Chumba Stella Ti Review: Ultra XC or Solid Adventure?

The CHUMBA Stella Ti is designed to feel equally at home ripping the local XC course as it does lightly loaded racing the Tour Divide. But does it hold up to fully loaded bikepacking? Colt Fetters took it on Cuba’s roughest tracks to find out…

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To preface, CHUMBA USA is headquartered in Austin, Texas, where they have their own production facility. All of their bikes are designed in house and either built at headquarters or in their other facility in Tennessee. CHUMBA is a self-described “rider driven company” striving to build bikes that they themselves are excited about. Durability is a strong value for these bike builders, dedicated to delivering “products that are up to the most rigorous demands of mountain biking”. And I can assure you, the Stella was tested on some pretty demanding terrain including technical climbs, boulder-strewn descents, and long rutted out farm roads—yes, you read that right, Cuba is not flat. The Stella Ti’s noticeable oversized titanium tubing and durable build kit are evidence that CHUMBA’s promise of reliability isn’t just rhetoric. Read on to see how it performed.

Chumba Stella Ti Review, bikepacking bags

The Ride

At a time when the bicycle industry thinks everyone needs to be pedaling a hot rod with super slack geometry designed for the gnarly bits, the CHUMBA Stella brings us a breath of fresh air, without being too “XC” of course. While it won’t have you wheelieing up climbs and tail-whipping every bump in the road, its 70 degree head tube angle and a 73 degree seat tube angle provides a well-balanced geometry that feels just as comfortable climbing as it does descending — although I wouldn’t go as far as to call the bike playful. These angles keep the body in a position fit to deliver power to the pedals without being too aggressive to the point where it can’t handle technical descents. Riders used to the current industry trends of long and slack geometry may find this bike a little tame, in the sense that this bike sacrifices playfulness for efficiency. Is it so wrong to keep your front wheel firmly planted on the ground while climbing those steep grunters at your local trail? I think not.

To clarify; I rode the Stella and my travel compatriot, Hannah, was pedaling the Ursa 29+. We switched occasionally to try out each bike and fortunately — as the photos show — she complimented the Stella nicely, making it look much better than I ever could. Which also made for some needed action model shots of the Stella.

  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags

Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags

The Stella’s Titanium tubeset paired with a Stans No Tubes Arch wheelset and front/rear thru axles, keep this bike stiff as a board. Transferring all of that power from the quads right into the wheels made me feel like I could easily leave my buddies and their chromoly steeds in the dust. However, don’t assume that stiffness translates to a rigid ride, the Ti is plush and compliant, soaking up the chatter, especially when paired with a supple tire pressure in its stock tubeless wheelset. Although this isn’t the lightest titanium frame out there — 4 pounds; about 23lbs for the Ultra build — CHUMBA chose to create a balance between compliance, rigidity, and weight. CHUMBA also offers the option of a dropper seatpost for the Stella. While this might be a nice inclusion for many riders (droppers make every bike more fun), it would be nice to have seen Chumba modernize the frame with internal cable routing.

  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build
  • Chumba Stella Ti Paragon Dropouts

Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags

  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build

The Stella is equipped with a beautiful Paragon made sliding rear dropout plate design, making for easy adjustability, simple single speed conversions, and a multitude of axle options. Adjusting the position of the plate system is a snap with the two-bolt design and tensioning system. Thankfully the brake mount is also mounted to the plate, which minimizes the necessity of adjusting the brakes every time you want to adjust the chain stay length. Speaking of chain stay length, the sliding dropouts gives you the option between 443mm –463mm. I chose to place the wheel at about 450mm, which provided a very stable platform that kept the bike tracking straight for those long Cuban dirt roads. The fairly long chainstays and relatively high bottom bracket may not feel as snappy as your trail rig, however what it lacks in maneuverability, it makes up for in stability.

Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags

Build Kit

Chumba believes that bikes should be built with quality components which complement the frame’s balanced characteristics of boutique bling and durability. The Shimano 1×11 XT drivetrain — featuring an 11-42t cassette paired with a RaceFace 32t crankset — furnished a decent gear ratio for spinning in the flats as well as the steeps. Braking was delightful with the bombroof Shimano XT hydros. In the past I’ve preferred mechanical discs when travelling off the beaten path due to their reliability and repairability (I know that’s not a real word…). However, The Shimano XT system seems to be extraordinarily durable and will from now on find a spot on my bikepacking rig. The feather light MRP Rock Solid rigid fork dampened road chatter and kept the front end light and agile, although it comes without bosses for fork mounted bags or cages. The cockpit is outfitted with Thompson components including lovely Thompson Ti 12 degree sweep bars.

Initially I wondered why CHUMBA built the Stella with a press fit bottom bracket and I was worried about a chorus of creaking sounds that might ensue halfway into our trip. Ultimately I came to understand that PF BBs are typically stiffer than their threaded counterparts; CHUMBA’s reasoning behind choosing the PF30 is the combination of the strength, stiffness, serviceability, and compatibility with a large range of crank sizes. According to Chumba there are a couple factors that lead to a problem free BB on any bike; proper installation, stringent frame tolerances, and quality BB’s —such as, Kogel Ceramic Bearings — are key to a quietly humming bottom bracket. After 12 days, 450 miles, and two mountain ranges, the PF30 on the Stella never made a peep. So apparently, these guys know what they’re doing when it comes to BBs.

  • Chumba Stella Ti Tire Clearance
  • Chumba Stella Ti Tire Clearance
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build
  • chumba-stella-ti-review_14

Although, I enjoyed the 29” wheelset paired with 2.4” Maxxis Ardent tires, there were times on those bumpy Cuban roads that I was wishing for just a bit more voluminous rubber. CHUMBA does have options for running mid-fat on the Stella. They recommend running 27.5” x 40mm rims combined with 2.8 meats, however this does lower the height of the bottom bracket. The word on the street is that they are soon releasing a 27.5 x 3.0 compatible version of the Stella with Boost 148×12 rear spacing to fit wider tires. In addition, the 27.5+ model will be paired with a 110mm Fox Float to correct the bottom bracket height.

Drivetrain

  • Rear Der Shimano XT M8000
  • Cassette Shimano XT 11-42t 11spd
  • Crankset RaceFace Turbine
  • Chainring RaceFace Cinch 32t
  • Shifter Shimano XT M8000
  • Brakes & Rotors Shimano XT 180mm/F 160mm/R
  • Bottom Bracket Wheels Manufacturing PF30 w/ABEC-3 Bearings

Components

  • Fork MRP Rock Solid Carbon 490 100×15 thru-axle
  • Headset Cane creek 110 ZS44/EC44 for Tapered Steerer tubes
  • Stem Thomson X4 80mm x 31.6
  • Handlebar Thomson Titanium 12º sweep bars
  • Seatpost Thomson Elite 31.6mm (no-offest)

Wheels

  • Rims Stan’s NoTubes Arch EX
  • Front Hub Stan’s NoTubes Neo
  • Rear Hub Stan’s NoTubes Neo
  • Tires Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4″ EXO TR

Bikepacking Bags (as tested)

  • Frame Pack Wanderlust Divide Framebag (included in Ultra pkg)
  • Seat Pack Wanderlust Shenandoah seat bag
  • Handlebar Wanderlust Sawtooth bar bag system
  • Stem bags Wanderlust Rattlesnake stem bags
  • Top tube bag Wanderlust Beargrass

Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags

It’s obvious in their marketing and offerings that CHUMBA is dedicated to out of the box adventure ready bikes. Rear rack mounts, 3 water bottle locations, oversized tubing, durable components, and rugged frame materials prove their commitment to exploration. Although, the Stella’s triangle was a little on the small side. I fit a 3l water bladder in the frame bag and was left with little room to spare. CHUMBA’s partner company Wanderlust Bags ensures that each bicycle has options for snug fitting bike-specific bikepacking bags. Stay tuned for thoughts on the bags in an upcoming review.

