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2/6/2017 6:13 PM
 

Mo' data mo' better.

I'm probably renting one next week for an overnighter, there will be a 27.5+ on the trip too so I'll be real curious to swap back and forth and compare to my 29er. 

 
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2/6/2017 9:33 PM
 
Let us know how the different rides compare. We look forward to the report.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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2/28/2017 10:25 PM
 

Plans changed considerably, didn't rent a fatbike and the 27.5 got left at the trailhead in favor of skis. I rode my 29er on 2.1" wide tires.

got to ride way more then I had any right too, but pretty clear it wasn't the right tool for the job. I did get to ride the 27.5x3 a little bit, and what mostly struck me is that the extra drag seemed to mostly cancel out the extra floatation. I'm sure I would have been able to spend more time in the saddle with wider tires, but how much more I couldn't say, not having low enough gears seemed to be a bigger issue then floatation most of the time. Snow was VERY well consolidated, and it was hard to find snow that you could posthole past your ankle in.

 
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3/14/2017 9:55 AM
 
[Very belated reply prompted by Fowler mentioning this thread during a discussion of tire size and pressure while driving home from the North American Handmade Bike Show this past weekend.]






I'd agree with Evan that a 29er hardtail with mid range components is the best bet.  Favor a frame with wider rims (30mm inner width) and the most tire clearance possible. Bikes are like firearms; to get max performance you need to commit to a lot of learning and research, but most folks can just buy a solid base model and get along just fine.  Something like the Kona Honzo AL is equivalent to a basic Rem 700.



There is a ton of recent research showing that the illusion of higher tire pressures providing less rolling resistance is just that, an illusion. Even when it comes to road bikes. Low pressures and supple tires deflect less and are thus faster and more comfortable, be it on gravel, chip seal, or dirt. 50 psi is road bike territory. When on dirt, and with 2.1s or bigger, only the biggest, most aggressive folks need to go north of 30. Modern tubeless technology, which is very user friendly, has pretty much eliminated pinch flats which obviously helps make this all possible. Using non-tubeless compatible tires and especially rims was the source of most tubeless issues, thankfully such components are becoming harder to find. Tubes in mountain bikes are going the way of black powder.


Fat bikes don't make sense for most users today because the weight and expense are still significantly higher compared to a bike with conventional tires. The industry is growing rapidly in this area, and in a few years I expect 2.5-2.8 to become the new normal. For most dirt riders likey the most efficient and comfortable option. That said 4.5" tires work well plenty of places, provided one plunks down the cash for lighter rims. They make mud, sand, and cobbles that take effort with 2.2s casual. Steel cassettes last longer than aluminum ones. Shimano SLX is all steel save for the biggest cog. Derailleurs more or less all work the same, but shifters can be worth upgrading. SLX cassette and derailleur with an XT shifter is a nice combo.
 
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3/16/2017 10:06 PM
 
Thanks again everyone for all the insight and input! Funny the thread should be bumped again.

We just got back yesterday from returning a rental Specialized Fatboy fatbike and 29’er HT to Absolute bikes in Flagstaff. This was the second rental trip we made into Flag picking up rental bikes to bring back and demo. Overall, I think we probably put in ~70 miles or so in a mess of different conditions and terrains.

It was very beneficial to be able to swap back and forth between the fatbike and 29er HT in the exact same conditions one right after the other.

Let the facepalming and groaning begin… I hope Evan, Ned, and Scot don’t think I had confirmation bias going in or am being contrary just to be different.

Cheyvonne and I both preferred the fatbike for the type of riding and terrain we are in. The 29er was faster and lighter but much less stable in soft sand, dried rutted two tracks, washes, etc. The fatbike with 6-10 psi in the tires was more comfortable over busted terrain than the 29erHT. The 29er does require marginally less effort to keep rolling on hard-pack or gravel road but for us was not worth the additional effort and fighting trying to get it down a wash or rutted road. I could make climbs on the fatbike I could not with the 29er. Please keep in mind both our opinions and preferences may be due to our lack of technical riding skill and experience on MTB’s!

