First Impression: Fatback 190 XO1

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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.

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Up front is Fatback’s own matching segmented-crown aluminum fork, reminiscent of the ol’ Fat City style—only on a somewhat larger scale. There you’ll find a tapered steerer tube, rack mounts and Anything Cage mounts and 135mm front spacing. Its size and build may seem less than forgiving on the trail, but it’s best to keep things stiff to better manage that big tire and let the “air suspension” do the work.

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Fatback was one of the first to experiment with wider rear hubs, starting at 165mm, pushing to 170mm and now stretching a full 190mm to clear the ever-growing tires and rims. The 190 frame will fit a 26×4.8 tire on 100mm rims, but here it’s adorned with slightly more svelte 70mm Fatback UMA III tubeless compatible rims and the brand’s own 26×4.25 Sterling tire design, made by Vee Rubber. At the center are Fatback’s own cartridge bearing hubs mounted via quick release.

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With more than a decade of Alaskan winter riding experience, these folks know how to spec a bike: Avid BB7s brakes, SRAM X01 with Gripshift and a frosting of RaceFace parts. Available as a complete build, the Aluminum 190 XO1 bike is $3,699 and is available in five sizes and six colors. The bike you see here is an employee’s personal ride, so the eagle eyed will spot a few changes from stock, including the crankset, seatpost and saddle.

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I am first to admit I have always been one of the Gripshift skeptics, but in practice it works flawlessly and intuitively and is far easier to use when wearing big gloves stuffed inside of pogies. Not having bits and bobs sticking up and down off the handlebars means no numb fingers searching around for just the right button to push inside a cramped pogie.

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So far I’ve ridden the Fatback in snow, mud and even dry and it just goes and goes. I can’t wait to see where it will take me next. Stay tuned for a full review.

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