*Warning!* This article goes deep into the world of fat bike Fred-dom. Yes, even though I railed against it last week, I’m engaging in it this week. Funny how that works. So, if you’re not into bikes… well, read on anyway. You might learn something. And there are pictures. /*Warning!*
I’m not feeling terribly motivated lately to write or to really do anything. A downswing with the weather, I guess.
And the funny thing is that I should be excited to write. I should be rushing to get the words in my head down on the page, but I’m not.
However, as the best writers always advise, you must write even when you don’t feel like it. So here it goes.
I bought a new bike. A Trek Farley 6 fat bike. I still struggle with balancing the want and the need sides of things and enjoy the bike for all it’s worth.
I’ve put on some good miles already. A couple of 30 mile out and back paved rides. Three 20 mile plus single track rides on mixed terrain. Daily commutes for nearly a three weeks now. Rain. Wind. A touch of snow.
I’ve put in some good miles and I think I’ve started to get a good impression of the bike.
Let me first remind you of my riding style and background. For the past two and a half years I have exclusively ridden a Surly Pugsley. Nearly 10,000 miles on that beast this year alone. Trail, beach, river bottoms, pavement, terrain parks, skate parks, pump tracks, snow, snowmachine trail – I’ve ridden the Pugs on just about every terrain there is. So, my impressions of the Farley are going to be colored by my experience with the Pugs.
First, let me just say that the Farley is a nice ride. After completing the 30 miles of paved riding last Friday, I was tired, but not exhausted. I wasn’t completely spent. I’d ridden a similar path the week before on the Pugs – going out 27 miles and calling it good and at the end I was feeling it. Exhaustion and aching legs. The Trek is lighter and it feels lighter and faster even with the wider tires. I know that I could have tossed off another 10 or 15 miles on the road with no problems at all and still felt fresh the next day. So there’s that.
Unfortunately, most of my riding is on paved trail as part of the daily commute. While I enjoy all types of riding, this type of riding isn’t what I do for fun. Some might say that my selection of one bike to rule them all is a bit backwards given the proportion of types of riding I do. It seems a bit backwards to buy a bike geared for trail riding when most of my riding is not on trail. But that’s the way I roll. I want a bike I can bomb on single track and still ride for daily commuting. That’s a big part of what drew me to fat bikes to begin with. Particularly with the Pugsley. The Pugs was trail capable, but had the accoutrement needed to make for convenient commuting – easy rack mounting, fender mounts, a more upright feel, etc.
The Pugs was a bear on the climbs. It would climb over just about everything, but you felt the weight the whole time. The Farley isn’t quite the same. The geo is definitely more trail bike than expedition bike. Not as upright, fewer mounting points, and lighter.
And these differences translate into a bit of a learning curve on the trail. The first thing I noticed is that the Farley requires a bit more finesse. The Pugs would do whatever you wanted it to on the trail, but often it required a bit of brute force. Example – there is this slightly tricky off-camber, rooty climb coming out of the college trails and into the Kepler trails up in the valley. It’s not steep, but the roots and such make it a bit challenging. With the Pugs it didn’t matter the line, you just pointed, geared up, and climbed it knowing that the momentum would help see you through.
Not so much with the Farley. No, with the Farley it is important to pick the right line and be in the right gear going into the climb. The front end does feel really light on climbs and wants to come off the ground. This leads to challenges when climbing over roots in that you can lose too much momentum and have to daub. I had two such instances on sections of trail I’ve never had issues clearing before.
Some of this might also be an issue of tires. I ran the Hodags at about 12 PSI and found that on wet roots, particularly on off-camber sections, they broke loose time and again. The tires also don’t seem to shed mud all that well. With Nates and even with the Knards, I’d have challenges breaking them loose in similar conditions. I find this a bit interesting as my Nates and my Knard were both 27tpi versus the 60tpi of the Hodag. I am sure that I just need to experiment with pressure a bit more, but with the Surly tires I would often ride them on trail at the same 17 to 18 PSI as on pavement and would still grip everything no problem.
And completely apropos of nothing – the MuleFut rim, decent as it seems to be, has a graphic of a pig on it. Not sure how pigs and mules go together. Odd. Or is it? Come to find out, the Mulefoot is a type of American hog – a bit, burly guy – whose hooves are fused into a single, mule-like hoof. Who knew?
Another thing I noticed with the Farley is that it doesn’t seem to want to jump. The Pugs loved to get air born. With the Farley I had a hard time feeling the back end coming off the ground, or even getting the front end up for manuals. With the Pugs, a manual was like nothing and getting air was even easier. Though with the Pugs it always was apparent that you were in the air because the front end would dive as soon as the back was up. With the Farley, the front seems to, once in the air, want to stay up. Yet the Pugs, for as heavy as it is, just felt more willing to jump than the Farley.
All in all, I’m impressed with the Farley. There’s definitely going to be some learning to finesse versus just point and go here.
I certainly didn’t need a new bike. But, when the opportunity arises and all. And, as a bonus, my old bike has been handed down to the kids so that they can join me on my adventures. I’ve had my first ride with my son. His first real snow trail riding. All I can say is that this winter is looking to be good times. Good times, indeed.