No one does weird as well as Surly, and the latest creation to emerge from the frozen plains of Minnesota wears the word with pride. A combination of cargo and fat bikes, this new mashup takes the best attributes of both and smooshes them together like that hydraulic press guy.
So you probably think the Big Fat Dummy is kind of like a Big Dummy, but with fat tires. But it’s not. Surly couldn’t just make the thing wider and expect it to work, so it started with a clean slate (or at least a clean bar napkin) and redesigned the frame to be stiffer and handle better.
Surly shared these cool comparisons of the Big Fat Dummy (dark green) and the Big Dummy (Kawasaki green).
Surly says the new bike can fit a 26 by 5.25 tire, which is bigger than anything on the market so far (Hmmmmmm…..) but if you want to go wider than the stock 3.8 inch Nates you will have to get creative with the chainline. To fit those monster meats it stretches the rear axle to use a 190 x 10 QR or 197 x 12 thru axle. The bottom bracket is widened to match, at 100 mm, just like an Ice Cream Truck and many other fat bikes. The bike can swallow 29plus easily as well.
Compared to the Big Dummy, the BFD also has a slacker head tube angle and higher bottom bracket for more trail crushing capability. Ultimate trail work bike anyone?
It will come as no surprise that the bike is big (more than 7 feet long) and heavy (more than 50 pounds), but that’s not really the point, is it? But you can weigh it down with up to 400 pounds of rider and cargo, so good luck with that!
Head on over to Surlyville for some more details.Tweet Print
Let me tell you, few things make quite an impression as seeing one of these in person. The Carbonara fat bike fork is the second major product release from Lauf, after the Trail Racer mountain bike fork, first for 29ers and then for 27.5. Hailing from Iceland, Lauf is a small company dedicated to bringing its radical design to market, and so far these suspension forks are its only product.
The very sight of the Lauf design usually results in the peanut gallery unloading in the comments section of its favorite social media network or making jokes about the brand’s name.* Mountain biking wouldn’t exist without experimentation, so hat’s off to Lauf for trying something new.
My first impression after taking it out of the (exceptionally nice) packaging is that it resembles something Ripley blasted out of the airlock at the end of “Alien.” The fork weighs 1,144 grams with the included, bolt-on axle and tapered steerer tube. It has a 494 mm axle-to-crown measurement and uses a 150 mm hub. It retails for $990 and is available stock in white or matte carbon (pictured). For $100 extra, you can order one custom painted in one of eight Pantone colors.
It works by using a dozen S2 glassfiber plates that flex to allow the axle to move vertically. The Carbonara has 60 mm of travel, and there are bumpstops integrated into the design so you can’t overdo it. I haven’t been able to bottom it out in normal riding. Lauf says the resistance is progressive, meaning it moves more easily through the first third of its travel than the last third. The springs slot into the carbon fiber chassis and are bonded in place, and Lauf says it took thousands of trial-and-error samples until they got the desired flex just right.
The Carbonara is available in two stiffness tunes for the leaf springs: one for riders under 187 pounds and one for riders over 175 pounds. Yes, they overlap. It’s not a weight limit, but more of a guide for how you want the fork to perform. The benefit of such a design? Zero maintenance for one, and no performance degradation from the cold. I’m led to believe it gets cold in Iceland.
I’ve mounted it up to my trusty Salsa Mukluk (which has had approximately 258 different build setups at this point) and we’re headed out to see what it can do.
*If you’re still making puns substituting this brand’s name for “laugh,” please stop. That joke is over. It’s the bike industry equivalent of people making “Seinfeld” references in regards to my last name.
When you call up Becker Gear to order a framebag, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That’s because founder Tupper Becker does all the order processing, designing, cutting, sewing and customer service.
“I look at it as more of a relationship,” Becker said. It’s the kind of one-on-one service that you’re only going to get with a one-man shop. “I really like to have a sense of who they are, and they can have sense of who I am.
Based in Fairbanks, Alaska, Becker now splits his time making cycling bags and gear for dog sled mushers. “All the bags we build are designed with Alaska in mind,” he said, and touts their cold weather abilities. The rubberized bits are good to 70 below zero, he said, and the fabric has been tested in Antarctica to 131 below.
All Becker Gear framebag designs start as one of five standard models with various degrees of complexity and pockets. While this example has a few extra features, Becker says most of his products are basic by design.
“We want to be the Carhart jeans of frame bags,” he said. “It’s designed to be fixed if it fails; it’s not a throwaway piece… We want to keep it simple and functional and working.”
The model I tested is the White Mountains Plus, which retails for $199. It has a large main compartment with a zipper on the drive side, a half-depth pocket with a zipper on the opposite side, and a small pocket secured with only a strap on the bottom of the drive side. The main pocket can also be divided into an upper and lower section with an interior piece of Velcro, although there is no access to the lower portion from the outside. While that might sound odd, it does make sense if you want to stash items in the bottom that you seldom need, like emergency tubes and tools, then close off the divider to keep handy more frequently needed items, like snacks or gloves.
The VX33 fabric, woven originally for sailcloth, is thin and stiff. While the material is waterproof, the bag doesn’t have any extra waterproofing features, because in most cases water resistant is good enough, and if true waterproofness is needed, it would result in a much heavier and complicated bag.
