Chumba Racing VF2

by singletrackjon 0

Riding the Chumba VF2 at Bringewood.

Price: £1,599 frame only, including Fox RP23 shock
From: Progressive Bikes
Time Tested: Two months

Chumba is a bike company that has been around a long time on the other side of the Atlantic. Based in California, they’ve been producing a wide range of bikes from hardtails to full on DH race rigs for over 15 years. On this side of the pond they’re relatively new. But that’s set to change, with UK distributor Progressive Bikes bringing in a full range of Chumba bikes. We’ve had the “All Mountain and Trail” orientated VF2 for a couple of months now and we’ve had chance to test it both in the Alps as well as back home on more classically British riding.

The VF2 is aimed as an all-round trail bike. Five inches (127mm) of travel at the rear and the option to run anywhere from five to six inch forks up front. Using a swoopy hydroformed aluminium (aluminum?) front triangle and a carbon fibre rear end. The bike uses a Horst style four bar linkage, the shock being driven by a machined swing link. The bike oozes attention to detail, with the asymmetrical chainstays, full “Enduro” cartridge bearing pivots and anodised bolts throughout. The quality of the construction and paintwork is high, with a number of colours available including anodized finishes. The Chumba logo headbadge is a particularly nice touch. The VF2 uses standard 135mm wide quick release dropouts at the rear. And in a world of oversize headtubes it sticks with a if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix it 1 1/8th headtube and press fit headset.

Progressive Bikes offer the VF2 frame with a Fox RP23 shock as standard for £1,599 or at the moment there’s a rather good value option to upgrade to a Cane Creek Double Barrel coil shock for a mere £150 extra.

The spec of our demo bike was a mix of high end trail riding kit. 140mm travel Fox FIT 32 Vanilla forks with 15QR axle up front. Hope brakes and hubs on Stans rims. Nice and wide Sunline V-One bars. Crank Bros Joplin uppy downy post. Shimano XT drivetrain. Tyres were Maxxis Ardent 2.35″ single ply which were running tubeless with Stan’s sealant.

Of course, as a frame only option the spec of the bike is entirely up to the customer, although rolling chassis options are available with 140mm Float forks, Thomson post and stem, Hope hubs built on rims of your choice and Chumba branded grips and saddle.

Horst style pivot on carbon chainstays

Our test frame was billed as a medium and Chumba say this will fit riders from around 5’8 to 6’0. The seattube measured in at 19″ with the toptube being 22 inches top tube centre to centre. Seat tube angle was 73º and the wheelbase was a somewhat short 43″, with BB height at 14″, around a one inch above the axle line. The headangle is on the steeper side for a bike pitched at the rough and tumble side of cross country riding at 68º, but this a trait shared with a lot of the long legged American (and usually California designed) trail bikes, possibly because trails over there tend to be of a fast, sweeping, curvy, brakes-off, not too steep and not too twisty variety.

For the Chumba’s alpine adventure in the bikeparks of Chatel (during the Pass’portes Du Soleil) we had the Cane Creek shock fitted and it’s certainly an impressive bit of kit. This combined with the active rear end meant the VF2 ate up bumps and with plenty of low speed compression added in there wasn’t too much bobbing and bouncing when climbing uphill. The back end never felt too far out of its depth on rough, high speed trails or in the braking bumps. The penalty for this increased performance is in the weight of the shock – comparing the weight of the Double Barrel and an RP23 off the bike is quite a surprise. So once back in the UK we fitted the RP23 to see how the bike performed on the kind of trails most riders would use a 5″ bike for.

On the specific type of fast and sweeping trail it’s designed to work on it makes a lot of sense. The 5 inches of travel will be used due to the speed you’ll hit bumps, landings and corners. It’s certainly not “over-traveled” in that sense. It offers a firm, pingy and “pumpy” handling feel. The rear suspension was excellent; predictable, capable and useable. Not “invisible” and dull, it was just the right side of active and “I’ve bought a suspension bike” fun. There was a bit of lateral twang to be had occasionally but not to a deleterious degree, but that said we’re not sure if most of that wasn’t down to the wheels and/or the thin-walled (inner tube-less) tyres.

Chumba QR seat collar

However, in the UK we seem to have trails that vary between “straight line sat-down slogs” and “twisty stuff”. At 28.9lbs, the bike in this build isn’t too heavy for XC but the body position doesn’t quite feel right on those sat-down trails, the smaller riders finding the bike was too high and taller riders feeling it was too short, with the oddly slack-feeling-but-not-actually-that-slack seat angle and high front end making it somewhat difficult to keep in a straight line on steep uphills.

On twistier and/or more technical stuff, again it felt a bit too short for the taller riders and too tall for the shorter riders. It was hard to place body weight properly or indeed move around the bike very much. The short wheelbase seemed to work against it and that combined with a high-ish BB and steep-ish head angle led to a riding position that felt more perched on the bike than in it.

