Borrego Pursuits on the Boundary
Words by Dave Malwitz of Gravelstoke
Up before sunrise, we loaded up Jay’s 4x4 pickup and headed east, past the Vulcan Mountains and down Dry Canyon to Borrego Springs, California. It was an unlikely destination for a late-summer ride, but pandemic circumstances continued to push us further to the edges of San Diego County, exploring everything the region had to offer. The small desert town sits at the foot of Anza-Borrego, a primitive desert wilderness flush with twisting arroyos and mysterious concretions. With the icebox filled and bikes loaded, we transitioned off-road deeper into the Borrego Sink Wash to where a dusty fire road connects with the rideable buttes above.
Besides the occasional coyote, I was joined by my friend Marissa who’s MTB skills would come in handy as we navigated the unusual terrain. Truth be told, our objective also involved helping Jay capture some photography of the new gravel bikes we were riding, aptly named the Boundary from Obed Bikes.
Formerly Ocoee, and Remōt prior to that, the company has finally come to a brand they can settle on: Obed, hearkening to a river in the Tennessee area where the company resides. And while the name may be relatively new to the space, the parent company is far from green at equipping riders with capable bikes.
Obed is actually one of three brands under the American Bicycle Group umbrella, which includes carbon triathlon bike brand Quintana Roo and titanium juggernaut Litespeed. The new line of carbon bikes were quick to perform, with the Boundary taking third overall at the Dirty Kanza 100 in 2019.
Perhaps most notable is the fact that Obed is fully direct-to-consumer. So while you won’t find the Boundary at your local bike shop, you also won’t miss the retail mark-up.
Like other DTC bikes, pricing is a major draw for consumers. Let’s take for example the carbon Boundary with a GRX 600 build that starts at $2650 USD. An equivalent Salsa Warbird with the same Shimano drivetrain costs $3200, a difference of over $500. Obed expands on the direct-advantage beyond value, offering a range of frame and decal colorway combinations to choose from, all done at the factory in Chattanooga, TN.
Beyond aesthetics, rider fit can also be dialed with custom stem length, handlebar width and crank length options at no additional cost. Coming at a time when so many are looking for their first gravel bike, I suspect this ability for customization, along with value, will be a big draw for riders.
As we unloaded the bikes and prepared to ride, a few details immediately stood out. Rack mounts, fork mounts, a spare bottle mount under the bottom bracket, and a top tube mount gives you more than enough options for how and where to load gear, water and nutrition. Also notable was the scuff protection tape, complementary on all Boundary models, found on the underside of the downtube, on top of the chainstay and behind the chainring. While it may not be as defensive as plastic protectors seen on some gravel bikes, it’s better than exposing bare paint and a nice touch.
On the trail the bike was surprisingly light and handled well. The Panaracer tires were super supple, and all the touchpoints were balanced well for a fun ride as we skirted through narrow canyons and descended rocky terrain.
GRX 810 DI2 BUILD
Our Boundary was built with Shimano’s 2X GRX Di2 groupset, a full Easton alloy cockpit and seatpost, and a set of HED’s tubeless-ready Emporia carbon wheels with Panaracer’s Gravelking SK 700x43c tires. This setup comes out at $5,399, but it can also be ordered with Stan’s Grail MK3 alloy wheels in either 700c or 650b for a more affordable $3,799.
As for drivetrain offerings, you may notice the absence of SRAM, or any 1X options in the online menu. When I asked, Obed said the Boundary can always be made to order with any groupset, SRAM included, on a special order basis. Just give them a call and they can generally create a build (or a price) that you may be targeting.
The Boundary frame is current in its features, beyond just the mounts. With 700c wheels, it has a max tire capacity of 45mm, and up to 53mm with 650b wheels. Obed went with a mid-high trail number at 66.4mm (for size Medium) and chainstay length of 435mm. These numbers are certainly on trend for modern gravel geometry and gives the bike a stable feel at speed over rough terrain, while not being too sluggish on road.
This amounts to a bike most suitable for gravel adventures and gravel races alike, while also handling singletrack just fine with no toe overlap issues. This also puts the bike more in the off-road category, verses and all-road, meaning that if you prefer a road bike feel, or want a bike for 50/50 road to gravel, the Boundary’s may not be the right bike.
With the sun now well above the horizon and temps increasing to over 100°F, we loaded up and made our way back to San Diego, but not without a quick stop in Santa Ysabel for a slice of Apple Mountain Berry Crumb at Julian Pie Company. Whether it’s on the 2021 Stagecoach 400, or another exploration ride, we’ll certainly be back to Anza Borrego. As for the Obed, if you’re looking for a well-appointed gravel bike with all the right features and customizations at an attractive price, the Obed Boundary should be on your short list.
One last note: while much of the cycling industry is suffering through stock issues due to the coronavirus, Obed are (as of this writing) able to ship in two weeks, as every bike is painted and assembled to order.
Read the Review on Gravelstoke
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