Right now all Becker framebags are made-to-order specifically for each customer. Becker said he does plan to offer stock sizes in the near future, as well as some other gear when the new Becker Gear website launches. He also offers some other interesting bags such as a massive top tube bag and a bag that hangs under the down tube making the most of some unused space.
Becker built this frame bag for my Salsa Mukluk and when we started the process, I used a large piece of cardboard to map out exactly where the bottle eyelets, front derailleur, and other accessories were located so none of the straps would interfere. As a result it fits perfectly and allows me to continue to use the bottle cage bolts below the down tube, attach a top tube feed bag, etc.
I frequently use the main compartment to carry a 3 liter water bladder, with the house routed up through a slit at the top of the bag. There is also a slit at the top rear, though Becker said no one uses it (including myself) so he’s going to discontinue it. Inside along the thin, frame-facing panels you’ll also find straps to hang a hydration bladder, strap in a pump or mount whatever other goodies you’d like to keep handy.
The zippers are massive YKK units that look like they’ll hold up to some abuse. As the weakest part of the bag they are usually the first thing to fail but so far so good. Unlike some other designs, the front of the bag doesn’t swell out wider and occasionally I so overstuffed the thing that I couldn’t close the zipper, but I likely just need to bring less crap.
I’ve also used it on a few other bikes and it has fit extremely well even on bikes that it wasn’t designed for.
When you buy a Becker Gear bag, you’re becoming part of a community. Like it says right on the website, “You won’t be able to buy a thing here without talking to someone.” It means you’re going to get exactly what you want and there’s almost no chance of misunderstandings. All at a competitive price.
“There are a lot of advantages to being small,” Becker said.
An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect location for Becker Gear. It is based in Fairbanks.Tweet Print
Late fall along the Oregon coast is freezing cold, wet, windy, rainy and generally unpleasant. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Instead, a group of friends and I were greeted by bluebird skies and t-shirt temperatures in the afternoons when we arrived at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. It was the second consecutive Thanksgiving weekend we set out to explore just a fraction of the 30,000 acres of rolling sand that stretches nearly 40 miles from Florence to Coos Bay.
While the dune buggies, sandrails and other off-highway vehicles draw most of the visitor traffic to this portion of the state, fat bikes are popping up as a legitimate draw, especially in the off season. A few bike shops along the coast rent bikes and we saw a handful on the backs of cars headed up and down the coast. Word is getting out.
The condition of the sand can vary with wind, precipitation and season, but we had perhaps the best traction yet. (Well, perhaps not when airborne.) The new Maxxis Minion FBF and FBR 4.8 tires on my Salsa Mukluk certainly helped in the floatation department too. We also ventured out onto the beach where we found some Japanese tsunami debris, the half-eaten remains of a seal and a lot of driftwood to practice riding skinnies. This part of the coast doesn’t get many visitors so it has a much more wild feel than the touristy spots.
We’re already planning our next adventure so stay duned!
If you go
How to get there: The most popular starting point is near Lakeside, Oregon, about 3.5 hours from Portland or 2 hours from Eugene. See a map of the area.
Where to stay: We rented yurts at Tugman State Park. They sleep three to five people, have electricity and heaters and some are pet-friendly.
Where to ride: I recommend starting on the John Dellenbeck Dunes Trail, departing from the Eel Creek Campground, which is basically across the street from Tugman State Park.
Click on the magnifying glass to see full-size photos.
Looking for the ultimate cycling adventure? This might be it. From the tour company that created the 120-day Tour d’Afrique from Cairo to Cape Town, as well as a handful of other continent-spanning journeys, the expedition planned for December 2016 should put them all to shame.
TDA Global Cycling is hosting an 18-day ride it has dubbed The Last Degree, traveling through Chile, the Union Glacier basecamp in Antarctica and finally being flown to the 89th parallel to make the ride to the South Pole. From there riders will be flown back to basecamp. Some gear is provided but this is definitely not a ride for beginners. The $70,000 price tag might seem steep but is in line with other expeditions to the edge of the world (Mt. Everest, for example).
TDA Global Cycling Founder and President Henry Gold answered some of our questions about the expedition:
What inspired you to host a group ride to the South Pole?
The idea sprang out of our 7 Epics Challenge of seven extraordinary transcontinental bicycle tours which we introduced a couple of years ago. The 7 Epics Challenge takes place on six continents with two epics, the Silk Route from Beijing to Istanbul and the Bamboo Route from Shanghai to Singapore in Asia.
The concept itself came about from 7 summits on 7 continents and 7 marathons on 7 continents. About 18 months ago when the first cyclist made it to the South Pole, we started thinking: could we also organize a group cycling trip and this way offer a cycling adventure on each continent?
Can anyone sign up? What are the requirements?
In essence, yes, any healthy individual can do it. I say “in essence” because the physical stamina is not the main thing. The main thing is being physically and mentally prepared. An average individual in good health can do it if he or she really, really wants to do it. He or she will need to come to the training camp on Lake Winnipeg in February and learn the basics of successfully surviving the harsh climate in Antarctica, combined with ongoing equipment and training consultation to make sure that participants are in the right frame of mind arriving in Antarctica with all the proper skills, fitness and equipment.
