KB’s uber-custom fatbike – The Swan

This frame was really cool to see go from computer screen to reality. A few people said it looked Swan-like so…there you go.
Thanks to Walt and Brad for their help with this. I probably couldn’t have made it like this had they not given me great advice and in Brad’s case in-house gusset lessons.

KB wanted a 5″ fatbike with a Bluto and 2×10 gearing allowing a 20 x 42t for her lowest gear. She requested the lowest standover possible with a 80mm Bluto, BB height no less than 12.5″, and 4.8″ tires. I was able to get the standover (unsagged) to 695mm and lower as you get closer to the seat tube (~630mm).  I bent the top tube to get it as low as possible but also to give a nice long coped interesection with the True Temper 38mm Supertherm downtube.  The top tube comes into the downtube in the thicker butted section (1mm wall) and a big long gusset was added to strengthen the headtube junction made out 2″ diameter x 0.049″ wall 4130 straight gauge tubing.  She also wanted her bars to be 4″ higher than her saddle.  So this build was very different than anything I’ve attempted before.

Geometry:  68.5 degree head tube angle, 73 effective seat tube angle, 430mm long chainstays, 612mm front center, 41.4″ wheelbase.

Components: SRAM 10-spd twist shifters, Hayes Prime Expert disc brakes, Truvativ Noir T20 carbon riser bar, Thompson 70mm stem and seatpost, Surly Mr. Whirly Offset Double 165mm crank is on there with a 20x33t ring combo paired to a 10spd SRAM 12-36 cassette.  But the cassette is a wide range 10, with a Wolf Tooth 42t ring and a 16t to replace the 15 and 17t rings. I used their longer B-tension bolt too to get it to shift right.

The front derailleur is a direct mount X7 mounted to the Wolf Tooth clamp for Moonlanders/190 rear hubs.   Because of the weird crank when set up as spec’d (2mm from bottom of cage to top of big ring) the cage rubs the crankarm. It’s really easy to adjust the direct mount derailleur upwards and out of the way and it still shifts pretty good.

Wheels were built by Lacemine29.com and are Bontrager tubeless Jackalope rims laced to a 190 Fatback 10mm through-axle on the rear and a Borealis 150x15mm hub on front, Vee Rubber Snowshoe XL’s run tubeless! Very easy to set up without any tape on these rims. Super psyched about this. It didn’t work well (at all) for me using Lou/Buds.   Headed to the Colorado high country!

 

Truckee Wednesday night fatbike ride & a ski up Castle Peak

Got up to Truckee to partake in their weekly fatbike ride Wednesday night at Scott’s house. Thanks to Doug for the invite I headed up through sheets rain on the west side of Donner to reach a pretty much dry and absent of much snow Truckee.  Scott has a sick house at the end of a small road, surrounded by open space. He had built some trail on his property over the summer and invited the group to check it out. Pretty sweet to have that out your shop door! A huge variation of fatbikes was on display from a custom Ti Carver on-off (not to be produced ever again) to an unknown maker Chinese bike that was extremely cheap to buy but…is cheap for a reason. I’m a custom builder and bike snob though so don’t mind me!  I realize not everybody can or wants to add yet another bike to their quiver.  The ride was a windy singletrack out and back with more safety breaks than I think I’ve ever witnessed, it was classic. Warm at 32 degrees with dirt/snow mix on the trail it was a fun time and great to meet so many new people loving the fat.

I also got to take out the new-to-me skis up Castle Peak off I-80 at Donner Pass. Pretty mellow 20-25 degree slope with 4+ inches of new snow made for a great intro into the Dynafit Huascaran’s. They pretty much turn themselves and with the rockered tip i never had tip dive and floated over everything. I’m sold, even if they’re a little heavier than I’m used to for BC. There’s been a lot of moisture in northern California these last two weeks, constant rain in Foresthill and a lot of warm snow hitting the Sierra Crest. Raining in Truckee mostly but snowing up higher. The trees were plastered white up high like I remember the PNW and Whitefish, MT being like because of such high humidity. Some dudes were going off the north side chutes but I chose to stay safe on the south since I was solo. Fun stuff up there at such an easy quick skin from the Pass.

Melissa’s Fatcycle

This fatbike will be really fun to ride. I pushed with normal chainstays here so am “only” using the Specialized Ground Control 4.6″ tire on the rear to give some room on the 430mm chainstays.  A Surly Lou 4.8″ fits but with not enough room for comfort. Orange Nextie carbon tubeless ready rims, Surly Bud on front, tires are both run tubeless. Hope Fatsno hubs with a 197×12 rear and a 150×15 on front for the Bluto 120 fork.  Shimano XTR shifter and brakes and rear derailleur, Race Face Turbine Cinch crankset with a direct mount 28t ring, a wide range 10-spd cassette with the 42t Wolftooth cog and their 16t as well.  A Thompson Covert dropper post will be put on when it arrives which also has internal routing like the rear brake and derailleur.  She wanted something camo but also dug this Cosmic Blue so I got some orange camo decals made up by VCG.  I think it looks pretty awesome!

