Bombtrack have produced a relentlessly sensible adventure weapon
Words and Images: James Raison
Towards the end of my 2017 adventure on the Mawson Trail, I was musing on the limitations of the bike I’d chosen. The cheap ‘n cheerful Specialized Rockhopper I’d purchased for $700 a couple of days before the ride was a statement on how capable cheap bikes are. A week into the trail I’d become acutely aware of its limitations. So, over dinner, I outlined my requirements for an ideal adventure bike; a steel, rigid MTB with tubeless wheels and tyres. Within seconds an iPhone slid across the table with Bombtrack’s Instagram announcement of their Beyond+ 2.
I knew I had to have one. A few months later a Bombtrack Beyond+ 2 rolled out of Treadly Bike Shop. A thousand kms later, I reckon it’s time to review it.
The Beyond+ 2 was new to Bombtrack's catalogue for 2018 and sits atop their adventure MTB range. It improved the spec on their mainstay Beyond+1 with carbon fork, and an upgrade to SRAM GX Eagle. Australian retail at the time of purchase was $3,399.
Weight: 12.4kg after tubeless conversion, 13kg before - both including pedals and cages
Frame: 4130 double butted CRMO tubing, x3 bottle mounts, stealth dropper ready
Fork: Beyond+ full carbon with tapered steerer, with triple cage mounts
Headset: FSA Orbit ITA sealed a-headset, tapered 1.1/8"-1.1/2"
Cranks: SRAM GX Eagle" Boost
Bottom bracket: SRAM GXP73
Brake levers: SRAM Level TLM hydraulic
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle trigger
Chain: SRAM GX Eagle
Chainring: SRAM GX-Eagle alloy, 32T
Cassette: SRAM XG-1275 Eagle 12-speed cassette, 10-50T
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle
Handlebar: BT BIKES Trail 7050-T73 butted alloy 700mm
Grips: BT BIKES lock-on, 145mm grips
Stem: BT BIKES Trail forged alloy stem, 0° 55mm
Saddle: BT BIKES Origin
Seatpost: BT BIKES "619" alloy
Clamp: BT BIKES Origin forged alloy seat clamp
Front Hub: BT BIKES Trail sealed, 6-bolt disc hub, 15x110mm Thru-axle
Rear Hub: BT BIKES Trail sealed hub, XD driver, 6-bolt disc, 12x148mm Thru-axle
Rims: WTB Scraper double wall sleeved, TCS, i40, 32h
Tyres: WTB Trailblazer 27.5" x 2.8" Race folding
Brakes: SRAM Level TLM hydraulic disc with 180mm/160mm rotors
RIDE AND HANDLING
Bombtrack have put together a mighty capable MTB with the Beyond+ 2.
They've cut ‘n welded their CRMO tubing into some delightfully stable, and wonderfully neutral XC geometry. It’s not especially upright and not especially stretched. It lands right in the middle of its XC peers.
It has quite slack 73.5° head angle that combines with the straight carbon fork’s 81 mm of trail to give you a long wheelbase and very chilled bike to ride in a straight line. Let go of the bars and it'll track dead straight with no problems, leaving you to crochet or play the violin. Y'know, standard bike riding stuff.
That said, it's a much faster steering bike than I expected. The 55mm stem coupled with the very light carbon fork gives the front end a low point of inertia. It doesn't take much input to steer at all. That lightness does lead to some involuntary wheelies on particularly steep gradients though. I’d likely swap to a longer stem for bikepacking adventures to stretch out and slow down the handling for non-technical terrain. As it is, this spec suits MTB-ing rather well.
Its off-roading capabilities are what you’d expect from a fully rigid MTB. It eats up gravel roads, fire trails, and smooth XC terrain. It’s brilliant fun in places you don’t need much damping or compliance. It rumbles along very rapidly for a bike of this type owing to the WTB Trailblazer tyres that I talk about in the Rolling Stock section.
The more rough, rocky, and tree-rooty terrains are far more challenging on the Bombtrack as you’d expect. You can’t plough over obstacles like a suspension-equipped bike that has damping to absorb the impacts. The Bombtrack taught be some harsh lessons in Newton’s Third Law: hit a solid object and the rebound will be vigorous. Fast descents with bumps can cause some hand punishment and occasional nervous moments if you clout something hard enough.
It's not the most agile bike, and doesn't zip up the hills. It'll always be held back by its relative heft. I didn't buy it for because I wanted a whippy trail-shredding mountain goat so none of this is surprising or problematic for me.
Limitations aside, I’ve come to love riding the Bombtrack. Its simplicity and lack of damping makes you feel very connected with the bike. You have to pay attention and pick your lines. The steel frame and carbon fork have some flex and rebounding in them. It’s a far cry from the stiffness and sometimes downright harshness of aluminium and carbon fibre.
Bombtrack have chosen an interesting tyre in the massive 2.8” WTB Trailblazer. They roll shockingly fast for such a vast tyre, but lacks the grip you might expect from more traditional MTB rubber. A central raised ridge wraps fully around the tyre and the sides have raised knobs clustered quite close together. The sidewalls are vast too, with the knobs placed across the top so there’s not much shoulder grip.