What we both really liked most about the fatbike was the in-saddle comfort down a busted up rutted, rocky road. And how little attention you had to pay to keeping an ideal line on the trail. Ruts, sandy areas, rocks, etc. that could be very problematic if you hit them wrong on the 29er never hit the radar on the fatbike. Keep peddling and you roll right over about whatever is in your way. I can spend more time rubber necking looking for game, wife, dogs, and kids and not worrying about going ass over teakettle in a rut. Again, this may be due to our lack of riding skill.

We have two Surly Wednesdays on order and will let you know how they are rolling. After a couple hundred miles we may upgrade them with Bluto forks, touring bars and maybe racks.

On a side note the 1UPUSA bike rack Ned recommended is bombproof and Strow approved. It makes the Yakima and Thule racks look flimsy and plastic-y.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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3/19/2017 1:51 PM
 
Strow, there was a little facepalming until you said sand and new to mountain biking. If you want to, you'll be able to find the limits of fat bikes, and soft sand is really one of the few places they excel.
 
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3/20/2017 11:08 PM
 
Strow, this is one of those times I think the "less experienced" voice still carries significant weight. You got to ride both setups in the same terrain on the same day, that's huge in making an accurate assessment of capability. Like you said the 29er was "easier" to ride from a general physical output standpoint, but the mental effort to stay on track with the fatty was less by comparison if I understood you correctly. Having to focus less on staying upright can be huge once you've been out all day and fatigue sets in, just keep the wheels spinning and you'll be fine. If you could have tried a 29+ that would have been useful too, but it would have been somewhere in between the two you got to ride. And if you're going to go with an oddball tire size, fatties have the most market support of any of the other options currently.

Dave C, You make a good point about tire pressure vs rolling resistance, Shwalbe did a test a few years ago that showed pretty much that. I've mentioned it somewhere here before but haven't been able to track down the actual test to share with folks. That being said setup and riding style can be just as important in determining tire pressure as anything else. I think Evan said he was in the 40 PSI range, and was about 260lbs trail weight with 2.1's. With that much load and that little tire 40psi isn't really that high and it probably spreads out about as much as it would with 30psi and 180-200lbs. I don't know what tires he has now either, casing construction I've also found to be relevant for ideal tire pressure.

As for tubeless, I'm generally a convert from a performance standpoint, but it's still not as user friendly as a normal tube. It has gotten rid of pinch flats, but there's still plenty of other things on trails that cause flats that even with sealants tubeless hasn't eliminated. A torn tire doesn't hold air, but it's easier to stuff something between the tube and tire and limp it home than trying to boot the tire and re-seat a tubeless tire trail side. For that reason I still carry a spare tube with me. To tie this back into the main topic here of a "Backcountry" bike, I think tubes with some kind of sealant still offer a more robust solution than tubeless. And yes I'm aware that most people ride the entire length of the Continental Divide trail on tubeless tires and make it, I'm just offering my opinion on which offers the most user friendly experience, especially when they may not be as familiar with how to work on bicycles.

"Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."
 
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3/20/2017 11:30 PM
 
https://www.schwalbetires.com/wider_faster_page

https://www.schwalbetires.com/tech_info/rolling_resistance

My google-fu seems to be working better tonight, the top link is the actual test (although I know I've seen one with more in depth data this will do). The lower one is just a more in depth explanation of all the factor involved in determining real world rolling resistance.

"Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."
 
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3/24/2017 11:45 PM
 
strow wrote:
 I could make climbs on the fatbike I could not with the 29er. 

 

I'd like to here more about this. Would you say the gains where just from the extra stability or was it from additional traction or something else?

I've just started down the road of tire experiments and the results are already far from what I expected. Need to reset my expectations and find some wider rims to get more data.

 
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3/25/2017 8:37 PM
 
…I just rolled in from Flag with two Surly Wednesdays and other misc truck. Even got a helmet at Ned's insistence. I have only got a few miles in tonight but am very pleased so far. The steel Surly frame does seem to have more give (cush?) than the past aluminum frames I have ridden. May even run some sections of the trapline on the new bikes tomorrow.

Fowler, this is just my SWAG. I think it is probably a mix of both better stability and better traction. Someone with more bike experience can hopefully explain (or refute) my limited findings. The rental fat bike (26x4.8) just seemed to climb better. In areas where the 29er rear tire would start to slip or slow enough that I couldn’t balance or the bike would tip over, the fatbike just motored up. Right or wrong the additional weight and tire patch just seemed more forgiving. YMMV.

