Bassi Hog’s Back Review: Gravel Maverick
The Bassi Hog’s Back is a chromoly steel all-road touring bike that’s equally suited to multi-week expeditions and running errands around town. Bikes are assembled to order for each customer, have a charming classic look, and come at a price that’s relatively easy on the wallet. We’ve been testing out a custom build for the last few months. Find our full review here…
Bassi Cycles operates hand in hand with C&L Cycles—a community-focused bike shop that sells “practical, functional, and good looking” bikes, as co-owner Julian Gammon puts it. There are currently five models in Bassi’s lineup, all of which sport classic looks and tough builds that are designed and assembled at their flagship store in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Launched early last year, the Hog’s Back is their most off-road capable and versatile model. It picks up where the other four models leave off, injecting some worthwhile modern features such as disc brakes, increased tire clearance, and mounting options—all without sacrificing the classic styling Bassi has become known for.
- Frame/fork: Steel/Steel
- Angles (58): 72° Headtube, 73° Seattube
- Stack/Reach: 621mm/440mm
- BB Drop/Chainstay: 60mm/440mm
- Bottom Bracket: English Threaded 68mm
- Hub specs: 9x100mm / 10x135mm, QR
- Seatpost: 27.2mm
- Max tire size: 27.5 x 2.2″ / 700 x 45mm
- Price (as tested): $2,750 CAD ($2,210 USD)
Although Bassi lists two different Hog’s Back build options on their website, nearly all complete bikes sold through C&L or at one of their distributors are custom built. Framesets are priced at $1,000 CAD ($810 USD) and complete bikes can be built up however the owner chooses. Bassi has stuck with more traditional specs to create an accessible frame that doesn’t require expensive modern parts, simply due to compatibility. The Hog’s Back is specced with quick-release axles, an English threaded bottom bracket, a standard 1-⅛” headtube, and is built up around a Chromoly Cromor steel frame and fork—a combination Bassi believes is user-friendly and compatible with a wide range of components.
C&L Cycles offers custom builds, stock options, and bikes that fall somewhere in the middle. The latter are based on their stock builds with some customer-selected upgrades. Because the Hog’s Back I’ve been testing is based around this approach, I reached out to co-owner Julian Gammon for a detailed breakdown of the build they put together.
Hog’s Back Wiggler Custom
By Julian Gammon (@juliangammon)
The fun thing about being a smaller frame company is that we can approach complete bikes in a different way. All of the bikes we sell are hand assembled at our shops in Montreal by folks who also work as mechanics maintaining the neighbourhood’s commuters. A few years ago, we decided to depart from exclusively building custom bikes, where the client, in consultation with us, had the opportunity to choose all their components. We decided then to also offer stock builds, that were based on the custom bikes we most frequently built. This allows us to offer a more appealing price point. Since then, we’ve still been offering our custom services and these new stock builds, but also bikes that fall in between the two.
The latter is very much the case for the Hog’s Back Miles has been riding. It’s built around our Wiggler complete, with a swept-back handlebar, SRAM Apex 1×11 transmission, Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes with matching Speed Dial 7 levers, and 2.2” tires. This build is for weekend or world tours, singletrack shortcuts around town, and party pace gravel rides. What we did for this review bike is an example of what many of our customers who buy stock builds choose: substitute various parts to upgrade and/or make it their own special build. In this case, we have a Sim Works Rhonda stem and Getaround Stealth handlebar for a little extra width, stiffness, and comfort. We also hand laced the wheels, one of our shop’s specialties for customers who want a dynamo setup, or a more durable, bombproof setup. Those are Shimano M525 and Panasonic Dyna hubs laced to Velocity Cliffhanger rims, with a pair of Ultradynamico Mars JFF tires. A Busch & Müller light for late-night forays and Brooks Cambium C17 saddle for comfy good looks finish off the build.
- Frame Bassi Hog’s Back, Columbus Cromor Steel
- Fork Bassi Hog’s Back, Columbus Cromor Steel
- Headset Dia Compe CB-2 headset
- Bottom Bracket SRAM GXP Team
- Crankset SRAM Apex 1
- Chain SRAM PC-1110
- Cassette SRAM PG-1130, 11-42T
- Shifter SRAM Apex 1 flat bar shifter
- Derailleur SRAM Apex 1
- Brake Levers Avid Speed Dial 7
- Brakes Avid BB7 MTB, Mechanical
- Rims Velocity Cliffhanger
- Front Hub Panasonic Dyna, 9x100mm
- Rear Hub Shimano Deore FH-M525, 10x135mm
- Tires Ultradynamico Mars 27.5 x 2.2”
- Stem Sim Works Rhonda
- Handlebar Sim Works Getaround Stealth
- Seatpost Bassi Forged
- Saddle Brooks C17
- Grips ESI Chunky
- Front Light Busch & Müller MYC N Plus headlight
The Hog’s Back build Bassi put together clearly demonstrates their experience in sensibly speccing complete builds. It features a thoughtful mix of reliable core components with some slightly more bougie parts that make for a unique overall build. While the gearing wasn’t quite low enough for me, the SRAM Apex drivetrain performed great during my test period, and only required a few adjustments early on. The Avid BB7 brakes and Speed Dial 7 levers performed flawlessly, and pair perfectly with a no-fuss bike like the Hog’s Back.
