Bombtrack Cale AL review

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Introduced as an ‘expedition ready hardtail’, the Bombtrack Cale AL represents a more off-road option in the German brand’s diverse selection of adventure bikes.

Although at first glance, it appears to be a relatively normal aluminium hardtail, a closer look reveals a frame with several features that make it a more versatile option.

Bombtrack Cale AL frame and suspension details

The Cale AL is wrought from 6061 series aluminium, often used for its stiffness to weight properties as well as for how it can be hydroformed to the needs of the frame in question.

In this case, the top tube leaves the head tube as a vague triangle and joins the seat tube having ovalized horizontally, whereas the down tube is roughly rectangular, varying in dimensions all along its length.

Head Tube On The Bombtrack Cale Al Hardtail Mountain Bike

The head tube doesn’t sit at a particularly slack angle, but it keeps handling nippy.

Russell Burton / Immediate Media

A tapered head tube holds headset bearings directly and the bottom bracket shell is threaded.

All cables are routed externally apart from where the dropper cable enters the seat tube.

There are bosses for mudguards and a pannier rack: both the top and underside of the down tube have the triple boss mounts commonly associated with ‘Anything’ cages popular with bikepackers, and on the top tube there are bosses for a direct-mount bento box.

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The Bombtrack Cale Al Hardtail Mountain Bike Frame Is Frame Is Festooned With Mounting Points For Luggage

The frame is festooned with mounting points for luggage, including this Bento Box mount on the top tube.

Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Bombtrack Cale AL geometry

Available in two sizes, ‘medium’ and ‘large’, the seat tube measures 430mm on the medium and 460mm on the large, while reach ranges from 452mm to 466mm.

While not quite at the extreme end of current bicycle geometry, the Cale boasts figures that would have raised eyebrows not so long ago. The 67.5-degree head angle is similar to the latest generation of highly capable XC bikes and the 73.5-degree seat angle gives an efficient pedalling stance.

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The 466mm reach is on the shorter side of what we’ve come to expect on a large size mountain bike frame, but remember this isn’t aimed exclusively at the shredding crowd.

Moderate length 440mm chainstays hold the rear wheel for a wheelbase of 1,171mm on the medium and 1,191mm on the large.

Seat angle (degrees)7473.5
Head angle (degrees)67.567.5
Chainstay (mm)44o44o
Seat tube (mm)430460
Top tube (mm)630655
Bottom bracket drop (mm)5555
Wheelbase (mm)1,1711,191
Standover (mm)789808
Stack (mm)624633
Reach (mm)452466

Bombtrack Cale AL specifications

Gear and brakes duties are all courtesy of SRAM, with an SX 12-speed shifter and Eagle rear mech, an NX chain over an 11-50t cassette and a 30t chainring on 175mm Truvativ Stylo cranks. SRAM Level brakes have 180mm and 160mm rotors front and rear respectively.

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The Bombtrack Cale Al Hardtail Mountain Bike Has Sram'S Basic Level Brakes

SRAM’s basic Level brakes aren’t the most powerful, and I’d have liked bigger rotors or grabbier stoppers, especially when loaded up.

Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Bombtrack fits its own-brand hubs on 29mm internal width WTB iST i29 rims with Kenda Hellkat Pro 2.4in tyres.

Finishing kit is all in-house branded too, apart from a KS E20i dropper post.

The fork is a RockShox 35 Gold RL with 130mm of travel, 35mm stanchions, a DebonAir high-volume spring and Motion Control damping cartridge.

Without pedals, my large bike weighs 13.54kg.

Bombtrack Cale AL ride impressions

I rode the Cale in a variety of conditions which included snow, blazing sun, dust and every shade of mud that comes with it.

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A couple of different configurations of bags and bottles were attached at different points, too, but I didn’t fit full rack and panniers.

Bombtrack Cale AL climbing performance

The gearing on the Cale AL points squarely at off-road use, and the 30t chainring is slightly smaller than the 32t we’re used to seeing. This suggests that Bombtrack expects this bike to be loaded to some degree, but it also means that climbing is a shade easier than on some other bikes in this class.

Loaded – albeit lightly – was how I headed out on my test rides. With any extra weight, climbing becomes incrementally harder, but the grippy Kenda Hellkat Pro 2.4in tyres did help when the going got loose, however they did tend to feel a little draggy on smoother trails.

The 73.5-degree seat angle offers a good position to sit and spin the way up a gradient and I had no issues keeping weight over the rear wheel for optimal traction.

Cyclist In Red Top Riding The Bombtrack Cale Al Hardtail Mountain Bike

Handling is quick and reactive.

Russell Burton / Immediate Media

With the geometry comparable to some XC bikes it does feel quite lively when unloaded, but adding the luggage brings that back into a comfortable and relaxed feeling on the climbs.

That’s probably the intention – starting from a nimbler position allows room to weigh it down to some degree without making it handle like a cold rice pudding.

Having the ability to lock out the fork helps when luggage comes into play on smoother climbs because the extra weight seems to compound any movement not directly related to making the bike move forward efficiently.

Bombtrack Cale AL descending performance

Stripped of luggage and the weight of daily life, the Cale hammers along rolling or moderately descending trails just as you’d hope an alloy hardtail would, popping off anything in sight and railing corners as fast as you dare.

Loaded, this personality remains but how hard you intend to let rip when carrying some percentage of your worldly possessions probably drops as that fraction grows.

As the gradient steepens it only begins to feel marginally less planted as I approached the steepest, rootiest chutes, the likes of which you’d (almost) certainly never take on with panniers out back and your lunch hanging off your bar.

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Cyclist In Red Top Riding The Bombtrack Cale Al Hardtail Mountain Bike

The Bombtrack’s geometry is close to that of a rad XC bike, but it comes with some burlier components.

Russell Burton / Immediate Media

While not a consideration on flowing, less steep trails, the brakes are underpowered when really trying to lose speed in a hurry or control a precipitous descent.

With the intention of carrying more weight on the bike it would be good to have larger brake rotors as standard, regardless of the performance aspect.

The dropper post performed flawlessly, although the lever is basic and not the most comfortable to use frequently during a long day in the saddle.

While the 35 Gold RL won’t win any prizes for being the stiffest, it’s as smooth as you’d expect on a mid-range fork, offering decent performance in every situation. It’s not as plush as a fork with a higher-spec damper but does show how much lower-spec suspension has progressed and benefitted from trickle-down technology.

Bombtrack Cale AL bottom line

The Cale AL is a great bike but by trying to do many things at once it doesn’t commit fully to any of them; it’s a little confusing having mudguard eyelets and pannier rack bosses on the back of a bike with a 130mm travel fork and dropper post, for example.

It’s not quite an aggressive mountain bike, it’s almost a bikepacking rig and it’s nowhere near an outright commuter, but it’ll do any of those things and more if you’re willing to compromise a little.


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