As I have said several times bikes are NOT my wheelhouse and my experience is very limited to my local here in NE AZ. Just out of curiosity what % of everyone’s riding is done on groomed or maintained MTB type trails or designate single tracks or trails? From the videos I have watched these types of trails seem a LOT more maintained, groomed, and packed than anything we have around here. I am just curious what types of terrain others are consistently riding in.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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3/26/2017 9:55 AM
 
strow wrote:
…I just rolled in from Flag with two Surly Wednesdays and other misc truck. Even got a helmet at Ned's insistence. I have only got a few miles in tonight but am very pleased so far. The steel Surly frame does seem to have more give (cush?) than the past aluminum frames I have ridden. May even run some sections of the trapline on the new bikes tomorrow.

Fowler, this is just my SWAG. I think it is probably a mix of both better stability and better traction. Someone with more bike experience can hopefully explain (or refute) my limited findings. The rental fat bike (26x4.8) just seemed to climb better. In areas where the 29er rear tire would start to slip or slow enough that I couldn’t balance or the bike would tip over, the fatbike just motored up. Right or wrong the additional weight and tire patch just seemed more forgiving. YMMV.

As I have said several times bikes are NOT my wheelhouse and my experience is very limited to my local here in NE AZ. Just out of curiosity what % of everyone’s riding is done on groomed or maintained MTB type trails or designate single tracks or trails? From the videos I have watched these types of trails seem a LOT more maintained, groomed, and packed than anything we have around here. I am just curious what types of terrain others are consistently riding in.

Heck, strow....at the of the day, if you and your lady feel happy and confident on those fat bikes, enjoy riding them, and they let you get out to places to have some memorable adventures....then IMHO you chose the perfect bikes for yourselves! Even though I really like my full-sus 29er, I still am intrigued by fat bikes and may try one out some day. I say you are a Free American, so enjoy those bad boys out on the terrain of your choosing! In my own mind, I sort of make the distinction between them as such: Fat bikes seem to be more like the steady and sure-footed mule that will tread over rough terrain that maybe a quarter horse wouldn't want to go on. The mule won't go as fast, but he'll go (as long as his intelligence tells him it's safe enough). The quarter horse will be quicker and smoother on places he feels comfortable on. Seems that mountain bikes have become almost as much a personal choice as a favorite firearm or favorite knife.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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3/27/2017 8:49 AM
 
If what you got works for you then drive, or in this case ride, on. However, for the sake of discussion, you were trying to put to much power down on the rear wheel with the 29er. Just like a truck going up a hill the amount of power you use needs to be modulated. You were either in the wrong gear or were peddling to hard, both of which are really technique issues. I know because I have the same issue as even in lower gear I tend to over peddle and thus skid out if I haven't been riding a lot. That is actually one of the reasons I prefer a ST to a HT. The ST sags a bit, which Evan and others will be quick to tell you means you are being robbed of some power. However, I found that bit of sag means that my rear tire stays more planted, and I skid out less. My guess is that the fat bike rear tire is enough more weight that you where able to over peddle it, that and the bigger contact patch may make a difference.

As far as trails/roads etc.. I ride, it really depends on how much use they have been getting, but yes in general they are harder packed, but it is not because they are groomed or maintained really, but that they get more riding from more people.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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3/28/2017 2:46 PM
 
We still have a great thread going and I am learning more all the time.

I am sure not trying to sell anyone on buying a fatbike. We plan to bring ours to the Summer Gathering for others to try. I’m not sure how to keep a log but I would bet I will get 500 miles in by June.

Alpendrms, that is probably a solid analogy comparing the fatbike to a mule. Oddly enough I own a saddle mule “Agnes” and will probably be working cows off of her in the next month or two after calving. A mule is a safe practical solution to backcountry travel, if you find a good one. They will take places safely a horse can’t/won’t go.

Scot, I have no doubt that my riding technique is a limiting factor. I do think that if given an honest run most people would find the lower pressure, wider tire patch tires climb better. Regardless of skill. If fitness is not the weak link then it just comes down to physics. Climbing ability is no doubt a small element of the greater picture.

