Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fatbike as Mountain Bike

We've had enough dry days in a row here that one of the local riding spots, Chestnut Ridge, was open this morning. Since the Gravity Bullseye Monster is currently my only mountain bike, I threw it on my Accord this morning and headed out. This would be the first time I had any real saddle time with the fat tires on a non-snowy trail.

How did it go? A bit surprisingly, there was more good than bad.

I'll get the bad stuff out of the way first:

- Chestnut Ridge is hilly, and it was tough getting the big, heavy wheels up those hills. I mostly ride solo, and usually have to check my pace out of worries of crashing and injuring myself. Here, I had to take a break and rest so I wouldn't keel over from a heart attack. Probably my slowest lap of CR ever. My beginning season fitness didn't help me, but the bike doesn't exactly inspire me to jump up and attack the hills. It was a tough climb up to the apple barn:

- The shifting wasn't great, which hardly mattered since I spent most of my time in this gear:

The one time I tried to bail out down to the granny, it wouldn't shift for me. Stupid front derailers... there's a reason most of my bikes don't have them.

- The steering was a bit slow--it took me several hard turns to realize I had to put more muscle into it to keep on my line and not run wide.

- A few pedal strikes from the lowish bottom bracket

On to the good stuff:

- The grip was amazing. Even on a slightly damp trail, my rear tire never slipped. Not once. Likewise, as far as I could lean, the front tire would grip. A big shout out here to the On One Floater tires.

- Going downhill was a blast. The big tires simply fill the gaps or knock aside rocks or other obstacles that might cause a normal 29er tire to twitch. Whatever tire pressure I was running was just about right, as I never got the uncontrolled, undamped beach ball feeling as speeds increased, but it was still cushy everywhere.

- I was pretty comfortable on the bike. This frame is a size down from what I usually ride, with a 625mm top tube instead of a 640mm or so. I chose this deliberately to try to make the bike a bit quicker handling, and I think this was successful. I might even try a slightly shorter stem someday.

- The long rear chainstays were hardly noticeable. The 460mm length would get dismissed out of hand on a regular 29er, but I found I was able to lift the front wheel anytime I needed--I think the shorter front center and higher bars helped me here. This reinforces my belief that the current 29er ideal of short rear/long and slack front isn't the ideal for everyone, everywhere.

Previously, I've dismissed fat bikes as one trick ponies, and people who rode them everywhere as semi-delusional fan boys. I'll be curious to try the fat tires on my regular Alum Creek trail, to see how they do on a trail with less elevation change... though if the weather holds, I also want to try my 29+ setup off road.

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