“Fatty Lumpkin” the drop bar Framed Alaskan Fat Bike and me had a bit of a baptism of fire. My first proper ride was the 100 mile Lost and Found Gravel race where I suffered rather badly and we parted not the best of friends. Fatty sat unloved in a corner of the garage throughout the months of June and July whilst I concentrated on getting my Time Trial mojo back. August however, brings with it Fatty’s second race (the Bodie Bowl) so it was time to sort out the problems that made me unhappy way back in May.
My biggest issue with my setup was the Salsa Woodchipper bars which I simply could not get along with at all. I went to my local shop and borrowed a set of “Cowtipper” bars to see if these would work any better for me but before I could install them I spotted the new Salsa Bikes launch which had several drop bar MTB’s. I quickly realized that my bar position was way different to what they had so I tried to mimic what I saw in the pictures. This involved tipping the bars down to what appeared to be a ridiculous angle but it made all the difference in the world. The new position allowed me to run the brifters in a much more conventional position and the result was far more comfortable and much less cramped. I also raised the bars about an inch which actually made riding on the newly positioned drops even more comfortable.
I also discovered that I had somehow ended up with my saddle too high which was limiting my power and giving me sore knees. I expect when we were trying to sort out the tire issues on the night before the “Lost and Found” the height got adjusted in the work stand and I never noticed. I have also been experimenting with tire pressures and have found my best compromise to be 13psi front and 14psi rear (at least by what my pumps says). This gives me good predictable handling along with acceptable bump absorption in the front. I still find a little waywardness on very fast downhill corners where i am really cranked over and can feel a bit of side wall deformation.
The first ride out on my local testing ground was a revelation and I felt right at home blasting up and down trails. After only a few rides I found myself getting close to and even beating some of my 29er times on the trails. The more I rode, the faster I got on the downhills as I learned to trust the incredible cornering grip. Rocky down hills are still a bit of a challenge as the fat tires can only soak up so much trail chatter but anything with loose dirt is a blast. This Tuesday I actually got within 10 seconds of getting my KOM back on a particular local dirt climb on the fatbike and was beginning to think that the fatbike was quite a trail weapon. I decided to ride my CX bike on that same trail this morning for comparison and reality set back in when I was over a minute faster.
The fat tires and 10 pound weight difference are just too much of a disadvantage for the Fatbike to overcome on this trail. I would have expected to see the Fatbike to claw some time back on the loose dirt section but as can be seen from the trace below the fatbike loses time every foot of the way (fatbike was more fun though)
The only thing I cant really do anything about that I find a little annoying is the Q factor which always feels odd after hopping off one of my other bikes. I know this is a tradeoff for the 197mm rear end and relatively tight chainstays but I wish it was better.
Despite not being as quick as a CX bike I am looking forward to Bodie Bowl where I will be entered into the fatbike category. It will be interesting to see how I do against other fatbikes. The “Expert/Sport” course will be 50 Kilometers (31 miles) and approximately 2500 feet of climbing. All of the course is at 8000ft plus and the temperatures could be as low a just above freezing early in the morning.