Thursday, November 5, 2015

(R)evolution.

Roughly 5 years ago Devin Lenz and I had a conversation about fat-tire full suspension bikes.

I don't remember the details well enough to quote with any level of accuracy, but I do remember the gist of it.

It went something like this:

Devin: You think I should make one of these?  I've got a few guys asking for 'em.

Me: Nah.  The tires and rims are just crap right now--any bike worth having them on would be constantly flatting tires.  Give it a few years.

We went back and forth a few times on different details, with the end result that Devin didn't dive in way back then.

That didn't stop many enthusiasts from creating their own FS fatbikes.

Meanwhile, over the past 5 years rim and tire technology has gotten increasingly and incrementally better with every passing month.  Tubeless-ready was the tip of the iceberg, but now we have hookless rims in both carbon and aluminum, reinforced casings with dual compound rubber, and more tread patterns than you can shake a dead rat at.

Fat bike rims and tires have, in a word, arrived.

Still, having owned and ridden many of the genre over the past twenty years, I remained uninterested in a FS fatty for many reasons until very recently.

And by 'very recently', I mean until I started having neck issues that gnarly narcotics cannot begin to touch and only an impending surgery will begin to fix.

That's a different part of this story, but it was emphatically the genesis for what follows.

Knowing that several companies already made full-sus fatties, I arranged a few demo rides in hopes of simply buying an off-the-shelf frame to hang my own wheels and kit onto.  Something that I could ride during rehab from surgery, and have some fun on once the rehab was complete.

And what I learned was that those whom already make full-sus fatties have a very different idea of how a bike is supposed to behave than I do.  In essence, each of the three bikes that I tried had at least one fatal flaw that would preclude me from riding it on my backyard trails at all, even if the cost of ownership were "free".  The geometry on two of these bikes was downright unbelievable, and the suspension "action" on the third was so opposite of how I want a bike to feel that it was a non-starter.

And so I gratefully returned the last demo bike, and then called my friend Devin and said something like, "You know that bike I've been telling you not to make for the past 5 years?"

"The fatty?  What about it?"

"Wanna make me one?"

That was about two months ago, and the end result has arrived and been ridden.




The pics embedded herein will tell most of the story.  

Actually there are two details that no pics will be able to convey the importance of.

First: 16.5" chainstay length.  Not a misprint.



Second: This is among the most lively, poppy, hoppable, manualable bikes I've ever ridden.  Sure, few of those are actual words but if you've read this far then you understand where I'm going with them.  The bike doesn't ride dead--it is most emphatically alive and begging for your input.



Note the mondo headtube.  Seems potentially overkill for this bike, until you realize that it opens up many options--like the ability to run an internal bearing (as pictured) to lower the front end and steepen the head angle on an otherwise very long fork, or to use an external cup with a shorter (Bluto) fork and still keep the front end height similar.  Or the ability to run an Angleset and really be able to dial things in, regardless of fork choice.


I chose to start with the Manitou Dorado at 180mm of travel, largely because I've used and loved this fork on my DH bike for 5+ years now.  It has the most tunable damper I have yet to have the pleasure of fiddling with, fits a 4" tire with room to spare, and can be height adjusted a plethora of ways to get the geo of this bike to within a millimeter of where I want it to be.


Stainless steel Wolftooth chainring in 28t, paired with a 10-44t rear cluster should give me all the range I need.


As in six inches of rear travel.  Devin will make this with 5" or 4" of travel too if you want it to match a different fork, or your local needs/conditions.


Rims are 65mm wide Nextie carbon, run tubeless.  No idea where pressures will end up, guessing in the 10 to 13ish range based on the first ride out.


Comfy swept bars are mandatory in my world, not just because of the neck issue but because of the unspeakable things I did to my hands/wrists/elbows in all of the years that I was chased by the endurance racing demon.  Answer 20/20's are, by far, the comfiest off-the-shelf bars I've found to date, and currently grace every one of my bikes.


Stealth Reverb with 125mm of travel.  Current rear damper is a Monarch Debonair, which is a good starting point because it's a known quantity.  

Because I've only ridden this bike *once* thus far, and because there is such a dizzying amount of fiddling to do with the suspension, rider position, tire pressures, etc..., I cannot begin to wrap words around how it rides.

I can only say that the amount of potential it has is staggering, and will likely keep me awake for many nights the next few weeks trying to thinker up ways to further fine tune where it is, and where it might go.



100mm BB shell, threaded like they should be, using box-stock SRAM GXP cranks and BB.





See above re: headset/fork options.






Most adjustable and incredible fork I've ever owned or ridden.  Pretty dang psyched I was able to choose it for this project.


Another 10mm of fore/aft adjustability to help dial in the fit, both before and after surgery.


And while I'm among the first to gag on the hyperbole that this industry vomits forth with increasing regularity, I cannot swing a leg over this bike and rally along a trail (or up a wash, across a clearcut, above the high-tide line, or anywhere else that a current bike would be very difficult to ride) without thinking about what a game-changing vehicle this one has the potential to be.

All while grinning ear to ear and ingesting newly-hatched bugs by the millions.

Thanks for reading.

MC

6 comments:

  1. Amazing piece of machinery! Now if only you could get your health insurance to cover it as "rehabilitation equipment". ;)

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  2. Mike
    I noticed with interest the fat bike you posted some images of over at MTBR. I don't usually go to that site due to, well, you know about MTBR.
    Any hoo, did you torch that bad boy up? Back when I was building, I kep toying with the idea of elevated stays on a fatbike, and it seemed like
    the perfect application. Care to elaborate on that frame?
    Cheers
    Paul

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  3. Very cool. This makes sense to me as well!

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  4. reading & looking at this post is like one of the Penthouse Forum articles of the 1970s -- but about a bike!!

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  5. "And what I learned was that those whom already make full-sus fatties have a very different idea of how a bike is supposed to behave than I do. In essence, each of the three bikes that I tried had at least one fatal flaw that would preclude me from riding it on my backyard trails at all, even if the cost of ownership were "free". The geometry on two of these bikes was downright unbelievable, and the suspension "action" on the third was so opposite of how I want a bike to feel that it was a non-starter."
    Would it be possible to explain the fatal flaws and the suspension action?
    I have been looking at the bucksaw, and presumably, that was one of the bikes you tested. I understand you don't want to insult these companies, but if you can, please elaborate on the deficiencies of these bikes. Thanks in advance...

    ReplyDelete