Everyone remembers Cupcake, right?
Cupcake rocked. Cupcake rolled. Cupcake took no prisoners.
And yet despite being a nearly perfect bike…
Cupcake just got replaced.
Julius is Cupcake’s carbon fiber big brother. He’s a Trek Boone, and he has almost immediately become my favorite bike. I ride this bad boy everywhere. Asphalt, grass, gravel, technical single track, you name it, and this bike can handle it.
It came from the Trek Factory Race shop as a frame and fork. I ordered up the new Dura-Ace mechanical/hydraulic groupset, a pair of Aeolus 3 wheels, a Zipp carbon bar, and bing-bang-boom, I have a 16.5 pound cross bike.
That’s right. 16.5 pounds with pedals, cages, and computer mount. That’s re-donk-u-lously light. This bike is designed to go anywhere and do anything, so I am going to describe three different rides I routinely do on it... Road, traditional cyclocross, and technical single track.
I mounted up a set of Bontrager CX0 TLR tubeless tires, and jumped into the Cyclologic Saturday morning group ride. I was a little worried about three things.
Gearing, rolling resistance, and descending.
I needn’t have been.
I had chosen a 50/34 set of chainrings as a sort of compromise between true cyclocross gearing and my normal 53/39. I was concerned about spinning out on some of the descents at the end of the ride. My cadence ended up being higher than normal, but by tucking in at the right times, I had no problem staying with the group. If we had been up over 40mph, I would probably have been in trouble, but at 35 there were no issues at all.
Riding size 33 cyclocross tires should have put me at a big disadvantage, but it didn’t. The center line down the tread rolled super fast. I was able to take my normal pulls at the front without slowing down the group at all. And smooth? Holy smokes… 50 psi combined with the IsoSpeed decoupler in the back of the Boone made the road absolutely disappear.
One of the things that makes a cyclocross bike a cyclocross bike is the height of the bottom bracket. It is higher than a traditional road bike bottom bracket to allow the rider more clearance over barricades, logs and stairs. Doing so makes the bike incredibly agile over technical terrain, but the higher center-of-gravity that accompanies it has the potential to make high speed descending less stable. I can tell you without reservation that this is not a problem with the Boone. Trek has come up with some sort of special magic that makes this bike feel impossibly solid underneath you. It descends like a rocket. I have never once felt the slightest bit unsteady on it. I am sure that part of this is the care we took in planning out my position, but I have been set up the same on other cross bikes that felt decidedly twitchy on fast fire-road descents.
TRADITIONAL CYCLOCROSS TERRAIN
What more can be said about a bike that was designed with the help of Katie Compton and Sven Nys? The Boone is quite simply a perfect cyclocross race bike. Sand, grass, mud… It eats it up.
My normal ride starts with a mile of easy spinning on asphalt, and then merges with the Scottsdale Green Belt. It is a 6 mile stretch of grass that meanders north/south through town. There are tons of off camber and rolling sections, with lots of hidden dips and roots to keep you on your toes. It’s shocking how well the Boone holds speed in the grass. The CX0 tires transition beautifully between the paved bike path and the grass, and the Aeolus wheels spin up as fast as anything I have ever ridden.
At the southern end of the green-belt, I hop off of the grass, and onto the dirt path that wraps around Tempe Town Lake. There are huge sand volleyball courts to practice in, and miles of uneven, unmaintained dirt access roads west of the lake that follow the Salt River drainage area. Sit back and push down on the pedals, and the Boone floats through it all.
This is one of the only places where a southern Arizona rider can practice riding in the mud. After a rainstorm, water from all over the city drains into this area. The Access road becomes a soupy mess, and things get slippery. The Boone has tons of clearance, and mud build-up has never been a problem.
I’ll say it again… The Boone is the best cross bike I have ever ridden.
Granted, Julius is set up with the absolute best possible combination of parts. The Dura-Ace groupo is flawless, and the Aeolus wheels are a revelation. But even with lesser parts, you’d still have the Boone frame at the center of it all. As you’ll see when we get to the technical trail section below, I changed wheelsets, and the bike is still a complete ripper.
I was not expecting the Boone to be very good on trails…
Boy was I wrong. The first time I took it into Papago Park and Phoenix Mountain Preserve (connected conveniently by a long stretch of dirt road along the Arizona Canal), I rode all of the trails that I normally ride on my mountain bike, and encountered only one issue.
That issue? Tire volume. The CX0s, as good as they are at everything else, just don’t have enough volume to keep me from bottoming out on baby-head rocks. Also, the sound of those rocks smacking into the $2400 Aeolus wheels made me more than a little nauseous.
I ordered a set of Paradigm Elite TLR Disk wheels, and some Clement MSO X-Plor 40 tires to shoe them with.
Drop-offs, rock gardens, short steep descents… This new set up handles it all with zero issues. The Boone is more than capable on Arizona singletrack. These wheels and tires do not have the absolute top end speed of the Aeolus/CX0 combo, but that’s fine. Different tools for different jobs.
The Arizona Cross series? Aeolus.
Trail 100? Paradigms.
Chino Grinder? Aeolus.
Am I giving up my mountain bike? No.
I still need the suspension for long technical descents like you find at Whiskey 50, or on National Trail on South Mountain. (I’m a little nutty, but not *that* nutty.)
That being said, the versatility, and sheer fun factor that the Boone offers has me reaching for it more often than any of my other bikes.
Julius is a keeper. Riding this bike is the definition of fun. It does it all, and does it well.