First Impression: Fatback 190 XO1


I have gotten fat this winter, and I couldn’t be happier.

Just before Christmas this neon dream of American-made aluminum showed up from the Khaki Santa (aka the delivery guy) and made my riding bright.

Fatback is built exclusively around fat bikes, and it has kept this decidedly American sport homegrown by partnering with Zen Fabrication in Portland to build all its aluminum frames here in the U.S. of A. It’s built from 6000-series aluminum with an oversized headtube, three sets of bottle cage mounts, an S3 direct mount front derailleur mount and a 31.6 seatpost diameter.

Click here to see more of the Fatback.

First Impression: Salsa Warbird 2


I’ve been riding around on Salsa‘s 2014 Warbird 2 for the past few weeks and thought it might be a good time to share some of my first impressions of the bike. First off, the Warbird is Salsa’s take on a gravel racing bike. If you’re not already familiar with gravel racing it’s what it sounds like…racing bikes over gravel roads sometimes for incredibly long distances. Think Dirty Kanza at 200 miles, or the Trans Iowa which ticks off somewhere around 340 miles. The Warbird was designed to provide comfort while maintaining a light, efficient build that can push a fast pace over some seriously rough roads. Sounds like fun, right?

Find out in our full introduction.

First Impression: Raleigh Capri 4


This is quite possibly the lightest bike we’ve ever tested here at Bicycle Times at just under 17lbs.—but don’t call it a race bike. We’re fond of saying that what most of the bicycle industry calls a “road bike” is, in fact, a road racing bike. Such bikes typically have skinny tires (25mm wide or less), a fairly aggressive (read: uncomfortably bent-over) position, and a ridiculously light but stiff-as-a-board frame.

Meanwhile, most roads that we get to ride on are littered with such non-racing features as potholes, gravel, traffic lights—and don’t forget the traffic. Most “road” bikes, as defined by the industry, are as unsuited to riding on actual roads as a Ferrari is to driving to the grocery store.

>But the next step over from road racing on the bike spectrum is the relatively new category of “comfort” or “endurance” road bikes. These bikes may look at first glance like typical road racing machines, but they have key differences to make them more comfortable over long rides and rougher surfaces—or to help them be simply rideable for us mere mortals. You may sometimes see the term “racing” thrown in the descriptions, but think in terms of racing on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, not the butter-smooth, fresh asphalt of the Tour de France.

Read more about how the Capri is a lot more than meets the eye…

First Impression: Breezer Downtown 5


The Downtown 5 from Breezer is a fun little townie bike with lots of included features for not a ton of dough.

My typical ride involves riding to the grocery store, about a mile away. This is the perfect type of trip for the $550 Downtown 5, as the upright riding position and easy turning give you good line of sight and maneuverability in places like full parking lots. With an easy twist shift and five gears to choose from on the Shimano Nexus 5 speed internal hub, there is just enough gearing to make things easy and not so many shifting options to make it confusing.


Full front and rear fenders grace this sweet, teal blue beauty and there is even a full, retro-styled chain guard to keep you trousers clean. Touch points like grips, saddle and pedals are all of nice quality and have a refined, retro feel that’s is aesthetically pleasing to me. Even the Breezer brake levers, with rubber finger pads, feel nice when engaging the linear pull brakes. The Downtown 5 also comes with a bell, kickstand and rear rack, making this stylish and comfy bike quite utilitarian to boot!

All in all, I’m really pleased with my time aboard the Breezer Downtown 5. Look for my full review in Issue #27 of Bicycle Times.

First Impression: Fyxation Quiver


Fyxation is a Milwaukee based company founded in 2009. Its first product was the robust Session 700 tire, the tall, high volume rubber you see here. Fast-forward a few years and the company now has a complete line of components and frames focused on urban riding.

The Quiver is a 4130 cro-moly frame with rear facing, horizontal dropouts. The company’s proprietary derailleur hanger allows the frame to be offered as a single-speed for $800, or with 1×10 gearing for $1,200, and 2×10 gearing for $1,390. I’m testing the 1×10 equipped with Sram’s Apex drivetrain and rear shifter.

