Words and photos by Stef Ghillebert (@tobaliandbeyond)
Hi, my name is Stef, and I live in Ghent, Belgium, where I work as a social assistant in a refugee center and love riding my bike. Riding bikes has always been a part of my life. I remember getting my first race bike when I was 10 years old, a vintage plum that was too big for me. As I grew older, I rode every weekend, and the idea of a world trip on the bike came to me.
In May 2019, I left Belgium, heading east on a fully loaded touring bike. Arriving in Hanoi, Vietnam, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became all too apparent, and in just a few days, we had to end our trip. At home, I dreamed of being back on the road, seeing new things every day. It got me thinking about what I liked and didn’t like about the heavy touring setup. I loved the off-the-grid days, but these routes were hard with the touring bike. A bikepacking setup started to appeal more and more. Since I still have a full-time job, I also wanted a bike that was fast without bags and capable of riding confidently over all road surfaces.
As the entire cycling industry was turned upside down, I was lucky my local bike shop had a 2021 Bombtrack Hook EXT still in stock. I was immediately in love with the bike. Designed around a steel frame with a full carbon fork and enough mounts for bags, it felt like the ideal bike for me. I kept the build pretty standard since it came with decent parts. A full SRAM Rival 1 setup with 40T chainring, 11-42 cassette, and hydraulic disc brakes.
I swapped the standard Bombtrack 10° flare drop bar with a Salsa Cowbell, giving that little extra flare and comfort to the cockpit. As with most standard saddles, I also swapped it out for a Brooks C17, which feels just amazing. Since I wanted to use the bike mostly on gravel roads, I swapped the standard WTB tires for gravel racing tires, Pirelli Cinturato, which do an awesome job. Coming from a touring bike setup, I needed to do some research in the bikepacking world for my equipment.
I already had the picture of the bike setup, but it wasn’t easy to decide which bags to use. In the end, I decided on the most adaptable setup: a handlebar harness and the Terrapin saddlebag from Revelate Designs. Searching the internet for a frame bag, I came across a DIY topic here on BIKEPACKING.com. Reading it thoroughly and searching for the prices for the material, I ended up making one myself – a cheaper option than buying one and a lot of fun to make. It turned out great, and on my last overnighter, it got tested by the weather. It proved to be waterproof and sturdy.
- Frame/Fork 2021 Bombtrack Hook EXT
- Rims WTB ST light i25
- Hubs Bombtrack Tau
- Tires Pirelli Cinturato 650b x 2.0″
- Handlebars Salsa Cowbell
- Crankset Bombtrack Lyer
- Pedals Shimano Deore XT
- Cassette SRAM PG-1130 11-speed, 11-42
- Derailleur SRAM Rival 1 11-speed
- Brakes SRAM Rival
- Shifter(s) SRAM Rival
- Saddle Brook C17
- Seatpost Bombtrack Yew
- Stem Bombtrack Roam
- Front bags Revelate Designs Front Harness + Egress Pocket
- Frame bags Handmade
- Rear bags Revelate Designs Terrapin 14L
Besides using the Bombtrack as a touring bike, I’m using it every week to shred around on some local gravel. The versatility of the bike is amazing. If you could only have one bike to do your commuting, gravel, and light touring, this might be the bike for you!
You can find Stef on Instagram @tobaliandbeyond.
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