This bike is better than you. This bike tells you what it wants to do, and it’s up to you to hold on and come along for the ride. This bike is the rowdy young anarcho-punk who’s into all the coolest bands you’ve never heard of, and you’re the square old dude who’s losing their edge. The Rastro will knock you down, but it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll get back up again.
The Chumba Rastro 27Plus is a testament to the fact that the steel hardtail is still relevant and has a place in today’s crowded mountain bike marketplace, though that place is markedly different from the steel hardtails of yesteryear. Gone are the cumbersome, upright, and cheap bikes from the early days of mountain biking, replaced by raucous goons looking to turn every outing into a half-drunken party in the woods. If you’re looking for a bike that plays willing companion to all of your “don’t try this at home” antics, then the Rastro might be just the ticket.
Tried and True-Tempered
At the heart of the Rastro is an artfully-welded frame using steel tubing handpicked by Chumba for its toughness and ability to take the hits and keep on riding. My personal bike, a Singular Swift, is a steel hardtail as well, and I expected to have a somewhat familiar experience when I clambered aboard the comparatively stretched out Rastro. Though the components hanging from the frame were at least three times fancier than those on my personal bike, I anticipated the forgiving and compliant feel of steel would make for an easy transition. It turns out that my personal bike is just made of the metallic equivalent of overcooked spaghetti.
The Rastro puts a bit of an emphasis on the “hard” in hardtail — you will be keenly aware that you’re riding a burly bike after just a few turns of the cranks. During my first outing on the bike, I found myself almost obsessively checking tire pressures and fidgeting with the dials on the Fox 36 fork; there’s no way that anyone would make a mountain bike frame this stiff in 2017. Everyone knows that the kids are into fully-suspended cushy bikes these days! In spite of what’s been #trending in the mountain bike world, Chumba opted to make a true brute of a frame, and once I altered my perception just a bit, I learned to love the Rastro for what it is — an unapologetic affront to cycling society’s recent affinity for being coddled by their bikes.
However, as the song goes, love can knock you over, and there’s a level of respect that the Rastro demands. When you’re on your game, the bike will give you that extra push to help you clear that steep section that’s always scared you. If you find your focus wandering, though, be prepared to see yourself suddenly put into an “overshoot and recover” scenario; the surprisingly-rigid frame leads to a high, yet slim margin of error. It’s a bit of an oddball in this regard; the frame is incredibly capable, but it suffers no fools. Ask me and my newly fractured vertebrae how I know.
Hey! You! Outside Now!
Even though I got thoroughly thrashed on my first outing with the Rastro, I developed a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome-esque attraction to it. Thanks to a brief lack of focus during my introductory ride, I found myself flung headlong into a tree after the bike bucked off a signature patch of Pacific Northwest gnarled roots. Clearly, I survived the event (read my review of the POC Octal X that gave its life so I could provide Singletracks with more articles,) but I was definitely shaken–this was my first real crash in almost a decade of serious riding. Obviously I couldn’t be at fault, I’m almost a Cat 3 racer, after all! Could it be that the Rastro was giving me more a challenge than I could handle?
During my recovery period, with the crash replaying in my head, I would look at the Rastro in my gear room.
“This bike is better than me.” I would say. “I shouldn’t ride gnarly trails anymore. Mountain biking is dangerous.”
“But it was a pretty fun ride before the crash…”
“It did handle those rock drops pretty well… It is a pretty good-looking bike… I bet I could ride Predator on it if I paid attention…”
“I’m sorry that I’m a hack rider, Chumba Rastro 27Plus, I can’t stay mad at you!”
Even though I had deep-rooted trust issues, I felt compelled to try the Rastro again and see if I couldn’t get a good ride in.
By the Numbers
What was it that kept me from leaving well enough alone, bringing me back to go another round with the cycling equivalent of Mike Tyson? Was I suffering from concussion-fueled amnesia? Or was there something special about the Rastro and its fun-by-any-means-necessary approach to trail riding? Looking at the numbers will paint the picture that this bike is designed as a thoroughly modern take on the trail bike, offering the holy trifecta of the long, the low: 428mm reach (size large), 33mm bottom bracket drop, and 67º head tube angle. The rest of the geometry sheet confirms the Rastro’s propensity for steep and fast descents, with short chainstays keeping the rear end agile, but a longer wheelbase keeping things a bit more stable at high speeds.
And yet, there’s something decidedly old-school about this bike. A certain raucousness that you can’t describe using digits, Unless we’re discussing fingers. then the Rastro is a middle finger to those looking for a pleasant and subdued ride in the woods.
Honestly, I think it’s a bit refreshing to see a company produce a bike that isn’t afraid to dish out some real talk and slap you around a bit when you pick a crap line through the gnar. The best thing is, the Rastro seems to thrive on getting the same treatment back; just pitch the bike into hairy situations with some aplomb and you’ll look like a pro enduro bro. Once you become a bit more familiar with Chumba’s creation and start approaching things with a bit more confidence, it becomes clear that the initially unforgiving attitude of the bike is merely due to the fact that the performance ceiling is far above what one would expect of a hardtail. There’s an immediacy in everything the Rastro does, which demands that the rider keep their wits about them. Because of this, I decided to wait a bit while my concussion subsided before I went back out.
