Bombtrack Audax

7
£2,100.00

VERDICT:

7
10
A great bike for racking up the miles and enjoying the countryside but it could do with better brakes
Weight: 
10,730g
Contact: 

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Bombtrack's Audax is exactly what its name suggests: it's a mile-muncher that whisks you along in cosseting comfort; even when fatigue kicks in the last thing you need to worry about is the bike. If you want a ride that excites then this probably isn't the bike for you, but if you want to get to the end of your journey without fuss or drama, all you need to do on the Bombtrack is keep spinning the pedals.

  • Pros: Supple ride from the tubing, wide 650b tyres allow for excursions off the beaten track
  • Cons: A bit weighty, no 'get up and go' if that's what you're after

The ride

The best way I can think to sum up the Audax is that it should never be rushed – and I mean that in a good way. Just like a ride of the same name, it really hits a sweetspot between not-too-fast and not-too-slow average speeds.

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If you've never ridden an audax then you may not know how they operate. Briefly, you are given the distance and two speeds, a minimum average and a maximum, between which you should complete the ride.

I found that the Bombtrack just cruised beautifully at the effort required to cover 15-18mph on the flat; go slower and it felt laboured because of its weight, go faster and... well, don't bother as this is no race bike, so you'll get very little back for your effort.

In this business we ride a lot of bikes, obviously, in my case usually three new ones every month and most follow a common theme. You get on it, smash the pedals around and make your mind up. There is the odd bike, though, where you have to take a step back and realise things aren't working out and it's probably you not the bike.

Most bikes, no matter how pigeon-holed the marketing, are very good at a range of things, but the Bombtrack is a very specific machine.

The Audax taught me to take things easy, and while the first few rides may have felt underwhelming in terms of excitement, I soon settled into a groove and realised I could cover impressive distances at a decent speed without much in the way of energy output.

Comfort is impressive, both from the double butted Columbus Cromor tubing and the high-volume 650b x 47mm tyres. No matter what condition the road surface is in, you cruise along in relative bliss.

I'm not usually overly worried about comfort on the bike; I don't want to be battered, obviously, but I'm happy to take a little punishment in the conquest for speed. Riding the Audax, though, was like being wafted along in your favourite slippers.

Rather than watching out for potholes or drains, I was admiring the scenery and just tapping out miles at an easy cadence, enjoying being out in the countryside and spinning along.

The mileage started to increase, and while I wasn't taking on the epic distances of our Dave and his 600km hidings, I quickly grew to enjoy the character of the Bombtrack.

Geometry

When you look at the numbers, the Audax is actually quite a racy machine. This medium model with its effective top tube length of 551mm and relatively short head tube of just 130mm is actually quite aggressive.

The stack figure of 563mm and reach of 390 gives you a ratio of 1.44 which sits in between the norm for a race and an endurance machine.

This shows up in the handling. Find yourself on a fast flowing descent and the Audax continues that theme of unflustered behaviour. What do I mean by that? Well, it has that balance of quickness in the steering to give confidence in choosing a line, without the twitchiness of something racier.

With those large volume tyres and the balanced geometry, you don't need to worry if you hit some gravel or can't avoid a pothole as the bike will just absorb it and get on with the job.

The whole bike weighs 10.73kg, so let's be honest it isn't exactly light and you'll notice this when it comes to climbing or acceleration. The usual rules apply, though: stay in the saddle, tap it out and you'll get the best out of the bike.

Sometimes, though, you do have to get out of the saddle thanks to the weight (and that's unloaded, remember – if you are out for a trek you're going to be carrying luggage), so the pretty standard gearing of 50/34 up front and an 11-28t cassette at the rear can become a bit of a grind.

Frame and fork

Columbus's Cromor is part of its 'all-purpose, hi-resistance tubes family'. Columbus also says that it has 'top reliability even in the most demanding and stressing conditions with long-lasting properties and performance even after heavy duty use'.

The Audax certainly feels tough and you don't need to treat it with kid gloves.

I love the look of a steel frame, with skinnier tubing than you see with most other materials, but the Audax isn't a retro machine. Up front you get a 1 1/8 to 1 1/2in head tube for increased stiffness under braking and steering loads.

The bottom bracket has also gone down the press-fit route rather than the traditional screw-in method.

This Audax edition has been made more sports orientated than previous models, with shortened chainstays. To provide room for the tyre width and pedal arm, Bombtrack has come up with a rather neat, formed drive side chainstay.

