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3/15/2015 10:26 PM
 

Weighing my options here. I've been riding the same Gary Fisher 29er frame basically since the 29ers really hit the MTB scene, because I really liked the idea. I've been happy with it, but I've been following the fat bike thing for a couple years now, and I think I want to make the move. But then another option caught my eye. The 29+ bikes, that will take up to 4" tires. 

I've been mulling these options over most of the winter, and I've really gotten nowhere. 

I've also seen the middle ground really fill in in the last year or so. For a while there was only the cheap option and the over $1000 options out there. Now, even the cheap option is a bit more than your typical cheap "mountain bike", but it seems now you can get a bike with decent components for $500-700, and above that there are numerous options out there. 

For what it's worth, I'm planning to go full rigid frame and a 2x9 or 2x10 gearing, and trying to keep my startup cost below 1000, though 700-800 would be better. 

 

Any input? 

 
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3/18/2015 6:06 AM
 
I personally think they are just a fad. I would definitely try before you buy. Heck put the fatest tires you can on your current bike and see how you like it vs what you are running. I always end up going skinnier and being very happy about that, and as a result I can't imagine wanting to go thicker. As far as in snow, well from what I hear you need to be on essentially groomed trails, which really limits use depending on our location. If you just have to ride in deep sand, it might make sense, but I am skeptical that walking isn't faster and less work.

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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3/18/2015 12:50 PM
 
scothill wrote:
I personally think they are just a fad. I would definitely try before you buy. Heck put the fatest tires you can on your current bike and see how you like it vs what you are running. I always end up going skinnier and being very happy about that, and as a result I can't imagine wanting to go thicker. As far as in snow, well from what I hear you need to be on essentially groomed trails, which really limits use depending on our location. If you just have to ride in deep sand, it might make sense, but I am skeptical that walking isn't faster and less work.

 

I guess that's sort of my reservation as well. Although, I think fat bikes will remain a lot longer than fad status, I don't know how useful they'll be to me. Any trail I'd ride in the winter would be frequently "groomed" by snowmobile and XC skiers, so that shouldn't be a problem. I already have the fattest tires on my bike, but they're just under 2" and I'd like to go bigger. I've also go the Salsa Fargo on my list, as I've been a fan of drop bars in the past, I just get no enjoyment from riding concrete. The base price of those is out of my league at this time, but I may be able to find a used one at the top end of my range. Actually, I have a line on one now, but I may not get it in time. 

 

I know what you mean about sand. I used to run a CX bike with 42mm tires (fat for a roadie) around the tank trails on Lejeune. Deep, loose sand. I doubt the biggest tires on the market would do much for you there, though I could be wrong. 

 
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3/18/2015 3:14 PM
 
Just thought of something I should probably add:

My goal for this bike is a few specific old fire roads, which are current gas well roads on some of the state game lands in the area. The gas co trucks tear up the dirt roads terribly, so they lay stones, #4 limestone (fun), on the roads to stand up to their vehicles. I was thinking a bike with big squishy tires would be good at conquering the hills on those roads while maintaining traction. My current bike gets tossed around terribly.
 
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3/19/2015 12:20 PM
 

Lots of stuff to address here.

First, fatbike components (rims, tires, hubs, wider bbs) are more expensive than "normal" mtb stuff.  The economy of scale is not there yet.  You'll get less for a 1000 dollar fatbike than a 1000 dollar geared 26er.  Honestly, I'm not sure there's a complete fatbike available which both has decent components and is less than a grand all up.  A decent fatbikes wheelset alone starts at 500.

Second, fatbikes aren't a fad, but their utility is currently overstated.  Unless you match them to the proper terrain, they're just an unnecessarily heavy and expensive mountain bike.  For stuff like sand, gravel, cobbles, and some snow conditions fatbikes make a massive difference.  They'll make stuff which is flat unridable into something that is moderately strenuous and fun. 

Third, a 4.5" tire at 5 psi has suspension characteristics, but it undamped suspension.  The sensation is not the same as a modern suspension fork. 

There are no 29+ frames which take 4" tires, nor 29+ tires which are wider than 3 inches.  Fatbikes are based on 26" standard rims, 29+ 700c (aka 29er) rims. 

 

 
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3/19/2015 12:22 PM
 
praharin wrote:
Just thought of something I should probably add:

My goal for this bike is a few specific old fire roads, which are current gas well roads on some of the state game lands in the area. The gas co trucks tear up the dirt roads terribly, so they lay stones, #4 limestone (fun), on the roads to stand up to their vehicles.

 

Fatbikes eat this stuff for breakfast.  My favorite local ride is down the sloughs of the local river in the spring before snowmelt.  I can ride everything from gravel to football size cobbles.

 
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3/19/2015 12:28 PM
 
DaveC wrote:

but their utility is currently overstated.  Unless you match them to the proper terrain, they're just an unnecessarily heavy and expensive mountain bike. 

 

A much better way of saying what I meant.  Fad in the sense they are not the go everywhere do anything bike most are making them out to be. They are a niche bike.


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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3/19/2015 5:52 PM
 
Dave, I've talked to quite a few experienced riders I know and gotten mixed opinions. Really trying to sort through the "enthusiasm for something new" opinions and get to the meat of what fatbikes are better than anything else at -- better enough to merit having one.