  • Price (as tested) $4,695 USD
  • Size (as tested) Medium
  • Weight ~23lbs (10.4kg)
  • Place of Manufacture USA
  • Contact chumbausa.com

Pros

  • American made
  • Smooth, stiff, and compliant ride
  • Reliable and quality build kit
  • Well-balanced geometry that’s fitting for long days in the saddle
  • Paragon dropouts for added potential

Cons

  • Ti comes at a price. For those of you hard up on cash, check out the steel builds.
  • Smallish triangle made for less room in the frame bag
  • The quest for the quiver killer lives on
  • No fork-mount bottle bosses
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags
  • Chumba Stella Ti Review, Ultra Build, Wanderlust bikepacking bags

Wrap Up

With custom fit bags, durable builds, and quality components, CHUMBA has ensured that their bikes are ready to be abused, and the Stella Ti is no different. Where fancier parts could lead to dependability issues and mountainous repair costs, the Stella Ultra component spec features proven components such as an XT drivetrain and brakes, a Thompson cockpit, and RaceFace cranks — all luxurious without being gaudy. Designed and Built in the USA, CHUMBA has freedom to tweak their builds and test them at will. This leads to intentional designs and adaptations of existing bikes to industry trends such as the new 27.5+ Stella.

The Stella Ti is a bike best suited to folks who prioritize efficiency and stability over playfulness and maneuverability. This is a bike that begs to be ridden, and ridden hard. It’s a pure bred adventure race machine. That said, if you’re looking for the ever elusive quiver killer, I’m not sure the Stella Ti fits the bill. Although, it may check a few of your boxes. Load it up with a light kit to race ultras, hammer it around your local stacked singletrack, but don’t count on it to be your progressive trail bike; if that’s what you’re looking for, check out their Rastro. If you are yearning to stand atop a podium, this just may be the bike you are looking for.

Rider Profile / Colt Fetters

If it’s got pedals and two wheels, I’ll ride it. Bicycling of any variety inspires me. My first bike tour consisted of a month long road tour in Iceland. After a couple years of road touring I discovered bikepacking and shortly thereafter embarked on a trip to Nepal to bikepack the Annapurna circuit. Simply, what I enjoy most is exploring new cultures and lands by way of bicycle, especially if I have Hannah by my side.

Height: 5’10”
Weight: 155lbs

Disclosure: Chumba loaned me this Stella Ti (Ultra Build) to ride over a two-week period on Cuba’s chunky dirt roads and horse tracks.

  • I won’t comment on most of your criticisms — opinions and feedback are always welcome and valuable for reviews — but I will interject regarding one point of your argument… after all, this review was under my watch. “A bike can’t be stiff and plush and compliant“… I’d argue that this is completely possible. Granted, to you Colt’s writing style and/or choice of words may have muddied or candied the point, but from my perspective a bike can be laterally rigid (and responsive), plush, and compliant (which in bike review terms usually means ‘vertically’). While I haven’t ridden the Stella, I rode a bike this afternoon which possesses all of these qualities — a bike that I just put 1,000 miles on — and is a prime example. I’ll be reviewing it soon and I’ll make sure to point out that it is incredibly stiff and responsive, both loaded and unloaded ———and, setup tubeless with the proper air pressure, it’s also one of the most comfortable, plush, and at speed, compliant, non-suspended bikes I’ve ridden. These qualities are due to company’s choice of components, frame geometry, material and layup, as well as the seat stay design. Therefore, on this particular post, for me to edit and argue that this is not possible would be a farce.

  • Dave

    Why the small front triangle on a bike with this type of geometry? To save titanium? That’s a lot of coin for a rigid bike that is less versatile than many other options.

  • Colt Fetters

    Jan,

    I appreciate your feedback and honesty. Maybe I have muddied the waters a bit here. When I referenced the Stella as “not too XC”, I’m referring to longer chain stay (unmentioned) higher bottom bracket and frame material characteristics, even though the geo is still fairly XC-esque in nature.

