Review: Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie cyclocross frameset

Blemishes aside, this is a solid race rig that can double as adventure bike

Cross
Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie

All our testing occurred in and around Boulder, Colorado, at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Cyclocross Race Bike Shootout series, which also includes reviews of top competition steeds from Trek, Jamis, and Specialized, as well as tests of SRAM’s Force CX1 HydroR groupset, and several wheelsets and ’cross tires.

The Lowdown: Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie cyclocross frameset

While general geometry measurements carryover from v1.0, New Jersey-based bike builder Van Dessel has incorporated a number key enhancements into the second gen version of its popular Full Tilt Boogie full-carbon cyclocross frameset. This race-oriented rig is now disc brake only, which means tire clearance up to 40mm for those truly nasty days. Water bottle mounts have also been added, cable routing is fully internal, and the new Full Tilt Boogie frameset can be ordered with either QR or thru-axle compatible forks. The rear dropouts of the full carbon monocoque frame are modular to accommodate a variety of axle standards.

Our test rig was built up with a SRAM Force CX1 HydroR drivetrain with QR front and rear. Despite not fully embracing available technology, the Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie delivered a razor sharp race day ride. While there were some obvious finishing issues with this first production run, the latest iteration of the Full Tilt Boogie is on point for competitive ’cross racing or general two-wheeled adventuring — and we believe it will only get better with time.

Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie

The Full Title Boogie can easily do double duty as a gravel adventure bike.

Stat Box
Frame: Monocoque carbon fiber Head tube angle: 73 degrees (size 58cm)
Fork: Oversized carbon fiber Axle compatibility: QR or front/rear thru-axle
Max tire clearance: 40mm Features: Dual bottle mounts, flat top tube
Brake mounts: Disc only Front derailleur: 34.9mm clamp on
Cable routing: Fully internal Wheelbase: 1040mm (size 58cm)
Drivetrain compatibility: Electronic or mechanical Fork Rake: 47mm
Bottom bracket: PressFit 30 Sizes: 48cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm (tested)
Bottom bracket drop: 65mm (size 58cm) MSRP: $1,799 frameset; $4,499 SRAM Force CX1 HydroR
Seat post diameter: 27.2mm Rating: 3.5 Stars 3.5 out of 5 stars
Steerer tube: Tapered

Pluses
Minuses
  • Good stiffness to compliance balance
  • Exposed bottom bracket area
  • Clearance for 40mm tires
  • Some frame imperfections
  • Variable axle standard compatibility
  • Disc brake only (if that’s not your thing)
  • Dual water bottle mounts
  • Must route brake hose before installing BB
  • Low frame weight
  • Loud top tube graphic
  • Sharp, snappy handling
  • Clean internal cable routing
  • Mechanical or electronic compatibility
  • Flattened top tube for comfortable shouldering
  • Disc brake only (if that’s your thing)
  • Attractive paint scheme
  • No bottom bracket shelf
  • Clamp on front derailleur for cleaner look
  • 27.2mm seat post diameter adds compliance
  • Good for ’cross or gravel adventure riding
  • Road-bike like geometry
  • Competitively priced

Full Review: Review: Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie cyclocross frameset

While general geometry measurements carryover from v1.0, New Jersey-based bike builder Van Dessel has incorporated a number key enhancements into the latest iteration of its popular Full Tilt Boogie cyclocross frameset.

This race-oriented rig is now disc brake only, which bumps tire clearance up to 40mm for those truly nasty days — or if you feel like ripping some mellow singletrack. Dual water bottle mounts have also been added, cable routing is fully internal, and the Full Tilt Boogie has been engineered with a certain amount of future proofing that’s ever welcome in these rapidly changing tech times.

Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie

The rear dropouts of this full carbon monocoque frame are modular, featuring interchangeable aluminum inserts that allow you to switch between QR and thru-axle and 135mm and 142mm spacing.