Don't want to go off on a tangent, but I sort of liken them to all of the telemark gear out there that is really only suited to the exact same use as straight up DH gear (only DH gear is easier and more efficient). It's cool to telemark extreme terrain no doubt. But if you're using tele gear that you wouldn't consider touring in, you're doing something to prove a point, not because it's a sensible way to travel.

I get riding fatbikes on snowmobile trails. That opens up a lot of country in some areas. But then I see FB posts about people out breaking trail on snowshoes so they can go fatbiking. That tells me fatbikes aren't really snow bikes, they are snowmobile trail bikes. Or maybe consolidated spring snow bikes. Your ride down the sloughs sounds pretty cool, but can you fatbike it more readily than you can walk it?

And in another real world example - we were out doing the Westwater to Dewey Bridge section of the Kokopelli on our motorcycles last weekend. That reminded me just how much sand I had to contend with when I bicycled it. Enough in sections to wish I had a fatbike. But then there were plenty of sections where I was able to cruise along at 10+ (15+ ?) mph on my MTB pulling a trailer that I'm sure would have sucked on a fatbike. Overall, there's no doubt in my mind that that ~30 mile section is much more efficiently crossed on a standard bike than a fatbike.

So, do you find yourself choosing routes specifically because you're looking for ways to make your fatbike more useful? Kind of like "hold my beer and watch this"? Or maybe put another way -- if you were taking one bike to some place you'd never been to (just a place, not a known MTB destination) for some riding would a fatbike be your pick of the one bike to take because overall you could trust that it would be the best all around choice, or would you take something else? Right now for me, that would be my FS 26er. It's slower than my HT 29er, but with 5" of travel front and rear I can do any kind of riding I'm capable of on it. The fire road example sounds like it would be a cinch for my 26er. I'm not saying the FS 26er is the ultimate answer, it's just the one I have I know I can do the most with and won't hate for being too sluggish.

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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3/19/2015 9:35 PM
 
DaveC wrote:
First, fatbike components (rims, tires, hubs, wider bbs) are more expensive than "normal" mtb stuff.  The economy of scale is not there yet.  You'll get less for a 1000 dollar fatbike than a 1000 dollar geared 26er.  Honestly, I'm not sure there's a complete fatbike available which both has decent components and is less than a grand all up.  A decent fatbikes wheelset alone starts at 500.

 

That's why I specified used. I check Craigslist in the area regularly enough. I'd have to drive 1.5-2 hours most likely, but I frequently see a Pugsly pop up for $1000. There's a 2 year old one in Pittsburgh now for $1300. There's also a 2 year old Bear Grease for $1200, which is a heck of a deal, but it's an XL and I usually go with L, though I haven't tried that frame. 

 

 
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3/20/2015 12:18 PM
 

Evan, I think your telemark analogy is a good one.  As is usually the case ideology and fanpersonism takes hold; give fatbikes another 5-7 years for the marketing to settle down to something more reasonable.

I don't think of fatbikes as snow bikes.  As you say, they require either shallow snow over a hard base, a machine prepped trail, or very specific conditions.  I don''t enjoy riding snowmachine trails for the same reason I don't own a road bike, so I just use my fatbike as a human-powered snowmachine to acces backcountry skiing areas.  I should say that one of the reasons fatbikes have been selling so well recently is that from a total beginners perspective they're easier and less scary than nordic skiing.

From an overall mountain biking perspective, I think the 29+ and 26+ bikes (with 3 inch tires) will be the sweet spot in terms of float for rugged conditions and speed on dirt roads.  I don't have one, yet.

The areas where fatbikes are truly at home are limited, but not as much as you'd think.  They do require re-thinking what a mountain bike route looks like, which is my favorite part of owning one.  Stuff like the dirt road route through Yellow Jacket (from the Kokopelli west to Arches) which has a ton of sand, or the 5 Miles of Hell trail system in the San Rafael Swell (sand and steep, technical rock crawling), or through-riding desert washes.  My slough route down the Flathead is 20 miles, and while biking isn't massively faster than hiking, riding is fun on terrain where walking would be pretty monotonous. 

Sounds the used market for fatbikes has picked up massively compared to 4 years ago.  Good stuff.

 
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3/20/2015 2:19 PM
 
That really puts it in perspective Dave. Much appreciated. Based on your analysis, I think I'm going to renew my efforts to find the fattest tires possible I can run on my FS 26er and see what I think.

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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3/23/2015 9:37 PM
 

Here in the Black Hills of Wyoming we've had to set up different groomed snow routes for snow mobiles, xc skiing and fat bikes .Anybody can be on the snow mobile routes (good thing you can hear them a mile away) snowshoers  can be on the sides of the xc and on the fat bike trail. No skis on the fat bike trail, and vis a vis, they mess up each others groomed trail.

We put a fat bike trail in the forest behind me with the USFS approval. you need a 3.5" tire. If I air down my 3x29+ Krampus it works.

I really enjoy my Surly Krampus as a GP bike. 

 
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4/17/2015 8:49 AM
 
After test riding a Surley recently, I'm am more impressed with the concept than I thought I'd be.
The low pressure tires offer a good degree of suspension while still feeling very responsive, unlike some full suspension bikes that feel sluggish.

For off-road riding, I definitely see the appeal, and will likely own one eventually.
 
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