Geometry is short chainstays and slack head tube angles, my new fatbike preferred geometry because of how it behaves in soft snow. Here goes:

– 68.5 degree HTA

– 73.5 degree effective STA

– 430mm (16.9″) effective chainstay length. Actual is about 434mm. In my mind, effective length means more than actual. Effective is the horizontal distance between the rear axle and the center of the BB.

– 62mm BB drop is nothing too high or low. I’ve been leaning higher lately to reduce pedal strikes with such wide Q-factors that now are common (222mm!) and when using flat pedals.  Having said that…this still is a pretty low BB at about 318mm (12.5″) with the biggest diameter fatbike tires.

– 610mm (24″) effective top tube, 720mm front center.

Combo bikes suck

There was a time when I wanted one bike that would “do it all.”  You know what I’m talking about: a bike that can fit fenders with fat tires, run panniers for your tour, has that mystical geometry so that it rocks at downhill and XC riding, has the ability to run discs and cantis, and so on.  So i bought a Surly Karate Monkey, this was early 2005.  It was my first true “all-arounder” that I thought i’d put cross wheels on to commute, maybe some dirt drops and fenders too when it was wet, and on the weekends it’d be my main mountain bike with the new at the time 29″ wheels.  I never used it in any of those ways, it was just my 29er mountain bike that I also commuted on.

Monkeys_052305

Two Monkeys. May, 2005

Then I wanted something better, rode better, was a bit lighter, and was more custom to my weird bodily proportions (long torso, short legs for a 6ft 1’er).  My first true custom frame.  I contacted Rick Hunter in 2006 and I asked to have it all. It’d be another 29er that would be my all-around “mountain commuter” that I’d use for everything, local trails, commuting to work, and bikepacking trips.  I told Rick what I wanted and I’m sure he rolled his eyes after seeing my email but he was super accommodating and nice.  I wanted a fillet brazed frame and fork that had disc and canti mounts, pannier attachments for racks, eyelets for fenders, a custom front mini-pannier for MTB touring, run drop bars, have Paragon sliders so I could run it with gears or singlespeed, could fit 2.4″ tires, and had a 25″ effective top tube and a 71 degree head tube angle.  This was extremely slack for a 29er at the time…no joke. All 29ers had at least a 72 degree head tube angle to mimic the feel (trail), so it was thought, of a 26er bike. Rick tried to convince me otherwise because the wheelbase on this bike was going to me extensive, but I resisted and got what I asked for.

the Hunter

The Hunter, 11/2006

Of course, I loved it, but i did know it rode a bit weird.  It was a true “Cadillac” and a great bikepacking rig.  Fully rigid and its long wheelbase and ‘slacker’ head tube angle was good on fast descents since it purred over the washboards and rocky trails.  Now that I know more about geometry and framebuilding I look back and kinda laugh.  Not at that bike, it was what it was and it did it that just fine.  I laugh because I thought one bike could do it all and do it all well.

This isn’t to say the those extras don’t matter, I love having eyelets for panniers and fenders, but I now believe that trying to make one bike do everything well is just plain impossible and, in general, bad form.

I made the Hunter a singlespeed for awhile and that was awesome. I did use the front pannier on my tours. I never put cantilever brakes on it. I never put drop bars on it.  I never even ran 2.4’s.  So what i learned is that sliding dropouts rock.  But the rest of my “needs” made the bike a little bit heavier and ride worse at what I normally used the bike for.  I found myself really wanting a separate singlespeed so I didn’t have to spend the hour or so swapping out parts just to go on a ride. I wanted a separate commuter to have dedicated fenders and drop bars with faster rolling tires so I could get to work in any weather drier and faster. So I got a Cross-check to do just that.

The reason i’m ranting on this is because I’m seeing a trend that is reminiscent my experience.  Some companies and builders are starting to combine disciplines into one bike.  Mostly what I’m focusing on is specifically the fatbike/29+ combo bikes.  I can see the desire for this — I mean who has the ability to buy TWO new bikes, let alone just one new bike?