Read the full story

First Impression: Women’s Liv/Giant Invite 2

By Emily Walley

Liv/giant is Giant’s initiative to reach out to female cyclists offering bikes and gear designed by and for women. Click here to read the Liv/giant philosophy. The Invite 2 is Giant’s women’s-specific, drop-bar bike for mixed-terrain adventure. Its aluminum frame makes it light weight, only 24lbs. with the stock pedals, so I’m able to tote the bike up and down steps without a grunt. Read the full story

First Impression: Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc


By Mike Cushionbury

For a great many of us, road riding isn’t a dedicated endeavor of criterium racing and hill repeats. It’s a combination of long days on the pavement, as many dirt roads as we can find, a training race here and there and maybe even a cyclocross race. This of course begs the question, is there just one do-it-all bike for all of the above?

The answer according to Specialized is, in fact, yes. Taking what it learned from the successful CruX cross line, Specialized has been dabbling in creating the ultimate gravel road bike, a concept that seems to be working as team riders Rebecca Rusch and Dan Hughes both won the Dirty Kanza 200 this year on specially outfitted editions of the “gravel” Crux. The production model, dubbed the CruX EVO, is a $3,200 road/gravel/cross machine that could be the only drop bar bike you’ll ever need. Or want.

Read the full story

Interbike First Impression: Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

By Karen Brooks

Like moths to a flame, we bike geeks get drawn to the bright, shiny stuff at Interbike. Our definitions of “shiny” can vary from ultra-bling to practical-chic to clever and well-made. But it is nice, sometimes, to breathe the rarified air of the top-of-the-line. Shimano’s R785 brake and Di2 shifting systems are two such examples.

As disc brakes are becoming more common on everything from adventure touring to cyclocross to commuting bikes, and even creeping their way onto road-racing style bikes, the big two component brands, Shimano and SRAM, are paying attention. The natural next step in the evolution is to follow mountain bikes and go fully hydraulic. Aftermarket hydraulic brake systems for drop bars from TRP, Formula and others have been around for a few years, but until recently there haven’t been one-stop options. SRAM debuted the Hydro R system, for disc or rim brakes, earlier this year. Shimano fired back with the artfully named R785 hydraulic brake system that integrates with Di2 electronic shifting, and I got a chance to try out both here at Interbike. Read the full story

First Impressions: Swobo Otis

By Stephen Haynes

In my first month or so on the Swobo Otis, I’ve come to enjoy this bike’s understated aesthetics and ride. This aluminum bike has a lot of functionality and a compliment of modern conveniences at a price ($800) that makes it easy to love.

Smaller, 26-inch wheels make for quick acceleration and nimble handling in traffic or on crowded mix-use trails. A Shimano Nexus 3-Speed hub provides enough range to get up and go from a standstill and stay at a respectable cadence before spinning out.

Rear rack mounts have come in handy and have made the Otis an easy choice for mid-week grocery getting. While I haven’t yet had two fully loaded panniers on the back, the bike hasn’t lost any zeal or handling ability with small loads.

The Otis gets up and over most hills in my neighborhood really easily. I could say something about wider bars, or more gears, but I think that would be silly. This bike provides enough of a low gear to be more than capable in most uphill situations, even with a case of beer tied to the back.

A simple, silver paint job and lack of flashy graphics will appeal to those who wish to remain incognito while out and about, yet will inspire the sticker whores of the world to go berserk. Look closely at the Otis though, and the Swobo branded items become clear, tastefully gracing a few select parts.


I’m enjoying my time on the Swobo Otis and I look forward to the rest of my review period. Check out the full review in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times.

First Impression: Lynskey Viale

By Adam Newman

Titanium occupies a rarified field in the world of cycling: it’s at once both old-fashioned and high-tech. Bikes built from the lightweight metal strike a classic silhouette and earn allocates for their unique ride quality. But it’s cutting edge as well, with modern methods of forming bringing about ever lighter and stiffer frames.

Lynskey has been on the forefront of titanium for more than three decades. The family-run contract business didn’t even make bicycles until one was built as a side project. Fast-forward a few decades and Lynskey‘s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory is the largest builder of titanium bicycle frames in the US, both under their own label and for several other brands.