When are you going and how long will it take to get there and back?
We’ll be going in December 2016 and the trip will take approximately 18 days, depending on the weather.
We’re also running a training camp on Lake Winnipeg in February 2016, which is open to anyone who wants a taste of Antarctica, not just our Last Degree participants.
What kind of bikes will the team use?
We will be using Specialized’s specially designed fat bikes with up to 5-inch wide tires with studs and a low gear ratio for chugging through the deep and/or hard-packed snow. Our female riders will have the chance to ride the women-specific Hellga fat bike.
What are some of the challenges you expect to meet along the way?
The primary challenges will be the high altitude, cold and wind, plus the “sastrugi”—snow that has been accumulated into ridges that we have to overcome—and snowfields with an accumulation of permanent snow and ice. The 89th parallel where we land is at high altitude and that takes time to acclimatize.
The rest is weather: how cold will it be; how windy will the plateau get? It will be cold; average temperature at that time of the year is minus 25 Celsius or minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit, but one can expect strong headwinds which, of course, can make it feel much colder.
We’ll need to have tested every bit of kit so that nothing is new. We want to minimize surprises. We’ll have planned out and visualised all aspects of our day from the smallest detail, such as using flint and steel rather than matches that may get damp or a lighter than might stop working at high Antarctic altitudes.
You cannot just tough it out in Antarctica, but you can think it out.
How will safety and emergency concerns be handled?
The expedition is being undertaken in partnership with a company called ALE that has years of experience in supporting expeditions and research in Antarctica. Our guides will be carrying satellite phones and GPS units and will be in daily contact with the base camp. In the event of an emergency that requires an evacuation, a plane will be dispatched from base camp—weather permitting—and is about four hours flying distance.
Do you have a few tips for us non-polar explorers who want to get better at riding in the cold?
When I was a very young man, an old man said to me; there is no such thing as bad weather, there is only improper clothing for the situation.
Cycling in the cold is no different than skiing or snowshoeing. You must dress properly. The worst position you can put yourself in is to sweat into your clothes and then stay outside. At the same time you must take care to protect your hands and feet as the winds will make these parts cold very quickly. So you need good gloves and/or wind covers (pogies) and the same goes for your feet. If you are not cold when cycling, the rest is easy and fun. In one sentence: knowing what to wear and when based on the temperature and wind and how hard you are working is key.
Fat bikes love winter. Battery-powered lights do not. The cold can suck the juice out of a battery much faster than in the summer, but dynamo hubs can power your lights or electronics all day and night. Trouble is, there weren’t many options for fat bike hubs with dynamos, especially since the spacing kept changing.
Now Shutter Precision has unveiled its new fat bike version of the SP-8X spaced at 150 mm with a thru-axle that will fit on most new fat bikes, including on the RockShox Bluto suspension fork. Shutter Precision specially engineered the hub to get full power from the slower rotational speeds created by the big tires.
The hubs should go on sale in January, though retail pricing has not yet been set.Tweet Print
My how things have changed. When the Surly Pugsley rolled onto the scene nearly 10 years ago no one could have predicted (well, some probably did) that fat bikes would be as common as they are today. Riders are using them not just for Arctic exploration, but also for straight up mountain biking, which has shaped development of wheels, tires and frame geometries.
The latest Surly model builds on that experience with geometry that more closely models that of the popular Ice Cream Truck: slacker head tube angle, lower bottom bracket and shorter chainstays than the Pugsley. It’s also built around a 177 mm symmetrical rear end unlike the offset hubs on a Pugsley.
The fork is also a thru-axle, and spaced at 150 mm so it is an easy swap for a RockShox Bluto fork. Even the seat tube has routing for an internal dropper post. This is a mountain bike, through and through, but present are all the mounts and braze-ons your little heart can desire, so it would make an excellent expedition rig too.
Unlike the Ice Cream Truck the tubeset is lighter for a more forgiving ride, and the dropouts are fixed rather than using the interchangeable MDS system. The bottom bracket is 100 mm threaded, and the bike can fit “only” a 4.6-inch tire on 80 mm rim. Speaking of rims, Surly has a new tubeless-compatible rim dubbed “My Other Brother Darryl,” which comes in a few different versions, depending on OE spec or aftermarket.
Surly says the new bike should go on sale later this fall for about $1,500.
It’s the fall trade show season and the new bike releases keep coming. Today we got word that Borealis is releasing its latest carbon fiber fat bike frame, the Crestone, this fall.
The new frame is said to be built to downhill bike strength standards yet is still 150 grams lighter than the Echo model. Because frame bags have become de rigueur with fat bike riders it has a reduced standover clearance to make more room in the center triangle. The geometry doesn’t change considerably compared to the Echo but there are a few millimeters here and there. There are four sizes available.
The Crestone will be available in two new color packages and two build kits, an XO1 build at $4,950 and an XX1 build at $5,850.Tweet Print
One of the original trendsetters in the fat bike market was Fatback out of Anchorage. Pioneers of the wider hub spacing that made 4-inch tires possible in the first place, the company’s latest products continue to push the envelope of fat bike mountain biking. Both are suspension corrected for the RockShox Bluto fork and presumably new suspension forks to come.
