Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fat Bike Buzz

My enthusiasm over a potential cross-state tour on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail (begs for a worthy acronym, I know) next year has held pretty steady over the last few months.  Which gives me more and more confidence that it's not some flash-in-the-pan idea.  Casual research and thought on the trip are fairly continuous for me and are a great source of relaxation, as well as a righteous way to pass those occasional sleepless wee hours.

I've got my basic route mapped out here, and as I envision myself riding through the various sections of the route, I'm always on a fat bike.  You certainly don't need one to do this trip and in fact my friend Nate is considering a similar trip on a single speed ultralight 29er setup, but for me, a fat bike is a pretty integral part of my dream.  It's part of what I want the experience of the trip to be about.

And so anyway, I'm to the point in my progression on this journey towards the journey that I'm ready to be serious about bringing a fat bike home.  I've been watching this one for the last week or so and I put in a not very aggressive bid of $1100 at the bell, which didn't cut it.

Being as it was located in Portland, I'da still had to cough up another chunk of change one way or another to get it here and besides, I'm not totally sure it's what I want.

Reason being, is that concurrent with the virtual shopping, I've been hanging out on some fat bike forums and whatnot, learning a bit about what's going on inside the world of fat bikes.  And what I've found is that the species is in the midst of a pretty intense evolutionary growth spurt.  Fat bikes are still a little niche, but not that much, and I feel like interest is on the verge of exploding, if it hasn't already done so, especially in certain areas of the country.

I've had it in my mind that I want to acquire one as inexpensively as possibly, reasoning that a fat bike is a fat bike is a fat bike, and that there should be a decent inventory of used ones around, given that they're a bit gimmicky, right?  And that they've (thus far) been marketed primarily as snow bikes and we're pretty much as far off-season as you can get, right?  And while higher-end Fatbacks and 9Zero7's are in high demand and out of my price range, there should be an abundance of the more mainstream Surly Pugsleys and Salsa Mukluks in the mix. Turns out, though, that the used inventory just isn't that great and is far out-paced by the demand, as more and more people seem to be interested.  Used machines are holding their value amazingly well.  For bikes.

Other thing though, is that all manner of craziness is happening behind the consumer curtain at QBP, who owns both Surly and Salsa.  There seems to be some effort to differentiate the offerings, with Surly taking "fat" to a new extreme with the Moonlander and maybe marketing more to the winter crowd, and Salsa refining the current fat bike definition and broadening it's offering within that definition and maybe marketing to a more year-round crowd.  I could be all wrong, but whatever the marketers are doing, they're making me want a Salsa.  Badly.  And what's really starting to get to me is the desire for "a little bit lighter" fat bike (oxymoron if ever there was one).  I know, I know - weight is precisely what drives all manner of insane, reckless, irresponsible, dishonest bike expenditure. I feel amost as though I'm watching helplessly, from outside my body, as I become the next victim.

From the QBP website, the two brands are described (aka marketed to powerless idiots like me) as follows:

Salsa Cycles
Premium road, mountain and cyclocross bikes

Sturdy, no-frills road, mountain and cross bikes

I guess I fancy myself a premium sort of fellow.  And then it wouldn't hurt Surly to actually offer a frame color once in a while that was halfway appealing.  And then it doesn't help that there's a ton of buzz right now about news leaking out of this dealer-only QBP show called SaddleDrive . . .

For 2012, Salsa will be offering the Mukluk 1, 2, and 3:

Mukluk 3 - $1599 with a few cool upgrades from last year
Mukluk 2 - $2099 with sweet component and detail awesomeness (like E13 cranks)
Mukluk Ti (1) - $2099 frameset only with Alternator dropouts

Followed by this pic from the show:

Ti on top, "2" on the bottom

So things are not looking good.  The big question at this point is how far into my pocket Salsa is going to get their hand.


Not said...

We already know that fat bikes are great for snow and sand. What surprised me was how good they are on the basalt railroad ballast we have around here, like on that trail at the top of Riverside State Park. I rode it recently on 2.35" tires with way-too-much suspension travel, and fondly recalled how much smoother it was in my one experience with a Pugsley.
- Ventura

John Speare said...

I can't believe you left the Spider AT out of that line up.

I know it's not even in the ball park of consideration for you, but for the sake of completeness, I must finish this job for you here.

JMH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JMH said...

I'll spare you my sermon on why everyone who loves bikes should own a snow bike; how they are the most fun I've ever had on two wheels, and how they enabled us to ride all last winter, when normally we would have had to hang up our mountain bikes. I have never regretted building up my Fatback, and I would think Spokane's winters would be perfect for one, not to mention your JWPT adventure. I will say that the Fatback is a superior machine to the Salsa or Surly, it has a 170mm rear hub (the Pugs has an offset 135mm), which allows for a symmetrical wheelset, not sure about the Mukluk, though I think they copied the Fatback. What about buying just a frame and wheels/tires, and build up the rest of the bike with used parts? Either way, you will never regret it.

More on my Fatback here:

Anonymous said...

One thing you might not have liked about that ebay bike are those fat sheba rims, particularly if you are looking for *premium*. They're about the heaviest rims in the entire universe.

Pat S said...

Ventura, interesting comment. Conquering railbed ballast on the JWT is a big part of my motivation.

John, it's hard for me to believe it myself. Thanks for having my back.

JMH, that was the most rad non-sermon sermon ever :-) I haven't totally ruled out a Fatback, or building one up. I'm in that steep part of the learning curve where I shouldn't be spending money. Thanks for your advice, I'm taking it all in.

Great to know about the fat sheba rims, too. I have much to learn.

Alan said...

With the vast number of bikes you're aquiring, when do you stop calling it a "garage" and start referring to is as a "showroom"?

rory said...

I'm currently smitten by the fat tire bug, but i also want to have a project bike. as is such, I'm hacking an old school rigid diamond back frame to fit endomorphs. the largest obstacle is obviously the tire. I plan on running it with an alfine hub, so i need to make sure the chainline will work. here's a picture of the proposal:

Anonymous said...

"Nate is considering a similar trip on a single speed ultralight 29er setup"

That's true, other than that I'm actually considering putting a 3-speed hub on my heavy 26er Monocog to lug my incredible bulk across the state.

Pat S said...

Rory, that's damn ambitious. I've dreamt a lot about doing a fat project bike, but I'm convinced that I don't have the skills yet. I'll be watching with interest.

Nate, correction duly noted. I still think it's cool that you're going the ultralight route.

Lucas said...

From my experience riding the John Wayne from Rosalia to Malden and back last year I think you have the right idea with the fattie. The basalt rail bed was pretty spongy and felt a bit like riding through mud. I admire your ambition on doing the whole thing.

Pat S said...

Lucas, I haven't ridden much of the eastern section, but going off of accounts from yours and Nates trip as well as others, I just think that section would be so much more enjoyable on fat tires. The tradeoff of course is that I'll be slogging through the more civilized portion on the west side, but I'm very okay with taking my time and enjoying the trip.

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