If you put together a checklist of the features you’d want in your dream do-it-all drop bar offroad bike, what would your list include?
Perhaps you’d want big tire clearance, up to 700c x 52mm, for the fattest gravel tires and a dual wheel size-friendly design.
Maybe you’d want adjustable geometry, with short 42.5 cm chainstays for cyclocross racing and road rides, and longer for bigger tires or longer days in the saddle.
Some would want easy chain tensioning for singlespeed escapades or SSCXWC ink chasing in Utah.
Plop down big bucks for a dream frame, and you'd probably want it to be useful year round, not just during cyclocross or gravel season. Chumba realizes this, and designed its Terlingua titanium frameset with this in mind. It's truly a do-it-all design that isn't intended to be category specific but instead created for how many of us like to ride.
Chumba prioritizes USA manufacturing, building its steel Terlingua itself in Austin, Texas, but contracts with a famous Tennessee builder for the titanium version.
Smaller brands typically don’t have the luxury of creating (and marketing) micro-discipline-specific bikes, and instead focus on creating, or marketing, a versatile bike that can handle a wide range of use. Chumba, with only one drop bar model, checks almost all the boxes.
Its Terlingua, which we first profiled at Sea Otter 2018, is designed to be the lone star of your bike quiver. We put the steel Terlingua through its paces a while back for our review, and now we’ve ridden its younger, more pricey sibling, the titanium Terlingua.
The titanium Terlingua shares the same geometry as its steel sibling we reviewed (56cm top tube, 38.8cm reach, 68mm bottom bracket drop, 71.5° head angle and 73.5° seat angle), but differs with its higher price, further east state of origin, lighter weight, and a machined chainstay plate. While the steel model features a traditional driveside chainstay that uses crimped steel tubing, the titanium Terlingua utilizes a thick machined titanium plate that helps ensure maximum tire, mud crankset and chainring clearance.
The end result is that the titanium Terlingua’s chainstays, paired with the sliding dropouts, improves upon the steel Terlingua’s best-in-class tire clearance with room for 700c x 52mm tires, or 650b x 2.1” tires, about 2mm more than the steel model. That’s a lot of flexibility for muddy cyclocross races, high-volume rubber for bikepacking, or big tires and fenders. If you want to keep your options open, the Terlingua is open for business.
Chumba is at the leading edge of tire clearance, it is more traditional in terms of frame fittings. Down below, there’s a BSA threaded bottom bracket shell. All cables and hoses are routed externally. There’s two bottle mounts, and a single mount by the rear axle for a rack or fender.
Need more frame barnacles to carry your 2-liter pop bottle, truing stand and dueling banjos? Consider adding a fork with adventure mounts, or call Chumba to discuss more frame options.
The frame by itself retails for $2395, $945 more than the steel frame, while the frameset with an ENVE Cross or G series fork is $2925. We received the frameset with a White Industry headset for review, and eventually assembled an eclectic set of parts to get rolling.
What does the $945 premium over the steel frame offer up? Of course, titanium offers corrosion resistance over steel, but there’s also weight savings. Chumba says it saves 310 grams over the comparable steel frame, some of which is paint. While 310 grams may sound like a lot, the titanium Terlingua may still not satisfy a weight weenie’s dreams. Our test frame, with a Thomson seat collar and two White Industry headset cups (without bearings) tipped the scale at 4.23 pounds. That translates to roughly 4.1 pounds bare, without thru axles.
A four-pound titanium frame won’t break any records, but hopefully the weight also means it won’t break during heavy use. The versatility and tire clearance come at a bit of a cost, as the Paragon Machine Works sliding dropouts and beefy post disc brake mount surely contribute to some of that weight.
It’s rare for our small organization to take delivery of just a frameset for review, and unfortunately, the parts we had lined up were for flat mount disc brakes, which slowed down the build.
