The title is a Morrissey song, but I’m sure he was singing about his love of fattire bikes, affectionately called Fatbikes. Well, maybe not, but I have certainly fell head over heels in lust with my new Fatbike, the Salsa Mukluck 2, which is a quite prodigious statement since I’ve had it for a total of 48 hours. Lust at first ride I suppose.
For those not in the know, Fatbikes are specifically designed bikes with frames and wheels that can fit an enormously fat tire spanning 4 to 5ish inches wide. It is a bizarre sight as the proportions are very different from the typical bicycle, and people’s reactions reflect that as I get the gawking stares from almost the entire population when I’m out riding my Mukluk. The first question people ask me is what is the point of the big tires. The second is how heavy the bike is as the tires gives the impression of a weight penalty due to the enormity of the size. The answer to the first question is floatation. The tires allow the bike to float on a variety of surfaces or terrain. The answer to the second question is that the Fatbikes are remarkably lighter than one would surmise by the burly looks.
Next to the 29er wheel sized bikes, the Fatbikes are the largest growing segment of bikes in the industry as there are multiple companies making them like Surly, Salsa and Moots. At first, I thought the Fatbikes were just like the Ipad, a creation to fill a niche that was never there in the first place. Did we really need a device that fills a void between a laptop computer and cell phone? Well, apparently we did because the Ipad sold in the millions, and the people I know who have one would gladly give up their other electronic devices or certain family members over their Ipad. So, if people are buying Fatbikes, then they would have their place in the bike quiver wouldn’t they or is it for bike nerds who just want another project bike?
I have been a winter commuter for years now riding a mountain bike with studded tires, and it seemed that I was quite comfortable with it, until I rode the Mukluk out in one of worst street conditions I have seen in a long time. We recently had a November snowstorm that pushed the record books and the streets were either smooth ice, packed snow or a foot of fresh snow. Normally, I would have clumsily biked to work moving at a very cautious pace so as to not get stuck in the fresh snow or wipe out on the ice or cross my wheels up in the hard packed snow. With the help of the studded 45 NRTH Dillinger tires, I just picked a line and pedaled smoothly through whatever was in front of me whether it was ice, packed snow, fresh snow or any combination of the three. The tires just floated on top and the aluminum studs cut into the ice and produced this eerie ice cracking sound. At first, I was still very cautious biking like I was riding my old mountain bike, but after the second day, I was aware of the Mukluk’s stability and grip on the snow and started to move at a speed I would be normally at riding in the summer time on dry pavement. It was like I finally brought a gun to a gunfight as the fatbike was built for snow riding.
Now, to be honest, the Mukluk is not infallible as I dropped into the river valley to see how it handled on the trails, and I experienced the limitations of the fat tires. I knew that I was not able to just hover over knee deep snow as it is not a hovercraft or the futuristic skateboard that Marty McFly rode in Back to The Future II, but I needed to know what kind of terrain the bike would have some problems. If the trail is packed down by hikers, then the Mukluk would just roll over the snow as easily as a mountain bike would ride over gravel trails. It was just perfect, as I knew if I have my mountain bike, the 2.25 tires would just cut into the packed snow and start trenching the bike into different directions. Then, I hit some trails where there were just cross-country ski tracks, and that was where the good times stopped. I tried to follow the tracks, but they were not packed down due to the flotation of the skis so the tires just pushed down into the snow and stopped me dead. I finished riding the trail, but I had to gear down and slowly trudge though to the end of the trail where I had to stop due to the exhaustion. Like I wrote, it’s not a futuristic hovering skateboard.
Is the fatbike for everyone? Of course not, but it does have specific uses and does fill in gaps that certain people may have. If you ride your bike in the winter, on a beach, in loose dirt or you just want a very utilitarian Do-It All bike, you will love the fatbikes.
submitted by: Cycling Ninja