Chumba logo headtube badge

This was a bit of a frustrating bike because everything apart from the geometry we actually really liked and enjoyed. The build quality, suspension action and chassis “feel” was first class and if you’re a fan of bikes such as the Yeti 575 and “All Mountain-y” Santa Cruz bikes, then you’ll feel more at home with the geometry and sizing. For the high speed swooping and brakes-off trails the bike was designed for it does excel and it’ll probably suit a lot of people’s predominantly trail centre riding to a T.

For our part, we’d really prefer this bike if the BB was a touch lower and it had a degree or so taken off the head angle and a longer top tube to give a bit more space for the rider to be able to really move around on the bike and exploit that excellent suspension to it’s full potential.

Overall: Great suspension action. Well made. Lovely chassis “feel”. Just doesn’t quite have the geometry to suit our tastes.

UPDATE: Si from Progressive tells us there will soon be a new link from Chumba that will slacken the headangle to 67° and lower the BB slightly…

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Review Info

Tested: by for

Comments (0)

  1. I’d agree with that. I’m 6ft 1″ and bought the medium, the bike just felt a bit too short and steep for me. Wish I’d read this review before I bought it. Nevermind I’m sure it will make a great trail bike for someone slightly shorter. Frames on eBay if anyone wishes to search.

  2. The equivilant Orange 5 has a 602mm top tube (effective) the VF2 has a 596.9mm (effective). The reason it feels short may be as a result of the 45mm (1.8″) shorter wheel base.

  3. You say that the bike feels short – If you put a 50mm stem on a lot of other bikes they would feel short as well.

    You say that the head-angle feels too steep – Prey tell how many bikes with 125mm of travel have a head-angle slacker then 68 degrees?

    I’ve never owned or even ridden one of these bikes. I feel the need to comment though because you seem to give it a bit of a bashing as it doesn’t ride well in locations that it wasn’t primarily designed for.

    Would you test a SC V10 and spend 90% of the review stating that it climbs poorly?

  4. For info, if the stock geo is not to your liking Chumba have a new link arriving in the next few weeks that will lower the BB and slacken the HA to 67 degree with 140mm up front. Though i like it is at it stands 🙂

  5. Jim I don’t think the review was particularly negative actually – just some stuff was liked, some stuff wasn’t and a lot of people are riding shorter stems on trail bikes now and are looking for more roomy top tubes (Gary Fisher has banged on about it for years) to accommodate. And bikes are getting slacker for there given travel.

  6. A 22″ TT on a 19″ bike is super short in anyones book.
    And that’s a very high BB for a ~125mm bike.

  7. 22″ is a miss print… It’s actually 23″

  8. Hey Jim, as Matt says, we did like a lot of the bike, we (not the royal we, Benji and myself) just didn’t get on with the sizing. As we say in the review, we know there are plenty of people out there that will get on with it – if that sounds like you then you should ask Si for a demo and try the bike for yourself 🙂

    The (specced) 50mm stem isn’t particularly short for a trail bike nowadays IMO, especially considering this one is able to take forks up to 160mm. Anyway, putting a longer stem on the bike would move weight over the front and that doesn’t tend to help on a bike with a steep feeling headangle.

    Numbers don’t tell the whole story, the ‘feel’ of a bike is created by the combination of all the numbers anyway. A steeper headangle on one bike doesn’t make that bike feel steep – it may have a long TT (and/or wheelbase) and low BB that counter the feeling. The opposite also applies.

    Si: Good news about the new link – I have updated the story..

  9. Admanmatt – I still don’t see where you are coming from with regards to top tube lengths and head-angles.

    A medium Spesh ‘trail bike’ has a shorter effective tt than a Chumba, and a steeper head-angle.

    Trek have 2 ‘medium’ sizes in their trail bike range and the Chumba tt is right in the middle of the two. Trek head-angles are also steeper.

    Orange tt’s are a couple of mm longer and a Five with more travel than the Chumba is a degree slacker in the head-angle where as the ST-4 has the same head-angle.

    Lapierre are a couple of mm longer in the tt with the same head-angle.

    Oh, and a medium Fisher is a bit shorter in the top tube as well.

    So I still don’t see why you think a 68 degree head-angle and a 23.5″ eff tt on a medium trail bike is dramatically different to anything else available.

    Do you think that maybe the bike seemed too small because you should have tested a large rather then a medium?

  10. We tested in the bike in lots of different types of terrain.

    The too high BB is culprit for most (arguably all) of the handling niggles we had.

    Jon is 5′ 8″. I’m 6′ 1″. The bike didn’t really gel with either of us.

    We’re just telling it how we found it. We take no joy or benefit in finding fault with bikes.

    Good news that next year’s bike sounds to address some the geometry niggles.

  11. I know I shouldn’t get stuck in, but..

    Jim, you’re making the mistake of thinking that “medium” actually means a set size so check the seat tube height of a Spesh Stumpjumper medium – it’s 17.5″, not 19″.

