Sunday, 29 November 2015

So you want to buy a fatbike | Top 10 Considerations


It's time to buy a fatbike when you have:

  • been watching lots of fatbike videos on YouTube;
  • signed up to a couple of fatbike facebook groups;
  • started following a fatbike blog called Fatbike Republic (shamless plug); and 
  • been drooling over fatbikes on-line and at your LBS.  
So what do you buy?  There are plenty of decent fatbikes on the market with a plethora of options and variations to tempt your fat pallet.  Here are my top 10 considerations for buying your first fatbike.

1) Budget

If you have very deep pockets, a budget for your foray into fatbiking may not be a concern. However, if you are like most folks your money tree has yet to bloom.  Fatbikes can start at several hundred dollars and climb to the stratosphere.  So the first step in getting your fatbike is to set a budget . . . with a little wiggle room.

2) Purpose

If your plan is just to ride snow for fun, you may not need a myriad of mounting points for bags and cages.  If your goal is to explore the wilderness, a bike build for speed may not be the best choice. Many people buy a fatbike for winter use only and quickly realize it is a capable and fun four season bike.


3) Steel vs Aluminum vs Carbon vs Titanium

To be honest . . . they are all great choices.  My current ride is aluminum yet I have taken a steel for a spin and I have whipped around on a carbon. Each have their own list of characteristics, good points and bad points.  For example steel is heavier, more resilient, easier to repair and is relatively inexpensive.  While carbon is lighter, more fragile, tricky to fix and quite costly.  Find a bike that fits and take it for a spin. 

Take a look at this steel and carbon beauty melding the best of both worlds.

Steel Frame - Carbon Fork
4) Mechanical vs Hydraulic Brakes

Mechanical brakes are generally cheaper than their hydraulic brothers. Both will stop you from going over the edge of the earth and both will freeze if they get wet and cold enough.  However, hydraulics do have extra stopping power that is always nice.

5) Drivetrain

There are all sorts of gear choices out there from the super cool 1 x 12, 1 x 11 to the ultra reliable 2 x 10.  For those a little more adventurous there is the single speed option, however I'm not sure how well that would work off road.  A lot of manufacturers are moving to a 1x platform as many people (including myself) have upgraded from the stock 2x system.  If you feel more comfortable going with a 2x for the extra low gear capabilities . . . then go for it.

6) Tires

Tires are expensive.  A couple of years ago there were only a handful of fatbike tires on the market.  Just about every tire manufacturer now have at least one fat offering, with some manufacturers (like Vee) offering tires in different rubber compounds and even colours.  Most bikes come with decent tires for most types of terrain.  I do prefer a higher TPI count (120 vs 60) as the tire is more subtle and rides smoother.  If purchasing your fattie from a LBS they may cut you a deal on a second set of tires or upgrade you for a few bucks.

7) Stud or not to stud

Where I ride we get a lot of ice before the snow decides to stay put.  You only have to go down on ice ONCE and you will be buying studs.  

Studded tires are costly, but if you have an extra set of tires you could look at Grip Studs or if money is scarce you could stud your tires with screws . . . but that will ruin them for any other type of riding.

The best time to purchase studded tires is in the off season when they are taking up valuable shelf space needed for summer gear. 

8) 4" vs 5" tires

A 4" tire is just fine for winter riding, however a 5" will give a little more float on the white stuff.  
During the non-snowy season the smaller tire is much lighter and quicker, yet the 5" tire will offer oodles of more traction and stability.  


9) Bike Rear Spacing

If you are considering running anything larger than a 4" tire then you will have to consider rear spacing.  The most common rear spacings are 170mm and 197mm (135mm on some older fatties).  Many manufacturers have moved towards a 197mm x 12 as the larger the rear end spacing, the larger tire you can run.  Personally, I have run a 5" tire with a 170mm and a 1x drivetrain with additional slight drivetrain modifications.

10) Suspension

You do not really need front suspension in the winter.  Its a nice to have for the few bumps, but it adds weight and may cause issues in really cold weather depending on the fork.  A carbon fork is generally a better option for the powder.  A suspension fork is definitely a welcome addition when ditching your mountain bike during the summer, and you can always add it later.  Just make sure the frame is suspension corrected.