Eventually, we found two generous component-donor bikes, willing or not, and corralled the necessary parts to get rolling. The highlights of our build kit consisted of SRAM Rival 1 levers and brakes, a SRAM Force 1 rear derailleur, Easton’s excellent lightweight EC90 SL carbon crankset with a 38t ring, Easton EA70 seat post, Knight Composites 29 Race wheels, Panaracer Gravel King SK 43mm Nile Blue tires, San Marco Shortfit saddle and Redshift’s bump-absorbing ShockStop stem. We rotated between a Leonardi Factory 9-36 XD cassette and a 10-42 SRAM XD cassette in testing.
The eclectic, relatively lightweight build kit made for an 18.4-pound complete bike with the Leonardi Factory cassette. Not too shabby.
We were already familiar with the handling of the steel Terlingua frameset and ENVE Cross fork from our previous test, and the change in materials didn’t detract from the predictable, race-worthy handling that we appreciated while riding what we dubbed the Purple People Pleaser.
Does swapping the heavier steel with lighter titanium significantly alter the ride quality? No. You’ll notice a greater difference in ride quality through tire and pressure choice, although the .75 pound savings helps on the climbs, whether you’re pedaling or shouldering the bike.
We won’t wax poetically about the ride qualities of titanium but will say the titanium Chumba Terlingua is well-designed for an average rider. It was neither flexy or harsh in mixed terrain adventures and paired nicely with the ENVE Cross fork. Granted, we rode most of the time with 20psi or less in 43mm GravelKing tires and with a ShockStop stem, but anyone who craves a more comfy ride than what the Terlingua offers has that option through big tire volume thanks to the Terlingua’s design and sliding dropouts.
The Terlingua's biggest selling point is its adjustable rear end. It’s really a blessing that you can tuck in the rear wheel for racing or dry conditions even with a 40mm tire, and should you need more tire or mud clearance, by adjusting six bolts on the sliding dropouts, you can lengthen the chainstays and add more room. (We also found it necessary to tune the Force 1 rear derailleur’s B screw after moving the rear wheel, for optimal shifting.) For spring, wet gravel rides, we spent most of the time riding in the dead center, the equivalent to 43.5cm chainstays, but would expect most of the year to ride it with the shortest chainstays.
We have a few nitpicks. The lightweight Thomson Seat Collar looks nice, is lightweight, but features a tiny 3mm alloy hex bolt that easily rounds and didn't adequately clamp our seat post. A 4mm steel bolt and anti-slip paste solved this issue.
While the external routing of cables and hoses made for an easy build, the clean look of internal routing is something we've come to expect on high-end handmade frames. Hose clips and zip ties break in inopportune times, and make more a noisier ride.
Lastly, we'd recommend opting for the flat mount option and flat mount ENVE gravel fork, not the post mount configuration we reviewed. Although we actually prefer the adjustability of post mount brakes, new groupsets like SRAM Force are coming flat mount only, and we expect that trend to continue. You're buying a versatile bike to hopefully be a bit future-proof, so you might as well give in and follow the trend with brakes.
Titanium boasts many attributes, including durability, corrosion resistance, natural beauty as well as weight savings and comfort over some other materials. The latter two attributes are subjective for sure, and at 4.1 pounds for a frame, it’s not going to be the foundation to an ultralight ride.
Yet riders attracted to the Terlingua are likely looking for versatility and adventure and not ultralight rigs, and Chumba delivers that in spades.
We wrote the following about the steel Terlingua in our review:
“If we were to design a do-it-all steel frame ourselves, we might end up with a Terlingua.”
The same can be said about the titanium version. For about six weeks, it was our go-to bike for weekend gravel rides, weekly mixed trail night rides, and mixed terrain adventures.
Although it’s already gone back to Austin, Texas, we won’t lie.
We still hope that one day we'll end up with a Terlingua.
Chumba Titanium Terlingua Spec Highlights:
MSRP: $2395 frame only, $2925 frameset with ENVE Cross or G-Series fork and Thomson seat collar
Frame: 3/2.5 titanium, with BSA 68mm threaded bottom bracket and Paragon Machine Works sliding dropouts. 142x12mm rear axle, post mount disc brake (flat mount available)
Weight: 4.1 pounds frame only with dropouts, without thru axles