Review: Chumba Ursa

From Issue #37

Tester: Montana Miller
Age: 24 | Height: 5’9” | Weight: 150 | Inseam: 31”

Chumba was a brand previously well known for its gravity-oriented mountain bikes, but a change in ownership and a move from California to Texas has shifted its focus from downhill rigs to American-made steel frames.

The 29plus Ursa has all sorts of smart details, including rack mounts, an extra bottle cage mount below the down tube and a triple bottle cage mount on top of the down tube that can fit a Salsa Anything Cage. The sliding dropouts with a 150 mm thru-axle make it easy tension the chain and ride back to civilization if that dangly derailleur gets ripped off. The tough powder coat looks like the same stuff they use on those big scary things that blow stuff up in Iraq.

Chumba Ursa-1

Chumba bills the Ursa as a backcountry touring and exploring machine, and those are definitely the rides where I was happiest on the bike. If I still lived in the rust belt, I’d ride this thing on railroad tracks all day long and be happier than a fat cat in a shoe box.

Loaded down with 25 pounds of bikepacking gear, food and water the bike rides well. It’s smooth and predicable, just like a touring bike should be. Some riders might be uncomfortable on long days with the 83 mm wide bottom bracket, but I never had an issue. One advantage of the wide bottom bracket shell was mud clearance—the Ursa has a lot more than any other 29plus frame I’ve seen.

With 18.1-inch chainstays and a stretched out top tube, the 29plus Ursa felt longer than Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead.” Seated climbing in a tiny gear is excellent, as the long back end made it easy to keep the front tire down on ground. On soft ground the long wheel base is sweet for making like a Mars Rover and crawling around, but on fast, short rides it is tough to get rad.

The Maxxis 29×3.0 Chronicle tires roll pretty well and corners decently on good dirt, but in loose, dusty conditions they fell flat (and a few times, so did I). The huge Surly Rabbit Hole rims gave the Chronicles a square profile and on pavement and hard dirt I could feel a bit of self-steer—something that I’ve never experienced on plus rigs with skinnier rims.

The Shimano XT drivetrain is to component kits what meatloaf is to dinner, and Meatloaf is to music—reliably excellent and so satisfying that you never want anything else. The brakes are powerful and easy to maintain, and Chumba specs 180 mm rotors front and back, which is helpful when trying to decelerate a bike with so much beefiness. The 11-36 cassette paired with a Race Face double up front provides plenty of range. The Hope hubs clicked and rolled along nicely, and the MRP carbon fork is stiff and tracked well.

Chumba included a single speed kit with our test bike, and I loved it set up that way. The huge wheels carry momentum better than a cow on a slip-and-slide, which makes the bike perfect for single speeding. But on multi-day trips with camping gear, going derailleur-free meant that I was hiking the bike up almost every hill. The best mix was to keep it set up single speed for normal afternoon rides, then throw some gears on for the occasional big trip in the mountains.

From frame to bits, the Ursa is a well thought out rig. For big miles on rough ground the 29plus platform is the best thing out there, and with some lighter wheels and more aggressive tires, the Ursa would be unstoppable.

  • Frame: $1,195
  • As tested: $3.495
  • Sizes: S, M (tested), L
  • Online:

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