Bombtrack just unveiled their first proper trail bike this past week at their annual Groundwork team camp, and we got a chance to hop on the new adventure hardtail. The new steel Cale mountain bike is meant to be the natural evolution of their ever-wider gravel and adventure bikes, adding a 120mm fork & trail bike geometry in order to open up the backcountry to more bikepacking and all-around fun trail riding…
2020 Bombtrack Cale steel hardtail adventure mountain bike
The new 27.5+ Cale shares a lot with Bombtrack’s 29+ Beyond+ ADV. That rigid bikepacking bike was built to take on epic multi-day off-road races like the Tuscany Trail or crossing continents where you needed to haul weeks’ worth of gear & water – and where lighter bike weight & carrying capacity trumped a bit of suspension or descending comfort.
But without the real need for anything cages up front or the monster saddle pack out back, the Cale morphs into something more forgiving & more technically capable – via 120mm front suspension and a long 150mm travel dropper post. In fact, with details like the carry-over mounts for a rear rack in lieu of a large saddle pack, the bike can even keep weight a bit lower in the back in a loaded setup, and allow that dropper for riding steeper trails.
More than just slapping a fork & a dropper on, the Cale gets all-new geometry with longer reach, shorter stems, and a slacker headtube to more enjoy its time going downhill (but not to slack, mind you). Interestingly, the Cale also keeps the same axle-to-crown & fork offset figures of the rigid carbon fork-equipped Beyond+ ADV. So riders looking for something steeper than the new Cale could put a similar 120mm fork on that adventure hardtail if they wanted.
First riding impressions
We had the chance to get in just a couple of rides on the new Cale so far. But we did what we could to run it through its paces on a variety of wet singletrack, trails, and forest roads. By all accounts it feels promising as a fun, playful bike to ride on mixed trail surfaces.
Actual weight & key details
At 14.76kg/32.54lb for our medium test bike, it is by no means lightweight. But as seems standard with Bombtrack, that’s even a bit under their 14.8kg claim – including a bottle cage and a bit of leftover dirt left after rinsing off the heavier mud. That weight is not much of a surprise with the butted 4130 frame and meaty 2.8″ tires anyway. All the same, the long & relatively slack trail-inspired geometry with a steep seat angle did a good job at making the bike climb well.
The Cale looks like a rather aggressive bike, but with a 120mm fork, it is quite manageable as an all-rounder singletrack bike, more so than the latest crop of longer-travel enduro hardtails.
For complete technical details on the new bike, check out our original article.
The bike is still a blast when you point it downhill, whether on smooth bermed tracks or steep rocky & rooty sections. With just 120mm of travel out of the MRP Ribbon SL fork, suspension setup and tire pressure were crucial for the best performance on technical trails. The MRP fork demands careful setup, with positive & negative chambers that must be set in sequence, and require quite precise pressure adjustments. We got the sense that +/- 5psi in either positive or negative chambers had a big impact on both comfort and performance.
It is actually a very simple setup procedure. But it demands some attention and a little bit of math (body weight in kg x 1.7 for positive pressure in psi, and then 90% of the positive pressure in the negative chamber seemed a good recommended starting point.)
We appreciate the fact that Bombtrack has gone entirely away from pressfit bottom brackets for 2020 in lieu of durability & ease-of-service, opting for either this BSA standard (or T47 on some of their other new bikes – more info on those coming soon!) And their straightforward external cable routing is hard to fault on a steel frame like this.
Bombtrack built the bike up with a couple of front & rear specific tweaks for optimized performance. Magura Trail Sport 4-piston front & 2-piston rear brakes, both with the same 180mm Storm SL.2 6-bolt rotors, deliver balanced braking power and control. Both front & rear wheels also get the same 27.5×2.8″ WTB Vigilante tires, but the front rim has a 45mm internal width and the rear 40mm, which slightly changes the tire profile for more grip up front & faster rolling out back.
At first, the Cale seems like a departure from Bombtrack’s broad range of gravel and adventure bikepacking bikes. But riding their own technical local trails, it’s easy to see where the new bike comes from. While gravel roads criss cross their backyard, the number of steep climbs followed by just as steep rooted descents push the limits of what a rigid 27.5+ or 29+ bikepacking bike can handle. The Cale just makes that jump to a more trail-capable bike with a happy-medium slack-ish front end that lets you bomb down the descents with abandon.
While it’s not a universal trail bike for everyone, riders looking to take on some of the toughest off-road adventure riding will be happy with the mixture of accessory mounting options, mid-travel trail bike geometry, and the comfort & grip of high volume 2.8″ wide 27.5+ tires. Plus, the possibility to swap in a lightweight 29er setup with 2.0-2.1″ tires without impacting geometry could be a great way to get even more riding out of the bike across a range of trail styles (much like the seamless 650b x 47mm gravel to 700c x 28mm road swap.)
The $3750 /3400€ Cale is an interesting take on a steel trail hardtail, and would make a fun bike for riders looking to inject some more adventure into either trail riding or bikepacking. It will be available from all global Bombtrack dealers in October 2019.