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This Crust Bombora Shows Us a Different Side of Cycling

When Chase isn't working, training, or racing, he's been setting up his Crust Bombora for epic bikepacking trips. It's a bit different from his other bike — a carbon race rig. He's been using his Crust to discover the less competitive side of cycling and it's pretty darn fun.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

Loaded and ready.

I talk A LOT about race bikes here at TPC. But there's a lot more to cycling than just going fast. 

With a steel frame and plus-sized tires, this Crust Bombora might be the quintessential “x-bike” — a do-it-all gravel, touring, bikepacking, and adventure rig designed for comfort and versatility. It belongs to our Consumables Coordinator, Chase Robertson. He’s in charge of sourcing, organizing, and distributing all the spare parts our mechanics use to service and repair our Certified Pre-Owned bikes. 

Crust Bombora

According to Chase, building up his Bombora during Covid quarantines was the thing that finally made him feel like a “real” cyclist. He picked every component and learned how to install and tune everything. Building your own bike from the frame up is one of the most gratifying things a bike geek can experiences, and it’s ultimately what led Chase down the path that brought him to work at TPC. 

Next month, he plans to use this bike to ride the Ouachita Triple Crown bikepacking route and catch the upcoming solar eclipse. The current setup is optimized for a tough multi-day trip through the mountains of central Arkansas

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Built for Adventure, and the Vibes

Ronnie Romance

The Crust talisman, Ronnie Romance. Photo: Ultraromance

Crust has way more attitude than most bike brands. My old manager and mentor, Spencer Powlison, once described Crust as “gravel bikes with BMX vibes.” Just take a peek at Crust’s Instagram and you might see what he meant. 

Together with their most well-known rider, Benedict Wheeler, a.k.a. Ronnie Romance, Crust has become a trendsetter in the x-biking scene. To him, Crust, and their followers, cycling looks nothing like the lycra-clad performance focused sport that many rider obsess over. Riding a bike is something a bit more free and bohemian. 

The Crust Team at Mid South 2023

The Crust Team at Mid South 2023. Photo: Crust

Mr. Romance has long hair, a beard, and very short cut-off jorts. When Crust sends a team to big gravel races like Mid South, they’re sporting Stetsons and custom-embroidered Stan Ray jackets. Bike bags are a must.

Your average Crust rider probably doesn’t care about watts, cadence, heart rate, or speed. Some might not even have a GPS head unit on their bike! They may not be the type to watch the Tour de France, but they’ll happily race across France on a bike tour with nothing but a few tools, a tent, and a healthy sense of adventure.  

Crust bikes headbadgeTouring and bikepacking are the tenets upon which Crust was founded. The man behind the brand, Matt Whitehead, was unhappy with his slow and heavy Surly during a bike tour in Nepal. Halfway through, he started emailing factories in Taiwan to try and convince one to make him a better touring rig. 

The result was Crust’s first model, the Evasion. It was steel, with the right geometry and tire clearance, all the necessary braze-ons and mounts, and modern lightweight tubing. It had drop bars, but it was made to fit 26” wheels and tires and a mountain bike crank — a bike from a long lost era, just made newer, fresher, a lighter. 

The Crust BomboraWhile you could race competitively on a Crust, they’re better for exploring the vast and unpaved world that exists somewhere between road racing and technical singletrack. 

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Chase’s Bombora Built for Ouachita 

Crust Bombora

The Crust Bombora was exactly what Chase wanted for exploring the steep fireroads and trails found on the Colorado Front Range. He waited patiently for months for his dream bikepacking frame to come back in stock after the Covid bike boom wiped out Crust’s entire inventory. 

The Bombora is designed to accept 650b wheels with tires up to 2.3” wide. Chase chose a Mason X Hunt 650b Adventure Sport Disc wheelset paired with 2.35” Maxxis Ikons, which still have plenty of clearance, but he's planning to switch to a fresh set of Vittoria Mezcal 2.35" tires before he leaves.  

Shimano Deore XT gravel drivetrain

The drivetrain is a 1x Shimano XT 11-speed group, paired with what is perhaps the most vibey component in the world of gravel — a White Industries crankset.

White industries cranks

These cranks combine old-school looks with modern compatibility and an indestructible design. They’re the exact cranks I’d pick too. Something about them just looks right on a bike like this. They spin on a Chris King bottom bracket.  

Meriwhether titanium bars

At the cockpit, Chase has installed high-sweep flat bars. For bikepacking on the technical singletrack trails on the Ouachita Triple Crown, these are the move. They’re Meriwether Titanium Double-Bend Sweeper bars. The double bend (they bend forward then back) offsets the reduction in reach that’s typical of high-sweep bars. Despite that, Chase still has to run a longer stem than usual to offset the change from drop bars to flat bars. 

Because they’re made of 22.2mm titanium tubing, the Meriwethers flex more than most bars, making them even more compliant. The custom anodized finish was done by Agave Finish Works (Peter, who runs Agave, is also a former TPC employee!). A Paragon 31.8mm shim is used to join the bars to an old Ritchey stem that Chase had lying around. Adding a silver Thomson stem to match the Thomson Elite seatpost would be the perfect upgrade. 

Paul levers TRP Spyre brakes

The anodized brake levers are made by Paul Components. They’re paired with low-maintenance mechanical disc brakes, but not Paul Klampers like you’d expect. While Klampers are the obvious bling choice, Chase chose cheaper TRP Spyres because he thinks they stop better (it must be that dual-sided actuation!). Appearance wise, Chase agreed that Klampers would look sick, and they are on his list to potentially upgrade in the future. 

Swood T-bar

What’s that thing hanging off the steerer? It’s a Twisted T-Bar 2.0 made by Swood Cycles. It takes the place of a spacer under the stem and is designed to provide extra support for a handlebar bag. It keeps bags more stable in rough terrain and prevents rubbing against the frame or brake and shift cables. 

Tubular bottle cages

For bottle cages on a bike like this, you have to go for an old-school tubular option. One cage is a classic King Cage. The other is a Crust Widefoot Liter Cage, which is big enough to hold a Nalgene bottle (or a wine bottle if it’s going to be that sort of night). 

Brooks B17

The whole thing is finished off with a classic Brooks B17 saddle. The design is as old as cycling itself, and after years of use it has molded itself perfectly to the shape of Chase’s ass. I’ve never been a fan of Brooks saddles, but Chase swears by the comfort. The only downside is that it tends get soggy in the rain. With the possibility of rain on his trip, he'll likely switch to a more weather resistant Brook C15 Carved saddle. 

Discover a Different Side of Cycling

Crust bombora bikepacking

Chase (third from left) testing his Bombora out on an overnighter in the mountains with the TPC bikepacking crew.

Chase is a darn good gravel racer. As of right now, we have raced against each other three times, and he’s beaten me all three times. The Ouachita Triple Crown route is 159.9 miles with 16,409 feet of elevation gain. It’s tough, and Chase is going to haul this fully-loaded rig up some seriously steep climbs and more than a few hike-a-bikes. My biggest worry is that Chase will return from this trip fitter than ever, thus dashing any hope I have of beating him at Leadville this year. 

Bombora mermaid

But if we are to believe the astrologers, Solar Eclipses can foretell major life changes. Perhaps while riding his Crust Bombora across Arkansas to experience totality, he’ll discover the beauty of the other side of cycling. This ride into darkness could be amazing enough to change the course of Chase’s life. He’ll grow out his hair and beard, start riding in tiny cut-off jorts, and stop training so he can ride around the country at “party pace.” If so, I’ll miss my old rival, but gladly take the win in our next race! 

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