Editor’s Note: Grannygear reports on a ride opportunity on Boo Bikes 29 inch hard tail. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Grannygear’s size, and we felt it was best to just give you an impression, rather than a full on review of this bamboo framed bike. These bikes are rare, after all, so getting the right size ain’t easy! So the bike has moved on to another reviewer, (look for that in a popular print mag soon), and with that, let’s get on with what Grannygear has to say about Boo Bikes 29″er hard tail….
Twenty Nine Inches Ride Impression: Boo Bikes 29″er: by Grannygear
Quite some time ago I spoke with Nick Frey, owner of Boo Bicycles about getting a chance to test one of his handmade frames, a composite design of bamboo and carbon fiber. Earlier, Guitar Ted had interviewed Nick about the hows and whys of bamboo as a frame building material, so I will not rehash that here. I wanted to ride one and see what all the fuss was about as well as get a close look at the way it was put together.
It took a bit of hoop jumping, but finally I had a Boo version of a hard tail MTB 29″er in my garage to poke and prod before I took to the hills. Looking at the sizing and set-up, I had a bad feeling about the test, and this would prove to be an issue that affected the outcome of my time with the Boo, but we will get to that. The Boo was built with an XX rear drivetrain and shifter and with a Stylo single speed crank for a 1×10 gear range. The bars were quite low and far away on a stem that was longer than anything I use today, in fact it was likely 1995 when I rode with a stem that long. They were also quite narrow, so I swapped to a mild riser bar that was 2 inches wider overall and that helped quite a bit. The frame was built using the geometry of a 19” Trek/Gary Fisher Superfly. The resulting 24.5” top tube would have been marginal for me, but the 72* seat tube angle and slack 69.5* head tube angle conspired to reduce the reach considerably, thus the long stem was required to get the cockpit where I needed it. Too bad, but we shall see.
The wheels were Stan’s ZTR Race with American Classic hubs running Maxxis Aspens tubeless. The fork was a Reba XX with the hydro bar mounted lock-out and the brakes were SRAM XX as well. Nice. The seat post was a bit bent, so I grabbed my carbon Syncros post and WTB saddle off of my single speed and used that for the test.
Looking at the frame itself, the bamboo sections join to the carbon lugs with smooth transitions and the overall effect of the two materials is pretty striking. I kept thinking Woody Wagon; Woodys, long boards, and a Boo townie bike on the roof rack. Oh yeah! The way the water bottle bosses are set into raised wood sections on the tubes is very cool. The dropouts are somewhat plain and clunky looking when compared to the rest of the look, but they appear solid and substantial. There is quite a bit of tire clearance all around, even with the decently sized Aspens. It gets its share of looks as you ride it, that is for sure. Some folks would say, ”is that bamboo look a decal set?” when I rode up. Nope. The real deal.
Up on the scale it went. I was very curious to see what it read because it felt super light. Even with SPDs on it, it still felt feathery. The tale of the scale: 22.5 lbs with SPDs. Mercy! That would make it the lightest 29″er I have ridden except for the Specialized S Works HT 29″er at 20.5 lbs. if I remember correctly.
Pedaling it out in the street gave me the impression that it was gonna’ be an awkward fit as it felt small to me. Nevertheless it sure pedaled well. Looking down during hard sprints showed very little bottom bracket deflection. Hitting the dirt was simple enough. Pedal hard, go very fast. Especially uphill. It sure is fun pedaling a 22.5 pound 29″er with light wheels and a stiff chassis. The 1×10 was quite enough and the 32T chain ring paired with the 36T rear cog was all I needed to get up and over hills that typically might have been a granny ring climb or at least a very hard effort in the middle ring. It really flew along.
One thing that I was quite curious about was the ride. I had just come from time on the Breezer Cloud 9 Pro carbon bike, and I thought that had a very nice ride all in all. Carbon frames, at least the ones I have ridden, seem to have a trait that is unique in the way they dampen trail chatter. You know you are on a hard tail, there is no magic happening, but they do not seem to ‘ring’ like metal bikes do. I am not sure how to describe it, exactly. It is kinda like the pedaling response of aluminum with the smoother feeling of steel, but not really that either.
In any case, to me the Boo bike just felt like a good carbon bike in the way it rode. I could not feel anything unique going on there, but then again, saying it rides like a nice carbon bike is still a good thing.
Handling was a mixed bag and complicated by the poor fit. Out of the saddle efforts felt like I was a foot ahead of the front wheel. Seated was not bad at all, but the long tiller of a stem was wonky to me and I hated it. The geometry was not too much to my liking. I am not sure how well the G2 geometry copy did with the non-G2 offset fork. Maybe it was the stem…maybe the fit…maybe the geometry, but I was getting a lot of wheel flop at slow speeds.
And that is where I leave it. Not really a full test, but an impression only due to the poor fit. I do not want to make absolute statements about a bike that does not fit me and may be coloring the results. But, that said, I stand by the exceptional pedaling, the quite decent ride, and the unique looks of the Boo. Geometry is custom, so you can discuss with the builder what you desire if the G2-type dimensions are not to your liking.
It is unique, it is good looking, it is expensive. Yes, the cost to get in is high and I will not debate here whether it is ‘worth it’ or not. You can decide that for yourself. But you can pay a lot for a mass produced bike of similar performance that will in no way have the one of a kind (signed by the builder), truly unique aspects of the Boo frame. If that blend of show AND go is what you want, then Boo bikes will be happy to take your call.
Twenty Nine Inches would like to thank Nick Frey and Boo Bikes for the opportunity to check out the bike, detailed here, close up. This impression was not paid for, nor were we bribed or compensated in any way by Boo Bikes. Twenty Nine Inches strives to give our readers our honest opinions and thoughts throughout.