A few standout components of this particular build include the made-in-USA Velocity Cliffhanger rims. They are a bombproof touring-friendly rim with short yet sturdy sidewalls and a 25mm internal width that matches up perfectly with the 27.5 x 2.2” Ultradynamico Mars JFF tires that came mounted to them. The combination performed great on pavement, gravel, and easy singletrack and proved to be durable as well. The triangular-shaped centre tread rolls smoothly on road and gravel, but the widely spaced side knobs are able to hook up when some extra traction is needed, especially when running lower pressures. I’m also a big fan of the minimal branding on the wheels and tires, which doesn’t detract from the Bassi’s rather loud paint job.
Panniers, Baskets, and Bags
Like any good touring bike, the Hog’s Back is kitted out with a great selection of bosses, mounts, and braze-ons. It has three bottle mounts across the entire size range: one standard under the downtube, another on the seat tube, and a triple pack mount inside the main triangle. There are front and rear rack mounts, fender mounts, and triple pack mounts on the fork legs. The fork has additional threaded mounts on top of the crown that can be used to mount lights or front racks that require four points of contact, such as the Surly 8-Pack or 24-Pack Racks. The crown is also drilled for fenders or lights, which is where Bassi mounted the Busch & Müller MYC N Plus headlight my build came with. And that’s not it! Bassi has two additional eyelets at the top tube/seat tube junction to accommodate their leather portage strap, perfect for those who regularly hoist their bike up stairs with coffee in hand. The Bassi Strap is made by David Rogers—just down the road from C&L’s Montreal Shop—who’s been working with leather since 1963. Oh, and it has a dedicated kickstand plate.
The Hog’s Back is the perfect platform for a front and rear pannier setup on longer tours, or a hybrid setup for shorter trips. I tested it out with Jack the rack, complete with a small Wald basket, but felt the tall front end positioned the weight a little high to be stable. This might not be as much of an issue on the smaller two sizes, but I quickly opted for my trusty Tumbleweed T-Rack to get the weight lower. Since the Hog’s Back fork has a generous forward rake, the rack tucked in nicely above the tire and created a solid platform for my Microwave Panniers on a recent campout. Since the front end is so tall, the rack and micro panniers almost disappear from view, and this definitely seems like the ideal way to load up the Hog’s Back. I’ve been so happy with this setup that I’ve left it like this for the last few weeks for commuting and day rides.
Let’s talk about that behemoth of a frame bag. The main triangle on the 58cm Hog’s Back is huge, so I worked with Field and Forest (@fieldandforest) here in British Columbia on a massive dual-compartment frame bag to complement it. This relatively new bag maker is owned and operated by Megan McLellan and Emanuel Smedbøl, two talented creatives and outdoor lovers who have slowly been expanding their line of handmade bike bags and accessories. They constructed the bag from a snazzy coyote X-Pac fabric with purple highlights that match the Hog’s Back’s paint perfectly. The non-drive side has a zippered sleeve for thin items like maps or sporks, and the perimeter of the bag is finished with daisy chain webbing to easily adjust the velcro straps that attach it to the bike. It’s easily the largest frame bag I’ve ever used, and the near-horizontal top tube should allow for a generously sized bag on all sizes.
Geometry & Comparisons
The Hog’s Back is a true all-road touring bike, designed to be loaded with gear and taken down whatever your interpretation of a road might be. It felt comfortable and stable on the majority of terrain I encountered, except for truly rough trails that called for suspension or larger tires. It maintains a long-ish 440mm chainstay length across all four sizes but has a relatively conservative wheelbase and front centre length, especially when compared to some other new rigid bikes, such as the Hudski Doggler. With this in mind, the Hog’s Back leans much closer to an on-road rig than an off-road one. Its short front end and 72° headtube angle (on the size 58) results in a snappy yet predictable ride that feels most at home on rolling, non-technical terrain.
The closest comparison I found was the wallet-friendly Surly Bridge Club. Geometry-wise, the two are almost a perfect match, especially when comparing Bassi’s size 58 to the XL Bridge Club. The Hog’s Back has a slightly lower bottom bracket and a taller head tube and seat tube, which all contribute to its massive main triangle, which is begging for a huge frame bag. At first, I thought the sizing looked a little off. While it’s only offered in four sizes, they provide a lot of wiggle room as far as fit goes—another benefit of working with a small brand like Bassi.
