2020 Bombtrack Audax and Audax AL: First Impressions

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Continuing our coverage from Bombtrack’s Groundwork launch event: If you’re in the market for a bike primed for bikepacking and gravel riding, you’d be forgiven for thinking Bombtrack’s Audax range doesn’t tick the relevant boxes. But don’t be misled by the name, which suggests long distance, road-based randonneuring… because these bikes can do a whole lot more than that.

At the end of last week, I posted some thoughts on Bombtracks’ Hook line of drop handlebar, bikepacking-friendly bikes.

But it’s well worth checking out the company’s 2020 Audax range too. Despite the name – which harks back to long ‘audacious’ road rides such as the Paris Brest Paris – these bikes are also suited to those with an off-road persuasion, thanks in part to generous 2.0/2.1in tyre clearances in a 650B wheel size. And, whilst the geometries are specific to each bike line and the tube butting profiles are distinct, there are perhaps more similarities than differences in how they actually ride.

There are two bikes in the range: one in steel (Colombus Chromor), the other aluminum. They share the same carbon fork as the Hook line, albeit without the internal dynamo routing. Similarly, they feature bikepacking touches like direct mount top tube bag eyelets and provision for water bottles or light cargo on the fork. Each bolt is rated to 1.5kg, which means 4.5kg per side (on a carbon fork, be especially sure to keep them tight). The images are of non-production forks for both bikes, so ignore the eyelet placement. Also, note that both bikes come with more road-friendly tyres to the ones pictured here – WTB Horizons, Byways, or a mix of the two.

The 2020 Bombtrack Audax range will be available at the end of October; full geometries will be published in mid September.

2020 Bombtrack Audax

Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking
  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Steel/Carbon, Sizes XS-XL
  • Angles (L): 72° Headtube, 74° Seattube
  • Stack/Reach: 398mm/587mm
  • BB Drop/Chainstay: 65mm (68mm in XS, S, M)/420mm
  • Bottom Bracket: T47 threaded
  • Hub specs: TA, 12x100mm, 12x142mm
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 650B x 2.1″ x 700x35mm
  • Price: €2400/£2600/$2650

I only spent a few hours riding this bike, but it was a solid 40 kilometers of mixed-terrain riding, with no shortage of paved road climbs, steep and loose inclines, and awkward, potentially pedal grabbing rooty descents. I was expecting to struggle each time we dove into the woods, given the other riders in our group and the bikes they were on… but I was very pleasantly surprised by how well the Audax handled the roughstuff.

Granted, there are plenty of differences between the Audax and Hook EXT. While both are constructed from Colombus Chromor and have full carbon forks, the Audax is, in theory at least, a little snappier in the handling and climbing department – even if it feels relatively subtle in the saddle. Head angles and seat angles are tweaked too. You can compare and contrast the finer intricacies of the geo highlights for yourself.

  • Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking

The Audax is finished in an understated but appealing glossy black and dark grey, and has room for 27.5 x 2.1s or 700c x 35s. It comes with Hunt Adventure Sport 650B i20 wheels, a mix of Shimano Ultegra and 105, with a 48/32 sub-compact crankset mated to a 11-32T cassette. This offers a huge gear range with relatively tight jumps between gears – it’s very low by road bike standards, which will especially welcome for those carrying camping gear. Steering comes by way of a Ritchey Comp Streem 3 handlebar, and brakes courtesy of Shimano 105 flat mount hydraulics. They’re powerful enough to make descending steep, loose terrain in the hoods relatively manageable; had they been cable pull brakes, I’d have been tucked down in the drops.

Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking

There are triple bottle mounts on the top of the downtube and a pair of eyelets for a water bottle below. The frame features a T47 threaded BB – see our Bombtrack Hook post for more details. Claimed weight is 10.8kg (23.8lbs) and this year also sees a larger range of sizes, from XS-XL. The full carbon fork has provision for water bottle cages or cargo cages, as well as mudguards.