    As for the bottom bracket, I wasn’t sure at first either, but I was assured by CHUMBA the price is marginal between a tapped or untapped BB shell, but that their choice is more about keeping the stiffness at the crank. They also point out that Kogel Ceramic Cross BB/Bearings have some of the tightest shell to BB cup tolerances on the market and have a 2 year warranty; which are both reasons they choose to spec them on this bike.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Mark

    The drive train shifter is listed as a SRAM XT M8000???
    I have never heard of one of these. Must have ment Shimano.

  • This sounds like a great bike to slap a Lauf Fork on and challenge some of those no-sleep biker automatons that race the Tour Divide every year. It is a bit unfortunate that you tested the Stella just as they’re phasing it out in favor of a more modern 27+ version, but for those looking for ultimate efficiency, the Stella may be the bike. Thanks Colt!

  • Colt Fetters

    Ben,
    I bet you’re right, a Lauf would probably compliment the Stella well! I’m not sure they intend to phase out the 29″ Stella, but just add an option for 27+.

  • Colt Fetters

    Definitely a typo, it is Shimano. Thanks!

  • Haven’t you heard of the new cross-breed? LOL… good catch, fixed.

  • Mark

    I like the idea of a SRAM Shimano cross breed. It would have a 1000% range with 20 gears and it would shift by intuition.

  • I had written something in defense of press fit bottom brackets, but mostly I’m not that enthused about them either, although they don’t bother me at all. In fact, I just installed one while on tour a few months ago with an 8mm hex wrench, a hammer, and a block of wood. The PF30 is running smoother than my BSA GXP bottom bracket after 1500 miles with some nasty weather and saltwater on the Baja Divide.

    Logan and the editorial staff at Bikepacking.com work hard to present a useful resource and to curate a positive tone, something which is not present in the comments of many popular bike sites. Let’s help them with their vision and make this a friendly place.

    Colt, looks like a great trip!

  • Doug Nielsen

    Well your response Logan got me upset… what is this new bike?! I just purchased a Chumba 29+ lol and now you taunt me with “one of the most comfortable, plush… etc”? How dare you! I look forward to your next review!

    Great article and a classy response, man. I appreciate writers who can take a punch and respond with etiquette and pose. Top notch.

  • Doug Nielsen

    No no no. It’s a savage beast, lurking in the dark corners of long forgotten bike sheds and truck beds.

  • Kody

    A 2″ down tube doesn’t really save titanium. Big tubes make smaller triangles, but I’m a fan of efficient power transfer to the rubber. I was able to fit a weeks worth of food in the frame bag on my medium Stella Ti while bikepacking in the South Chilcotin Mountains, BC. I don’t know what you mean by “less versatile.” Sliding dropouts, 3 bottle cage mounts, rack mounts, cable routing for a dropper post, and clearance for 27.5+. I race XC and bikepack on this bike. I can go from a 1×11 to a Singlespeed ripper in minutes. It’s a lot of coin for a frame I’ll be riding until I’m no longer able to ride a bike.

  • Kody

    Great review and photos, Colt! I’d love to hear more about the cultural experience. It’s so cool how many awesome classic cars are still on the streets in Cuba.

  • Jan

    Thanks for the reply, Logan. Sure, I agree with you 100%.

    My comment on stiffness/compliance comes in response to the ultra classic “laterally stiff/vertically compliant” that I believe was being hinted at, but (dare I say) is so cliché in the cycling industry.

    My point should have been better articulated, and I apologize if my words were taken as an assault rather than a critique, however it’s worth it to mention the ***directional*** loading characteristics. It’s an important difference, but I’ll get off my high horse.

    I meant for my comment to be critically constructive in response to a review that lacked to really expose any faults, but it seems I failed at that attempt. If my words were taken in offense or as an attack, I apologize. I really appreciate the site you’ve built here.

  • Dave

    Yeah, slider dropouts are undoubtedly awesome, and “less versatile” probably wasn’t the right phrase. This isn’t the geometry or build for me, but that’s obviously dependent upon riding style and personal preference.

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