First impressions on the 2020 Bombtrack Hook EXT, EXT-C, and ADV

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Cass Gilbert heads out to rooty, doubletrack-laced Bergisches Land to try out some of Bombtrack’s 2020 range of bikes. Here are his thoughts on the burly, gravel-chomping, bikepacking-friendly Hook EXT and EXT-C, as well as the (slightly oddball) Hook ADV…

This week, Bombtrack released its 2020 range, showcasing a collection of bikes over three particularly intense days of all-terrain riding near the company’s base in Cologne, Germany. We’ve featured various Bombtrack bikes in the past; predominantly those with plus-size tires, like Franzi’s Beyond Plus, and a full review of the Beyond Plus 2. But this is the first time I had a chance to ride their more gravel-orientated, drop handlebar, bikepacking-friendly range.

It’s always interesting to see the testing ground for a bike brand; it can serve as a clue to the kind of bikes they’re likely to design. In the case of Bombtrack, it’s located a stone’s throw from the Bergisches Land, an area of thick woodland and lush forest that’s rife with doubletrack, flow trails, rooty singletrack, steep inclines, and quiet backroads. So it’s probably no surprise that the gravel bikes they build blend both performance and versatility into their design, given the assortment of conditions. And it’s good news for North Americans. For the first time, the full range of Bombtrack bikes will be available in the US.

Over six back to back, 30-40km rides, I test rode the Hook EXT, EXT-C, and EXT ADV, the bikes I felt would be of most interest to adventure-seeking, gravel bikepackers. There’s also the more modestly priced Hook 1, 2, and the Hook Women’s that are worth checking out; clearances are a touch tighter and they’re shod with faster rolling 700c or 650b wheels. Perhaps surprisingly, the Audax range should definitely pique the attention of bikepackers with an off-road persuasion. Despite the name, both bikes in the 2020 Audax range have especially generous tyre clearances; I’ll post some details separately.

Be sure to check out the full photo gallery of each bike in the carousels. You can see the 2019 spec and geometries over at the Bombtrack website. The new specs will be updated in mid-September and the bikes will be available at the end of October.

EVOLUTIONARY CHANGES

For the most part, the changes to the 2020 range are evolutionary rather than transformative. But that’s no bad thing; there’s a sense that the already popular Hooks are becoming increasingly refined. Cable routing is improved, for instance, and all bikes now share the same dropout hangers, which makes sourcing replacements easier.

In the case of the Hook EXT, EXT-C, and EXT ADV, there’s ample clearance for 27.5 x 2.0″ tyres that come fitted, or 700 x 40/45mm, depending on the specific frame. Dropper routing is included and bike-friendly details abound, like the direct mount top tube bolts, triple mounts on the fork, and even pannier/fender eyelets. For 2020, there are now two sets of triple water bottles within the frame, so even for big day rides, you can position your bottles accordingly, depending on if you’re running a partial framebag or not. Clearly, these bikes lend themselves really well to multi-day riding straight out of the box. Another small touch I appreciated was the padded bar tape, which I’m always grateful for when hitting the roughstuff on ‘skinny’ tyres.

Broadly speaking, all bikes in the ‘performance’ range now uses a threaded T47 bottom bracket in – including the carbon EXT-C – which promises to offer the best of both worlds in terms of easing of fitting and stiffness. Being threaded rather than press fit, they’re less likely to creak, particularly in carbon frames.

Though T47 isn’t a system that’s specced on too many bikes right now, it looks set to grow. One issue in the past has been the availability of affordable replacement bottom brackets – the likes of Chris King and White offer lust-worthy, high-end options, but you’ll need to spend some coin. Given that FSA’s more wallet-friendly BBs have proved hard to come by, Bombtrack have now released their own, a mid-level offering that will come in at a reasonable €50. These are now specced with cranks that are the brand’s own. They’re made from forged aluminum with 30mm spindles.

bombtrack hook ext bikepacking

HOOK EXT (S-XL, €2500/£2300/$2750)