Both chainstays are heavily scalloped to offer extra tyre clearance too.

For a bike of this style, attachment points are key, and with the Audax you won't be disappointed. The frame will take full mudguards at the rear plus a pannier rack, and you have plenty of mounting points on the fork for various racks and guards.

You also get three sets of bottle cage mounting points, the third being under the down tube. Not ideal for keeping a drink out of road spray, but a good position for a tool carrier.

Most of the cabling runs externally, which to be honest isn't a major worry. If you were to use this bike for far-flung adventures it's much easier to replace a snapped wire on the outside rather than having to thread it through the frame.

That said, the rear brake cable does run internally, but Bombtrack provides a fully enclosed outer which should make replacement simple enough.

Wheel retention is starting to settle down, and the Audax follows the theme of 12mm thru-axles front and rear, a real benefit when using disc brakes, with the larger diameter of the thru-axle and the fact that they screw directly into the fork and frame meaning they are better at resisting the braking forces caused by having a rotor on just one side.

Finishing kit

For a £2,100 bike, the spec sheet seems a little low, but money has been spent in the right places. Well, almost.

The Bombtrack gets a Shimano 105 groupset, as in shifters, front and rear mech, chainset and cassette. There is a KMC chain, but a lot of brands tend to go down that route.

As I mentioned earlier, you get a 50/34-tooth compact chainset and an 11-28t, 11-speed cassette, quite a race-orientated set of ratios.

The shifting from the 5800 setup is absolutely great and you really can't knock it for the money. The hoods are comfortable to ride on for miles and the gear changing is light and precise.

Unfortunately, the 105 speccing doesn't extend to the braking, which is a shame. Don't get me wrong – I'm not a huge fan of the 105 hydraulic levers, I find them a strange shape and nowhere near as comfortable as the mechanical version – but the braking offered by the TRP Spyre-Cs is seriously lacking, as I mentioned in my review of the Kona Rove DL compared to that of an oil-based system. The Spyre-Cs don't offer a lot of power or modulation, and I'd really expect more for the budget.

The handlebar, stem and seatpost are all Bombtrack branded and it's decent enough stuff. I certainly wouldn't be in a huge hurry to go out and upgrade anything. It's all painted in a gloss black finish which matches the rest of the bike too.

The handlebar has a 10-degree flare each side from the tops to the drops, which is great should you take to the gravel tracks and byways as it offers a little bit of extra stability when the going is fast.

The Bombtrack saddle is made by Velo and I found it quite comfortable; the padding is quite firm but it does absorb road buzz and I got on fine with the shape.

Wheels and tyres

After the frame and fork, the wheels and tyres bring the most to the ride and it's great to see that Bombtrack has skimped on neither.

Hunt has built up a strong reputation for its wheels, and rightly so. I've owned and tested many pairs and they are solid, performance-orientated wheels so it's no surprise that many brands are speccing them as standard.

The Adventure Sport 650b Disc wheelset comes in at a claimed 1,579g which is impressive for the £319 price tag, especially when you consider how tough the wheels are.

I took the Audax off-road a fair few times and the Hunts can't be faulted for the abuse they took. I don't go out to purposely wreck test wheels but I certainly treat them way worse than I would any set I've splashed my own cash on!

Tyre-wise, the WTB Horizon TCSs are well respected and offer great rolling resistance. Grip is good and because of their width they can happily swap from tarmac to hardpack trails. Even on loose, small gravel they handle well as they float across rather than sinking like narrower 700C tyres.

Value

As I said earlier, when you look at the spec levels the Bombtrack doesn't really excite when it comes to bang for buck category.

Let's take the Fairlight Strael 2.0, for instance, one of only two bikes I've ever given 10/10 to. Okay, it's not a true audax bike, but it uses Reynold's steel to create what can only be described as a beautiful, fast and comfortable ride.

A Shimano 105-equipped Strael 2.0 will set you back £1,999, a smidge cheaper than the Bombtrack, but that is a hydraulic disc brake-equipped model which makes a big difference in terms of ride quality. You do only get Fulcrum 7DB wheels rather than the more expensive Hunts, though, so it's not completely clear cut which is best.

> Buyer's Guide: 23 of the best 2018 sportive & endurance bikes

Another option is the Genesis Fugio (full review to come), which is a similar sort of bike. It also costs £1,999 and comes with a steel frame and Shimano 105 groupset, but again hydraulic brakes are the name of the game here.