The carbon fiber Skookum was built to handle not like the trumbling fat bikes of yore, but like a modern mountain bike, with shorter chainstays (440 mm) and a slacker head tube angle (68.5 degrees) while making room for 4.8-inch tires thanks to the 197 mm thru-axle. There’s also internal routing for a dropper post and can fit 27plus and 29plus rims and tires too.
It will be available in three sizes and four complete bike build kits, as well as a frame-only.
The new Rhino frame takes the attitude of the Skookum and adds a bit of versatility with rack mounts and the sliding dropouts give it the ability to run geared or singlespeed, or even with an internally geared hub now that Rohloff is making fat bike versions. The aluminum frame ships with a matching aluminum fork but build kits are available with Bluto forks or the Lauf leaf spring forks. It too can fit 4.8-inch tires on 100 mm rims as well as 27plus and 29plus.
The Rhino is available in five sizes and two colors, blue or green.
If you’ve ever tried to inflate a fat bike tire with a mini pump, you know how awful the experience can be. While there are a few high volume pumps for mountain bikes on the market, there is clearly a demand for something designed for fat bikes that is still portable.
Now Portland Design Works is finalizing its new Fat Stevens pump and hopes to put it into production through a crowdfunding campaign. Essentially a mini floor pump, it has a high volume aluminum barrel that can move a lot of air. The hose and foot peg design means you can place it on the ground and stabilize it, while the oversized nozzle and pommel handle are designed to operate easily with gloved hands. (Note: See the update below.)
If you order a Fat Stevens pump through the Kickstarter campaign you’ll also get a carrying case made by Blaq Packs in Portland. It will keep the pump secure with additional storage for other tools and is available in camo or blue. You can order one through the campaign for $45 with the bag included. If the campaign is funded, units will ship in October.
We got word today that PDW has modified its design for the pump head based on feedback from fans and Kickstarter backers. First, the pump head will now work with both Presta and Schrader valves and it will use a simple flip lock lever to seal to the valve rather than a thread-on design. PDW cited users’ preference for such a change based on operating the pump with gloved hands.
The brand is also touting the pump’s versatility with any sort of high volume tire, including mountain bikes and the new 29plus and 27plus bikes—basically anything up to 30 psi. According to their tests, the Fat Stevens inflated a Surly Nate tire to 5.5 psi with less than half as many strokes as the competition’s pump.
The crowdfunding campaign for the Fat Stevens pump runs through June 18.
As the fat bike market matures it is inevitably diversifying into specific product categories. Just as mountain bikes now have categories for downhill, cross country or trail riding, fat bike riders are realizing one size does not fit all.
The Farley model has been hugely popular for Trek, but it was being pulled in two different directions: super fat tires for floatation on soft surfaces and more performance when paired with a suspension fork and lighter components. For 2016 the Farley model gets a full redesign based on all the new ways people are using fat bikes.
The new Farley is available in both aluminum and carbon fiber versions with sliding dropouts and rigid or suspension forks. The biggest news (not a pun) is the introduction of yet another wheelsize: 27.5×4. Trek says all the reasons that 27.5 wheels have an advantage over 26-inch for regular mountain bikes applies to fat bikes as well: larger contact patch, better angle of attack and shorter sidewalls for less bounce. Combined with the redesigned Stache model with 29×3 wheels and tires, Trek now has one of the widest “fat” product lineups in the business.
The new bikes are actually designed to fit multiple wheel sizes, as some models are equipped with the fattest of the fat tires and others are spec’d for better performance on trails or groomed snow. The new bike has moved to a 197 mm rear thru-axle while maintaining the same Q-factor as the previous model that could only fit a 26×4 tire.
One of the keys to its versatility is the new Stranglehold sliding dropout design, also found on the Stache, with a full 15 mm of adjustment. By incorporating the axle and the caliper mount it makes wheel swaps a breeze while allowing the user to adjust the chainstay length for different uses and wheel sizes. It can be found on both the new carbon fiber frame (a claimed 1,325 grams) and the new Alpha aluminum frame (a claimed 1,935 grams). Trek says that its lightest model, the Farley 9.8 with a rigid carbon fork, weighs just 23 pounds.
A carbon frame isn’t worth much if your wheels are super heavy, so Bontrager has stepped up with the new carbon Wampa wheels that measure 27.5 with an 83 mm width and weigh just 2,500 grams for the set. Their hookless, tubeless-ready bead should make setting them up with the corresponding Hodag tires a breeze.
Now, while riding a fat bike can make you feel like a kid, actual kids love riding them too. The new Farley 24 has 24-inch wheels with 3.5 tires on an aluminum frame for some pint-sized shredding. Trek says it should fit riders from 50 to 63 inches tall.
Farley 5: 26×4.7 tires, aluminum frame and fork, 2×10 Shimano drivetrain, $1,820.
Farley 7: 26×4.7 tires, aluminum frame, carbon fiber fork, SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain, $2,420.
