Cyclocross

You’re My (Gravel) Boy: Blue Returns with Hogback Gravel Bike – Cyclocross Magazine

Once a mainstay in the cyclocross scene, Blue Competition Cycles quietly stopped making bikes in 2012 due to financial troubles before making a comeback in 2014. After making some waves with the mid-2010s reboot, the company again went quiet.

In 2019, Blue Cycles is back, again.

After moving from its original home in Georgia to California for Blue 2.0, the company has relocated to Colorado after being purchased by Orli Chinea and Dean Myers. Chinea is a long-time employee of the company who saw an opportunity to keep the bike manufacturer known for its Norcross cyclocross and triathlons bikes alive.

“For me, it’s been like a love affair with the brand,” Orli told me at the All Things Gravel Expo at the Dirty Kanza. “I’ve been with the company since 2004, so I have a long relationship with the company and the original owners. I love the products, and I love what the brand has done through the years, and I thought it would be a shame to see it disappear like so many other brands.”

Cyclocross fans likely remember Blue for its sponsorship of four-time national champion Jonathan Page. Of course, you may also remember Page’s 2013 National Championship “mystery bike” that was totally not not a Norcross SL frame.

As the new owners get their legs under them, Blue currently offers four bikes, with one for road, cyclocross, triathlons and gravel. The Hogback gravel bike is the newest bike from Blue, released a few months before the annual gravel race in Emporia.

Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

I took a look at the new Hogback and chatted with Chinea for a bit about what’s new for Blue and the new ownership team.

Blue Hogback Frame

There was a lot going on at the All Things Gravel Expo—for example, a few bike profiles—and even at the end of the day, the Blue tent caught my attention. My first cyclocross bike was the Jonathan Page edition of the Norcross SL, and I still ride the bike as a commuter and a gravel bike. I am not alone in doing the latter, as we saw Dee Dee Winfield win the Almanzo 100 last year on the carbon version of the Norcross SL.

Since I was in Emporia, I figured when in Rome and asked Chinea if I could take a look at the company’s new Hogback, a bike built specifically to modern gravel bike standards.

Under new ownership, Blue moved its offices to Colorado last year. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Hogback pays homage to the company’s new mountainous Colorado home. “A hogback formation is created by erosion of soil and soft rock layers, exposing the upper portions of a long line of rock formations,” Blue’s website states, not so subtly indicating the bike’s intended use.

The Hogback is not Blue’s first groadeo; we looked at the Prosecco gravel bike back in 2016 when the company was Blue 2.0. With the new ownership comes a new design and a new name.

The carbon Hogback frame is built with a high-modulus carbon called Blue-Tec T-700. The frame is built with continuous fibers that stretch through the bike, a process the company claims increases strength and reduces weight. Blue’s bikes are manufactured in its Taiwan factory and assembled in its Colorado facility.

The Hogback frame is built from Blue’s T-700 High Modulus carbon. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

The Hogback frame has all the modern accouterments you would expect including flat mount disc brakes, 12mm thru-axles and internal cable routing.

Cables are routed internally through both the frame and fork. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Blue designed the bike with a sloping top tube that curves around the seat tube, a design the company says is to offer compliance and flex to help take the edge of particularly rough and long rides. Not as much flex as say, the new Cannondale Topstone Carbon and its pivot-based suspension.

The junction between the top tube and seat tube is curved for additional compliance. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Geometry measurements on the Hogback are those of a gravel gravel bike—no all-roading here. A 71-degree head tube angle, 5cm of trail and 44cm chainstays yield a wheelbase of 105.8cm on a 56cm frame. For reference, that is almost 5cm longer than the Specialized Diverge and 4cm longer than the Trek Checkpoint.

BB Drop of the oversized bottom bracket is 6.8cm. Compared to a lot of cyclocross bikes, the reach of the Hogback is longer and the stack higher with values of 39.1cm and 58.8cm, respectively.

Tire clearance? Yep, the Hogback has plenty. The frame and fork fit tires as wide as 700c x 45mm and 650b x 2.1″. The 40mm tires Donnellys on the DK demo bike fit juuuuust fine.

The Hogback has claimed clearance for tires as wide as 700c x 45mm. The 40mm tires on the demo bike fit just fine. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Adventure more your speed than ripping gnarly descents? The Hogback has rear rack and fender mounts, three cage mounts and mounts for a rack or bottles on the fork.

Rack mounts abound on the Hogback if you are looking to take it on an adventure. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

The Demo Build

Blue’s website currently lists six builds for the Hogback, and the company had a seventh on display at the DK Expo.