The Bombtrack isn't over the top in terms of price, but it is up against some tough competition, and it's not like the two I've mentioned are massive brands exploiting their size for massive bargains.

Conclusion

If you want to cover big miles in total comfort and serenity then the Audax will probably suit you down to the ground. It offers a lovely ride and offers a decent package – braking aside.

Verdict

A great bike for racking up the miles and enjoying the countryside but it could do with better brakes

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bombtrack Audax

Size tested: Medium

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

FRAME

COLUMBUS "Cromor" double butted tubing, tapered head tube, TA dropouts, replaceable hanger

FORK

BT BIKES "EXT" full carbon, TA disc fork, 1.1/8"-1.1/2" tapered, with triple cage mounts

HEADSET

FSA "No21/12/44" sealed a-headset, 1.1/8"-1.1/2

CRANKSET

SHIMANO "105"

BB

SHIMANO PF86

LEVERS

SHIMANO "105"

SHIFTER

SHIMANO "105" 2x11 (integ. with lever)

PEDALS

not included

CHAIN

KMC "X11EL-1" chain

CHAINRING

SHIMANO "105" Compact, 50/34T

CASSETTE

SHIMANO "105" 11-speed cassette, 11-28T

DERAILLEUR

SHIMANO "105" front and rear

BARS

BT BIKES "CX-10" 6061-T6 butted alloy, 10° flared drop bar

GRIPS

BT BIKES "TOUR" shock-proof bar tape

STEM BT BIKES "Origin" forged alloy stem, -7°

SADDLE

BT BIKES "Comp" rail saddle

SEAT POST

BT BIKES "612" alloy seatpost

SEAT CLAMP BT BIKES "Origin" forged alloy seatclamp

FRONT HUB

HUNT "Adventure Sport" sealed hub, 6-bolt disc, 12x100mm Thru-axle

REAR HUB

HUNT "Adventure Sport" sealed hub, 11-speed, 6-bolt disc, 12x142mm Thru-axle

FRONT RIM

HUNT "Adventure Sport" double wall asymmetric rim, TLC, i20, 28h

REAR RIM

HUNT "Adventure Sport" double wall asymmetric rim, TLC, i20, 28h

TIRES

WTB "Horizon" TCS, 650b x 47c folding

BRAKES

TRP "Spyre C" flat-mount disc brakes with 160mm F / 140mm R rotors

Tell us what the bike is for

Bombtrack says, "Originally conceived as a more traditional road tourer the Audax has been transformed into a vision for modern endurance road riding. The starting point for the new direction was switching the wheel platform from 700c to the road-plus 650b. Thanks to the incredibly smooth rolling Hunt Adventure disc wheels used in combination with the WTB Horizon TCS tires the Audax just eats up the miles. For long distance riding, steel is arguably the best material for the job. Its natural resonance dampens road buzz and produces a ride so compliant that it's more akin to floating than rolling. The geometry has been revised for a less touring and more sportive riding position. Such geometry required shorter chainstays whilst retaining tire and chainring clearance the result of these factors led to the development of our custom yoke, a standout feature on this incredible bike."

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Well made with a quality finish.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame uses tubing from Columbus's Chromor range while the fork is full carbon fibre.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Quite racy for an audax bike with quite a short head tube but it doesn't really feel it when you are riding it.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The stack and reach of this medium model gives a ratio of 1.44 which is quite aggressive for a bike of its type. As above, though, it doesn't feel like it when you are riding it.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, the combination of a decent steel tubeset and large volume tyres makes for a pleasurable ride.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

For the type of ride the bike is designed for, stiffness isn't an issue.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Pretty good, it's not really what the bike is about though.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Neutral but still fun.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The Audax is far from a speed machine but if things do get technical on a descent, it never feels hard work.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The tyres take a lot of the hits.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The bar and stem combo is perfectly stiff for any out of the saddle efforts.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The Hunt wheels spin up well and their weight makes for fun climbing, but I'd change the cassette to an 11-32 for easier climbing in the saddle.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
6/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
6/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

When it comes to gearing things can't be criticised, but the mechanical brakes let things down.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so

Seeing Hunt wheels on any spec list is always a bonus. They are consistently durable, performance orientated and great value for money.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so

Very comfortable tyres that offer plenty of grip whether on or off-road.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Solid performing alloy components from Bombtrack.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? If distance was my main goal, then yes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

When it comes to comfort, the Audax is hard to knock: you can ride this thing forever without feeling beat up or tired, but for the money I'd say that hydraulic brakes should be a given.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 39  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!