Farley 9.6: 27.5×4 tires, carbon fiber frame and fork, SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain, $3,150.
Farley 9: 27.5×4 tires, aluminum frame, RockShox Bluto fork, SRAM X1 1×11 drivetrain, $3,360.
Farley 9.8: 27.5×4 tires, carbon fiber frame and fork, carbon rims, SRAM X01 drivetrail with RaceFace Next carbon crankset, $5,040.
Farley 24: 24×3.5 tires, aluminum frame and fork, single chainring drivetrain, $1,210.Tweet Print
Being around the industry as long as I have I know a lot of people, many of whom congregate once a year in a different location to look at the fashionshow we call The North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Where artisan framebuilders show off their latest and greatest creations, which are judged and given giant plastic bowling trophies. Fun fun fun with my favorite people. While totally distracted the whole time, talking to old friends and new,I did manage to get a few random shots off which I will now share with you.
See what I mean? First guy I run into walking in the door is this guy. Ted Wojcik, who I have not seen in maybe 20 years. He’s been makin bikes closer to 30. Might have been the first custom builder to work with Dirt Rag. Now he’s working with Fiefield to bring out some E-bikes.
This happens a lot. Makes it hard to look at bikes sometimes, but thankfully I like people better than bikes. Geoffrey Halaburt is everywhere, we shake hands quite often. He’s here representing maybe the nicest guy in the world, Steve Potts, who I did not get a photo of because we were busy talking about life and family.
Then there’s this guy. Contrary to popular belief, and the sentiment of this photo, I do have a lot of respect for Zap despite him having bigger holes in his ears than I do. As you can see, the feeling is mutual.
OK, Bikes. Black Sheep brought some amazing creations as usual, and while awesome, I couldn’t help but just zoom in on this rad head badge by Jen Green.
Another cool Titanium purveyor is Moonmen. I was fortunate enough to ride with these guys and try these bars, they fell right into my hands and I want to get a hold of a pair for myself.
Back to humans. Here’s the boss of the show, Don Walker. I don’t care what anyone says about Don, I have a metric ass-ton of respect for him and what he’s done for our community. Be thankful.
Sometimes bike porn comes in the ogling of a bare frame. Here Jeff Archer of MOMBAT checks out the work of DiNucci Cycle’s best lugs winning frame. Perfection!
Another one of my favorite people, Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. Note that Shimano provided a bunch of their STePS electric drivetrains for builders to have at it. Each found a different way to attach the STePS unit to the frame.
Here’s another example from Sycip.
Yes, there were many E-bikes, and many fatbikes. On the other side of the spectrum was this carbon fiber something. The Signorina from Abbott Cycles takes the objectification of women to a new level. Definetly sucks that this is how women are represented here. Especially since this object was one of about 10 women I saw at the whole show.
Subtle. Which leads me to this human down the aisle. Look! A living! Female! Framebuilder! Yes, they do exist. Her name is Julie Ann Pedalino and she’s from Lenexa, Kansas and she’s just getting started in this building thing and I’d sure like to see a lot more real women at shows like this and less old boy network. Fer sure (Ok there was Cayley Baird at The Rille booth and Karen Brooks journalizing and Anna Schwinn and Kristen Legan but I am not going to run out of fingers any time soon).
Here’s something from Rody over at Groovy Cycle Works. Another one of his bikes won best of show, but I am all about funk, so take a look at this.
Ok, so here’s one more gift. For Sarah Prater’s wedding. This Shamrock Cycles cross bike was hand painted by Kate Oberreich with 585 individual paper airplanes representing the 585 days of Sarah and Josh’s courtship. Now if that ain’t love.
Well that’s all I have for today, hope you got some enjoyment looking here. There’s plenty of bike porn out the on the web, so feel free to look some up. NAHBS was awesome as usual, it really is the best this bike business has, and I’m glad I was there. Next year, Sacramento, CA! Oh wait, I have one more geezer pic….
Editor’s note: Here at Bicycle Times we are as mindful of price as you are. So we gathered together a group of six very diverse bikes to showcase what you can find right now at the $1,000 price point. See our introduction here.
I’m pretty stoked to be testing the Minnesota 2.0 fat bike from Framed Bikes this winter. I have ridden a few fat bikes, and a bunch of my riding buddies rock them throughout the year, but I haven’t had the chance to really get into the whole scene until now.
The Minnesota 2.0 features an aluminum frame and fork, big 26×4 120 tpi tires, 2×9 SRAM drivetrain, and Avid BB5s among other bits and pieces. Retailing for $900, it’s really targeted towards the price-conscious fat biker.
Taking the bike out for its maiden voyage, the first thing that was most apparent was the tight cockpit. Framed chose to go with an effective top tube that is noticeably shorter than other similarly sized fat bikes. The 18-inch Minnesota 2.0’s top tube has an effective length of 22.5 inches.
Framed is trying to create a bike that rides smaller than it is and provides a more aggressive feel on the trail. It also places more of the rider’s weight in the rear center, allowing for better rear wheel traction. Initially the “short” top tube felt really odd to me, but about halfway into my first ride the bike did start to give me a bit of a playful vibe.