The demo bike had a full array of FSA K-Force WE components—a build not currently listed on the website, but one Chinea said is coming soon. This is not the first time we have seen the electronic groupset from FSA on display, we also saw Lancy Pants Haidet ride it at Sea Otter in 2018.

Shift/brake levers were the carbon K-Force WE that communicate via Bluetooth or Ant+. Levers come in two sizes, and right now, they are designed to be 2x compatible. The disc calipers were the K-Force WE flat mount hydraulic models.

The FSA K-Force WE shift/brake levers come in regular and compact lengths. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Up front, an SL-K Light modular crankset with carbon arms held 48/32t adventure-oriented chain rings. Upgrades to an FSA Powerbox or Stages crankarm power meter are available with the company’s customization options.

The SL-K Light modular crankset fits FSA’s 48/32t adventure gearing spread. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Both the front and rear derailleurs are K-Force WE electronic models. The front derailleur has a maximum tooth differential of 16t, and the rear derailleur can handle up to a 32t cassette. The demo bike had a 28t cassette.

The demo build used the FSA K-Force WE electronic gruppo. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Stock wheels on the SRAM Force and electronic shifting models of the Hogback are Aerus 35 GR Carbon Disc tubeless clinchers. Aerus being Blue’s in-house wheel brand.

The Vision Metron 55 SL carbon tubeless clinchers on the demo bike are available at an upgrade cost of $450 on the Hogback. The 1,580g (claimed) carbon wheels have an internal width of 19mm and are billed as a road race wheel, whereas the stock Aerus wheels have a more gravel-oriented 24mm internal width and have a lower claimed weight of 1,550g.

Vision Metron 55 SL carbon tubeless clinchers are available as an upgrade. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Blue keeps it local in sourcing tires for the Hogback, going with 700c x 40mm Donnelly X’Plor MSO folding tubeless clinchers on all builds.

Plenty of room left with 700c x 40mm Donnelly X’Plor MSO tubeless tires mounted up. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Most of the other parts on the demo Hogback were from FSA, including the aero carbon K-Wing AGX handlebar, alloy OS 99 stem and carbon K-Force seatpost. The saddle was a Fizik Arione.

The demo Hogback was built with a K-Wing AGX raised carbon handlebar. Blue Hogback Gravel Bike, 2019 Dirty Kanza Expo. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Builds of the Hogback gravel bike start at $3,150 for a Shimano 105 build with alloy wheels. A SRAM Force build with carbon rims is $4,650 and the highest end of the listed builds is $6,750 for SRAM Red eTap.

The FSA K-Force WE build with Vision Metron 55 SL wheels retails for $6,200, and the base build with the Aerus wheels is $5,750.

A 54cm frameset has a claimed weight of 1,800g, and the full build with the Vision Metron wheels has a claimed weight of 19.6lbs.

For a closer look at the Blue Hogback gravel bike with an FSA K-Force WE groupset, see the photo gallery and specs below.

Blue Hogback DK Demo Bike Specs

Other Builds: Shimano 105 ($3,150), Shimano Ultegra ($3,650), SRAM Force 1 ($4,650), Shimano Ultegra Di2 ($4,950), Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 ($5,995), SRAM Red eTap ($6,575)

Demo Build: FSA K-Force WE 
Price:
$6,200
Weight:
19.6lbs (54cm frame, claimed); 1,800g (frameset, claimed)
Frame:
 Blue Hogback, Blue-Tec High Modulus UD T-700 Carbon, Continuous Frame Fiber Technology construction
Fork: Blue Hogback, Blue-TEC High Modulus UD T-700 Carbon, 12mm thru-axle, flat mount disc
Shift/Brake Levers: FSA K-Force WE
Calipers: FSA K-Force, hydraulic disc, flat mount
Crankset: FSA SL-K modular, carbon crankarms
Chain Rings: FSA 48/32t
Front Derailleur: FSA K-Force WE
Rear Derailleur: FSA K-Force WE
Cassette: FSA K-Force, 11-28t (max cog: 32t)
Wheels: Vision Metron 55 SL carbon tubeless clinchers (demo); Aerus 35 GR Carbon Disc tubeless (stock)
Tires: Donnelly X’Plor MSO, 700c x 40mm
Stem: FSA OS 99, alloy
Handlebar: FSA K-Wing AGX, carbon
Seatpost: FSA K-Force, carbon
Saddle: Fizik Arione
More Info: rideblue.com

Photo Gallery: Blue Hogback Carbon Gravel Bike