Climbing on the Tundra – Photo by Pat Wynn
9:ZERO:7 strives to make bikes that excel in all conditions, and that’s exactly what I threw at it with the Coast to Crest trail. This trail has its origins way up in Julian, California and winds its way up and down steep and rocky fire roads, flowy rolling hills, techy singletrack, and country highways. The last 60 miles or so of the trail share a route with the infamous Stagecoach 400/500. The terminus of the Coast to Crest is Del Mar, California on the Pacific coast. Having its origin in Alaska, I was curious to see how well the Tundra would handle all this dusty, rocky terrain.
Descending out of Julian, CA
LoadingI’ve never really understood rigid bikes with deep sloping top tubes, especially in the context of bikepacking. Sure, the extra standover is nice when maneuverability is paramount, but it can really be a pain for loading a bike. A lot of frame space real estate gets sacrificed for a relatively negligible performance gain. All that being said, I wanted to really load this thing down and see how it rode. I packed heavy, luxuriously you might say, for our overnighter; and I was able to do it without the use of a backpack. The trade off, of course, was that I had to carry more gear in my front roll and seat pack.
Heavily Loaded Front End
The Tundra shipped with a custom Revelate Designs frame bag. As we all can expect, Revelate delivered a high quality and perfectly fit product. The frame bag was full of nice little features, like a horizontal Velcro divider, mesh pocket, and a locking head tube strap to keep the bag from sagging in the frame. One feature that was strangely absent was a hydration port; which I certainly missed as I typically carry a bladder in my frame.
The Wide, but Shallow Front End of the Revelate Bag
Revelate Frame Bag and Top Tube Mounts
The more substantial downfall of this bag really has entirely to do with the shape of the space itself. The Tundra’s top and down tubes are welded together until they split about four inches back from the head tube. Even after they separate into two tubes, the clearance between the two is minimal, further cutting down on usable space in the frame. As most well-designed bags do, the Revelate gets wider toward the top of the bag, and at the top is probably around 5 inches wide. However, the space between tubes is so narrow it’s almost entirely unusable. You end up with a lot of extra fabric that you really can’t force any gear into whatsoever.
Fork Mounts Made Possible by SKS-Germany
In Southern California, water is usually the most critical item to pack. Most years we have no running water to speak of, so you have to be able to carry whatever you plan to use. This winter in San Diego has been different, with storm after storm soaking the area and swelling our creeks. Still, we needed to be able to carry substantial water reserves to get us between fill ups. I checked in with the staff at 9:ZERO:7 to see how they suggested attaching gear to their lovely carbon fork, and they told me to look into the Anywhere Mounts from SKS-Germany. I placed an order for three pairs, and I have to report that they work great. Not quite as secure as the old tube-clamp method for attaching cages; but solid, quick, and easy to use. I definitely recommend looking into these for an easy mounting solution.
In addition to a pair of Anywhere mounts on each fork leg, I carried a 1.5 liter Nalgene (attached to the built in cage mounts underneath the down tube) in a Widefoot Designs Liter Cage, and a King Cage stem-mounted bottle cage. Between the four bottles and a one liter bladder for my Sawyer mini filter I was able to carry enough water to make it between stops.
In the end, I was able to fit all my food and tools in the frame bag. Camp gear and clothing went in a Revelate Viscacha seat bag, and a medium Revelate Sweetroll held my sleeping bag, tent (I fast fly-ed a Big Agnes Fly Creek), camp shoes, camp chair, and other soft packables. I told you I packed for luxury. Finally, a Burrito Hauler top tube bag from Dirtbags Bikepacking perfectly fit my Fujifilm X-T1 for documenting the trip. Just a quick note, the Tundra has three top tube mounts that can be used for an integrated frame bag, water bottle mount, or Anything Cage. I used these for a super convenient water bottle mount frequently while testing the bike, but wasn’t able to utilize them for the overnight trip.
