In the rush between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think many people overlook the other holidays, such as today's celebration of Global Fat Bike Day. The guys at COMBO had scheduled a meet up at Alum Creek P1, and our friendly local Trek store was there with some fat bike demos. I had previously demoed a Moonlander at last year's COMBOween, and pretty much hated it: slow everywhere, ponderous to turn, and did I mention slow? But when I saw the Trek store would have a Krampus demo, I kissed the kids goodbye and was out the door.
Unlike a true fat bike, a Krampus is just sort of big boned. Where a typical fat bike is built around a 26" rim size (559 BSD), and Krampus uses Surly's "29+" size, which is built around the 29er/700c size (622 BSD), but with a 3" wide tire vs. a typical fat bike's 4~5" monster.
I've been hemming and hawing about my next bike for quite while. I've recently sold the Gryphon and the Blackbuck, plus some parts, so I have some cash burning a hole in my bike fund. I'm trying to avoid YASH (yet another steel hardtail), so I was thinking about carbon , or maybe going back to a 26er, something to break the cycle. I had thought about a Krampus, but was far from committing to one without a demo, especially after my previous fatbike demo. The frameset is pretty reasonably priced, but at $100 each, the tires add up fast. And new wheels, and a new headset...
The Trek store had a medium and large Krampus. I was there at 8:30 (at 23 degrees F), first in line. An XL would be more my size, but I was glad to at least try the large:
I set the seatpost at max height, close enough:
Right away, I was impressed by Krampus. I accelerated pretty well on it, not quite as snappy as my regular 29er, but much more responsive than anything with bigger tires. And once it got rolling, the larger outer diameter of the wheels made short work of all the snow-hidden roots and rocks.
The drivetrain on this was a Shimano SLX 1x something (probably 10, I really didn't check):
The fat tires make using smaller rings up front difficult (the chain will hit the tire), but I typically ride 1x9, so that's no problem. They're also pretty tight to the chainstays, with the tire set full forward in the dropouts:
My only real issue with this bike was the size: the large was too small. With a ~100mm stem, the reach was OK, but the very wide bars were too low for me:
I probably spent only 20 minutes on the Krampus. I didn't push it too hard, due to the snowy trails, but I didn't find any issue with the slacker head angle of the Krampus. That's a bit unusual, as I typically like quick handling bikes. Anyway, it was fun the entire time, and I had to force myself to loop back to the Trek tent so someone else could get a chance on the bike. Contrast this to the Moonlander demo, where I cut my demo ride short to get it back and be rid of it.
After the 29+, I did a quick lap on the beginner loop with my Niner for comparison:
Looking down at my front tire, it looked like a cyclocross tire in comparison:
(that's a Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.2"). Coming from the Krampus, the Niner felt pretty nervous, and the bars felt really narrow. It did get up to speed a bit quicker than the Krampus, but once rolling, I enjoyed the surefootedness of the big tires quite a bit more.
Now I'm debating between going ahead on a Krampus, or spending a bit more (OK, twice as much) and getting a custom Chinese Ti frame. That would let me address some of the issues with the Krampus, such as the short head tube and track ends, but I haven't had great experiences with custom bikes in the past. My hopes get too high, and the final bike can't deliver. What do you think?
12/5: Touched base with Carver bikes about a Ti frame, and it would really blow my budget. Plus, based on my past good experiences with Surly, I'm really leaning towards the Krampus. As a first step, I may try a Knard and some Velocity P35 wheels on my current Niner. Stay tuned.
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