Framesets can be ordered with either QR or thru-axle compatible forks, and the rear dropouts of this full carbon monocoque frame are modular, featuring interchangeable aluminum inserts that allow you to switch between QR and thru-axle and 135mm and 142mm spacing.

Our test rig, which was built up as part of a review of the dynamite SRAM Force CX1 HydroR drivetrain, took the traditional route, with QR front and rear. But despite not fully embracing available technology, the Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie delivered a razor sharp race day ride.

Front end stiffness is rock solid, allowing the bike to deftly carve through tight turns and charge up short, steep pitches. The chassis’ lower half is equally robust, with a stout downtube, bottom bracket and chainstays all facilitating efficient power transfer. But the bike maintains some suppleness thanks to a pair of slim and artfully curved seatstays.

Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie

A tapered head tube helps enhance front end stiffness.

“The main design goal of this bike was to increase overall stiffness,” explained Van Dessel front man Edwin Bull. “So the downtube got bigger, chainstays got bigger, and the top tube is wider. But the seatstays are softer. We actually are doing the same thing with our new road bike. Seatstays are attached offset, which helps increase vibration dampening, but the big chainstays make it stiffer.”

The frame also has a nice array of cyclocross-specific features. Top tube shape is flattened for ease of shouldering, and its only modestly sloping, leaving plenty of room to slide your arm through. Cable routing is internal and convertible, and a clamp-on front derailleur means a nice clean look if you opt for a 1x set-up as we did for this test. Clearance is ample throughout, with lots of space for wide tires and no mud-catching BB shelf.

With cyclocross season recently wrapped up, the question is how will this frame change for 2015? The answer, according to Bull, is not much. “Geometry wise we really like where things are,” he said. “But I do think that there will be more thru-axle wheel options on the market this year, which will mean a lot more people ordering the bike with our thru-axle fork.”

Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie

Seat tube diameter is 27.2mm, adding a measure of vertical compliance.

This past year, Van Dessel sold the Full Tilt Boogie as a frameset alone ($1,799) or with a large variety of full builds that included full Shimano Dura Ace Di2 disc hydro ($9,999) or mechanical ($7,999), Ultegra Di2 disc hydro ($5,799) or mechanical ($3,899), and SRAM Force CX1 disc hydro ($4,499), which is closest to the build we tested.

Bull claims to ride the Full Tilt Boogie with a thru-axle-equipped fork is to experience it at its best. “It’s lighter than our QR fork and has a nice internal hose routing. It’s really a much better fork, and something we invested a lot in.”

Bull also admits all was not perfect with this latest iteration of the Full Tilt Boogie. Production was rushed, resulting in some blemishes and rough edges on the frames that were easy to spot.

“For this first go-round we were dealing with new molds and a new manufacturer,” explained Bull. “We know that the finishing could have been a little better, but we were tight on time and banged them out fairly quickly. This go round I’ll be going over to Asia more to assure production quality is higher and make sure that we don’t have the same cosmetic issues. We know we need to work on finishing, and that will come with this next run.”

Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie

Lots of space for mud to clear when running these 33c Challenge Grifo tires.

One other issue discovered during build-up was the need to route the rear brake hose before installing the bottom bracket. Otherwise there’s no way to snake it through.

Despite these issues, we were generally impressed with the newest Full Tilt Boogie for racing ‘cross or heading out for the occasional adventurous road ride. Frame geometry is very close to traditional road bike spec, with just a slightly higher bottom bracket (65mm) for better pedal clearance, and a longer wheel base (1040mm), which allows for use of larger tires, a feature we truly love. In fact, with cyclocross season in the rearview, we’ll be pulling off the 42t / 11-32 set-up we used for racing, and swapping on a 46t / 11-36 to provide a wider spread of gears — and potential for new adventures.

Bottom line, while there were some obvious cosmetic issues with this first production run, the revamped Full Tilt Boogie frame is on point for ’cross racing or general two-wheeled exploration, and we think it will only get better with time.

For more information visit www.vandesselcycles.com.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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