It’s a tyre that doesn’t bite especially deeply into loose terrain and is more suited to rumbling over the top. It rolls quickly on tarmac, gravel, fire tracks, and XC terrain but struggles on sodden and muddy trails. The MTBers might find them lacking but I came to enjoy their speed and just dealt with their rowdiness in slippery conditions. I’m looking forward to some adventure riding where they can roll fast and dampen the bumps. That’s where their strengths lie.
I thoroughly recommend going tubeless. It let me drop the pressures to 15-20 psi, improve the ride quality, and shed about 500g from the bike’s weight. The tubes that come in the bike are massive to fill the huge air volume of the tyres. The rim/tyre combo was crazy tight so I did have to get Treadly to do it for me.
The big tyres are paired with the colossal WTB Scraper 27.5”, 41mm wide rims, giving you a substantial contact patch between tyre and ground. The rim/tyre combo gives a similar wheel diameter to a 29” with 2.1” tyre so you aren’t losing much to the big-wheel enthusiasts. Running at the crazy low psi means you can have a fast and plush ride with surprisingly good bump and vibration damping as the sidewalls flex.
Bombtrack have used their in-house sealed bearings laced with 32 undisclosed spokes. They’re unremarkable in the best way. They roll just fine and haven’t shown any signs of weakness despite constant bumping and grit spatterings.
Considered as a collective, Bombtrack have given you ruggedly dependable wheels. Once up to speed, it rolls swiftly thanks to the tyres. They’re not fast accelerating, and not fast climbing but I never expected them to be. The WTB Trailblazers are star players here, handling all of the grip and giving you a small amount of suspension. I wasn't overly fond of them initially but came to enjoy them once we'd gotten to know each other.
I did a full SRAM GX Eagle review so I won’t spend too long on the groupset.
In short, the GX Eagle is excellent and well-suited to the Bombtrack. The 1x setup will always be slower than a double or triple when making big ratio changes because moving chainrings is still the fastest way to achieve that. Up-shifts on the GX Eagle are limited to one-cog-per-click but you can sweep-shift down 4 gears at once. It’s precise and fast. It’s maintained its speed and accuracy over the first thousand kms with little adjustments
Its headline-grabbing 500% gear range is flippin’ excellent too. The 32x50 climbing gear will get you to the “not enough traction for climbing point” and the 32x10 will get you banging along at around 45-50 kph at 100 RPM.
Shifter pod placement and ergonomics lag behind Shimano’s patented trigger system. It takes a while to adjust to having both shift levers so close together, and so close to your hands when holding the grips. It’s a satisfying and tactile thumb click when you want to move onto another
SRAM’s TLM Level brakes are a solid performer. They’re feel is a little lacking, with some spongy travel before the pads engage the rotors. Power is good, and lever ergonomics are comfortable. I rarely found them wanting for power as the bite the 160mm hard and let me control speed down some steep gradients.
THE FINISHING KIT
Bombtrack’s house-branded finishing are the weakest elements of the overall build. It feels churlish to gripe too hard because those parts are necessary to hit such a good price. So take the following criticism in that price context.
Your hands wrap around lock-on 45mm grips attached to 700mm alloy bars. They’re a serviceable bar, but can be punishing with the rigid front end. Their lack of flex transfers all the zingers coming through the front end straight into your hands. I’ll be going for a flexy carbon bar when I want to upgrade. It’s the same story with the seatpost that dutifully tells your butt about the bumps coming through the rear of the bike.
The saddle was a pleasant surprise though. It’s the shape I usually gravitate towards with raised back, curved sides, and a narrow-ish nose. It’s nicely padded too so I’ve had no problems riding for a couple of hours with casual shorts without chamois.
THE BLANK CANVAS
My choice to buy the Beyond + 2 wasn’t just about shop floor spec, but what Bombtrack have built in. The geometry is suspension corrected so you can whack in suspension fork and turn this into a ripper hardtail. It’s dropper-post ready too, with a sneaky opening in the seat tube where a control line can run through. It has a ridiculous number of mounting points with two cage mounts inside the main triangle, one under the down tube, and two more on the front fork. The rear triangle has the mount points for a rack too. The final party trick is a channel through the front fork to run a dynamo cable from the hub up and out the top of the fork.
Then there’s the colossal tyre clearance. The bike ships with 27.5” x 3” tyres that max out rear clearance, but it’ll handle up to 3.5” at the front. You can drop in 29” wheels too, with 3.5” max tyre size at the front and 2.3” at the rear. That’s a lot of tyre and wheel options.
It's damn cool thinking this could be a badass hardtail 29er with a dropper post if I wanted to.
The Bombtrack Beyond + 2 is one of the most fit-for-purpose adventure MTB packages available, and it comes at a good price. It gives you a great groupset, exceptionally well-designed frame and carbon fork duo, good rolling stock, and adequate contact points. Bombtrack have given exactly what you need and then build in a few extra design features to leave room for what you might want.
It’s a very capable rigid MTB as a base line. It handles smoothly and predictably and will roll along at a decent clip. It’s weight holds it back on the up-hill but it’s got no pretensions of weight-weenyism so it can’t really be criticised for that.
All that’s left for me now is to do actual adventuring on it. I cannot wait.