At around 34.5lbs the bike isn’t light by any measure, but does fall in line with similarly spec’d models around the industry. Coming off a light mountain bike, there is definitely a bit more umph required to get through some of the more techy uphill sections and rolling around familiar trails feels a bit more arduous.
With on-trail tire pressure adjustments made in accordance with some more seasoned fat bike riders’ suggestions, things felt a bit better. A lot of the small, harsh trail features seemed less apparent when rolled over with so much squishy rubber.
So far my take away is it rolls over stuff, it’s fun, and I can’t wait to ride it some more. Check back to see how things progressed and my thoughts on this fat bike thing.
Watch for my long-term review in Bicycle Times Issue #33, due on newsstands and in mailboxes in early February.
Photos by the author and Anthony Bareno, Velo Cult
It’s hard to point a finger at what was the “first” fat bike. Just like the origins of the mountain bike itself, there are several branches in the family tree.
This prototype of what would later become the production Hanebrink “Extreme Terrain Bike”—which is still in production today—is the second design, but used many of the parts from the first bike, so it is likely the oldest example in existence. Today it resides in Portland, Oregon, at Velo Cult, a combination bike shop, tavern, event venue and bike museum where it joins dozens of other pioneering off-road bicycles from the likes of Yeti, Ritchey, Salsa and more.
In the early 1990s, mountain biking was still in its infancy and Dan Hanebrink was building quite a few eyebrow-raising bikes, including a dedicated downhill road bike with a sleek fairing that resembled a vintage Moto GP bike and a modified SE Shocker, one of the first mountain bikes with a suspension.
While many early fat bike pioneers were welding together rims and sticking together tires, Hanebrink was experimenting with tires from a whole different source. These original tires are from an ATV and were shaved down as much as possible to shed weight by a company called Skat Trak in California. Small screws were added for traction on ice and snow. They are designed to be ridden at 2 to 4 psi on soft surfaces.
Click on the magnifying glass at the bottom right to see larger photos.
The drivetrain is offset, such that the Q-factor is the same as a normal bike, but a secondary drive chain powers what is essentially a standard derailleur system. The gearing is low enough that it can be ridden at or below walking speeds. The chainrings are only 12t-18t-24t but they are the equivalent of 24t-36t-48t when factoring in the extra ratios of the secondary chain.
Since it is a prototype, some of the details are less than polished, but the basic layout is nearly identical to the current models. The head tube sports a prototype shock absorber, and the brakes are early ProStop models. If you’re wondering why suspension is necessary giving the big tires, a Mountain Bike Action article from 1993 points out that the front wheel was occasionally replaced with a pair of small skis and ridden in the snow around Hanebrink’s home in Big Bear Lake, California, and the front end would bounce harshly without a shock absorber.
Today Fortune Hanebrink bikes have found uses in military and other extreme terrain, often with an electric motor assist. There is even a special golf-specific variation. The prototype is part of Velo Cult’s collection, though it still sees occasional use. If you’re ever in Portland be sure to stop by, have a beer, and take a look.
The new year draws near, and for the first issue of 2015, we’ve rounded up six bike in the $1,000 range as a representative sample at this popular price point. We’ve found it to be common dollar amount for a first “good” bike, or adding a second bike (or third or fourth, etcetera) to the stable. Here’s the rundown with some basic stats, expect more in depth First Impression posts to follow soon.
Weight: 24.8 pounds
Frame/fork material: Aluminum
Drivetrain: Shimano Sora 3×9
Brakes: Promax Render R mechanical disc brakes, 160mm rotors
Tires: 700x35c Schwalbe Road Cruiser
The Lombard is a listed as a “cyclocross utility” bike on Marin’s website, and is a great way to categorize this bike. An aluminum frame and fork keeps the weight down, while reflective decals and rack and fender mounts should make this bike a willing companion on local commutes or long tours.
Specialized Diverge A1
Weight: 24.2 pounds
Frame/fork material: Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum frame with Specialized FACT carbon fork w/ Zertz
Drivetrain: Shimano Claris 2400 STI, with SunRace 11-32 8-speed cassette, KMC chain, and Shimano Claris 50/34T, 175mm crankset
Brakes: Tektro Spyre mechanical disc
Tires: Specialized Espoir Sport 700x30c
The Diverge line is new for Specialized, and illustrates the diffuclting of finding the correct way to label modern drop bar bikes. Disc brake road bike? Utility cyclocross? light touring? Adventure bike? We are slotting this in the disc brake road bike category, with its compact road crank and 30mm tires.
Weight: 39.4 pounds
Frame/fork material: Aluminum
Drivetrain: SRAM 1×8
Brakes: Mechanical disc brake front, V-brake rear
Tires: 26×2.0 WTB Freedom Cruz
As far as we know, this is the least expensive, complete, long-tail cargo bike on the market today. This is a pretty stripped down bike at this price, and will need accessories to really take advantage of the cargo capacity. Yes that is a lot of seat post. Our reviewer has a lot of leg, and Yuba offers the Boda Boda in only two sizes: one a step-through, and the step-over pictured here.