The Tundra Reclining at Camp
The Ride9:ZERO:7 really hit the sweet spot with the Tundra’s geometry. The chainstays are short enough, and head tube angle slack enough to give a modern, lively ride without going overboard. The Tundra is still a confident and stable climber and handles low speed maneuvers well. That sloping top tube that I complained about so much earlier is a nice feature to have for regular riding, although you may find yourself unable to fit even regular bottles in the main triangle. The aluminum frame, rounded out with carbon parts yields an exceptionally light build. My medium test bike with 29+ wheelset weighed in at around 25.5 pounds pre-pedals. For plus bike-territory, that’s pretty dang good. The stiff aluminum frame tears up climbs, and there’s very little lateral compliance. Of course, all that lightness and stiffness comes at a cost. Although the Tundra is a willing and swift descender, my hands really took a beating. Aluminum just doesn’t smooth out the trail as well as other materials, and it really stood out on the descents. After our overnight trip, I had numbness in several fingers for about two days, and bruising in the palms of my hands for nearly a week. Take note, this was with the stock, rigid build. If I were to build up a Tundra for packing I would definitely swap out the bar and grips for something with more hand positions, and you could always consider mounting a suspension fork if you’re willing to pay the weight penalty.
Photo by Pat Wynn
A lot has been made about the wide q-factor of 100mm fat bike bottom brackets. This was my first experience riding one of these frames for more than an afternoon and to me it was a non-issue. I’m a fairly wide man, however, so others with more typical cyclist-esque builds may have different experiences. The bottom bracket was sufficiently high to avoid almost all pedal strikes. 9:ZERO:7 offers the Tundra as a 27.5+ build, but I would have reservations about the lowered height.
I really didn’t know what this bike would ride like with a load, having never bikepacked on an aluminum frame before. I can say that it rode really, really well. With the exception of my hands getting beat up, I was super impressed. The Tundra retained it’s fun ride, even with the silly amount of weight I put on it, and still managed to climb well. Just making some tweaks to the stock cockpit would make a huge difference in comfort for longer rides.
The BuildThere’s not much I didn’t like about the build on this bike. Everything seems to be chosen for good performance but reasonable cost. The Maxxis Chronicle is probably my favorite plus front tire, however I did notice a little more self-steer than I’m accustomed to, compared to running the same tire on a steeper front end. This issue disappeared on dirt, so I quickly forgot about it. I loved the Easton wheelset, and since they are just a hair narrower than the rims I usually run, the Chronicles took on a slightly more rounded profile than the super squared-off look I’m used to. The SRAM GX1 11 speed setup was snappy and sufficient for all but the steepest fire roads and trails, although I found myself missing my usual 46 tooth rear cassette on a few of the longer climbs. For general unloaded riding the gear ratio was totally suitable. The Sun Ringle rear hub has a satisfying, precise click without being obnoxious in any way. One shining star in the build was, surprisingly, the stock 9:ZERO:7 saddle. I was dreading putting in long miles without my Brooks, but this thing was incredible. By far, the best stock saddle I’ve ever used. The only real soft spot I found in the build was the SRAM Level T brakes. Although they functioned fine, and had a nice feel, they were slightly underpowered for the steepest descents under a load. As I mentioned earlier, I would personally swap out the bar and grip combo for longer rides, but for everyday use the RaceFace components were a good choice.
Great Stock Saddle Choice
Reliable SRAM GX1 11 Speed
SRAM Level T Brakes
Chronicles on Easton Hoops, a Good Match
RecommendationsSo who is the Tundra for? 9:ZERO:7 have kept up with the progression of geometry over the last few years, making the Tundra a nimble descender, aggressive climber, and all-around fun bike to ride. As a dedicated fat bike, I think it would be superb. I also think the Tundra could make an ideal frame for all-season riding with a swap of the wheelset. People who are highly concerned with weight but can’t swallow spending on more expensive frame materials may see the Tundra as the perfect compromise, and with a few tweaks to meet personal preferences it could make a great bikepacking rig. If you’re looking at this bike as a dedicated bikepacking setup or like to carry a lot of gear in your frame, consider if the loss of frame space is justified by the increased standover clearance. However, if you’re looking for a go-anywhere, do-anything, built-for-all-conditions fat bike chassis that can handle the rigors of bikepacking while not weighing you down, the Tundra may be just what you’ve been waiting for.
MSRP is $2399, and you can opt for a quality hand built plus wheelset for an extra $400. Visit 907bikes.com for more info. Check out more shots of our trip down the Coast to Crest below.
One of Many Summits – Photo by Billy McDaniel