Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Otso Voytek | Changing the face of fat !

Otso Voytek

Every year fatbikers worldwide anxiously await to see what has been cooked up for the new model year. Oftentimes we see a remixing of current industry components and ideas, splashes of new colours and graphics and sometimes an innovative new flavour profile. And then there are times when we are presented with something that truly awakens our fat pallets, igniting our senses and leaving us wanting more.


Otso Voytek Frame
So what happens when you have a group of innovative bike crazy engineers, who are less than enthusiastic with current offerings, and want to nudge the envelope? 

You get a new player entering the fatbike marketplace . . . Otso Cycles and their ground shaking Voytek fattie.


The bike savvy folk of Minnesota based Wolf Tooth were looking for bikes that did not exist, and instead of waiting . . . they started a bike company and built their own. The results of their efforts are two groundbreaking new bikes: a fat-capable narrow Q-factor bike and a multi purpose drop-bar bike.

The Voytek

In the midst of WW2, the Polish army discovered a stray bear cub alone in the wild. This bear, named Voytek, grew to become a valiant soldier. Voytek drank beer, smoked (or ate) cigarettes, wrestled with the troops, and even helped carry ammunition into battle. The folks at Osto say that just like the legendary bear, their Voytek bike can be playful or serious . . . always ready for any mission.



Otso Voytek

The Voytek is a carbon fiber hardtail fattie that can transform into a 27.5+ or 29+ nimble trail bike. In addition to having the narrowest Q-factor of any production fatbike, the Voytek also sports an easily adjustable drop out system called the Tuning Chip. 

Voytek Key Features:



  • Narrowest Q-factor on the market using 83 mm bottom bracket, which is 17% narrower than the 100 mm bottom bracket used in most production fatbikes.
  • Tuning Chip adjustable drop out system that can quickly and easily switch from a nimble 430 mm chainstay to a fast and stable 450 mm. You want both . . . try the 440 mm option.
  • Plus-Fat design delivers great handling as a 27.5+ or 29+ trail bike. Maximum tire sizes are 26 x 4.6, 27.5 x 2.6 and 29 x 3.0.
  • Longer top tube, with shorter chainstays and a slightly slacker head tube angle make it quick and fun.
  • Suspension corrected geometry for up to a 120 mm fork.
  • 177 x 12 rear spacing with 150 x 15 front.
  • EPS molded carbon fiber frame. 100% carbon with no aluminum inserts or fiberglass.


Otso Voytek

The narrow Q-factor provides benefits in biomechanics as the pedals are spaced about 10 mm wider than a regular mountain bike, whereas other fatbikes are 30-50 mm wider.  Reducing knee and hip strain and improving bike handling are two of the man benefits of a narrower bottom bracket.



Otso Voytek


Complete Voytek build specifications, frame geometry, and customization upgrades and add-ons can be found at Otsocycles.com.


Otso Voytek

With the narrowest Q-fatctor of any production fatbike, this customizable carbon cycle is designed to feel more like a mountain bike and less like a fatbike . . . opening up a whole new dimension to winter and summer riding. 

If this is Osto's entree into the fatbike arena . . . I cannot wait to see what exciting things the future holds.  And if your fat pallet also likes an occasional taste of skinny, be sure to take a look at peek at the Osto drop-bar Warakin.

Stay tuned to Fatbike Republic for when we get up close and personal with the Voytek.

Ride on!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Vee Speedster | City Slickers


Vee Speedster

To date fatbike tires have allowed riders to traverse snow, ice, mud, rocks, sand and just about anything else mother nature and old man winter can throw at us.  If there is a terrain . . . there is a tire for it.

Those of us who have ventured onto the concrete and asphalt of the urban jungle have done so on the same heavy lugged tires.  While great off-road these tires are not super agile, take a lot of energy to spin and they rumble like heavy machinery.  Not to mention the wear and tear they take on the unforgiving solid surfaces.

The folks over at Vee Tire have a solution for the urban adventurer and it is called the Speedster.  Fatbike Republic was provided a pair of these uber fast, friction fighting tires for review.

THE TIRE

The Speedster is available in two fat size: 26 x 3.5 (reviewed) and 20 x 4.0. The 26 x 3.5 have a folding bead, is tubeless ready with a 120 TPI, and is made from Vee Tire's mid-range Silica compound rubber.

According to the tire experts at Vee Tire . . .

The Speedster was designed for rolling speed and minimal drag on hard pack or paved terrain. The honeycomb center tread provides virtually zero rolling resistance and unbelievable tread life. The honeycomb feature also gives you excellent traction in dry or wet conditions. Large diamond shaped side knobs provide the grip you need in corners, while the tread knobs get smaller towards the center for the ultimate speed and traction. And with its balloon-style structure, you'll feel like you're floating on air.

Vee Speedster


OVERVIEW

The Speedsters are the least imposing of the entire Vee Tire fatbike tire lineup.  Taking a closer look at the sidewall they are indeed tubeless ready and directional . . . although the tread pattern appears more symmetrical.


