With the growth in popularity of gravel cycling and bike packing, big bike brands have segmented the off-road drop bar market into many different categories and marketed dozens of models targeted at each specific use.
Smaller brands typically don’t have that luxury or mentality and instead focus on creating, or marketing, a versatile bike that can handle a wide range of use. Austin-based Chumba, with only one drop bar offering, fits this description. Its Terlingua, which we first profiled at Sea Otter 2018, is designed to be the lone star of your bike quiver.
Don’t have the budget, space or desire to hop on a different bike each time you seek some two-wheel fun or suffering? You’re not alone. Many of us are just cyclists, not micro-discipline specialists, and that’s who Chumba looks to be targeting with the Terlingua.
Cyclocross, gravel, bikepacking, singlespeeding? Chumba says yes, in steel and now titanium.
The Frame: Made in Texas Steel
Chumba builds its steel frames from a custom blend of tubing in its workshop in Austin, Texas. It offers stock geometry with 6 sizes in 2cm increments from 50cm to 60cm.
The Terlingua, named after a small mining town in Texas, is available as a frame, frameset or complete bike. A painted frame starts at $1,450, with customization options like rack braze-ons, dropper post cable routing and S&S couplers available for a fee.
If we were to design a do-it-all steel frame ourselves, we might end up with a Terlingua. Pair chainstays as short as 42.5cm with a 68mm bottom bracket drop, 71.5 head angle and 73.5 seat angle and 388cm reach (on our 56cm test bike), and you’ve got a layout that looks at home on any cyclocross bike’s geometry chart and sits in the middle of a wide range of gravel options.
Chumba adds standard features that increase the Terlingua’s versatility, starting with the sliding Paragon Machine Works dropouts. While the obvious benefit is that they serve up easy singlespeed chain tensioning, the dropout choice also dramatically increases your choices in tire sizes.
Want to carve up the cyclocross course with your 33mm tubular? Slide the dropouts forward and you’ve got 42.5cm chainstays, a cyclocross standard. In this configuration, 40mm tires fit fine.
Need massive mud clearance or high-volume rubber? Slide the rear wheel back 2 cm and enjoy the ride. Chumba advertises 700c x 50mm tire clearance in this configuration. For those of us challenged by the metric system, that equates to a 29er tire 1.97″ wide. That puts the monster in monster crossin’.
Need even bigger tires? Chumba advertises 650b wheel compatibility for even higher-volume rubber (we didn’t test it with this wheel size).
While some companies have embraced larger bottom bracket shells for stiffness, Q-factor or crank option benefits, Chumba has kept with the proven BSA threaded standard. Creaking was a non-issue over the course of our test period (which was mostly dry).
Chumba built up our frame with a White Industries 1x crankset with a 42t ring, but the frame boasts clearance a 52-tooth chain ring on a double, or 46-tooth single ring, and the chainstays are compatible with the Q factor of both Shimano Dura-Ace and SRAM Force cranks.
The versatility of the dropouts come with one downside—they rely on post-mount disc calipers. Flat-mount calipers are currently the trend, but Chumba has already thought about this and offers a sliding flat mount option from Paragon Machine Works as well.
Our test bike came with an ENVE CX fork with a post-mount brake and clearance for 45mm tire. Want a flat mount up front, along with 3mm more rake and 5mm more tire clearance? Chumba offers its frame with ENVE’s G Series gravel fork.
The Build: A Patriotic Parts Pack
Our purple Terlingua came dressed in a full array of hand-picked components with an emphasis on domestic production. An alloy Thomson Elite x4 stem and Elite seatpost supported the rider, while a White Industries headset, crankset and hubset kept everything rolling.
Easton’s excellent EA70 AX handlebar served up a shallow drop with some flare, while SRAM’s Force 1 derailleur and cable-pull Force levers with a wide-range 11-42t cassette helped with chatter-free gear changes over all types of riding and terrain.
When we first spotted the Terlingua at Sea Otter, it was hiding in a Kogel Bearings tent, and fittingly, our review bike sported shiny Kogel Bearing derailleur pulleys and Kogel BSA30 bottom bracket.
Two unique components of the build kit were the State Wheels and Yokozuna Motoko cable-pull hydraulic brakes.
The carbon State 29 Gravel tubeless clincher wheels, complete with matching purple logos, check all the boxes for what we look for in a high-end tubeless wheel. The lightweight rims (340g list weight), at 24mm internal width, are hookless and offer easy tubeless setup and reliable, burp-free riding with Panaracer GravelKing SK tires.
Paired with White Industries CLD disc hubs and a titanium freehub, the 1,450g (list) wheels should offer up years of worry-free riding if our test period is predictive of the future.
