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by Matt Wikstrom
January 13, 2016
Photography by Matt Wikstrom
Bombtrack is a relatively new company that started with high-quality single-speed bikes, but now the company is delving into multi-speed bikes. In this review, CTech editor Matt Wikstrom takes a closer look at the Tempest, which Bombtrack describes as a road bike with “slim and clean lines synonymous with a classic steel frame but in an entirely modern design.”
Most would be forgiven for not recognising Bombtrack. The German brand was formed in 2013 and its first bikes were targeted at the fixed-gear market. The company’s goal was to create complete bikes to rival the quality of a custom build while providing the economy and convenience of a mass-produced bike.
Bombtrack’s 2016 catalogue continues to feature single-speed bikes, but the company has started adding geared bikes, including cyclocross bikes, and more recently, road bikes. What distinguishes Bombtrack is its reliance on steel: of the fourteen bikes in the catalogue, twelve have frames made from steel, with one from alloy, and one from carbon.
Bombtrack’s devotion to steel is understandable given that the founders of the company have twenty years experience building BMX bikes for the mass market, where steel, especially cro-moly tubing, is the material of choice. Bombtrack uses tubing made by Reynolds, Columbus and Sanko for its more expensive models, where butting and heat-treatment is added to reduce weight and improve durability, respectively.
There are three road bikes in Bombtrack’s 2016 catalogue, and all are made from steel. The Oxbridge Geared is an affordable city bike with downtube shifters and a quill stem. The Audax is a traditional touring bike that offers a relaxed fit with rack and fender mounts. The Tempest sits at the top of the range as a modern take on the classic road bike design.
For this review, I spent a couple of weeks riding a pre-production Tempest, courtesy of Bombtrack’s Australian distributor, Pushie.
At the core of the Tempest is a frame made from Reynolds 725, a heat-treated and butted cro-moly tubeset. While 725 is not as strong or light as Reynolds’ premium 953 stainless steel tubing, it is still well regarded as a high-quality tubeset that promises to be a little lighter and more durable than standard cro-moly.
The Tempest made in Taiwan with a standard 1.125inch head tube while the bottom bracket is threadless BB86. TIG welding is used throughout and the stays are finished with investment cast dropouts that have a replaceable rear derailleur hanger. At the other end of the bike, there is a carbon fork with a straight gauge 1.125inch alloy steerer, a small concession to affordability.
There are four frame sizes for the Tempest, as shown in the table below:
While the geometry is race-oriented, it is not especially aggressive since the length of the head tube does not include the stack of the external headset (~30mm). Each frame size has a bottom bracket drop of 72mm with a uniform fork rake of 45mm, while the chainstay length ranges 407-410mm. For more information, see Bombtrack’s detailed geometry chart
The Tempest has all the clean lines of a traditional road bike, with a sloping top the only break from tradition. Hooded rear dropouts have become a relatively common choice for modern metal frames but I still find them enormously appealing. The replaceable rear derailleur hanger baffles me though; I’d rather see a one-piece design that is more resistant to accidental knocks.
The metallic grey finish of the Tempest is understated until direct sunlight strikes it and then it starts to sparkle. The dark tones are well suited for a daily rider because it will hide most of the road grime. There is a second colour (metallic turquoise) in Bombtrack’s catalogue, however the Australian distributor is only importing the grey version.
The Tempest is set to retail for $3,299 AUD. For that price, buyers will get a bike equipped with Shimano’s 11-speed 105 groupset (52/36T chainrings and 11-28T cassette); KMC chain; Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels; Deda alloy stem, bars, and seatpost; Continental 25mm Grand Sport Race tyres; and a Fabric saddle.
It’s a modest package that won’t capture the attention of bargain-hunters or weight-weenies. The size M sent for review weighed 9.34kg sans pedals and bottle cages, however Bombtrack isn’t trying to compete with high-volume value brands or carbon bikes. The Tempest has been designed as a convenient alternative to a custom-built steel bike.
Bombtrack supplies the Tempest with a 3-year warranty for the frame and 2-years for the forks. For more information, visit Bombtrack or get in touch with Pushie.
The Tempest is the antithesis of almost every bike I’ve reviewed—not carbon fibre, and not less than 8kg—and yet it was immediately familiar to me, reminding me of the steel bikes I owned during the late-80s and ‘90s.