Vee Speedster

The tread pattern on this tire is very subdued when you compare it to other fatbike tires.  Sweeping chevron sipping on the shoulders create a tight rectangular lug pattern that leads to the center of the tire.  And Vee Tire nailed the description of the center "sweet spot" when calling it honeycombed.

Vee Speedster

The Speedster weighs in at 1106g which is 156g heavier than the claimed 950g.

Vee Speedster Weight

Tread depth is pretty much non existent, when compared to other off-road specific tires . . . at 1.95mm (0.08") on the shoulders and 1.05mm (0.04") in the center.

Vee Speedster
Add caption

Putting the calipers on the tires (80 mm rim @ 30 lbs) the Speedsters measure in at 3.66" which is slightly larger than the claimed 3.5".  The recommended tire pressure for this tire is 8-36 PSI.

Vee Speedster Width


FIELD TESTING

This is not an off-road tire.  If you intend to take this tire into areas where you need the traction of an aggressive tire . . . you will be disappointed. This is not an off-road tire . . . did I say that already?


The Speedsters were mounted to a Norco Bigfoot Fatrod . . . a first generation Bigfoot, converted to a 1x9 with a Wolf Tooth elliptical chainring.  The tires fit quite nicely on the 80mm rims, however they may be a bit of a stretch on 100s.  


Vee Speedster COntact PatchBefore hitting the road there was some tire pressure experimentation.  With anything less than 20psi there was self steer and the tire felt a little odd.  I found that 30psi worked the best allowing the tire to primarily run on the 23mm (0.9") honeycomb sweet spot in the center of the tire.  All cushioning effects were lost at 30psi.



About 250 km were put on the Speedsters on urban streets, city paths and rural roadways.  The Fatrod participated in a Critical Mass, fundraising activity for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, played in a BMX park, did some pavement pounding and general scooting around.




Knowing full well their off-road limitations, the Speedsters were exposed to some loose gravel trails.  Traction was practically non existent as the gravel rolled under the tires.  The extent of the Speedsters off-road capability should be limited to well packed dirt paths.




Needless to say these tires drew a lot of attention from cyclists and non-cyclists with the most common question being "are they hard to pedal?" When carrying 30 psi the tires rolled on the center honeycomb, which had a very small contact patch, and therefore very little friction.  A 20 km road route that I enjoyed in a previous life would take me 55 minutes on a skinny tired roadie . . . with the Speedsters it took 65 minutes.  They roll pretty quickly with minimal effort.

Vee Speedster

The tires also shed water like a wet dog.  Heavy drizzle/light rain had no impact on the tire's traction as evident during a 20 km road ride fundraising event.

And while riding the road I did not have to scan the bike's path for ruts, crevasses and loose dirt as I would have on the skinny as the Speedsters are very forgiving.  Moving off the pavement to the dirt shoulder could also be done at speed and not have to worry about washing out.


Vee Speedster

I did get two flats when running these tires.  In both instances I was running ultralight 26 x 2.4 tubes with 30 psi and found nothing puncturing the tire itself.  When I switched to a true fatbike tube (26 x 4) there were no more flats.  I'm guessing the stretched 2.4 with the high pressure killed the tube.


Vee Speedster

I also spent some time on heavy packed dirt walking trails.  The Speedsters performed very well and were very swift.  They did pick up some tiny rocks in the honeycomb pattern, but they were soon ejected after reentering the pavement zone.


Vee Speedster


FINAL THOUGHTS

The Speedster is much more at home cruising the blacktop than cutting a backwoods trail.  The non aggressive profile has just enough grip to make packed dirt paths fun.

You have to run them at pretty close to max pressure to get the best performance and tubeless might be an option as high pressures and ultralight tubes do not play well together.

If your riding tends to be more on the urban side with a splash of dirt . . . the Vee Speedsters may be right up your alley.

Ride on !

Friday, 5 August 2016

2016 Rocky Mountain Blizzard -10 | Review

Blizzard -10

North Vancouver based Rocky Mountain entered the fatbike arena in 2015 with the Blizzard.  The black beauty was indeed a great entrance into the fatbike world.

For 2016 the lineup expanded to three models:
  • The flagship Blizzard -50 now in ghost white and still sporting the Bluto. 
  • The mid-range Blizzard -30 in teal with a 1 x 10 drivetrain, 197 mm rear end and Bluto compatible. 
  • The entry-level Blizzard -10 in metallic gray with 95 mm rims, huge Kenda Juggernauts and 1 x 9 drivetrain. 
With the 2017s on their way, Fatbike Republic was able to secure a Blizzard -10 for some testing.  Big thanks to Cychotic Performance Bike Shoppe for the opportunity.

FRAME & FORK

Blizzard -10

The Blizzard -10 is available in S-M-L and XL sizes.