Raleigh Clubman Disc
Weight: 27.4 pounds
Frame/fork material: 4130 butted chromoly
Drivetrain: Shimano Tiagra 10-speed, 50/34 crank,
Brakes: Shimano BR-R317
Tires: Kenda Karv 700×28
The Clubman is a long standing model for Raleigh, and we were glad to see it move to disc brakes for the 2015 model. The full Tiagra 10-speed drivetrain and Shimano discs are a great spec at this price point. And those painted to match metal fenders give the bike a whiff of NAHBS.
Breezer Greenway Elite
Weight: 31.5 pounds
Frame/fork material: aluminum
Drivetrain: SRAM VIA Centro 2×10 speed
Brakes: Shimano M355 hydraulic disc
Tires: Vittoria Adventure 700×32
The Greenway Elite from Breezer comes stock with a solid year round commuting set up: fenders, rack, bell and even a kickstand. The best part? A set of front and rear Trelock lights running off the Shimano dynamo front hub.
Framed Minnesota 2.0
Weight: 34 pounds
Frame/fork material: aluminum
Drivetrain: SRAM X7/X5 2×9
Brakes: Avid BB5 mechanical disc
Tires: Framed 26×4
Framed is a newer bike company, and besides the a full range of fat bikes, bmx and urban bikes, it is also first to market with a women’s specific model, and sells a kid’s 24-inch fat bike as well. It seems fat bikes are becoming more and more popular as a second or third bike, and not just for snow and sand. The big tires seem to strike a chord with a wide range of riders, for a wide range of uses.
The full feature review of all six bikes will appear is the first issue of 2015. Don’t miss this, and the rest of the great content, subscribe now!Tweet Print
On the central Oregon coast, about three hours south of Portland, you’ll find more than 30,000 acres of windswept sand towering in some spots to more than 500 feet above sea level. Author Frank Herbert found it in the 1950s and the experience inspired his seminal work of science fiction, Dune.
Long the bastion of high-octane motorsports, the areas off-limits to vehicles are largely untraveled, as most hikers through the area tend to stick to the marked course from the entrance to the beach. A fat bike is the perfect vehicle to explore the unending ebb and flow of the dunes’ natural evolution.
I recently joined a group from Portland for a weekend of exploring. Arriving late on Friday we first ventured out well after dark, and seeing the looming shapes and valleys lit only by natural light was intimidating. Like Herbert’s fictional planet of Arrakis, the experience was otherworldly.
As Saturday arrived and we got to see the expanse for the first time, the feeling was replaced with childlike glee as we sped down the valleys and carved sweeping turns into the hillsides. The hard rain the day before left the sand in optimal condition as the ultra-low air pressure in our tires barely left a track. We quickly learned the lighter shades of khaki were firmer, and better suited to climbing, while the areas surrounding vegetation were softer with less wind exposure to shape them.
As we made our way to the ocean we greeted by a double rainbow (what does it mean?!) and some debris washed up from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. While we sessioned the natural jump lines from the dunes down to the beach, a rogue wave led to a mishap that reminded us that nature was still in charge here, and not even huge tires can conquer all.
We also made some friends in nearby Lakeside, where the patrons of the Up the Creek Tavern are starting to get used to those funny looking bikes piled up out front. But please, no arm wresting.
Watch for more as we’re already planning another trip in search of melange—or at least a chance to dune it again.
Special thanksTweet Print
Editor’s note: This feature originally appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #32, which is on sale now. Grab a copy at your local newsstand, order one here, or best of all, order a subscription and never miss an issue.
Words and Photos: Dave Schlabowske
I may never go to Colorado again. After a whirlwind weekend tour of Wisconsin’s North Coast along Lake Superior, I found some of the best mountain biking I have experienced since I last rode in Durango. While the trails don’t have quite the same mountainous vistas, the views of Lake Superior from the top of Mt. Ashwabay are just as spectacular, and oxygen is a lot easier to find at 1,280 feet than it is at 12,800 feet riding over Engineer Pass.
I first visited Bayfield last February, when my friends Julian, Nick and I made the trip north to ride the ice road to Madeline Island and explore the frozen sea caves on our fat bikes. That trip was so much fun, my family and I took a three day weekend in Bayfield in July to paddle the same places I rode on my Schlick Northpaw (see Issue 29). It was an amazing experience to see the very same caves in polar opposite seasons!
During the family trip, I was invited by the folks from the North Coast Cycling Association (NCCA) and Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) to ride the local trails at Mt. Ashwabay with State Representative Janet Bewely from Ashland. I was so blown away by the quality of the flowy, fun mountain bike trails, that I made a promise to myself to come back and ride them again when I had time to take photos for this story.
Julian couldn’t make out most recent trip back over Labor Day weekend, Nick and I spent some serious time ripping Torogdor, Upper Diesel and the other trails at Mt. Ashwabay with John Murphy from the NCCA. There are currently a little more than five miles of really challenging, fun trails to ride, but the plan is for 25 to 30 miles of trail. Construction moves relatively quickly because the northern CAMBA crew roughs them in with the mini-excavator they purchased and then finishes them by hand.
