The All City Macho Man is solidly built, and descends and bowls along like a tank. Unfortunately its heft retards it seriously on climbs and it's way under-specced for the money.
All-City are a bike company from Minneapolis - a city in the mid-west that has a vibrant bike population and deep cycle sub-culture, and alongside their trendy track and freestyle bikes the brand also has bona-fide road and cyclo-cross bikes in their collection. The singlespeed cyclo-cross Nature Boy has graced their line up for a few years now and the geared version, the Macho Man, is here to keep it company.
The first thing you notice about the Macho Man is that it looks just like a bike. There's no hydroforming or swoopy carbon here, no oversized tubes, tapered anything, nothing that anyone could call bottom-bracket real-estate or clever trickery, just straight thin steel tubes.
Even the fork is steel with none of that carbon wizardry that's omnipresent these days. And there's a refreshing lack of graphics on show too with just 'All City' in a panel on the down tube, no model name on the top tube and no infomercials on every other tube describing the profile or manufacturing process with yet another pointless techno acronym.
The second thing to notice about the Macho Man is that it certainly lives up to its name, it's a muscular beast. In a size 55 it up strides to the scales at a brawny 10.79kg (23.13lbs), which is a significant amount of weight over most bikes at this price. But that's what you get from a bike with a steel frame and fork instead of something alloy or carbon.
That steel would be 612 Select ChroMoly, it's been double butted for the down, top, and seat tubes while the chain stays are externally tapered, ovalized, and dimpled for clearances and the seat stays are simply tapered. The fork is 4130 ChroMoly steel with straight but tapered fork blades slotted into a nice looking retro lugged crown.
The whole frame is E.D. coated inside and out (that's electrophoretic deposition to non-paint-nerds), a process that not only improves the quality and durability of the paint according to All City, but is the best rust proofing agent they have at their disposal. So that's frame longevity assured right there. Maybe.
All the cables run along the top-tube to keep them away from the clart this bike is most likely to be dragged through, the front mech cable runs through a down-tube stop that's conveniently threaded with an adjuster in there for subtle tweaks and it makes use of Shimano's new CX 70 'cross specific top-pull front mech for a direct cable run. If you want to run a standard road front derailleur there's a pulley mount at the bottom of the seat-tube to let you.
The rear gear cable is fully enclosed all the way down the seat stay which is great for keeping crud out but it does make shifting a tiny bit slower than normal, not in annoying way, just barely noticeable, it's a fair trade off though for longer cable life and a cable less sticky with grit.
There are reinforced bottle-cage mounts on the down and seat tubes for all-day action and both the fork and the seatstays have hidden mudguard mounts for day-on-day wet use.
There's nothing on the spec sheet that gets the heart particularly a flutter, 'cross bikes on the whole are utilitarian rather than bling, but there are some disappointing choices on the Macho Man that prompt teeth sucking. STI's and rear mech are Shimano 105, which is okay at a push, just, as some other CX bikes manage Ultegra at a lower price.
The wheels unfortunately are well below par, the hubs are Tiagra laced to Alex Race 24 rims, and the tyres are Continental Cyclocross Race 700 X 35c, all of which are fine in and of themselves, but not on a £1600 bike, and in a really cheeky 'the customer won't notice' move those tyres have a weighty and cheap wire bead instead of a lighter folding one. Not angry, just disappointed.
An FSA Gossamer chainset with 46 and 36 tooth rings is matched up to Shimano Tiagra 12-28t 10 speed cassette which is a good bunch of ratios for a cyclo-cross bike, although those that like to ride further and longer than a Sunday morning thrash round a field might want something smaller on the front. Again, Tiagra cassette. Really? But All-City get extra points for the KMC X-10 chain and its split link making cleaning and maintenance easier.
An FSA SL 280 seatpost has an All-City Gonzo saddle on top of it, no real complaints there, the seatpost isn't the most elegant but offers a decent amount of layback and adjustment that all does up with a big ham-fist friendly bolt and the saddle is basic but comfortable, your bottom may have a different view obviously.
Tektro R720 cantilevers do the stopping, and they're a popular and perfectly adequate rim brake, if a bit rattly on the posts. If you want to embrace a version of the future the Macho Man Disc is now available for another hundred pounds.
Steering is done via a Salsa Pro Moto 3 stem that holds onto a set of Salsa Cowbell 3 bars. Based on the company's previous Bell Lap bar that had admirers amongst the long-haul and adventure rider the Cowbell 3's are oversized, have a compact 76mm reach, 126mm drop and in a departure from the road-barred norm have a 12 degree flare to the drops. Although they may look a little odd a flared bar gives you more control in the drops, these Cowbells open to a rangey 470mm apart at the tips, and whilst you're there stop your forearms interfering with the tops if you're sprinting or moving about on the bike a lot off-road.
