Takeaway: An easy-going, versatile, and legit big-tire steel gravel bike from a brand with a cult following. The Crust Bombora combines gravel performance with a mountain bike-like ride quality, all while oozing style and smiles.

  • Traditional frame design and artistic details like a bi-plane fork crown give the Bombora a timeless custom builder look
  • Crust doesn't offer standard build kits but they'll build a Bombora however you want.
  • The Bombora is designed for 27.5"x2.3's but can also run 700 x 48c tires

Crust Bombora Build Details

Style: Gravel
Wheel Size: 650b (tested) or 700c
Frame: TIG-welded Crust double-butted CrMo steel, 142x12mm thru-axle, flat-mount brake
Fork: Crust CrMo steel, 1 ⅛-inch threadless steer tube, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount brake
Drivetrain: SRAM Force 1x, 11-speed
Crankset: SRAM Force 1x, 40T chainring
Cassette: SRAM Force, 10-42T, 11-speed
Brakes: Crust Palm Oil cable-actuated hydraulic calipers, flat mount, 160mm rotor
Wheels: Crust 650b Disc Brake, 32h, 6066 aluminum tubeless rims with butted spokes
Tires: Ultradynamico Mars, 27.5" x 2.2"
Saddle: Berthoud Aspin
Seatpost: Nitto S65, 27.2mm
Handlebar: Crust Nullarbar, 520mm
Stem: Nitto Rhona, 60mm
Accessories: Shutter Precision PL-7 Dynamo front hub and light

Crust Crust Bombora Frameset

Crust Bombora Frameset

Crust Crust Bombora Frameset

$1,125 at crustbikes.com
Credit: Jonathan Mehring
  • Instant style points
  • Ample rack and accessory mounts
  • Relaxed, predictable handling
  • Only five frame sizes
  • No top tube bosses

Crust Who?

Crust was born out of necessity. In 2013, Crust founder Matt Whitehead was touring on a modified cyclocross bike and found it lacking. So he designed his own touring-slash-randonneuring bike (Crust calls it the Satanic Rando) around 26x3” tires (or 27.5x2.8”). That bike, the Evasion, stood apart from what was available at a time when bike packing and gravel were far from mainstream. The formula gave Crust a reputation of authenticity among riders looking for a different kind of ride than what big bike companies offered at the time, and the brand aligned itself with cycling counterculture tastemakers like Ronnie “Ultraromance” Romance and Leo Rodgers, among others.

More From Bicycling
preview for HDM All Sections Playlist - Bicycling
crust bombora
Jonathan Mehring
crust bombora
Jonathan Mehring

That was nearly ten years ago, in what could be considered the early days of gravel. Since then Crust has expanded its line and the Bombora, as described on the brand’s website is “a gravel bike if there ever was one”.

Classic Looks. Modern Performance.

With 27.5" x 2.3” tires, a large main triangle, and small steel tubes, the Bombora resembles a drop bar mountain bike from 30 years ago, along the lines of the Specialized RockCombo or Bridgestone XO-1 for example. The curved steel fork blades and lovely bi-plane fork crown add to the retro vibe.

crust bombora
Crust bi-plane fork
Jonathan Mehring
crust bombora
Crust Palm Oil disc brake
Jonathan Mehring

You won’t find unconventional tube shapes or bends here, just slightly oversized, heat-treated CrMo tubing and tidy TIG welds. The Bombora has bosses for three bottle cages and just about anything you might want to carry, but I was surprised not to find top tube bag bosses as they are currently a popular option for long-distance riders. Full-length housing external cable routing, threaded bottom bracket, hooded thru-axle dropouts with replaceable derailleur hanger, and a 27.2mm seatpost help make the Bombora an easy bike to work on; something that cannot be said for many bikes today.

Where Did All The Mermaids Go?

If you like your gravel bikes with a side of artistry, you’ll appreciate some of the details on the Bombora. Crust’s palm tree logo can be found in numerous places, there’s even a subtle tonal version on the headset. The seat tube features line art of a mermaid and a diver, and the metal head tube badge also references a diver. Under the bottom bracket shell, where you’d probably rarely look, there’s line art of a pair of sneakers. The inside of the non-drive chainstay reads: ‘Where Did all the Mermaids Go?’, a reference to a painting by artist, Thrasher Magazine Managing editor, and Juxtapoz Magazine columnist Michael Sieben.

crust bombora
Jonathan Mehring
crust bombora
Jonathan Mehring

Crust sells the Bombora frameset with a standard 1-1/8” head tube and Crust steel fork (as tested) for $1,125. It also has the frame with a tapered (1.5” to 1-⅛”) head tube and Enve Adventure fork for $1,750 if you’re looking to shave some grams. Crust offers framesets only but will work with customers for custom build kits starting at $2,500.

crust bombora
Jonathan Mehring

For my 5’9” height the folks at Crust recommend a medium frame. At 56cm the top tube is two centimeters longer than what I normally ride, but when paired with the short stem and wide bar, the Bombora felt spot on with no toe overlap. The Bombora is available in five sizes ranging from XS to XL which, when compared to similar bikes currently available, might force some riders to compromise their fit. This is particularly true if you’re on either end of the size curve.

Ride Impressions

Some bikes feel familiar from the first pedal stroke and the Bombora is one of those bikes. Steering is light, handling is balanced and predictable, and the bike retains its composure on rough trail sections. It feels trustworthy, never twitchy or nervous. The Bombora is equally fun to ride on an all-day gravel adventure as it is for a quick rip to the corner store.

As to be expected from all but the highest-end steel bikes, the oversized frame is stiff and responsive but will reveal a tolerable amount of bottom bracket flex under hard effort. The frame feels stout on rough terrain, with the wheels, tires, and wide bars soaking up small bumps and taking the edge off sharper hits.

crust bombora
Crust bar and Nitto stem 
Jonathan Mehring
crust bombora
Crust Palm Oil brake
Jonathan Mehring

The Bombora is more mountain than road and more party than race. Sure, you could line up for your local cyclocross race or toss on some road wheels for your local fast road ride, but it’ll be out of its element in tight, low-speed corners and fast switchbacks.

It’s a much closer match for gravel racing (and some well-known riders have already raced the Bombora at Unbound Gravel) but at 24.9lbs, the Bombora’s heft becomes apparent on steep pitches. If racing is your focus and you’re aiming for the podium, the Enve fork-equipped frameset and lighter parts build would save weight but it will still be heavier than many carbon or aluminum alternatives available for around the same price.

crust bombora
Jonathan Mehring

By modern race bike standards, the Bombora is not particularly light nor is it exceptionally stiff or in any way aerodynamic. Who cares? Race anyway! That’s what Crust’s team does with the Bombora at many popular gravel events across the US and this effort to eschew those performance-based assumptions may be part of the small brand’s appeal for some riders.

Who Bombadoras?

The Bombora packs the (gravel) street cred of a small brand with a track record for starting trends rather than following them. If that’s a priority, and your idea of the ultimate gravel bike is a classy and versatile steel machine that fits road cranks and big rubber, this might be your next bike.

If the Bombora isn’t quite for you but you’re looking for something similar, check out All City’s Gorilla Monsoon. It is a very close rival right of the Bombora—right down to the bi-plane fork—and is available in seven sizes instead of five and two complete builds.

Crust Bombora Gallery
crust bombora