The 6061 custom formed alloy frame sports a non-tapererd head tube that is suspension corrected, with the curvy seat and chain stays providing a 190 mm rear end. The seat tube is 30.9 mm and the bottom bracket measures 100 mm. Water bottles can mount on the seat tube and down tube.

The front fork is aluminum (with chromoly steerer) with 135 mm spacing. And coating it all is a love-it-or-hate-it metallic grey with a native inspired decal on the upper section of the sloping top tube.


DRIVETRAIN & BRAKES

Making the Blizzard go is a 1 x 9 drivetrain with a 24T front chainring and a Shimano 12-36T cassette.  What's interesting up front is that a 2x crank is used with the large spider supporting a bash guard and the smaller holding the chainring.  Clever.


Blizzard -10

An entry level Shimano Altus rear derailleur moves the KMC chain throughout the gears with a corresponding Altus 9spd shifter up on the bars.



Putting the stop on the Blizzard are a pair of Tektro RS360a levers mated to Tektro M280 160mm mechanical disks.


Blizzard -10


WHEELS & TIRES

The Blizzard -10 runs large 95mm Rocky Mountain "Speedhole" rims that have a very unique cutout pattern.  The front wheel spins on a Rocky Mountain 135 mm QR hub while the rear wheel has a Sunringle 190 mm QR.


Blizzard -10

Mounted to the wheels are large Kenda Juggernaut Sport (60 TPI) tires. The casing states that the tires are a 4.5" . . . but they are slightly larger at 4.6".  Its also interesting to note that Rocky Mountain has opted to use tubes with "larger" schrader valves. 

Blizzard -10

BITS & PIECES

A Rocky Mountain 70 mm stem holds the 720mm x 31.8 bars.  Grips are also Rocky Mountain fare.  The seat is actually a WTB Volt emblazoned with what appears to be Rocky Mountain inspired graphics.  And a much appreciated quick release seatpost clamp for tool less seat adjustment.


Blizzard -10

HITTING THE TRAILS

The Blizzard -10 was taken into the backwoods for some serious scouting of new trails.  Normally my 5'10" frame would fit comfortably on a large size bike, however with the -10 a medium felt a little more natural.

The extra weight of the chromoly fork was not really noticeable and the bike exhibited the expected bounce of any rigid front fattie. Although the head tube is not tapered, mounting of a Bluto is possible with a tapered head adapter.



Blizzard -10

The grips, while nothing to write home about, were adequate and the WTB saddle did not disappoint.  With a slight adjustment of the brakes and shifter my fingers fell naturally to their respective locations.


Blizzard -10

Like most who make the leap to a 1x drivetrain the front derailleur was not missed.  I found the low range 24 x 36 combination quite adequate to climb the long steep hill that opened one of the trails.  When comparing it to a SRAM GX1 11spd 26 x 42 . . . the gearing is quite similar.  Shifting the -10 through its 9 speeds was handled quite well by the budget minded Shimano Altus.  Up and down the range without any skipping or dropping.


Blizzard -10

With a head tube angle of 67.6 it gives the -10 more of a trail bike geometry. While steering may be a little less responsive than with a steeper angle, the slacker head does make descending a little smoother.


Blizzard -10

The Tektro mechanical brakes were less than impressive.  There are mechanical brakes that do quite a decent job of slowing a fattie down from breakneck speed, but these are not one of them.  There were no worries of locking up the tires, it was almost as if the Tektros were in some sort of weird anti-lock mode.  Additionally, when the brakes were engaged there was random "grabbing" that made controlled stops challenging.


Blizzard -10

Great choice on the tires.  Floating along on 10lbs of air the open tread pattern of the Kendas cornered well and pulled me up over rocks and a few trees that crossed the Blizzard's path.  Weighing in at a tad over 1300g they are no light weight, but neither would they be considered rolling anchors.  I would anticipate they would do a decedent job in the cold white stuff. 


Blizzard -10

With most of the industry using presta valve tubes in their tires, using schrader valves is a little peculiar . . . however it does make it super easy to get a digital low pressure tire gauge.  

FINAL THOUGHTS

There is no arguing that the Rocky Mountain Blizzard -10 is an entry level bike best left for those entering the fat arena or the occasional rider.

Pros:
  • Price
  • Wide rims (95mm)
  • 5" tires
  • 1x drivetrain
  • WTB saddle
Cons:
  • Lower end components
  • Sketchy brakes (recommend an upgrade)
With an MSRP of $1299 CAD ($1099 USD) the 2016 Blizzard -10 does offer a decent amount of bike for the buck with the weakest link being the brakes. Granted you are not getting much in the way of high end components, but what is there does work.

So if you are in the market for an entry level fattie that sports 5" tires and a 1x drivetrain . . . take a look at the Rocky Mountain Blizzard -10.

And a big thanks to Cychotic Performance Bike Shoppe for giving Fatbike Republic the opportunity to take a closer look at this bike.

Ride on !