bike brands: a choice of 52, 54, 56 and 58cm. The 56cm tested has a 394mm reach, 592mm stack, 1,025mm wheelbase, 70mm bottom bracket drop, 420mm chainstays and a 73.5-degree seat angle and 72-degree head angle.
Those numbers show that the bike has a little more handlebar height for a more relaxed position which gives you an advantage when descending steep tracks as your weight isn't pitched quite so severely over the front wheel. The wheelbase is closer to a cyclo-cross bike than some gravel bikes, while the bottom bracket drop and head angle are par for the course: lower and slacker as expected to give all-round handling balance on a multitude of terrain and tracks.
Pricing and parts
You can buy an Atalaya Gravel either as frame only (€1,999/£1,756) or frameset including the fork (€2,433/£2,137), or you can buy a complete bike such as the Shimano Ultegra-equipped bike tested. The J.Guillem website lets you configure the build to suit your wallet and tastes.
The Shimano Ultegra groupset was flawless: crisp gear changes and powerful brakes. But now for a familiar gripe: a compact 50/34t chainset is fine if you're riding flat gravel tracks and aim to be doing a lot of road riding, but for getting properly into the wilderness where hills can be steeper than anything you'll find on the road, a sub-compact chainset would be more suitable. The problem is, Shimano doesn't currently offer one, which means providing that option to the customer entails veering away from the Big S.
The price of the test bike had already been bumped up by the addition of Scope's new O2 carbon fibre wheels. With a low weight and wide carbon profile they give a good flick of speed when requested and are happy being pummelled down rocky descents.
The wheels were developed for gravel and cross-country mountain bikes, with a shallow and wide rim laced with a 2:1 spoke pattern to hubs with widely spaced flanges to increase the wheelset stiffness, a key aim in the development of the wheels.
The rims measure 25mm internally and use a hookless profile that is tubeless compatible, apparently developed in collaboration with Schwalbe. The spoke holes are reinforced using a manufacturing process that allows the wall thickness to be reduced, resulting in a claimed 1,380g weight, which is certainly on the light side.
All the finishing kit is J.Guillem's own and includes the titanium seatpost using 3T's Difflock saddle clamp system, and a matching titanium seat clamp. It weighs a claimed 257g for its 320mm length and offers 15mm of setback.
The handlebar and stem are made from aluminium, with an understated black finish and small logos. The handlebar has a comfortable 128mm drop and the stem went about its business without fuss. You can upgrade to a titanium stem if you want.
My only gripe with the finishing kit was the saddle. I just didn't get on with the shape at all, so I swapped it for one I like. Saddles are a personal matter, though, and you might be fine on this one. Unfortunately, the online bike builder doesn't let you spec a different one.
If you're shopping for a titanium frame with big tyre clearance for taking on rough roads and gravel riding, the Kinesis Tripster V2 has probably made it onto your shortlist. It's a credible rival, one of the benchmarks in this sector if Dave's glowing review is anything to go by.
The Atalaya offers very similar performance, but its appearance and lovely details – particularly that bottom bracket and head tube – make it, for me, just a bit more desirable. And that is a key appeal of titanium: you're not buying titanium because it's cheap, but because it's highly desirable for its ride quality, longevity and appearance.
To sum up, the Atalaya is an extremely attractively produced titanium gravel bike with a few construction details we've not seen on any rival titanium bikes. It's an adventure and allroad bike fit for everything from road cruising to getting down and dirty in the woods, with just a change of tyres to suit the terrain. The handling is easy to live with and the smoothness helps deal with rough roads. Really, the only thing going against it is the price, which is a bit higher than some of the competition.
Beautifully made and lovely riding titanium gravel bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel
Size tested: 56
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
- Competitive race geometry
- Seamless aerospace grade 3Al/2.5V Titanium
- Beautifully hand brushed finish
- Tapered 11-8' to 11-2' head tube system
- Low profile disc brake mount
- 1-piece casted chain-stay yoke
- J.Guillem project-casted 3D disc drop outs
- Internal cable routing
- Removable Mudguard and Rack mounts
- Thru Axle Front and Rear
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
J.Guillem says, "With its ability to accommodate both 700c x 40mm and 27.5" x 2.1" tyres, the Atalaya Gravel is the frame for riders who want everything. It's elegant, clean lines are accentuated and strengthened by the addition of pre-casted components, centred around a one-piece bottom bracket-chain stay system. The head tube is also casted and allows for full internal cable routing compatible with both mechanical and di2 cables. And fully-casted, titanium drop outs allow for Flat Mount Disc Brake System, with thru axles. The Atalaya is our state-of-the-art, do-it-all, go anywhere machine with a super versatility that doesn't look out of place however you use it: with mudguards and a small rack, or stripped of all its fixtures for use as a pure gravel bike."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
It's the company's first gravel bike.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very nice build quality and attention to detail.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Seamless aerospace grade 3Al/2.5V Titanium.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
A little higher stack, lower bottom bracket and longer wheelbase than a road bike for more high-speed stability.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I found the fit to be good, with no changes.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was silky smooth on and off-road.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It was no slouch when getting on the power.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
No lag in the responsiveness.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Light and easy.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handled well on the road and off the beaten track, with good stability and relaxed nature through the corners and over technical obstacles.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'd change the saddle due to personal discomfort reasons. I'd possibly be tempted to fit some wider tyres for more off-road focus.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
There's nothing I'd change. The carbon Scope wheels were light and tough and a good match for the frame.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels certainly impress with their low weight and stiffness.
Wheels and tyres
Wider tyres would give more comfort.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Maybe
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a little pricier than the Kinesis Tripster V2 or Reilly Gradient, but the small company has clearly invested in developing a frame that has notable features that draw it ahead of those other two frames in terms of finish quality. Whether they impact the raw performance is another matter, but the build quality and attention to detail is very high and that is part of the appeal of buying titanium.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Atalaya Gravel is a very compelling choice, with good performance on and off the road and some beautiful construction details that I've not seen on a titanium frame before, but you are paying a bit more for it. Whether it's worth the extra cost is up to you – if you want something a bit different with a brilliant focus on detail, the Atalaya is easy to recommend.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.