I'm not usually a fan of outward flared drop bars, they usually put my hands in all the wrong places, render riding on the hoods uncomfortable and making STI shifting awkward to me, normal drop-bars are perfectly fine, but I found the Salsa Cowbell 3s on here really comfortable. The top section is wide and flat before the bars drop in which makes for relaxed cruising and the flared drop felt just right for off-road control, although the wide elbows-out stance made battling into a headwind harder and puts you in a less racey position, if that's your thing.
All-City are proud to point out their Signature Vertical Dropouts which are investment cast from stainless steel and they do look shiny and pretty - but they don't have a replaceable gear hanger. That sort of thing's not usually a deal-breaker but we found out it could be a frame-breaker. On the first ride out on the Macho Man, less than a mile from home an excitable stick jammed in the rear mech and bent everything into the rear wheel, including the hanger. Not a great start to the relationship.
Not only was the rear mech a complete write-off but the frame almost was as well, the hanger was not only sharply bent in towards the wheel but it was ripped backwards as well, quite the compromise to gear changing, rear wheel security and frame life. Luckily the bike shop were able to gently coax the hanger back into its rightful place, but there's only so many times you can do that to steel, even if it is stainless.
Bending a mech hanger isn't an everyday occurrence but on a cyclo-cross bike that could get dragged through grabby undergrowth or thick mud that can strain a rear derailleur into doing silly things it's a more likely and having a replaceable gear-hanger would be nice, for the sake of not destroying a frame in an incident. There's a reason most other frames have them on now.
Ride & geometry
All-City say that the Macho Man has race geometry, and that's certainly apparent when you get the beast up to speed, it's a wonderfully happy handling bike. The head and seat angles are right in there with more speed specific machines so despite its weighty burden the All-City certainly wants to play with the fast boys with no sedate steering traits to lumber you down.
While we're on the numbers you'll want to pay attention to the sizing as they rock up somewhat larger than their listed size would suggest, the 55 here has a lengthy 565mm top-tube which would be something in a 56 or 57 on other brands' size charts.
The steel frame does do that clichéd ferrous thing of taking a bit of the buzz out of the trail and at no point did the steel forks feel like they instantly needed to be replaced with something in more absorbent carbon with the tapered blades doing a good job of ironing out the lumps, within reason.
Unfortunately there isn't any of that lively spring and skip that steel frames are supposed to exhibit because it's a solid and stout beast. The Macho Man doesn't spring. It sits there, takes as many punches as your legs can throw at it, and moves steadily forwards at its own pace rather than responding whippet-like by bounding towards the horizon. It's a substantial unyielding platform held back by chunky wheels and tyres so as long as you don't expect it to leap forward with a keen hop in its step and settle instead for reeling in hills and other riders over some glacial measurement of time then you'll get along just fine.
There is a plus side to this sturdy character though, the Macho Man simply refuses to be knocked off line on stuttery terrain and it descends like a piano, a piano playing a happy tune. That all-steel weight and those steamroller wheels combined with what's a low bottom-bracket for a 'cross bike all combine to keep things super stable at all times.
If you're scared by nervous race cross bikes then you'll like the Macho Man. Where the spindly racehorse bikes need to be coerced and finessed over and through lumpy stuff this All City can simply be pointed forwards and blundered through, and downhills can be conquered at speed, hands free. It's quite fun in a carefree hooligan kind of way.
To be fair there are a few pointers that the Macho Man isn't meant to be just a tippy-toed race bike and a whole bunch more versatile than that. Although you could race the citron-coloured beast quite happily it's quite heavily weight disadvantaged between the tapes and is far more suited to big days rumbling across the hills or bolting mudguards on and using it as a bombproof commuter.
It's got tons of tyre clearance in the rear triangle, so you can run fenders or fit big whoomphy tyres in, and it's a shame it doesn't have a full set of dedicated rack mounts as it would suit being a beast of burden with its sturdy frame, you could squeeze something on the fender mounts and chainstay bridge/fork crown holes though.
There's a lot of people who like the 'Steel Is Real' thing, whatever that means, and it has a lot of that ferrous factor going on. The frame is well made, it looks tidy and the lugged fork crown and nice headbadge are attractive features to make an owner smile, the all steel construction and related weight will put off just as many people as it attracts though.
If you want a cyclo-cross bike for racing on then you're better off looking elsewhere; the Macho Man's weight makes it a hindrance in the thrust and parry of a muddy Sunday morning, which is a shame as the geometry figures make it more than capable of the odd Ballestra.
It's not a bike that you'll want to shoulder too often either. There's no getting away from its weight, but what it sucks from your soul on the climbs it more than gives back on the other side by being a stable and fun steamroller on downhills and over bumpy ground.