    Now double check the seattube heights of all the other ‘medium’ bikes you mentioned above, then have a look at BB heights (which depends on the tyres you’ve fitted, which is why drop from axle line is the only number that provides a subjective measurement) as well as the TT lengths and headangles, then the chainstay lengths then seattube angles, etc, etc, etc.

    You can’t tell what a bike will be like just from looking at numbers – well, you probably could but strangely it’s a lot quicker to give it to a few people to ride, then chat about it, then ride it some more, then look at the numbers, then chat, then ride etc etc etc. It’d be dead easy if we could write reviews from geometry tables, it’d be much less time consuming and I’d be able to get out in the sunshine and play loads more often.

    Right, back to work… 😉

  12. Benji – fair point with the bb height. You could drop the BB height a full inch and you still wouldn’t get excessive pedal strikes.

  13. I thought the review was fair, certainly didnt feel it was negative, just that i don’t agree with the issue with Geo, but hey we are all different!

    The frame will stay the same, as jim has pointed out it is no different apart from a few mm than most other well repsected trail bikes. The listed BB height is 13.5, STW say 14, may be a typo, dont know?

    The frame will be avilable with a new link if people prefer a 13.25″ BB and 67 degree HA on their 127mm travel frame.

  14. Jon – Oh’cmon Jon don’t make the schoolboy error of measuring bikes by seat-tube length.

    Bikes are sized medium because they are designed to fit a medium sized person, not because they have a certain seat-tube length.

    Would dropping the seat-tube length by an inch and half make any difference to how the Chumba handled?

    If the size of the seat-tube is important what length of seat-tube do I need for a Scott Spark RC?

    (Can you tell that I’m working from home on a ‘paper work’ day)?

  15. BB height and TT (actual, centre to centre) were measured with a tape measure – it’s not accurate to the hundredth but I’m satisfied they’re correct..

  16. “The frame will be avilable with a new link if people prefer a 13.25″ BB and 67 degree HA on their 127mm travel frame.”

    Sounds ace 🙂

  17. reach and stack measurements anybody?
    IMO the only way to make sense of bikes relative to one another as the datum is fixed at the bottom bracket, but heh…

  18. Really Lovely machine, but would prefer the top tube without the up sweep where it meets the seat tube, think a little hydro forming similar to the Top Tube to head tube …. …. dare I say a Lapierre Zesty….

  19. Nice to see a review that just points out negatives aswell as positives. Too many reviews gloss over potential short comings and rave about the good bits. I’m much more likely to see a review as balanced and fair if it points out all aspects of the bikes performance.
    The bikes geometry does stand out as being a relatively short, high and steep. In my opinion (having had a similar style in the past)this is major factor on how the bike handles, particulary on steep, techy stuff. Quality finishing and specs are all well and good but the geometry is the key to a bikes handling.

  20. “The bikes geometry does stand out” How so? Compare the frame to its peers, and apart from a slightly higher BB (not on paper so may be due to high volume tyres?) the geo is very similar to the 5, Lappierres etc.

    Like I mentioned, I think the review is fair overall, no complaints and I would much rather see an honest review, even if I don’t agree with the geometry observations.

  21. If you put mahoosssive ballons round the wheels like the Ardents it is going to raise the BB somewhat..
    I run High Rollers and they are a much lower profile

  22. test rode one last night and was very impressed with the small bump sensitivity, unwillingness to bob on the climbs and the compliance on the downs…….and with sensible spec, it still came in at 27lb on stan crests and float 150mm’s…..

    no pedal strike, good tracking and sorted geometry on the medium it was bob on – seriosly considering one to replace my ti456.

  23. Similarly, while I’ve obviously got owner’s rose tinted spec, I’ve been really pleased with mine (6’4″, large), SLX, 150mm floats and ZTR’s at around 28 lb and it’s been great for lake district riding. I recognise the points about the high b+b, but find the clearance helps.

  24. I like the look of this but i knew that the bb at a glance was probably too high compared to what ive had in the past.A height that some folk moan about when they catch pedals but also a height that gives a bike the edge over so many others but isnt quite noticable at a glance. Without reading the comments/review to begin with,its the first thing i noticed. I thought it looked over 14.5″ in that pic to be honest! Its good to read that it really is too high, and even better to hear that its something that can/will be sorted out.

    looking forward to it as they look great.

  25. *really is too high.

    .. to enable it to be a confidence inspiring bike on the techy steep stuff?

    I take it thats what folk seem to be getting at.

    How much extra will it cost to get it lower and how much lower will it go?

  26. The link should make the BB height a true 13.25″ height, i will know for sure soon. The link will be free to anyone who buys a new frame at full price.

  27. Si, what about existing owners? I asked Alan at Chumba if they are retro-fittable and he said yes, so would be interested in a price as a retro-fit.

  28. Link will be available after market for around £75.

  29. I saw my first Chumba in the mid nineties in Recycle Cycles… nice to see they’re still around!