The Yokozuna Motoko cable-pull hydraulic brakes are easily-adjustable brakes that offer stopping power on par with most decent mechanical disc brakes. They rely on a closed system and stiff, compressionless Yokozuna Reaction cable housing and feel solid at the lever, but may disappoint anyone used to modern SRAM and Shimano hydraulic disc brake power. The great news is that Chumba will build its bikes to please and will swap in pretty much any brake you’d like to grab your rotors.
All told, the group left little to be desired and complemented the versatile frame with can-do capability. We’d swap out the levers and brakes for a fully hydraulic system unless we were planning a multi-day adventure far from any bike shop, but build your own dream bike your own way.
The Ride: A Purple People Pleaser
The Chumba Terlingua arrived at the perfect time, with gravel season winding down and cyclocross season heating up. That time of year, the difference between the two types of riding largely centers around time in the saddle and time carrying the bike, with similar dry, bumpy loose surfaces wherever we went.
Mixed terrain ride with friends? Gravel ride along the bay? Cyclocross practice? Season-opener sufferfest? We grabbed the Terlingua to see if it was up for the task, looking to find a weakness or an argument for a specialty machine.
With the rear wheel slotted in the shortest chainstay setting, the Terlingua climbed with the best of them, regardless of loose terrain or hairpin switchbacks. On long, swooping descents, the relatively low bottom bracket and roomy front-end offered a confidence-inspiring path to brake-free, dusty-tooth grins.
Facing a tape-heavy, fast cyclocross course? The Terlingua offers up moderate steering speed for distraction-free driving. With the aid of high-volume, low-pressure gravel tires, the Terlingua helped us keep pedal through the bumps and keep up with cotton tubular racers, without the appropriate fear of a race-ending and wallet-hurting pinch or puncture.
The only pinch we suffered was on the run-ups. Our shoulders, softened from years of shouldering wide, flattened carbon top tubes, felt the pressure of a relatively small-diameter steel tube.
Our test bike, at 19.9 pounds without pedals, was not a flyweight but was far from a beast, especially considering the big gearing and tires. However, all that weight on the small top tube had us digging in the closet for the old jersey with built-in shoulder pad.
We won’t wax poetically about the ride quality of steel and argue that most of your ride quality will be largely influenced by tires, tire pressure and even handlebar tape.
However, for long days in the saddle, we think you’ll be pleased by the ride of the Terlingua. It’s not soft or whippy and with the ENVE CX fork, served up confident tracking in sprints. Yet paired with the State Wheels 29 Gravel wheels and Panaracer Gravel King tires, it’s a far cry from harsh.
We’d reach for the Terlingua for a long gravel day in the saddle, a 45-minute lung-searing cyclocross race and everything in between. Sadly, the last time we reached for it, was to box it back up and send back to Texas. One reviewer was particularly torn and contemplated purchasing it as the perfect tool to simplify the quiver.
Thankfully, the review continues. We’re currently riding a just-released titanium version of the same frame. Stay tuned for that review.
Value is relative, and you might either view the $1,450 frame-only ($1,999 frameset) Terlingua as a frameset at the price of a bike or a good deal on a handmade, domestically-built steel frameset with a number of nice touches at a lower price point than most custom options.
It’s an especially good buy if it helps you avoid feeling the need to have both a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike and you like the stock geometry. It will accommodate nearly every gravel tire, while allowing geometry tweaks and single gear use.
Options are good, and the Terlingua is a great option.
Chumba Terlingua Specs
MSRP: $1,450 frame only, $1,999 frameset with ENVE CX fork
Frame: Custom double butted steel, with Paragon Machine Works stainless steel sliding dropouts, fender mount
Fork: ENVE CX carbon, tapered 1 1/8”-1 1/2” steerer
Shifter: SRAM Force cable pull
Brake Caliper: Yokozuna Motoko cable-pull hydraulic, with Yokozuna Reaction housing
Brake Rotor: Shimano SM-RT81 Centerlock, 160mm
Rear Derailleur: SRAM Force 1, Kogel Bearing Midas Gold derailleur pulleys
Crankset: White Industries G30, 42t chain ring
Bottom Bracket: Kogel Bearings BSA30
Cassette: Shimano XT 11-42t
Stem: Thomson Elite x4, alloy
Handlebar: Easton EA70 AX, alloy
Seatpost: Thomson Elite, alloy
Wheels: State Wheels 29 Gravel carbon tubeless clincher, White Industries CLD hubs, titanium freehub
Tires: Panaracer Gravel King SK, 700c x 38mm
Weight: 19.9 pounds without pedals, 13.0 pounds without wheels
More info: chumbausa.com
Photo Gallery: Chumba Terlingua Steel Gravel/Cyclocross Bike