Titanium is, of course, an expensive material to work with, not only for the cost of raw tubing but for the additional time and tooling it takes to turn those tubes into bicycles. Bending, butting and shaping the tubing is all exponentially more difficult with titanium than steel, thus adding to the cost. (See how advanced it can get in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag.)

Lynskey’s latest bikes attempt to level that playing field. The Silver Series uses straight-gauge tubing, without any fancy bends or shaping, to keep costs down, but they are still "Made in Tennessee, Built To Go Fast.". The three road and two mountain bike models are just $1,299 for a frame. That’s less than many American-made steel frames.

The Viale is the commuter or light tour model that can handle a little of everything. The frame is built with a little extra room for larger tires (700x30c) and fenders, and even has rack mounts. The brakes are mid-reach calipers, and mount to a Bontrager Switchblade carbon fork out front. For $2,600 you get a Shimano 105 build kit with Shimano wheels, a compact crankset and an FSA cockpit.

Pictured here are a set of one-off, prototype titanium fenders and a rack that are not included, but Lynskey wanted us to give them a good thrashing to see if they work in the real world (so far so good). Want a set? Sorry, no word yet on if they’ll make it to production.

Anyway, the Viale has all the attributes I look for in a good workhorse bike. The geometry is relaxed enough for all-day rides or randonneuring and the larger tires and geometry make it far more versatile. If you want to jump into your weekly paceline ride, ditch the rack and don your lycra, it’s ready to go.

The ride quality reminds me of classic steel: not too stiff, not too soft. The frame feels a bit more lively than I expected as well—none of the muted vibe you get from chromoly but instead with a zing more like an aluminum frame. 

Look for my long-term review after some long-range rides in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Times. Subscribe now if you want to read it.

Salsa unveils carbon fat bike and updates Fargo

By Karen Brooks

Between their excursions to “adventure by bike,” the folks at Salsa have been busy making improvements to their stable. We recently covered the 2014 Horsethief and Spearfish, which both got the Split Pivot treatment. At SaddleDrive in Snowbasin, Utah, they also unveiled a host of other changes to the 2014 model lineup.


First up is a bike that is truly fat, yet weighs less than its brethren: the Beargrease Carbon.

The geometry has been tweaked to essentially “feel more like a mountain bike” and also shift the rider’s weight rearward, via shorter chainstays and a new Whiteout carbon fat fork with 51mm offset. Salsa says this also serves to get a better steering response in snow, keeping the front wheel from pushing sideways and allowing it to be guided around a turn.

It will come in an XX1 or X9 versions. The XX1 is pictured here, with sweet graphics in bright green on matte black. It will also sport the Alternator dropouts (pictured below with the Fargo). The Beargrease’s path is diverging further from that of the Mukluk — becoming even more of a dedicated snow racer, while the Mukluk is for exploring at your own pace.

Mike Riemer, Salsa’s marketing manager, let it be known that the bike is suspension-corrected for a 100mm travel, 51mm offset suspension fork for fat wheels, something that doesn’t exist — yet. A full-suspension version could also possibly appear someday…

The complete bike weighs around 26lbs., pretty darn light for something that looks so… substantial. I got a chance to ride it a bit on singletrack, and really appreciated its weight savings over other fat bikes — between that and its improved handling, it felt kind of like it was filled with helium. If I had one, I’d love to set it up tubeless for ultimate float.


Next is a bike that started with a cool concept and just keeps getting better: the Fargo. The new version looks and feels like a cohesive package.

The Alternator dropouts are a rocking type that give 17mm fore-aft adjustment. Different plates will be available to accept a standard quick-release, 142x12mm thru-axles, or Rohloff hubs, and also for dedicated singlespeeding. Note that the non-drive side has just two bolts—the top one is also one of the brake caliper bolts.


The fork is a new carbon one, called the Firestarter, and the frame is corrected for a 100mm suspension fork.


The Woodchipper handlebars felt natural and right on this bike, as did the Cane Creek Thudbuster seatpost. I didn’t get to ride it nearly as much as I wanted to (right on across the state and beyond), but the little bit of dirt and gravel I did experience left me impressed.


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