The 58cm Hog’s Back I rode felt a little big, which at 6’1” with a 33” inseam, I liked. For someone slightly smaller or for those looking for a slightly sportier fit, there was lots of exposed steerer tube to work with, and running a shorter stem would not be out of the question. As pictured, the Hog’s Back I rode had an upright and relaxed riding position that felt great on gravel, doubletrack, and pavement, but was a little out of place on tight, technical trails. Thankfully, 27.5 x 2.2” tires are generous for an all-road touring bike of this genre, and it can still hold its own when things get rough. It doesn’t offer the same 27.5 x 2.8” / 26 x 3.0” tire clearance that the Surly Bridge Club provides, which is likely one of the reasons why potential buyers may lean that way instead of the Hog’s Back.
I completely agree with Julian’s interpretation of the Hog’s Back. It reminded me of my first few rides on the Hudski Doggler I wrote about so fondly earlier this year, which falls into a not-so-distant category of sport-touring-commuters. Loaded up, the Hog’s Back has all of the characteristics of a classic steel touring bike and handles the weight of racks, bags, and camping gear naturally. Unloaded, it’s a surprisingly fun platform to rip around town on. The long wheelbase, long-ish chainstays, and low bottom bracket all work well together, as long as you’re not in any particular hurry. On climbs, I lacked any real power when pedalling and found myself out of the saddle way more often than usual. I think the combination of angles, swept-back bars, and upright riding position makes for a very relaxed ride, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for but might feel somewhat bland if you’re looking for something more sporty. Of course, the 30-pound build I tested likely wasn’t helping. I didn’t get a chance to try the Hog’s Back with a wider handlebar with less sweep, but I think that would help add some spring into its step. On the other hand, when compared to a classic steel touring bike, the Hog’s Back is playful and is a joy to ride unloaded around town. Jumping onto short sections of singletrack, hopping over curbs, and generally goofing around are all fair game on it.
Availability and Where to Buy
The manufacturing and shipping delays caused by Covid-19 are still wreaking havoc on the bike industry, with availability being one of the biggest hurdles when looking at a new bike. Thankfully, Bassi is in good shape right now, and as of last week, they have stock for almost every size, colour, and model. The Hog’s Back can be purchased directly through C&L Cycles, either online or in person in Montreal. The complete builds on their webshop show back ordered, but that’s only because all bikes are built to order. Rest assured they’ve got Hog’s Back framesets in both Noire/Black and Mauve/Purple in stock and ready to be built up.
For those outside of Quebec, Bassi has a number of shops distributing their frames. Kissing Crows Cyclery in Vancouver, BC is one of the latest to offer Bassi, but there are shops in Manitoba and Ontario, as well as in Vermont who are stocking their frames. For our readers outside of North America, Crumb Works in Japan is a dealer, as is Alternative Bike Co. in Singapore.
- Great value for a steel all-road touring bike, and $2,000 CAD complete builds are great to see
- Versatile geometry allows for an upright riding position, flat bars, drop bars, or a more sporty fit
- Thoughtful details all over the frame set it apart from the competition: portage strap, kickstand plate, and metal head badge included
- Reasonable tire clearance for a bike in this category
- Massive main triangle for half, wedge, or full frame bag
- Fun paint jobs
- Only four sizes may be limiting for some people
- Exposed rear derailleur cable along down tube and under chainstay
- Upright, touring-focused geometry lacked power on steep climbs
- Size Tested: 58cm
- Actual Weight: 30.2 pounds (without pedals)
- Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
- Price (as tested): $2,750 CAD ($2,210 USD)
- Manufacturer’s Details: CLCycle.ca
For the right kind of rider, the Bassi Hog’s Back is a home run. They managed to blend just the right amount of classic detailing and styling into a unique package that rides well and looks great. It’s a fun take on a classic touring bike that can be dressed up or down as much as you’d like. Fancy dirt-touring rig? Budget commuter parts bin build? Urban adventure machine? Check, check, check. Some folks may prefer the added versatility of plus-sized tires, pushing further into the rigid mountain bike category, but that’s not what the Hog’s Back is trying to be. It’s a modern dirt road tourer that offers the comfort and utilitarian-inspired design of a classic steel touring bike but with a slightly more playful and fun ride quality.
The fact that C&L Cycles specializes in purpose-built, custom builds and clearly understands the value of more budget-friendly bikes is just the cherry on top. I was a huge fan of the custom Hog’s Back they pieced together for me, as it’s a good example of what they do best. Keep a close eye on Bassi, as I expect we’ll see more impressive designs from them in the future.
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