Why a carbon Fatbike? -Salsa Beargrease

 I had the privilege to ride a Salsa Cycles carbon Beargrease for a month. In that time I rode the wheels off the thing.
Here’s some thoughts. 

No prize, just this sticker from the Wrightwood 50
No prizes, just a sticker from the Wrightwood 50

The Salsa Cycles carbon Beargrease is what; a light fatbike? A heavier race hardtail? A racing fatbike? An adventure bike?
Probably a little of each of those.
In Salsa’s words: “Think about all the terrain you can ride on a fatbike. Now think about riding it fast!”
I figured we should put that to the test. We built up the Beargrease in mid/late September and proceeded to bring it out on to the rockiest, most technical trail sections we have in Idyllwild… and haul ass on them. I used the Beargrease for everything- all of our regular shop rides, my after work rides, and our “session” rides in the rocks. She even brought me home on the Wrightwood 50, a self supported endurance ride in Wrightwood, CA. (more on that later)

Taking a break on the return leg of the Wrightwood 50
Taking a break on the return leg of the Wrightwood 50

How’d it go?
It’s a rocket.
The Beargrease rides lighter than it looks, that’s for sure. Tipping the scales at a relatively scant 26.5 pounds (tubeless conversion) it garners surprise whenever folks pick it up.
The Beargrease sports a lower, xc race oriented front end and quick handling geometry. It zigs and zags quite nicely on everyday singletrack.
Power transfer is unparalleled by just about any bike I’ve ridden… that’s to say that yes, the bottom bracket does not yield and the bike goes.

I found myself picking the more technical trails on a given ride, because the bike was just plain fun to ride up, or down them. But then it didn’t shy away from big, fast rides, either. Here in drought stricken Southern California it turned out to be a great choice on dry, loose fire roads, where climbing out of the saddle on a traditional mountain bike could be traction-prohibitive. In fact I found it was a surprisingly appropriate bike choice to ride/race the WW50, which had about 9,000 feet of gain with lots of singletrack. Anecdotally speaking, my best move in the WW50 came while climbing out of one particularly heinous and long doubletrack. Loose for miles and miles on end. The big Dillinger tires were able to gain traction in or out of the saddle, and for me made the difference of walking or riding.
This carbon fatbike’s specialty might be its lack of specialty. It clearly isn’t just a “race” bike. But it doesn’t get pigeonholed into the “toy” realm made just for bouncing around a beach on a lazy Sunday- but it can do all of that, perhaps better than you’d expect.

Achilles heel
I get asked about the bike a lot, on the trail. “How is it for this?” “How is it for that?” “What’s the downside?”
Riding flats. On high cadence, speedy singletrack with the zig-zag turns and occasional punchy climbs, the wheel weight takes its toll. Every wind up takes a bit of precious energy. I especially felt it while riding the MBAU Cuyamaca Benefit Ride on the Beargrease. There’s no denying the fact that 4″ wide tires are going to weigh a bit more, even tubeless.
Also, suspension! I’m tired of hearing “The tires are big enough to create their own suspension” because it’s just not true. If you ride the with an appropriate tire pressure they’re not super-duper squishy, and even when they’re soft you can compare the tire’s “suspension” to that of a basketball. Rebound! Do not rely on the tires to soften your ride. Get in control, get a Bluto. (yes, that costs money, I know)

Back, To the Future
There’s an undeniable move in the bike industry right now toward bigger, and higher volume tires in every category. I believe the new normal will soon be something at least a bit bigger than the 1.95″-2.2″ we’ve known for so long. Double wall modern rims are coming to fatbikes, as are carbon rims in wider sizes. All of this serves to reduce the rotating weight and bring us a step closer to the holy grail of high volume lightweight rubber.

 

 

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