|Fatboy in its natural habitat. |
Too bad the snow keeps melting this year.
So I bit the bullet and bought the Fatboy Expert after lots of deliberation and partly based on what was locally available at the time. I have since been riding it almost every day with many rides over 20 km and over 500 m of elevation gain. A lot of my riding has long steep climbs and descents. Here are my likes and dislikes:
- The 190mm wide rear end that allows me to use wide tires if I wish. Not sure where the industry is going, but this gives me the option to go wide and fat or less wide and less fat.
- The double crank on a 100mm bottom bracket with the fat rear end combo. Not a lot of bikes manage this feat of combining a narrower bottom bracket with a double crank and really fat tires. The narrow (for a fat bike) bottom bracket keeps the pedaling feel comparable to a mountain bike. I thought I would like to go to a single ring setup, but I'm finding the range of the double is a benefit. I did swap out the 36T for a 32T as I can roll the 32T much of the time. The 36T was too much for snow but likely works for dirt I guess. On soft snow you can't stand and the 22T is great (or at least better) for spinning smoothly up steeper slopes. And on the days when traction is good, I need the 32T to keep up on the downhills. From a Strava perspective, I don't think a single ring gives the range of gears I need on snow. If you were strong enough I suppose you could push a 30 or 32, but my knees wouldn't like that at all. In the prairies a 30 or 32 single may be fine if you're a strong rider. But even the prairies have steep slopes and definitely have deep snow drifts. For now I'm sticking with the double - shifts great by the way and have only dropped the chain a couple of times when the cage wasn't set up quite perfect. Haven't dropped it in weeks.
Double chainrings, bike is starting to look a bit used.
- The rims - a single sheet of metal with extreme cutouts makes it light for the size. 92mm seems to be a good compromise width. The cutouts did let in a minor amount of water after some wet rides and associated bike washing. Not enough to worry about weight wise.
- The rimstrips - these rimstrips are made of some kind of non-stretch fabric velcro-ed together by the valve stem. Very light and don't even register on my scale. For comparison, Surly rim strips weigh 110 g on my scale. Easy weight savings but dirt can find its way in with repeated washings. I cleaned out my tire interior for the first time yesterday and it was about due.
- The tires - the tires have kind of medium-sized knobs. With the 4.6 in actual tire width they are quite grippy on snow and noticeably bigger than those puny 3.8 in fat tires. On the right type of snow I have been able to ride away from people who are faster than me and I am doing very well on Strava this winter so the tires run well. No grip on hard ice though, like all non-studded tires. I bought 150 grip studs and fixed that issue. The knobs are just barely large enough for the grip studs and the result is a tire that is as good or better than any out there, all things considered. The grip studs work far better than any factory studded tire - even with only 150 studs spread across 2 tires. But they are a tad noisy on ice and rocks. Oh well. I am a little worried about the knobs being too small, but have not lost any studs to date and we have had a number of days with exposed rocks on the trail. (Correction: just lost 4 studs on my last ride likely due to a long, steep, technical, rocky/rooty climb with minimal snow.) The tires fit a bit loosely on the rim, so I expect setting them up tubeless is harder than normal. People seem to do it though.
Note the grip studs in diagonal lines of three on the back tire. Expensive, but they really work.
- Gripshift - but that's just me. I like gripshift. The XO rear and X7 front derailleurs work happily together.
- The cockpit - bike fit me like a glove right off the bat. I like it better than my 29er so I am setting up the 29er to match for reach and bar height. Go figure.
- The brakes - the Shimano generic brakes work well, at least down to -25C (-13F). The pistons don't retract as well as when its -10C, but the pads don't seem to rub. Feels like an over-enthusiastic bleeding job.
- Pressfit bottom bracket. No it's not creaking yet, but you can't argue pressfit is required for frame stiffness. The bottom bracket on a fatbike is much wider than required to build a stiff frame. So why is it there on an aluminum bike? To allow sloppy manufacturing tolerances - i.e., cheaping out? To pretend it is great on the other bikes too? I really don't know, but I wish it was threaded.
- The saddle - pretty stiff saddle that was a pain in the ass for me. Switched to an old Bontrager saddle with some padding and ..... bliss.
- The pedals - replaced the platforms with an old pair of eggbeaters. The eggbeaters, especially the platform-less design, clears the snow and ice from the cleats the best. Shimano pedals suck in the snow. Sure platforms work too, but I use clipless everywhere else so why get less efficient and way heavier now?
An oldie, but still a goodie. Easy to knock the snow off your cleats with this one.
- The inner tube - holy cow those things are heavy - about 450g. I might go tubing in summer with one. Replaced with 230g versions from Kenda Qtubes - 26x2.4-2.7. No flats yet with about 400 km on them. Easier than tubeless, although I will likely try tubeless at some point.
- The top tube height - I haven't knackered myself yet, but it's just a question of time. I wish it had a lower top tube to lessen the inevitable physical injury.
- The 135 mm fork spacing - If you want to go to a Bluto suspension fork at some point, then you need 150 mm spacing which means you will need a new front hub. I like the simplicity of no shock though and even a 36 km ride on mostly dry trails in the mountains hasn't changed my mind. Summer is 29er time, not fatbike time for me so I don't need a shock.
- The quick releases - I hate the crappy modern quick release style which Specialized decided to use. See also this. It doesn't engage firmly and I think a strong quick release is necessary for these wide axles, or any axles. I bought Paul quick releases which were the only ones I could find for 190mm fatbikes that are designed, and work, as Tullio intended. The new standard is the through-axle and those work well too, but no through-axles on this bike. Although I have heard otherwise, I don't think anyone can tell the difference between through axles and quick releases with no shocks and 3 to 6 lbs pressure in the tires. A proper quick release is convenient and stiff.
Paul QR. Very positive locking action and looks goodtoo.
|Qtube on the left, Specialized on the right.
Which one would you rather carry around for a spare?
I am happy with the bike though and I am also surprised how fast it is relative to the 29er. I would say I am only about 10% slower in 29er type trail conditions which is better than I thought given the weight of the bike and especially the tires. The key thing is the bike allows me to have fun rides in winter when the 29er would be quite a struggle or impossible to ride. And I don't have to ski anymore. Actually, I can also have fun on the fatbike when the skiing is quite a struggle or impossible. Win, win.