Note that our test Audaxes were shod with WTB Ventures – to suit the conditions we experienced in Bergisches Land – rather than the 47c Horizon/Byway combo that come as standard. Given how nicely the Ventures rode on asphalt with Ventures, I can only imagine how enjoyable the Audax would be with these faster rolling tyres on a long-distance Audax-style event, or a more supple tyre still.

But whilst the Audax and the EXT are clearly different bikes, there’s considerable overlap too. If you like to blend all-road riding with a penchant for forests roads and mellow trails, choosing the right bike might depend on the build kit you prefer. Would you rather have the ability to run a compact double and bigger gears, along with semi-slicks? Or is enough of your riding off road that knobblies make more sense, along with a simpler 1x, direct mount gravel drivetrain, and the potential for a dropper?

I personally can’t see myself ever investing fully-fledged road bike, given how much I like to ride on backcountry dirt doubletrack and low traffic forest roads. The Audax, however, makes a very compelling package, with its clearance for both large-volume supple tyres or knobblies, and a classy steel frame and an all-carbon fork with modern TA standards. With its wide gear range and small jumps between them – compared to a 1x drivetrain, at least – the Audax is an all-road bike that can do a whole lot more.

The complete 2020 Bombtrack Audax will be available for €2400/£2600/$2650, and the frameset price is €1000/£895/$1100.

Bombtrack Audax Al Bikepacking

2020 Bombtrack Audax AL

  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Aluminum/Carbon, Sizes XS-XL
  • Angles (L): 72° Headtube, 74° Seattube
  • Stack/Reach: 587mm/401mm
  • BB Drop/Chainstay: 65mm (68mm in XS, S, M)/420mm
  • Bottom Bracket: T47 threaded
  • Hub specs: TA, 12x100mm, 12x142mm
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 650B x 2.1″ x 700 x 35mm
  • Price: €1880/£1750/$2100

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ride the 6061 T6 double butted Audax AL, as it wasn’t available in my size. But it’s definitely an interesting bike. Unlike its steel sibling, it embraces the simplicity of a 1x drivetrain, at a cost of jumps between gears and a lower top end. What’s more, it’s unabashedly open-minded in its choice of drivetrain brands, using Microshift’s Dual Control XLE levers, derailleur, and an 11-speed Microshift 11-42T cassette, along with TRP Spyres and Bombtrack’s own direct mount cranks (with a 40T chainring). Note that the gear lever cable is external; according to Microshift, this allows for lighter shifting, it’s easier to repair in the field, and offers a routing that’s less likely to foul bikepacking roll bags. Feedback from others trying out this drivetrain was very positive so it would be interesting to put some longer miles in at some point.

Bombtrack Audax Steel Bikepacking

Also worth noting is the frame cabling is internal on the Audax AL and there’s a dropped chainstay. Presumably, this is because of how tyre, chainstay, and chainrings compete for space on an aluminium frame, especially if you plan to run a double – the frame has a tab for a front mech. The steel version is cast thinner, which gets around this issue.

  • Bombtrack Audax Al Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Al Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Al Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Al Bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Audax Al Bikepacking

Wheels come courtesy of WTB – ST i19s – and tyres are WTB Horizon 650B x 47c front and back. Like the Audax. Despite the lower end build kit, it’s a touch lighter than the Audax, with a claimed weight of 10.4kg (23lbs). Finish is Matt Black and Warm Grey, with some classy light green accents.

I’m not sure that the jumps in gears will suit more dedicated Audax riders – who are often cycling in groups at set speeds, where the riding cadence is more important – but there’s no doubt it’s a very versatile bike. Incidentally, a SRAM 2x spider is compatible with Bombtrack’s crank interface, should you want prefer a sub compact gearing at some point.

As I say, I wasn’t able to ride it myself, but if you prefer an aluminum frame – perhaps because of its weight and cost savings – the AL could be for you. Like the Audax, it’s ready to play in terms of bikepacking, with triple eyelets on the top of the downtube, cargo cage eyelets on the fork, and the potential to easily swap out the front chainring for 36T, if mountain touring is your style.

The Bombtrack Audax AL complete will sell for €1880/£1750/$2100 and new for 2020, it’s also available as a frameset (€800/£700/$900).

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