So, it’s finally happened… I’ve gone fat!
After years of intrigue, speculation and envy, I’ve finally found the excuse I need to give fat bikes a proper whirl. Daniel has sold me his frameset and rims, we’re doing a Rohloff swap, and I’m pillaging what remnants I can from the Ogre – seat post, saddle, bars etc – to finish the build. I’m buying his spare tyre and tubes too, and he’ll ship the leftovers of my faithful Ogre back home. I’m stoked, to say the very least. As for Daniel – a kindred bike nerd with a similar penchant for trying new bikes – his plans revolve around an ECR in the near future.
As much as my Ogre has delighted me over the last couple of years, the opportunity has come up to try something new… and I’m all about that. Most likely, 29+ (a la ECR or Krampus), would be almost ideal for the kind of backcountry riding I enjoy, and less of a commitment when the going gets paved. But for international travel, there’s also a definite appeal in running the omnipresent 26in wheel size, given its extra inherent strength, and the ease of sourcing replacement tyres – in a pinch, downhill rubber (of which there is ample in South America) will work fine on the 65mm rims I’ll be running.
Going fat won’t be without its concerns though. Tyre wear, tear and replacement costs (considerably more than their skinnier counterparts) will be on my mind. I’ll need to figure out a good location to have my next set sent out, somewhere down the road.
These issues aside, a few day’s test riding here in Chile have quickly convinced me that fat bikes are completely in their element, over even the most corrugated Patagonian ripio I can unearth. Further north, Kurt’s incredible travels in Bolivia have underlined how effective they are across the sandy trails of the Altiplano. As to what likes between, we’ll have to see. I’m excited to find out, and excited to see where a fat bike can take me.
As for my initial impressions… from here on, I expect the vagaries of road quality to be no longer an issue or excuse – it will simply be a case of tweaking tyre pressure and riding. Certainly, the level of rider comfort is simply astonishing. The feeling of grip is extraordinary – rocks, deep gravel, washboard, whatever. And above all, it’s such FUN! Given the extra heft, I won’t necessarily be the fastest on the road – but having my speed capped is, for me at least, no bad thing. I’m under no illusion that such bikes are optimal for many of the bike tours undertaken in Latin America. But for the kind I always aspire to do – namely, dirt, and off the beaten track – I’m hoping it will open up a whole new wealth of possibilities.
Plenty has been written about fat bikes from those far more well versed than I am (they’re the ones who have inspired me). So for now, I’ll just get on with riding mine…
Without further ado, meet La Poderosa – The Mighty One – named after Che’s 1939 Norton motorbike, on which he travelled across this continent.
Fat bike travelling inspiration:
Thanks Daniel for making it happen! Go say hi and talk fat bikes with him at Montevelo, in Oakland, California.
If you would like to keep up with where I am between blog posts, I try and keep my While Out Riding facebook page regularly updated, along with posting extra photos (and from now on, fat bike cogitations). You can find it here.