The weight of the bike was the first thing I noticed. It may have only been an extra 2-3kg but I was surprised at its impact. Throwing a leg over the Tempest was like travelling to another planet where gravity was a little stronger and the air more dense. The bike simply required more effort than I was used to.
The second thing that I noticed was that the Tempest was smoother and quieter than any composite bike I’ve ever ridden. And while the extra weight of the bike literally weighed down its performance (in terms of agility and responsiveness), the bike was extremely easy to ride due to its sedate nature.
I made a few brave attempts at pressing the Tempest into action, however, rising out of the saddle was never as effective as staying seated. The bike seemed stiff enough to resist my efforts but the responsiveness was mostly absent. I found there was more reward, and perhaps greater efficiency, in remaining in the saddle and concentrating on a steady rhythm instead.
The Tempest was comfortable on all road surfaces, relaying only modest amounts of road-shock and vibration. In this regard, the behaviour of steel is quite distinct from composites: road shock and vibrations are faithfully relayed by steel but they seem shorter-lived, or milder, compared to carbon fibre. It’s the kind of feedback that I enjoy in a bike, a pleasant texture that soothes as much as it informs.
I found the steering of the Tempest was quite neutral, and therefore, a good match for the subdued nature of the bike. I didn’t have any trouble holding my line through corners but the bike wasn’t nimble enough for sudden deviations. At speed, on wide, open descents, the bike was extremely well mannered, but some effort was required to wrestle the Tempest through technical turns.
The extra weight may have shocked me initially but I enjoyed every moment of my time on the bike because of its lovely ride quality. Words fail me at this point, because it’s not something that can be easily dissected for classification. Part of it was the innate comfort of the chassis, and part of it was the gentle buzz of feedback from the road. There was also a sense of reliability—a certain indefatigability—that encouraged my faith in the Tempest.
At some point during the review period, I was transported again, not to another planet, but to earlier time. A time when there were no GPS-devices or Strava leaderboards, when there was reward in completing a set distance at a steady pace. When riders were admired for their class and finesse rather than their maximum wattage.
Riding the Tempest with this “classic” mindset enhanced my appreciation for the bike as much as it inspired my nostalgia. It also gave me a fresh perspective on how far composite bikes have come in the last 15 years. The state-of-the-art is truly fantastic, but there is room for bikes like the Tempest, because they put the rider in touch with the essence of the activity.
Shimano’s 11-speed technology has trickled down from Dura Ace and Ultegra to pool within the new 105 groupset. Thus, the cranks have adopted the four-arm spider design that allows for compact, semi-compact and standard chainrings to be used interchangeably. In addition, the levers have the new 11-speed shifting mechanism, the front derailleur has longer arm and the inner cables are coated to reduce friction.
As a consequence, the quality of the shifting for the new 105 groupset is much improved compared to the previous iteration. It is almost as light as Ultegra and Dura Ace, and just as precise. Braking too, is also a little lighter. Despite these improvements, a 105 groupset seems like an economy for a bike that retails for over $3,000 AUD.
I have no complaint about the quality of the build. Indeed, all of the parts worked well and suited the capabilities of the bike. Mavic’s Ksyrium Equipe wheels (with a narrow rim bed) are a little outdated but at least 25mm tyres are supplied to keep pace with current trends. As I noted above, the Tempest won’t attract bargain hunters, but it should prove to be a reliable bike.
The Tempest is a fine example of a well-built steel bike. Twenty years ago, it would have been just one of many good bikes on the market, yet now it stands out as something of an oddity. Indeed, highly affordable lightweight composite framesets have elevated the expectations of many consumers to the point where a bike like Bombtrack’s Tempest now appears outdated and irrelevant.
However, I can see that there is room for the Tempest in today’s market. While there are plenty of framebuilders that can supply a bespoke steel frameset, there are few ready-to-ride options (unless buyers are prepared to consider second-hand steeds from last century). Thus, the Tempest is a modern-day product to tempt buyers that are curious about steel.
I see the Tempest as a good choice for commuting and/or daily training. Riders opting for the latter can expect to enjoy the benefits of “train heavy, race light” when they switch to their racing steed on the weekend. If nothing else, the sudden change in agility and responsiveness will do wonders for any racer’s psyche. The asking price is high though, and the market has plenty of lower-priced alternatives that offer the same kind of build, but few of them can offer a well-built steel frame.