If you want a good value 'cross bike then once again you'll need to look elsewhere, the spec sheet reveals some inferior choices that just can't compete against its rivals at this price and in cases such as the wire beaded tyres are just plain inexcusable making it hard to see what you're paying for to make those sacrifices worthwhile. If however you like that whole Steel Thing and want a bike that will happily stroll over the hills or roll into work with you and let that metal emotion over-rule all others then knock your sandaled socks off.
Fun in certain circumstances, but its weight and below-par spec really drag it down.
road.cc test report
Make and model: All City Macho Man
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - All-City Macho Man '612 Select ChroMoly steel. Double butted down, top, and seat tubes. Externally tapered, ovalized, and dimpled chain stays, tapered seat stays. 130mm rear spacing, 1 1/8th headtube, English bottom bracket, 27.2 seatpost.
Fork - All-City Nature Boy'�100% 4130 ChroMoly tapered fork blades, lugged crown and matching dropout.
Headset - Cane Creek 10 Series'�, Black
Stem - Salsa Pro Moto 3'�, Black, 31.8 clamp
Handlebar - Salsa Cowbell 3'�Black, 12 degree flare, 31.8
Handlebar Tape - Velo Cork, '�Black
Shift / Brake Lever - Shimano 105, '�10 speed'�'�
Front Derailleur - Shimano CX70
Rear Derailleur - Shimano 105, '�Black
Brakes - Tektro R720, '�Black'�'�
Crankset - FSA Gossamer'�, Black, 46-36t
Bottom Bracket - FSA'� MegaExo
Seatpost - FSA SL 280, '�Black, 27.2mm
Saddle - All-City Gonzo, '�Black
Cassette - Shimano Tiagra'�12-28t, 10spd
Chain - KMC X-10, '�Silver
Hubs – Tiagra, '�Silver, 32 hole.
Rims - Alex Race 24'�Black, 32 hole
Tires - Continental Cyclocross Race'�700 X 35c, steel bead
Tubes - Cheng Shin'� 700 X 32, Presta Valve
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?
All-City say that the geared tag team partner of the Nature Boy has finally arrived in the form of the Macho Man with the same geo, same fork, same awesomeness but with their signature vertical dropouts. The AC hallmarks are all still there too, headbadge, hidden fender mounts, reinforced bottle bosses, etc., but the Macho loses the internal brake routing in favor of a triple top tube guide. As far as complete bike spec goes, they're very proud of the rock solid parts kit. It's got a Salsa bar/stem, FSA post, 105 shifters and rear derailleur, Shimano CX70 front derailleur, FSA Gossamer crankset, Conti tires, etc, etc. In short, it is stacked with good stuff according to All-City. The Macho continues and expounds upon the Nature Boy's legacy, they're proud to bring it to you, and proud to loudly send the message that they're taking over steel cyclocross.
They're quite pleased with it aren't they? I do hope the little 'rock solid' comment is a tongue in cheek dig at the weight of the bike, and I didn't even know steel cyclocross was a thing, let alone that it needed taking over.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a Taiwanese made steel frame which means it's going to be well joined together, all the welds are neat and tidy and there are some pleasing details. As 612 Select is nothing special in the world of steel it's heavy.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The All-City Macho Man frame is made from 612 Select ChroMoly steel and the forks are 4130 ChroMoly.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Head and seat angles vary slightly from size to size, the 55 on test has a 72° head angle and 73° seat angle. Top tube is 565 mm, BB drop is 70 mm and fork offset is 45 mm.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The All-City could best be described as roomy. It's long and tall for its spec-sheet size, the 55 having a 565 mm top-tube which is a length normally attributed to the next size up. Study the geometry sheet before buying.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
A level of comfort you'd expect from a steel frame and fork. Not super supple, not hammer stiff, just quite nice.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Nothing really stiff, just stout.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
No, power was delivered gradually and reluctantly.
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? Lively steering.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It climbed terribly, steered happily and descended like a boulder.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Everything was perfectly pleasant, nothing warrants immediate changing, the flared bars might not be everyone's cup of tea though.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
As it's not a stiff beast, nothing, it all worked well together to make the bike as it is.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Knocking several pounds off the overall weight would make the biggest effect on the bike's efficiency, swapping those wire-beaded tyres for something folding would be a good start.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 105 and FSA based drivetrain worked as well as it always does, but Tiagra is not for a bike this price.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Like the some of the drivetrain, way under par for a bike of this price, they've held up well though despite that. Change those wire-beaded tyres as soon as you can though.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Nothing exciting to say about the controls, it all works without fuss. The Cowbell 3 bars are worthy of comment, found them surprisingly comfy.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Not on anything that involved an uphill gradient or speedy effort, on anything that was downhill and twisty it was a hoot.
Would you consider buying the bike? No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Only if they had a beard.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.