  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Steel/Carbon
  • Angles (L): 72° Headtube, 72.5° Seattube
  • Stack/Reach: 589mm/389mm
  • BB Drop/Chainstay: 70mm/425mm
  • Bottom Bracket: T47 threaded
  • Hub specs: TA, 12x100mm, 12x142mm
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 700x40mm or 650b x 2.1″
  • Price: €2500/£2300/$2750

Appealing to bikepackers seeking a relatively light, fun, off-road-capable steed with a drop bar bent, comes the Columbus Chromor Hook EXT, weighing in at a claimed 11kg (24 lbs). This year sees a new finish – an especially good looking shade of matte green with super classy, understated graphics. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in my mind, the EXT is the prettiest of the bikes. The fork – specific to this model this year – also features internal dynamo routing, which is really nice to see. Of interest to many, no doubt, is that fact that it will be available as an aftermarket option for €330, or $499. It has a 398mm axle to crown length, with 48mm offset. I’m willing to bet that’s going to get a lot of people excited!

I had a chance to put in solid 40km of fast, mixed terrain riding – think well-packed gravel, rooty singletrack, loam, lumpy fields, and rocky chutes. And I have to say, this bike is a complete blast to ride: it’s quick, nimble, and perhaps thanks to both its 2.0″ tyres and what feels like a refined Columbus frame, it’s surprisingly comfortable too. Handlebars are 420mm wide in S and M, and 440mm in L and XL, with a 10-degree sweep, wrapped in super plush Bombtrack Escape bar tape. Clearances are good at the back for 27.5 x 2.1″ / 700 x 40mm, with space for 45mm in the fork. Standard spec includes WTB ST rims with 27.5 x 2″ Ranger Lites, though there’s room for 2.25s at the front.

Expect a full review once I’ve had a chance to try it loaded up on a longer trip. It’s worth noting that the direct mount 40T chainring, mated to an 11-42T cassette and SRAM Rival lever and derailleur, is probably over-geared for hilly terrain with a load, though it’s easy enough to change.

The bike is available as a frameset-only option, too. It’s €900/£815/$1000.

  • bombtrack hook ext bikepacking
  • bombtrack hook ext bikepacking
  • bombtrack hook ext bikepacking
  • bombtrack hook ext bikepacking
  • bombtrack hook ext bikepacking

HOOK EXT-C (XS-XL, €3000/£3050/$3300)

Bombtrack Hook EXT-C bikepacking

I also rode the Hook EXT-C, effectively the carbon version with similar geometry to the EXT, albeit with slightly longer chainstays, different sizing (XS to XL), and larger clearances – for instance, there’s ample room for 700c x 45c at the back, as well as the specced wheelset, 27.5 x 2.0in (with room for 2.1s). Again, it features the threaded T-47 bottom bracket, which is particularly welcome in a carbon frame, given the possibility of a press-fit bbs creaking.

  • Bombtrack Hook EXT-C bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Hook EXT-C bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Hook EXT-C bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Hook EXT-C bikepacking
  • Bombtrack Hook EXT-C bikepacking
  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Steel/Carbon
  • Angles (L): 72° Headtube, 73° Seattube
  • Stack/Reach: 590mm/380mm
  • BB Drop/Chainstay: 67mm/440mm
  • Bottom Bracket: T47 threaded
  • Hub specs: TA, 12x100mm, 12x142mm
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 700x45mm or 650b x 2.1″
  • Price: €3000/£3050/$3300

The bike is a good deal lighter (9.6kg or 21lbs) than the EXT with a slightly higher gear range still (it’s specced with a 42T chainring) and a more costly set of Hunt wheels. This helped the bike feel noticeably lither on the climbs. The wheels are also shod to WTB’s fast-rolling 27.5x2in Venture tyres, which appear to handle wet conditions surprisingly well. Given their tread, they give up less rolling resistance to the EXT’s Rangers when you hit blacktop, making them a very appealing for this kind of mixed-terrain riding.