Final Thoughts

Before you lay down the cash, be sure to take the bike for a spin.  Sometimes the bike will look right on paper, but when sitting in the saddle it may just not "feel right".

I'm sure there are other things that could be considered, however this Top 10 should help you narrow down your first fatbike purchase.

Have fun and ride on.

Monday, 16 November 2015

2016 Sasquatch 6.1 | Sneak Peek


New to the Fatbike Republic stables is this white Sasquatch 6.1. The Norco flagship for 2016 will be joining its older Bigfoot brother brother this season.

Items of note on the Sasquatch 6.1 include:

  • New frame (197mm rear end with 12mm thru axle)
  • 1 x 11 (SRAM GX1)
  • Race Face components (BB, crank, chainring, bars and stem)
  • Mulefut 80mm rims (830g)
  • Schwalbe Jumbo Jim's 4.8
  • Avid DB5 Brakes (180mm front & 160mm rear)
  • Rockshox Bluto RL (100mm with 15mm thru axle)
And a few photos . . .






If you live in the land of the Republic visit Cychotic Bikes to get your fill of Norco fatbikes.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Vee Bulldozer (PSC) in White | Review


As mentioned in Bulldozer Sneak Peek, Vee Tire have have made some changes to the Bulldozer for 2016 which include offering the tire in a Pure Silica Compound (PSC).

This is what Vee Tire have to say about the Bulldozer
The bulldozer plows through any terrain you can challenge. Center tread knobs are shaped to grip hard and keep you on the trail. Built for the most demanding fatbike riders, the Bulldozer's aggressive side and transition knobs keep you upright and provide excellent grip in the corners.
This tire is not actually true white, its more off-white and this treatment is exclusive to the PSC compound.  This compound allows the tire to perform better on ice, makes it quieter and allows less debris to stick to the tire.  Its the softest of all the Vee Tire rubber compounds.


Be sure to check out the video below for some up close and personal shots and actual field test footage.

UNBOXING

Taking a look at the tire tread you will see alternating ramped single and double lugs down the center.  These are flanked by staggered rectangular transitional lugs and evenly spaced side lugs.



The Pure Silica Compound is indeed softer than the single compound Bulldozer, although the tread pattern is identical.



The packaging indicates that the tires are 4.7" wide, however when checked with a caliper they run closer to 4 1/8".  That's about 1/2" smaller than advertised.



They do weigh in as claimed at 1380g.



FIELD TEST

There was a distinct lack of the white stuff while taking the Bulldozer out on the trail.  So I will report back on the snow performance later.

I found that this tire likes to move quickly.  I'm thinking it's because of the linear center lug pattern, so when this tire gets on the hard packed it wants to roll fast.



Consequently, when cornering fast in the loose stuff you will notice some dirt drifting, however the side lugs will dig in and pull you through.

The super sticky PSC compound allows the tire to stick to rock so you can climb all day long.



There is minimal slippage when you get the Bulldozers into wet, muddy and slimy conditions.  The tread pattern and PSC compound allow the tire to self-clean quite well in all but the super stickiest of goo.



They also clean up quite well with a spray from the hose and a slight scrub with a nylon brush for the stubborn areas.



FINAL THOUGHTS

At 4 1/8" these tires fit between the 4" and 5" tire options.  They will offer a little more winter float for people currently running 4" tires, and will be a little more nimble for those running 5" winter tires and looking for something a little narrower for the summer.

As the PSC is really soft, you may want to consider the MPC version of the Bulldozer if you frequent pavement or concrete on a regular basis.  The MPC is less sticky and a little tougher. 

If you are looking for a versatile do all tire, that likes to run fast, then check out the Vee Bulldozer . . . it may be what you are looking for.



Sunday, 1 November 2015

2016 Spherik Fatbikes | Complete Lineup & Test Ride


A short while ago I shared with you a quick first look at Spherik's 2016 fatbike line-up.  With the help of Fun-n-Fast I have been able to get my hands on the complete Spherik lineup and take a much closer look at what these Canadian fatbikes have to offer.

For the 2016 model year the Quebec based fatbike purveyor is supplying five models from which to choose: SF1, SF2, SF4, SF6 and the SF8.