This is pure speculation on my part for now but this is what I think so far:

If speed down a trail/track is paramount, then narrower tire options have merit. I have no interest in racing through the back country.

If rider fitness (engine) is the weak link, then other options are probably a better solution. An out of shape rider will suffer more with the increased rolling resistance. Some people try to buy fitness with a lighter higher tech bike. I am just trying to buy stability. Different goals, different solutions.

If most of your riding is done on hard packed heavily used trails, then other options may have merit. I think this is the context many base their decisions off if we are honest. We are devoid of any MTB trails or tracks for ~150miles. Hence the Backcountry title.

For backcountry transport in rugged country where ride comfort, stability and traction DO play a role I am finding that the bigger wider tires seem to have merit. In 1000 miles I have a more solid data base.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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3/28/2017 3:00 PM
 

Just out of curiosity how often are most of you rebuilding or tuning your bikes? 500miles, 1000, 2000, more?

What is your maintenance schedule? I am sure this will depend on how hard you ride them?

I do get the suspicion that most bikes (like rifles) spend most of their life hanging in a safe or garage. Ned, Turbo? Others? Your thoughts?

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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3/28/2017 4:34 PM
 

Although not part of the questions you asked, strow...I was wondering what made you choose the Surly Wednesday over Surly's Pugsley or the Ice Cream Truck models?  I must admit I am becoming more and more intrigued by the fat bike thing.  I have to drive through quite a bit of crap traffic (either north or south) to get to decent MTB trails where I live.  Thus, I have not gotten to ride my 29er nearly as much as I'd like to...I just can't see myself dealing with the traffic just to go on good trails after working all day.  Weekends find me usually neck-deep in other tasks.  I have thought more than a couple times that if I had a fat bike, I could just ride where there aren't any trails in my neighborhood....fields, power line, etc.  Plus, once I move back out west I could have fun with it there, as well.  Anyway, just wanted to hear about why you chose that particular model.  Hope you two enjoy them!


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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3/28/2017 5:21 PM
 
Alpendrms, I will try to do the differences justice. Any bike geometry guros please correct me if I’m wrong. The Wednesday is kind of a Pugsley with a symmetrical rear end and newer frame geometry. A very similar bike but kind up upgraded and retuned. That is my understanding.

The ICT has longer a chainstay and set up from the factory with bigger 4.8” tires instead of the 3.8” on the Wednesday. Just a bigger beefier bike all around. The ICT is about $500 more than the Wednesday with slightly nicer components.

The shorter chainstay of the Wednesday and overall a more nimble package was my reason for picking it over the ICT. I figured with the extra $500 saved I could put a new Bluto fork on both bikes and may do just that. Even though I’m not sure it is needed for where and how we ride.

I have ridden the Specialized Fatboy and looked hard at the Advocate Watchman, Rock Mountain Blizzard, and Salsa’s. It is awful early in the testing but from what I can tell I would make the same choice again.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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3/28/2017 5:55 PM
 

With me knowing a lot less than you do about them, given your actual experience on a couple and having done your research....sounds like good wisdom to me!  I might test one out at my LBS sometime.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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3/28/2017 8:32 PM
 
I think the best advice I have gotten was just that. Go to a LBS and rent one for a couple days and ride them with your other bikes. The ability to compare them side by side, days at a time in a mess of different terrain is what really helped me decide. If you can ride a fatbike and not smile...you ain't got a heartbeat.

Tire pressure is also much more critical on the fatbike in my limited experience than a regular MTB. I'm running 7-9lb in both Cheyvonne and my bike. A 2-3lb change in tire pressure makes a huge difference on a fatbike. You probably wouldn't even notice that on a MTB. I found if I got much over 15lb that the bike got real "bouncy" and handled like crap. If you have the patience to fiddle with seat and cockpit settings you can try going with a more weight to the rear distribution so you are not plowing into things but rolling over them (advice from a cousin to races them).

