2021 Bombtrack Hook EXT TI Our return-to-racing bike

It was a long, pandemic year of not pinning on race numbers. No crits. No gravel grinders. No benefit rides. But the country has been turning the corner and a few events have returned. We couldn’t think of a better way to dive back into bike racing than to be a part of Rock Cobbler 8.0 in Bakersfield, California. Of course, we’d need something to ride. We chose the 2021 Bombtrack Hook EXT TI.

Rock Cobbler was reminiscent of a Flemish classic, turning left and right all day to tackle brutally steep climb after brutally steep climb, 17 in all, totaling over 8,000 feet of elevation gain. And with varying degrees of broken-up terrain, including sectors of hike-a-bike, the course was a challenge that would put any bike through the wringer.

Happy to finally be sitting on a gravel start line, we grinned at the simple appeal of the Hook EXT TI. And throughout the course of the day, the titanium frame only got better. Primarily designed for touring, this bike is primed for several different frame bag/accessory options and can run tires up to 700×45 or 650×52—in part thanks to a CNC yoke on the chainstay that also expands your chainring options up front. Even as a tourer first and foremost, it is a capable gravel all-road machine.

Designed with a relaxed geometry, our Bombtrack stayed in control the entire day, handling the series of steep, rocky descents and sharp corners with precision. The ovalized top tube no doubt helped ensure that our bike handling stayed dialed in. And the sting of the steep climbs was offset by the comfort of the relaxed geometry and damping nature of the 3Al-2.5V titanium tubing. But with a biaxially ovalized down tube for optimized power transfer, it also had plenty of vigor over those parts of the race where we could really come alive and not just hang on, trying to survive.

It never hurts to have a premium build to bring the best out of a frame. Ours was not lacking. The build included a Shimano GRX Di2 drivetrain, Stans Grail 700c wheels and René Herse 700×42 Hurricane Ridge tires. Components from German brand Tune finished off the build, including hubs color-matched to the seat-post collar and a distinctive Speedneedle Marathon saddle, which pares things down to the minimum.

Having survived this brutal day with flying colors, the Bombtrack Hook EXT TI would be a welcome choice to take to just about any day out in the gravel. $3,500 (frame and fork); 2,060g (frame); bombtrack.com