I didn’t start off on this journey negatively biased, that would have been stupid and a hell of a gamble to take with the thick end of a grand. On the contrary, I embarked on this voyage of discovery with high hopes and an open mind. I had no axe to grind, if anything, my views were possibly leaning in the opposite direction. I was looking forward to experiencing the much talked about fat bike ‘smile factor’. I anticipated a different way of riding, just like when you change from gears to single-speed, I knew things might slow down a bit but I looked forward to the opportunity to sample all the great things that come from being fat.
|We visited interesting places.|
However, I like to think that I hadn’t raised my hopes beyond reasonable levels of expectation, after all, it’s still only a bicycle when all is said and done. I did try and temper the Internets enthusiasm for fat and sprinkle a pinch of salt over many of the comments that seemed to imply that going fat would revolutionise my riding in a similar manner to what penicillin did for venereal disease. Nowhere could I find a lone swimmer going against the tide of approval, no dissenting voice audible amongst the thousands of believers proclaiming the second coming … which means I’ve spent the last few months desperately trying to love or at least enjoy it, yet the best I can do is endure it. I began to look for reasons to ride it but usually found excuses not to, so when someone asked if they could borrow it, I happily agreed, hoping that they’d deliver a fresh perspective. They came at it with the same open minded enthusiasm I had and two days of loaded riding later, delivered their verdict.
It’s a bike which is great for specific conditions, but outside of those it’s too much of a compromise.
If you’re going to Alaska great, Aberystwyth maybe not too much. If you’re out for a few hours and are riding somewhere specific, it’s fine but not on a bikepacking route where you’ll generally encounter a wide range of ground conditions. Bikepacking is generally about getting from A to B as efficiently as possible …. would I buy one? Maybe. Use it for bikepacking? No.
It would seem that Chew’s thoughts were similar to mine. If I took the time to plan ‘fat bike routes’ then perhaps I’d feel differently but my riding generally takes me from A to E and back via all points in between. Whatever’s there gets ridden over, pushed across or carried up. I’d always assumed that like most people, my trips contain varied terrain and just like most people, the areas where a fat bike shines make up only a small percentage of the total mileage but perhaps I misjudged things? Maybe my definitions of ‘all rounder’ and ‘varied terrain’ are different from other peoples? I don’t know, I’m confused. There are riders who’s ideas are not dissimilar to mine, they ride fat bikes up, down and all day, then do it again the next. I have nothing but admiration for them and envy of the gene that allows them to do it and maintain a sense of humour throughout the process. It could be that some people just enjoy unnecessary hard work? For some, a fat bike might be a socially acceptable outlet for a deep rooted masochistic streak? A case of mass hysteria perhaps or maybe they secretly enjoy the attention their bike commands from pointing kids and bemused dog walkers? I’ve asked, I’ve quizzed countless others in the hope of discovering the secret but to no avail. “I like it” or “it makes me smile” are the usual vague answers received after probing but seemingly no one can pin-point the actual reasons behind the statements.
|It all started off so well.|
At the moment my fatty is sitting in the workshop, there’s no love between us, in fact we don’t speak when I go in there. I’m almost wishing I’d remained snuggled up under the duvet of fat bike ignorance where I’d have remained warm and content, whereas climbing out from under it, has left me little more than cold, however I feel I must persevere. On a shelf above it are a pair of wheels, they sport 135mm and 170mm hubs but the hubs are laced to 29″ rims. Next to the wheels, is a pair of 2.3″ tyres awaiting fitment … I think this drastic step might be the only way I’ll ever get to ride a fat bike that truly is a good ‘all rounder’. I realise that a change of wheels is missing the point but it’s not really a surprise given that I still don’t know what the point is.
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