Like the EXT, it proved a super fun bike to ride; quick to steer and comfortable over knots of roots and through rocky gullies. Of course, it’s hard to give a like for like comparison given the different tyres on the two bikes I tried, but I felt the EXT had a little more in the way of positive trail feedback, which I personally prefer. And, I’m more happy hanging framebags off a steel frame than one made from carbon; be sure to wrap it with helicopter tape to protect it from frame rub. If you’re a carbon bike fan with aspirations to bikepack at weekends, put this on the list of contenders, as it’s all ready to roll.

Prefer to build up you own bike? The EXT-C is available a frameset too, for €1500/£1340/$1600.
.

HOOK ADV (S-L, €3660/£3500/$4025)

Bombtrack ADV bikepacking

Now in its second year, the chromo-tubed Hook ADV is definitely a conversation starter. In some ways, it’s a 90s MTB throwback with a short travel MRP Baxter fork (just 40mm!), a splash of colour – gloss orange with a teal fade – and drop handlebars. There’s a dropper too, for added fun times in the woods; despite (IMO) the slight ridiculousness of tearing down a techy descent in a drop barred position, there’s no doubt this bike will have you itching to pop off rocks and roots!

  • Bombtrack ADV bikepacking
  • Bombtrack ADV bikepacking
  • Bombtrack ADV bikepacking
  • Bombtrack ADV bikepacking
  • Bombtrack ADV bikepacking
  • Highlights
  • Frame/fork: Steel/MRP Baxter
  • Angles (L): 72° Headtube, 72.50° Seattube
  • Stack/Reach: 612mm/394mm
  • BB Drop/Chainstay: 70mm/425mm
  • Bottom Bracket: T47 threaded
  • Hub specs: TA, 12x100mm, 12x142mm
  • Seatpost: 27.2mm
  • Max tire size: 700x45mm or 650b x 2.1″
  • Price: €3660/£3500/$4025

Indeed, it’s both smile-inducing and confidence-inspiring, especially for a drop handlebar bike. It’s no featherweight but I’d say it rides lighter than its 13.1kg (29 lbs) and definitely throws a whole different slant to tackling local XC rides – the ADV still lends itself to the kind of underbiking that requires sharp wits, but there’s just enough cushion to keep your teeth in place when the going gets rough. Personally, I’d be inclined to choose a flat-bar bike for the kind of terrain where I noticed its benefits most, but there’s no doubt it has its appeal, particularly to anyone coming from a drop-bar background, with a hankering for mixing in tech with tarmac.

The frame is a 4130 double butted chromo affair, with fancy internal butting on the bend of the downtube, which negates the need for a gusset. The geometry is a touch different to the EXT, mainly to accommodate the suspension fork – it’s longer and lower with a shorter stem – but overall, it’s drawn for largely similar handling. Which means it’s very quick and lively. The Baxter’s clearance is 27.5 x 2.5″ while frame clearance is limited to 27.5in x 2.1″ (700 x 40mm) aka the Reverse Mullet (party the front, business at the back). The handlebars are different too, which certainly help with gutsy, in-the-drops descents; they’re Ritchey’s WCS Venture max, a chest opening 460mm wide at the hoods (440mm for size S), with a 24-degree flare. A nice bar for sure!

Those who are especially eyelet-observant will have noticed the provision for cargo cages on the seat stays. I didn’t get a chance to try them; when eyeballed, it looked like they could be prone to heel clipping, particularly with a Salsa Anything Cage. I asked the guys at Bombtrack if they could share specifics and they told me it will really depend on the load (cargo cage versus water bottle), the design of the cage, and your shoe size. Still, Big Foots can always use the mounts to mount a pump, or perhaps a slim toolbag, so all is not lost.

Cleverly, Bombtrack have specced it with a left-hand SRAM Rival gear shifter, even though it runs a 1x drivetrain. This means you can wire in the dropper to the gear lever, which makes it infinitely more usable than activating it from the top of the handlebars. You’ll need to remove the ratchet mechanism and hook it up yourself to do so, but Bombtrack will be including a how-to guide. Or, check this detailed post from Peter Verdone.

Sizes are more limited (S, M and L) and it has to be said that ‘alt-fun’ certainly doesn’t come cheap…

Look out for our coverage of Bombtrack’s 2020 Audax series of bikes next week!

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