What is it
What is it? That’s a really good question. Normally the Framed Bobtrax Carbon frame is sold as a 29er/27.5+ hardtail mountain bike. But going into this Mtbr test, the general idea was to build up an “adventure bike” equally capable on trail, dirt road, and even a little pavement.
After shipping out this creation, the crew from Framed put it like this: “This bike is designed to adventure ride in varying terrain and situations, caught between a gravel bike, monster cross, and cross country racer. The boost spaced frame allows you to run 27.5+ or 29er wheelset to match your preferred riding style.”
The nuts and bolts of the build on this XC-leaning frame were this: TRP HY/RD disc brakes, Pub Carbon MTB wheels, and capable 29×2.2 Continental X-King tires. But then things diverged toward the different. It also sported flared 44cm dropbars, a Lauf Trail Racer Boost fork, blended SRAM 1x drivetrain (11-42 cassette/32t chainring), and a Fox Transfer 100mm dropper post actuated by the front shift lever, which you don’t need for its intended use because there’s no front derailleur.
So did it serve its intended Swiss army knife purpose and lead us on successful multi-terrain adventures? Read on to find out.
- Size tested: 20”
- Weight: 24.1 pounds
- Headtube angle: 69 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 73 degrees
- BB drop: 60mm
- Chainstay length: 445mm
- Wheelbase: 1132mm
- Suspension: 60mm Lauf front fork
- Something different, very different
- Unique dropper post activation
- Solid small bump compliance
- Good all-around tires
- Frame’s boost spacing adds versatility
- Lightweight wheels
- Lifetime warranty on wheels
- Internal cable routing
- Reasonably priced
- Ability to customize build
- Unclear purpose
- Not particularly light
- Out of box frame and component damage
- Lacks true MTB/road capability
- Sluggish low speed steering
- Dropper post issues in cold weather
- Tool required for front axle removal
- Chain slap on rough roads
The key to evaluating any bike is to first ask what’s it for and then decide whether it does whatever that is well or not. I’m still not entirely sure what this particular bike’s purpose is, but for the sake of conversation let’s say it was built up in a way that you would allow you to ride on pavement to a dirt road to a rougher dirt road and then dip onto moderate singletrack before retracing your steps home. Call it monster cross with a touch of cross country racer.
Using that definition, you can argue that this version of the Framed Bobtrax does a decent job. During several months of testing, I pedaled this bike on all manner of dirt roads, some mellow singletrack, and the occasional paved tarmac. Of the three, it was most at home on dirt roads, as the 29×2.2 tires don’t roll particularly well on pavement, and the 60mm of travel and dropbars aren’t exactly ideal for rowdy singletrack. All that said, the experience was not so exemplary as to dramatically separate this bike from a similarly priced mid-tier hardtail, which would have more travel and only weigh a little more.
But before delving deeper, it’s helpful to understand a little about Framed the company. Based in Minneapolis, they bill themselves as an everyman bike maker, selling through dealers and consumer direct. “Are any of us former or current national champions? Nope, none of us,” I was told after asking for the Framed elevator pitch. “We crash plenty, we don’t always clean our bikes as well as we should, and we always let other people take our bikes for a rip when they ask. We know we aren’t big and flashy. We’re just like you. Everyday riders with a deep passion for the sport.”
Based on that, I’m given the impression that the Framed crew also like to play around with the traditional definition of what a bike is and what it can do. Yes, you could do the exact same ride mentioned above on a traditional hardtail. But this funky Bobtrax Carbon build is something different, and perhaps something more fun. It pushes past traditional boundaries, and says, hey, there’s more than one way to spin around the outdoors on two wheels.
But is it the best way to take that spin? For me the answer was, no. The 60mm Lauf fork is fine on dirt road chop, but get into anything more technical and you really have to back off. Even a budget-priced 100mm fork would be more capable. I also didn’t love the dropbar set-up. The flare shape is hipster fun. But again for this purpose they don’t offer much real advantage over flat bars, and can feel compromised when you’re riding on something besides a road. I also found slow-speed steering to be a tad sluggish, which was odd considering headtube angle is actually a fairly aggressive 69 degrees.
Points were also deducted for what I’ll call the out-of-box experience, which included a severely bent front rotor, out-of-whack shifting, and significant blemishes on the brake caliper and chainstay. If you’re going to sell consumer direct, these types of issues are deal breakers. Fortunately, I had an extra rotor sitting around and was able to adjust the rear derailleur. But that’s asking too much of the average consumer, especially when brands such as Canyon, Diamondback, and Fezzari have reputations for delivering well-dialed bikes right to the customer’s door.
It’s not all bad news, though. Props are given for using a threaded bottom bracket. And I loved the creative implementation of the dropper post (though it did slip some in cold weather). Also the wheel-tire combo felt light, spun up quickly, and there was enough tread that it was no problem to lean hard into turns, whether on smooth singletrack or bumpy jeep road. The gearing was also well thought out. By pairing an 11-42 cassette with a 32t chainring, there was enough low end to get up most steep climbs, but you could still get on the gas on the flats and not get totally spun out. And most of all it was something different. And while this version of different didn’t speak to me, I’m sure there are riders out there that live in the perfect place for a build such as this.
That’s what is cool about the Framed concept. You can mess around. If you don’t like a stock build on their website, or are just looking for something different, give them a call. It’s likely they’ll be willing to work with you. And that’s certainly not something you can say for a lot of bike companies out there.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Price as tested: $3000
More Info: www.framedbikes.com