I’m In Trouble Again
Once I decided to give the Rastro another go, I decided that it would be in my best interest to pay a bit more attention and try to appreciate the nuances that defined the bike. Naturally, it made sense to look into what was hanging off of the lovely steel frame. The components list reads like a greatest hits list of the late 2010s, with Stan’s NoTubes Mk3 Flow wheels and 2.8 inches of Maxxis’ Rekon+ tires acting as liaison between ground and rider. Shimano’s XT M8000 groupset fulfills all shifting and braking requests, Fox’s 150mm Factory 36 fork and Transfer dropper post handle weight distribution, and RaceFace’s Aeffect line provides the all contact points between the rider and the bike.
The 4130 chromoly steel tubing is curved in all the right places to allow for up 3 inches of rubber wrapped around Boost-spaced wheels to fit both front and rear. Though my test bike was fitted with a 1 x 11 drivetrain, tinkerers can rejoice in the fact that the Paragon Machine Works rear dropouts allow for both geared and singlespeed setups. For those who are still fans of front derailleurs (I know there are a couple holdouts out there in internet-land) you can clamp one on and run a triple chainring. Weirdos.
The more time I spent in the saddle, the more I found myself trying to find a suitable category for the Rastro. Cross-country hardtail? No, its legs are too hairy. Wayward enduro bike? No, it doesn’t take itself that seriously. Dirt Jumper? No, it’s far too capable to be pigeon-holed into the bike park. For lack of a better category, it’s simply a mountain bike, a bike that can ride up and then down mountains while providing its rider with plenty of good times along the way. It doesn’t necessarily excel in any one area, but is a completely-willing partner for when things turn gnarly and you find yourself pedaling into the sketchier parts of your favorite trails. The trick is to never let go and stay focused on what lies ahead; just pick a line through the steep and unforgiving sections and trust that you’ll come out on the other side with all your constituent parts in the same place as you had them going in.
Chumba have designed an incredibly capable bike, but in doing so, have had to slough off any conciliations that larger manufacturers have to make in order to capture an increased market share. In pursuit of speed and, more importantly, fun, Chumba created a niche bike that not everyone will get. This bike is for mountain biking purists who long for the simpler times before multi-pivoted, carbon fiber-constructed, electrically-assisted, 7-inch fully-suspended wonder bikes, but are unwilling to ride any slower. If you have any inclination toward the way things used to be, this bike might just be your dream ride.
I’m With Stupid
Much to my doctor’s chagrin, I found myself clipped into the Rastro, sailing off of a 6-foot drop just weeks after I split my helmet. It felt right. As I returned to the ground, compressing through all 150 millimeters of the fork’s travel, my eyes pointed to an upcoming berm; I dropped a knee and ripped through the corner, the set of doubles and a 12-foot wall ride appearing ahead of me. Weighting, unweighting, weighting, unweighting, then swinging my body towards the ground to put centripetal force to work and stick the Rastro to the wall, my focus shifted to the last two tabletops of the run. Fingers off the brakes, I gave the pedals a few more turns and then welcomed that awkward yet freeing sensation of leaving the ground on a bicycle. After setting the rear wheel down, I reserved the next few milliseconds to focus sights on the last feature of the run. Before long, I was airborne, thinking, “This bike is really impressive. I hope I send it back in one piece.” The rear tire meets the ground and deforms, the frame rotates smoothly, the fork compresses through its travel, and I find myself both upright and unscathed in the landing zone. “Let’s do that again!” I say aloud.
The takeaway from Chumba’s Rastro 27Plus is this: it is an absolutely exhilarating ride, but you have to make sure you’re well aware of what you’re getting yourself into. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bike that isn’t touted as a “quiver killer” or “one bike to rule them all.” The Rastro is not such a bike. The Rastro is the cycling equivalent of a whiskey-soaked slap to the face. It came to party, and either you’re onboard or you’re not; but if you agree to come along for the ride, you’d best pay attention or you’ll find yourself upside down and caked in dirt. The Rastro is the polar opposite of the Specialized Enduro-hey-let-me-pedal-that-for-you-don’t-worry-about-it-I’ll-post-this-to-Strava-for-you-too, Turbo 6-Fattie. In today’s cycling world, I welcome this with open arms and hope that more companies will follow suit.
Thanks to Chumba for lending us the Rastro 27Plus for review.
MSRP : $3,395
Chumba Rastro 27Plus Enduro (as tested) ~32lbs
- Stan’s NoTubes Flow Mk3 27.5in wheels (30mm rim width)
- Maxxis Rekon+ tires, 27.5in x 2.80in
- Fox Factory 36 fork, 150mm travel, 110x15mm Boost spacing
- Shimano XT M8000 brakes, 180mm rotors front and rear
- Shimano XT M8000 1 x 11 drivetrain, 11-46t cassette
- Raceface Aeffect 170mm crankset, with direct mount 32t chainring
- Raceface X-Type BSA83 threaded (YES!) bottom bracket
- Cane Creek 40 Series ZS44/EC44 Tapered headset
- Raceface Aeffect stem and handlebars with Raceface Strafe lock-on grips
- Raceface Aeffect saddle
- Fox Transfer dropper post
Fun fact: I’ve hidden 8 Chumbawamba references in this review — can you find them all?