The Apocalypse Machine (Muru Cycles Mungo 29+)

 

The apocalypse machine

Alright, here we are: the Muru Cycles Mungo Review.

A friend of mine lovingly refers to my expedition touring rig as 'The Apocalypse Machine'. It's a reasonable name for this big-wheeled titanium 29+ monster set up for the way-out. For me, the Muru is the best-value titanium plus bike out there, the marriage of a rugged, well-made ti frame and 29x3 wagon-wheel rubber for unparalleled monster truck rollover ability.

In addition to countless bikepacking rides in Sydney's Blue Mountains and the Australian Northern Territory, this bike has done more than 6,000km through the back end of beyond in the mountains of Tibet, China and Central Asia. It's been carried across rivers, thrown on top of jeeps and in the holds of buses, and ridden across massive chunky landslides that would utterly defeat any normal touring bike.

Sure, a transcontinental route means inevitable long stretches of pavement, and monster truck tyres are indeed slower than skinny ones. But I'm totally uninterested in setting world speed records, or smashing out 200km days. What's important to me is having a ride that's both very comfortable and highly capable. I might be a bit slower on the roads, sure, but what I love is that the Apocalypse Machine takes rough tracks that are a terrible slog on other bikes and makes them fun, and takes gnarly tracks that are impossible on other bikes and makes them possible. Going off-piste is where all the memorable stuff happens anyway. 

The Muru is set up with a Rohloff 500/14 Speedhub, which has proved bomber over a huge range of incredibly adverse conditions (dirt, mud, rain, rivers, snow, dust and -10C to 40C temperatures). There's a big upfront cost with the Rohloff, to be sure, but given the years of set-and-forget maintenance-free running I've enjoyed thus far, I'd say that it's largely paid for itself. Change your Rohloff oil every 5000k and keep your chain lubed and you're probably good to go.

With the rise of bikepacking blowing up bigger and bigger each year, I feel like this is as good a time as any to say that the move away from the 26-inch-wheel, four-pannier touring orthodoxy is, to my mind, nothing but a good thing. More people than ever are undertaking remote tours on 29+, 27.5+ and 26-fat setups, and as more of us do it and discover that, against the touring orthodoxy, it's actually perfectly fine to do so, we're going to keep seeing a shift to people touring on bikes that are just as home on rough dirt as they are on tarmac.

As far as the Muru goes, the lightness, compliance and corrosion-resistance of the titanium frame are amazing, and though if I were primarily railing singletrack instead of expeditioning I would likely swap out the ti fork for a stiffer carbon number, for loaded bikepacking the slight flex of the Mungo Trail fork is actually lovely, and helps (along with the big tyres) to very effectively soak up small high-frequency bumps in the trail. Married to the Mungo Trail fork the bike has XC-ish geometry with a fairly steep 69.5-degree head tube angle that I’ve found comfortable and responsive over long miles on a huge mix of terrain.

Despite the stories of doom regarding the Shutter Precision PD8X thru-axle dynamo hub, I've had (touch wood) nary a problem through many thousands of kilometres, and the WTB Scraper i45 rims have proved dependable and bombproof, setting up tubeless super easily and generally offering great value for money. The other components, a mixture of dependable mid-range bits like Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes and a Cane Creek 40 headset, have been great selections that I've rarely had to think about.

In terms of changes to this setup, I'm in the process of swapping out my 29x3.0 Maxxis Chronicles for 29 x 2.8 Terrene McFly tyres. The Muru has a standard 135mm-spaced rear end, and while this is great for finding spares or replacements if needed, it leaves mud clearance on a 45mm IW rim at just about 6mm per side. In practice, this was never a problem, EXCEPT when encountering thick clay mud, which turned the chainstays into giant scrapers and was generally very little fun to deal with. The extra 3mm clearance on either side with the slightly narrower tyre promises to offer a little more breathing room in sticky conditions.

Finally, one of the main considerations with a bikepacking setup (as against utilising panniers) is the amount of time and effort that needs to go into attaching your baggage to the bike at the beginning of the day, and to detaching it at sunset when you stop to camp. Running cargo cages and drybags on the fork legs, a rear pack and a handlebar harness entailed a lot of strapping each day that I'm keen to cut down on in the future. As such, the Apocalypse Machine's baggage setup is in the process of being retooled. Watch this space for updates.

Frame

Mungo Ti Trail 29+

Fork

Mungo Ti Trail 15mm Thru-Axle

Handlebar

Jones Loop 710 (aluminium)

Seatpost

Muru Telegraph Post Ti (31.6mm)

Bar Ends

Profile Briefs

Seatclamp

generic

Rims

WTB Scraper i45, 29”, 32 hole

Front hub

SP PD8X dynamo

Spokes / Nipples

DT Competition / brass nipples

Tyres

Maxxis Chronicle 29x3.0 TR/EXO (run tubeless)

Rear derailleur / hub

Rohloff 500/14 Speedhub disc 32h (external mech)

Bottom Bracket

Chris King Outboard 24 threaded - stainless bearings

Chain

Izumi Singlespeed

Crankset / Chainring

Shimano Zee 36t

Stem

Truvativ Stylo T20

Grips / Shifter

Ergon GP1 / Rohloff shifter

Headset

Cane Creek 40

Pedals

DMR V12 platform

Brakes / levers

Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc / Avid Speed Dial 7 levers

Brake rotors

Avid Cleansweep 180mm front / Rohloff 160mm rear

Saddle

Selle Anatomica Watershed X

Rear Rack

Surly Rear Rack

Front Light

Supernova E3 Pro 2 (dynamo)

Rear Light

Supernova E3 Tail Light 2

USB Charger

Sinewave Revolution

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