Tumbleweed Bicycle Co. was founded in California by Daniel Molloy. The company has strong beliefs in creating functional bicycles for long distance touring and bikepacking, with an emphasis on off-road travel. The Prospector is their first production bike, and was designed “out of a frustration with off-the-shelf bikes that compromise function to follow industry trends.” Daniel’s passion has lead to a low-hassle highly-functioning bike that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. I have had the pleasure of testing the Prospector over the course of the last few months, and below are my thoughts.

Performance
When the steel Prospector arrived at our house, I decided to put my other bikes away for the most part and solely rely on the Tumbleweed while I had it. It’s a bike that is designed to eat up every type of terrain, and I wanted to test those boundaries. I rode the Prospector on downhill trails, cross country singletrack, long-distance multi-day gravel rides, plenty of deep sand, and even snow. This bike crushed all of the above. I would mention, however, that I wished I had a fat bike tire set up for the snowy descents – especially after crashing in the early-season slush last weekend.tumbleweed-prospector-09570
The Prospector can fit wheel sizes ranging from 27.5” to 4” fat bike tires when using the bike with the Rohloff Speedhub, and can accommodate up to 3” tires when using a standard derailleur. I used the Prospector in the 27.5”+ application throughout my testing as that was the way it came. The nimble yet cushy wheel size provided comfort on more technical trails, and was simply the best all-terrain choice for what I put the bike through.

The Prospector is built around the internally geared Rohloff Speedhub, but can be used with a standard MTB hub. Ahh, the Rohloff. This wasn’t my first rodeo, but using one always takes some getting used to. For sustained climbs, descents, and rolling 4×4 roads, the Rohloff is a breeze. For technical singletrack and quick movements, the Rohloff has a sharp learning curve. After putting over 400 miles on this bike, I have really come to love the fact that the Prospector and the Rohloff were meant to be together. I will admit, there were a few complaints tossed around (by me) about how heavy the rear-end is on the Tumbleweed due to the internal gearing system, and how the Rohloff can sound like a plane taking off when climbing in the middle gears, but the general ease of use and hassle-free idea behind the Rohloff really grew on me.tumbleweed-prospector-09859
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Cornering and stability were something I rarely thought about on this bike, simply because there were no issues with them. The large footprint and wide handlebars had me confident while cornering. The bike rode straight with very little auto steer. Only when I dropped the tire pressure significantly did I notice an issue. One thing that did stand out was how well the 27.5”+ Prospector performed while riding on sand. The photo below does a good job of illustrating the ease I experienced while pedaling the sandy washes of central Utah. The prospector tracks are on the left, and a 29er with 2.35″ tires are on the right. 

Wider is better, especially in sand.


While the bike is already fairly heavy in the first place, the Prospector loves to be loaded, and for a small frame, it can fit a whole lot of gear. Weighing this bike down did not hinder the performance of the ride. It’s stability and playfulness soared with the extra weight.tumbleweed-prospector-06944

Technical
The Tumbleweed Prospector sits in the sweet spot between simple and complex, with both being descriptors of why the bike is so unique. The simplicity of the Prospector is one of it’s best qualities. Made using mountain bike parts that have been standard in the industry for the last 30 years, you’re never going to be in a pinch when it comes to repairing your bike while on the road. The complexity of the bike comes into play with it’s versatility and one-of-a-kind design. The Prospector can handle a large range of wheel sizes, yet remains comfortable with a narrow Q factor. According to their website, “It’s the very first production bike designed and engineered to run (up to) four inch wide fat bike tires while maintaining the use of a 73mm threaded bottom bracket and eliminating the need for any proprietary fat bike specific hubs or cranksets and allowing a narrow Q factor pedaling stance.” I have never seen such a narrow margin of space between chain stays and crank arms in my life – but this is a feature that makes the Tumbleweed so unique, and not to mention very comfortable for long-distance riding.tumbleweed-prospector-07538

Prior to getting to know the Prospector, I had always gone bikepacking on a full suspension bike. While the comfort of a squish bike, or even a hardtail is nice for long distances, I grew fond of the simplicity of having a rigid bike while bikepacking. When Neil was stopped fidgeting with pressure in his fork, I was riding along without any issues. While the bike is also compatible with a 100mm or 120mm suspension fork such as a RockShox Bluto, I appreciated the absence of suspension, despite what my back, shoulders, or butt would tell you. Although we never played with the eccentric bottom bracket, it speaks to the adaptability of this rig as it can help tension your singlespeed or Rohloff hub, and helps adjust bottom bracket heights for different forks. The yoke was specifically designed by Cameron Falconer, along with Daniel, and it was no easy feat trying to balance tire width and crank clearance while maintaining the 73mm bottom bracket spacing, and the ability to run standard MTB hubs – but they did it.  This is definitely something my knees would appreciate if I were to have this bike year round. Sure, you sacrifice being able to run a 4.8” fat tire, but for distance riding, comfort is key.tumbleweed-prospector-07551

The Prospector is also filled with an enormous amount of mounting points, not only on the frame but also on the fork. If you’re into racks, cages, or bolt on custom bags, the Prospector is for you. It is an extremely friendly bikepacking rig, whatever luggage system you’re into.


Aesthetics
Did I mention this bike is beautiful? The idea of functional art is a real thing, and Daniel has accomplished this with the Tumbleweed. The Prospector is custom built with two color options, the New Mexico Turquoise which was our choice, and a Desert Sandglow.tumbleweed-prospector-00142
The bike also looks stunning with pristine welding, beautiful curved seat stays, and a nice touch with the Tumbleweed logo on the yoke. The Prospector is an attention-to-detail kind of bike, not only in the design and functionality, but also the looks – and that is something we can appreciate.tumbleweed-prospector-07540
As for the fit, I tested a size small, at 5’6″, with a 32″ inseam, I could have gone with the medium as I maxed out the seat post.

The Tumbleweed Prospector is designed with your next adventure in mind. You can pre-order your Tumbleweed Prospector today. The frameset and Rohloff Speedhub drivetrain kit can be purchased for $2550. Alternatively, the frameset alone is going for $1450, but if your pre-order before the end of 2016, you will receive special pricing at $1300. Daniel will also be taking custom assembly bike orders on demand. Email Daniel with frame inquiries at Daniel@Tumbleweed.cc or head over to Tumbleweed.cc for specifics.

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7 Comments

  1. Far out!

  2. This is one seriously well thought out bicycle, right there!

  3. Nice! Trying to decide between this, Jones Plus or the ECR…

  4. Any idea of frane weight? Only reason I ask is that I am planning some packrafting and want to minimize weight.

  5. Michael George Johnson

    Daniel … Is the Prospector compatible with S&S Machines Bicycle Torque Couplings? For those of you that aren’t familiar with them, they allow your steel or titanium frame to be split it half for travel. I have traveled more than 10,000 miles in the Andes Mountains of South America with them built into the frame of my 29″ Gunnar Rock Hound. The easiest way to travel with a bicycle is to pack it into luggage that meets standard airline regulations. Just a note for those of you worried about weight. Durability beats weight any day when you are riding a bicycle a continent away from your own.

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