The SF1



The SF1 is designed for smaller adults and kids between 9-14 years of age.  It has a very low stand-over height and the full-size 26" x 90 mm wheels and 4.7" Bulldozers make it very stable.  Drivetrain is a 1 x 9 setup mated to a 190 mm rear end.  Stopping is accomplished by mechanical disk brakes.

This is one really neat little bike and it is only available in XS.  I think the design would be really cool if it was available in larger sizes.  The welds are very clean and I really like the vibrant red.  It sort of reminds me of the old BRP Traxter ATV with its step-through design.




The SF2


The SF2 is Spherik's entry level adult fatbike. It has a cro-moly fork and is shod in 4.7" Bulldozers on 90mm rims with a 190 mm rear end.  This bike runs a mix of Shimano and Spherik components on its 1 x 9 drivetrain (24T with 11-36).  Brakes are Tektro mechanical disk with 160mm rotors fore and aft.

Most entry level bikes at this price point run a front derailleur with a 2 x system, do not have the room for 5" tires, and have lesser quality 4" rubber. The SF2 offers quite a lot of bike for those on a budget. 

Sizes are available to fit most people and include: S(15.5"), M(17"), L(19") and XL(21").




The SF4



Graduating to the SF4 provides a bunch of upgrades.  This bike rocks a 1 x 10 (SLX rear), hydraulic brakes (Tektro), 150 mm aluminum fork with 15 mm thru-axle and wider 100 mm rims.  And the frame is Bluto compatible. These upgrades make the SF4 just that much sweeter. The 190 mm rear end and tires are carried over from the SF2.  

This frame, like all the others in the Spherik line-up, was designed in Canada. Sizes include S(15.5"), M(17"), L(19") and XL(21").




The SF6



Race Face components make an appearance on the SF6 with the stem, bars, bottom bracket, crank and seat post.  This 1 x 10 has a Deore XT derailleur and SLX shifter.  Brakes are hydraulic with 160 mm rotors and there is a super comfy WTB saddle.  And last but not least, a carbon fork graces the front end of this stealthy  fatbike.  If you want to swap out the carbon for a little squish, the SF6 is Bluto corrected just like the SF4.


I really like the white on black colour scheme on the SF6 and the carbon fork really lightened up the front end.





The SF8 (no longer in production)

Although the SF8 was unable to make the photoshoot I can share with you what makes this the top-shelf bike of the Spherik line-up. In addition to having the carbon fork it also sports a pair of 100 mm carbon rims to further reduce weight.  The 1 x 10 drivetrain is now full Shimano XT and stopping is handled by Shimano Deore XT . . . in addition to other bits and pieces that equip this bike for performance.

The Ride

Although I did not get into any unspeakable terrain and there was a distinct lack of snow, I did spend some quality time with the SF6. For sizing my 5"10 frame fit squarely between the M(17") and L(19") . . . pretty much the same as other bikes I have ridden.

The 24T chainring got the bike up to speed really quickly with the SLX shifter and Deore XT derailleur shifting flawlessly through the gears. The grips were comfortable and the WTB seat will make you welcome long rides.

My fingers fell easily on the Tektro hydraulics and a one finger pull was all that was needed to pull the bike down from warp speeds. The 760 mm bar made maneuvering during high speed flying and slow speed prowling easy and predictable, with the 70.5 degree head angle giving the bike a XC sort of feel.

Great choice on the tire and rim grouping.  I have been a fan of recent Vee tires and the Bulldozer has a great combination of fast rolling centre knobs coupled with side knobs for extra grip.  Airing these tires down for the white stuff will get you where you need to go.

You need to check out the info-graphic over on the Spherik website on their analysis of rim width vs tire width vs tire pressure and its impact on usable contact patch.  Bottom line . . . a 100 mm rim and 4.7" tire is the best combination.

Final Thoughts

The 2016 Spherik fatbike lineup has practically something for everyone from introducing a young adult to the world of fat, just getting into the sport yourself or upgrading from a current ride.

The bikes offer good value for the money and I really like the attention they have given to the rim and tire grouping, balancing float and traction.  Two important factors in the world of fatbiking.

If you live in the land of the Republic, be sure to check out Fun-n-Fast to view these fat velos for youself.  If not, check out the Find A Dealer section of the Spherik website for a LBS near you and be sure to like them on FaceBook.

Ride on!