A key feature, the Isospeed Decoupler, that separates the seat tube from the top tube and seat stays, is what really sets it apart from other bikes in its category. This bit of tech allows the seat tube to flex and let the seat travel a few cm to dampen the harsher bumps. The front fork is designed to allow for some damping while keeping its lateral stiffness. The wheel doesn’t flex into the fork, but it mutes the vibrations of a bumpy road.
Cyclocross is what the bike was made for and it excels at it. The frame is light, has plenty of room in the front triangle to throw your arm through in a hurry, and the bottom of the top tube is smooth and flat for your shoulder. The bike is light and flickable, accelerates quickly all while feeling buttery smooth. The bike doesn’t feel twitchy and is stable at speed while bombing down a hill. I regularly look for water bars and small bumps to boost off of while riding around.
Bikepacking is not what the bike was made for, but it’s what made me fall in love with this bike. The large open frame leaves plenty of room for frame bags. The canti/V-brake frame makes it easy to do maintenance and adjust the brakes. You’re more likely to find rim brake pads at a bike shop in the middle of nowhere than disk brake pads. Sure the Isospeed Decoupler is comfortable, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference on a short hour long cyclocross race unless you’re competing at the highest level. Where the Isospeed really shines through is on long bikepacking trips. It’s comfortable. Pure and simple. It doesn’t make much of a difference on a short ride, but after a full day of riding you’ll definitely notice a difference. You’re less sore on the second day of riding and the following days. Being comfortable for multiple days is important for rides like the Tour Divide. I should clarify, no, it is not a mountain bike. You can ride some gnarly trails on this bike alright, but you’ll probably be faster on a mountain bike. That being said, over thousands of miles of washboard, dirt roads, gravel roads, and doubletrack encountered on the Tour Divide and gravel adventure rides, it definitely is an advantage. The Isospeed smooths out washboard, cobbles, and helps to prevent saddle and back pain. You’re not going to pull a bob trailer with this bike, or at least I wouldn’t, because it’s built to be fast. It’s built to be agile and it is. I would liken the Boone to a bikepacking scalpel as opposed to say a Pugsly which would be more of a cleaver.
Due to my stature, I ride the 61cm frame that has a huge front triangle. The Revelate Designs frame bag for the Salsa Warbird 11 happens to fit it perfectly. For longer rides through desolate areas, I can fit 6 liters of water in the top part of the bag, and then still have room for a first aid kit, bike repair kit, and spare parts in the bottom section. The storage space available on this bike is impressive. I’ve loaded it down with a RD Terrapin saddle bag, 2 top tube bags, a handlebar bag, frame bag, and snack bag. Fully loaded with things I needed and maybe a few that I didn’t need, it weighed in at a solid 50-55lbs. The weight is definitely noticeable and makes a difference while climbing, but feels secure and stable. Cornering feels solid like a motorcycle and running Nano 40c makes it feel planted on the ground. The frame doesn’t have any of your standard Salsa style fork cage mounts or superfluous frame mounts but there’s plenty of room for everything you need and more. The larger frame does technically have more seat travel than the smaller frames and thus is more compliant, but I would argue that you wouldn’t notice a difference.
Likes: The Isospeed decoupler will save your ass. Solid, stiff frame, makes for predictable handling, and provides confidence on rough descents. In 5000 miles I haven’t had to do any maintenance on the frame. You get a small amount of suspension without the weight of a full suspension frame. The wide open frame design is fantastic for holding bike bags.
Dislikes: The front end of the bike is harsher than the rear and feels somewhat unbalanced in that aspect. I’d like to see a little more tire clearance to make room for more aggressive tires. I’ve been running WTB Nano 40c tires and they just fit. Riding through thick mud can gum up in the chainstays but I like the larger volume tires for comfort and handling.
In conclusion, buy this bike. I wouldn’t buy any other cyclocross bike, except for maybe the disk version. It’s comfortable, flexy where you want it, and stiff where you need it. I’d sell my road bike and just buy a road wheelset for the Boone. I used to ride my hardtail more until I built up the Boone and now I use it to shred singletrack because it’s fun. It’s stable at speed and comfortable for days on end. It’s my weapon of choice for road rides where we might hit dirt, local singletrack, mixed terrain adventure rides, gravel rides, and mellow singletrack. I’ve ridden the Tour Divide on this bike and I’d do it again. The drop bars provide a multitude of hand positions which I found very helpful. This bike is great for mixed terrain bikepacking trips where you’re looking at traveling light and covering lots of ground. It doesn’t have enough room to carry everything and the kitchen sink, but it has enough options with various bike bags to carry everything you need. It’s light, fast, comfortable, and I’d buy one again.
For more from Will and his adventures, check out his webpage here.