I wonder if a lot of the grumbling about the poor handling and ride quality of fatbikes comes from improper set up (trying to set them up like a MTB bike) and rushed judgements? There is a learning curve to setting them up right and I don't think many give them a fair shake.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
 
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3/30/2017 1:02 AM
 
Great discussion. The biggest factor I was unsure of in steering you away from fatbikes was just how much softer things might be down in Chinle than they are here. I imagined you mostly riding unused doubletracks and game and cattle trails. Here, those are all surfaces that are usually rough but rarely soft and sandy. It sounds like I also overlooked the learning curve factor.

You are right that much of what passes as "mountain" bike trails could be ridden on a road bike and a lot of "mountain bikers" are laughably sensitive about how well groomed their trails are. Kind of like when "cross country" skiers get upset about snowshoers messing up the set tracks. Personally, I've always taken a perverse pleasure in riding my mountain bike places you shouldn't be able to take a bike. Especially really technical rocky climbs. But much of that requires very precise line selection that I've been doing for at least 3 decades now. I tend to take that skillset for granted. I'm glad to hear that you're finding fatbikes so forgiving with regard to line selection. Kind of has me intrigued about steering beginners (including some of my own family members) in that direction.

I wonder if, after a year or so of experience, you would end up preferring something other than a fatbike? Perhaps not. I've got an acquaintance in Montana with a whole stable of bikes who really got into fat biking for a while who told me "fatbikes aren't about going anywhere very fast. they're about going anywhere." I notice that he mostly seems to ride a cyclocross bike these days -- all the way at the opposite end of the spectrum from a fatbike.

Climbing (until you start talking about negotiating ledges) is all about traction to the rear wheel. In fact, the best climbing set up I know is a bike with a reasonably heavy BOB trailer attached. All the extra weight on the rear axle will have you breaking drivetrain components before you lose traction. Rear suspension helps keep traction on the ground just as soon as the surface gets a little uneven. FS bikes are a lot more forgiving with respect to body positioning while climbing too. With it's large contact patch and low tire pressure, a fatbike is going to act a lot like a full suspension bike for climbing.

I'm really glad you guys ended up with something that is working out so well for you! Too many bikes are sitting unused in garages...

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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3/31/2017 12:06 AM
 
First off congrats on the new steeds! New bike day is always good. And like several others have stated it's way more important that you're out riding and having fun than what you're riding. This is one of those areas where there are only a few truly wrong answers, but way more right ones and personal experience can steer the boat one way or another. There is definitely a "cush" or damped feel to a well built steel frame, which is a big reason why they're still so popular especially with people putting in lots of miles off road.

My typical maintenance schedule is to lightly clean and lube the chain every 1-3 rides, wipe dirt off suspension seals and check tire pressure almost every ride, and once a month I'll do a nut & bolt check to make sure nothing has rattled loose. Beyond that I just replace whatever breaks or wears out as it comes up. Tires have become sort of a disposable commodity for me in recent years, so I've got that to contend with. You will likely need to take them to a bike shop after about a month of riding to get the shifting re-adjusted after the cables stretch and a quick once over as everything settles into place. If you bought the bikes through a shop they'll typically do this free, or very cheap. Same goes after about a year, everything will need a good combing through. Chains can be the only other wear item that can be pretty beneficial to replace on a somewhat regular basis, it can even prolong the life of the rest of the drive-train by preventing premature wear. It's hard to say exactly when but somewhere in the 3-6 month range isn't crazy, but even up to a year if it's been taken care of and you haven't slogged it through lots of mud. Also at the year mark getting the cables and housing replaced can make the whole bike feel like new.

As far as what I'd consider to be a "trail" I've ridden everything that could be considered one. The smoother buffed out purpose built trails can be fun, but I've also raced on courses where it was just some marking tape weaving down open ski run. Something between those two extremes are usually where I do most my riding, and lots more singletrack than jeep roads or anything like that.

The other upgrade I'd recommend pretty much everyone that's riding offroad get is a dropper post. They add a good measure of safety to descending that really nothing else can do. I've had really good luck with the KS (kind Shock) ones over about 5-6 years. The other one that's still very new but looks promising from a durability standpoint is from E*thirteen called the TRS+. Most dropper posts use some form of hydraulic system that locks and unlocks the post, they've gone with a much simpler mechanical design that sounds like it works as advertised. http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/guide/Seatposts,30/e-thirteen/TRS,18191

"Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."
 
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