A few weeks of fat

Not the ideal position to haul skis (tails should be lashed lower).  Also note modded Tubus Cargo hauling a deer leg.

Now that I’ve had the Mukluk rolling for a little over two weeks, it’s time to discuss the dreaded initial impressions.  I think this bike holds a lot of promise for the near future of my cycling, and am thus going to track my evolving opinions closely.  Hopefully without too many dead-obvious observations like “tire pressure is important” or “you can ride over all kinds of stuff.” I’ve yet to expand beyond short singletrack rides and urban meandering, so these are nascent opinions only.

That said, tire pressure is really important.  I’ve yet to go above barely registering on my floor pump, and even that was only good for riding pavement, and intolerably rebound-y on bumpy snow.  I started really low, sidewall deforming, major counter-steer inducing low, and loved the new feel and crazy float and traction until I tore the valve stem out of the front tube.  That prompted me to bump it up a hair, talc the hell out of the tubes, as well as drill out both rims so I could run the schrader-only DH tubes the LBS had to sell.  Playing with this aspect has been really fun, going back to the most basic element of post-19th century bikes to tweak ride characteristics.

And you can also run over some crazy stuff.  The floatation of fat bikes, and their limits, are well documented.  If your shoes sink into it too much, you’re sunk, and if you don’t make much of a footprint, you’re golden.  It’s the grey area in between that makes life really interesting.  Marginal riding conditions are a phenomenal lesson is body english, holding a line, and using your core and arms to give just enough torque to the legs to make it without spinning out the rear tire.  Between riding places you couldn’t ride a conventional mountain bike and having so much more bike in contact with the ground, the feel of riding a fat bike is much more intimate than any other bicycle experience I’ve yet had.

Part of that is likely how dialed the bike has felt since hour one.  For me, this is highly atypical.  New gear, especially something as nuanced as a bike, often takes me weeks to sort out to my satisfaction and truly become familiar with.  It has been a while since I had a new bike, and most of the major components (bar, grips, stem, saddle, post, cranks, pedals) have already seen extensive use on my other bikes.  Nonetheless, my first impression is that the geometry is very good.  I’ve also been roundly pleased with component selection: the wide bars are especially appropriate, and the gearing has thus far been great.  The ratios are appropriate and I like the reserved style of shifting.

Riding across frozen lakes is pretty cool.  They’re no studs, but the stability of BFLs on ice is impressive.

The ease of mowing over things has greater implications than float and winter, which leads to my most looming impression: that a full suspension rock crawler fat bike would be fantastic, and though there’s been plenty of talk about it, the lack of more progress towards production products is nothing less than a profound lack of vision on the part of the bike industry.  Being able to take a rigid fork and hit a curb straight on at ~12 mph with no lofting of the front wheel and slurp right over and on is not only fun, it has big implications.

More broadly, it begs the question of what the more ideal tire size and width is for non-competitive mountain biking, where speed is not a primary concern, and thus rotating weight not a necessary disadvantage.

In three years, when I’m ready to buy another bike, I’ll be disappointed if a 4″x4″ FS fatty with a head tube angle 69 degrees or slacker isn’t available.

The commute route is well-treaded.

I’ve got a bevvy of snow routes on tap once I fulfill my wolverine commitments.  The more ambiguous, and thus interesting, question is how useful I’ll find it once summer comes.  What options will it open up for wilderness biking in lower 48 wilderness?  I’ve got a few ideas.


  1. For the real low tire pressures, like 4-5 psi, people glue one side of the tire to the rim so that they won’t shear off the valve stem. Also, the fastest snow bike racers now use clown shoe rims (100 mm), which enable them to ride super soft stuff that 65 mm rims can’t.

  2. Just thought I would second the suggestion to glue the tire to the rim – for fat rim without beadlocks, like your large marges, glue one side with tubular glue (Tubasti is the brand that is available where I live) and you shouldn’t have problems with your values sheering off.

  3. I did the whole fat trail bike experiment and in my mind, if you don’t need the flotation, you absolutely, positively don’t want fat tires on your rigid or suspension bike.

    They are for flat ground and very soft “ground” They absolutely suck for technical riding, and the weight destroyed me on a long climbs.

    On top of this, they still fall into holes that a 29″ set up will easily bridge.

    Fat wheels are not all that comfy for trail riding. Not much better than 29″ rigid.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I completely disagree on the 4X4 travel fat bike deal. It gains nothing for trail riding other than flotation. If one rides off trail in sand or snow a great deal of the time and want something passable in tech for the rest of the time it makes more sense.


    I can’t even stand a fat front on the Jones. Neither could Dan for that matter. Lots of drawbacks, little to no benefit on trail.

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