Every time I head to Lake Superior I make a mandatory stop to fill a growler or two and eat some amazing deep dish pizza at The Thirsty Pagan in Superior. The micro brews there are some of my favorite because they always have an interesting sour on tap. This last trip it was a tasty Berliner Weiss.
You can’t find a better pairing for microbrews than bicycling, so as you would expect, Thirsty Pagan owner Steve Knaus is bike guy and a big supporter of Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS). COGGS was started in 1994 when the Superior Bikers and the North Star Bike Club combined. Since then the nonprofit organization has built 35 miles of killer mountain bike trails in the granite hills that tower over the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior. The trails are part of the Duluth Traverse system, which includes a plan to build 100 miles of mountain bike trails right in town! There are even a lift-served trails at Spirit Mountain.
Fat Bikes: Badger Build
During my repeated visits to Superior this year, I’ve been curious about the opportunities for beach riding but didn’t have the time to investigate the shoreline until this recent trip with Nick. Since we knew before we left that we would be looking for sand, we brought two of Fyxation’s prototype carbon fat bikes as test vehicles. My rocket on two wheels tipped the scales at 26.5 lbs built up with as many quality components from Wisconsin companies as possible.
I started with Answer carbon bars and seatpost, Hayes Prime brakes, Sun-Ringle Mulefut 80SL rims laced to Fyxation hubs with Wheelsmith spokes. For sneakers, I got a pair of the new Bontrager Hodag tubeless tires. Add Fyxation grips, bar-end plugs, pedals and a red Selle-Anatomica saddle made in Elkhorn, and you have the Badger Build. I did have to look south of the Cheddar Curtain for the SRAM X9 drivetrain, but otherwise the entire build is from Badger State bicycle industry.
Nick and I looked at Google Maps and it looked like sand as far as the eye could see on the Wisconsin side of the Superior Entry on Wisconsin Point by Allouez Bay. To get there you take HWY 53 east to Moccasin Mike Road (seriously) and out to Wisconsin Point where there are a bunch of places to park by trails that lead you to the beach, which is part of the largest freshwater sand bar in the world.
With very few cars, lots of smooth, flat asphalt and bike lanes, Madeline Island offers a wonderful opportunity for an easy ride through gorgeous scenery.
After filling our growlers and eating pizza with Steve at the Thirsty Pagan, Nick and I only had time to ride about five miles of beach when we had to turn around so we could get back to Bayfield. With so much more sand to explore, we plan to bring our Fyxation fatties back to ride more sand. The beach had so much driftwood, that it offers some really fun technical opportunities, which is unusual for beach riding.
Back in Bayfield, Nick and I hopped on the ferry with our touring bikes to ride around Madeline Island. With very few cars, lots of smooth, flat asphalt and bike lanes, Madeline Island offers a wonderful opportunity for an easy ride through gorgeous scenery. Nick brought his four-piece fly rod and we took a break along the beautiful shoreline to toss some flies in Big Bay State Park. He didn’t have any luck pulling in a shore lunch, but we snacked on blueberries, which were plentiful pretty much anywhere you looked down.
In town we found our whitefish at the Bayfield Inn Lakeside Restaurant, which is right across the street from the Isaac Wing House where we were staying. I can’t say enough good things about the Isaac Wing House. Our two room suite had a huge bathroom with whirlpool and two porches, one overlooking the bay and the other more private and surrounded by wild flowers. It will definitely be the first place I try to reserve the next time I head back to Bayfield.
Perfect cheesie vacation
While I might still visit my friends in Durango, I honestly have to admit that I can’t wait to get back to Bayfield. The tiny town of 457 sits on the edge of one of the most beautiful natural areas in the world, the Apostle Island National Park, so it is the perfect home base for a silent sports adventure.
With quick access to great MTB trails, unparalleled sea kayaking, and scenic paved roads. Throw in great food (you have to try the whitefish livers), a good coffee shop, a bike shop, and you have the making of a perfect Wisconsin vacation.
Felt Bicycles develops bikes in nearly every category with worldwide distribution, an impressive feat for a company with a crew of 32 in its Irvine, California, headquarters. Its 2015 launch for more than 30 journalists from around the country highlighted several Bicycle Times-friendly models alongside the standard high-zoot carbon machines, including e-bikes, endurance, commuting, fat bikes and dirt.Tweet Print
When the Salsa Mukluk first burst onto the scene in 2011, it was designed for backcountry exploration moreso than actual mountain biking. Well in the past few years things have changed quite a bit, and as fat bikes have become more specialized, tires have gotten bigger, and customers’ desires have changed, the bikes have had to evolve quickly.Tweet Print
We had seen it coming. There were spy shots and rumors tossed around about a full-suspension fat bike. In fact, the Bucksaw isn’t even the first one—several smaller brands have built bikes that qualified as “full-suspension”, but this one is different. This is a major brand making a big commitment to a new product segment, and bringing an advanced suspension design with it. Mike Riemer, Salsa’s Marketing Manager, said that Dave Weagle, the creator of the Bucksaw’s Split Pivot suspension, told him it was the most complex project he had ever worked on.
One thing is for sure, this is not a “stealthy” bike. From the big tires to the candy-colored paint, the Bucksaw is breaking a new trail in mountain biking. But how does it ride?Tweet Print