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.
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.
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.