The necessity of having a 100mm bottom bracket shell on a fatbike for tire clearance and so that the chain can shift into all cogs without rubbing on the tire, is a hindrance on the design and handling of a 29+ bike. Why would you want a super wide 100mm BB shell and the resultant huge crankarm Q-factor in the 200’s on a bike that doesn’t need it? Do you hate your knees that much?  Do you want the worse cornering pedal clearance just for fun?  I can see going with an 83 shell to be able to get proper crank and tire clearance without severely dimpling the chainstays, but that’s way better than using a 100mm BB shell so you can every so often swap wheels and ride a “different bike”.  I can see having two purpose-driven wheelsets for fatbikes where you have a ‘dirt’ wheelset that has has 60-80mm rims and 3.7″ tires, and another ‘snow’ wheelset that has 4.7″ tires mounted on 100mm wide rims.

Furthermore, you would need to build up your 29+ wheels with the wideass fatbike hubs with 135/170 or 190 spacing.  (You can go with normal 100/135 and Marge rims, etc. but I feel that’s in the minority these days now that bigger is better for soft conditions riding.)  You may get somewhat stronger wheels with these wider fatbike hubs but they’ll be way heavier and simply overkill for a 29+ trail bike.  Again, the only reason you’re doing it is not for any other purpose than fitting the wheels into a frame that is too big for that specific design.  You’re diminishing the ride of the 29+ bike just so you can theoretically “do it all.”  The fatbike doesn’t get any of this, it’s gotta be what it’s gotta be to fit the tires and gearing you want. It’s the poor 29+ version of the bike gets all bastardized!

As a framebuilder I’d never want a bike of mine to ride halfass. It’s cool n all that it can fit both wheelsets, but can it really DO it all well?  No, not in my opinion at least. You gotta buy more bikes, sorry.  Or just have bike envy until you can afford it.  I’ll bet you already have two or three bikes as it is, so just deal with it. You’ll appreciate both bikes more in the end if you don’t have to always swap stuff when wanting to ride a different tire size.

Don’t try to stuff that square peg in that round hole.  Would you ever ride a cross bike on the snow? Ok, I’ll admit that i’ve done that and it is damn fun (even after the multiple headplants) but you see what I’m getting at.  How about a time trial bike for a cyclocross race?  There’s a reason they’re different bikes, and its not marketing hype. They’re for different designed uses.

tb-grizzly_fatbike_MolasPass

Molas Pass, 2012.

Knards on WS trail, 2013.

Knards on WS trail, 2013. The ultimate dirtmobile.

Elevated chainstay fatbike

F23-snow-frontElevated chainstay bikes usually just plain ugly. But they’re practical for a few reasons.  They prevent chainsuck and allow for shorter chainstays for a given tire size than on a traditional double-diamond frame without any dimpling/crimping of the tubing.  They are  less stiff laterally at the bottom bracket but especially on a fatbike running 5psi..I am not sure I give a damn.  They also may fail at the seat tube if not built properly but there are many still around from the late 80’s that show their potential longevity.

Built-Fat23

Built up!

Ski-setup-shop

With skis and Jandd Trunk pack, fits wider skis than these or Nordic skis.

skis-closeup

Holds the skis tightly so they don’t hit me in the back of the head.

skiloop

Brooks Range Mountaineering ski straps bolted to the rack braze-on.

This is my 4th fatbike build. I’m still riding the first one but it got a nice facelift (black frame below).  The latest frame is a much nicer version of my 2nd fatbike that also had elevated chainstays.  Generally that was a “prototype” frame created to test some stuff for a friend (along with testing my framebuilding abilities at the time).  That frame fit Big Fat Larry’s on Clown Shoe rims and had the same basic geometry as the Surly Moonlander (brown bike below).

Facelift-MC9-left

Number 9, 1st fatbike.

Frame-done-built-brown

Number 11, 2nd fatbike

Number 21, 3rd fatbike

Number 21, 3rd fatbike

The newest frame’s design was inspired by the many old MTB elevated chainstay bikes, but also because for fatbikes it makes even more sense. Especially with 4.8″ tires on 100mm rims, there is very little room between the chainring and the chainstay when you give the precious little room for tire clearance.  Shorten the chainstays a bunch and it gets even harder.  The Surly Moonlander is offset in the driveside direction by 28mm to accommodate the need for a better chainline and increased tire and chainring clearance.  E-stays has been done before on fatbikes (i.e., 3D Racing, Minneapolis Bike Company’s “Murphy”) so it’s nothing new. Nnothing ever is with bikes these days.

This fatbike’s geometry was inspired by a conversation with Mike Curiak who likes his fatbikes to have similar geometry to his “all-mountain” MTB rigs – short chainstays and slack head tubes.  This usually translates into long front centers and a bike that’s not great at slow speeds or climbing hills (wheel flop from lots of trail). I’m paraphrasing and expanding on what he said, but Mike argues that the traditional geometry model doesn’t fit the fatbike world with its low pressure fat tires, especially while on variable and soft ground.  Having a slower steering rate (from the slack head tube angle) and a long front center makes it more stable even at slow speeds especially when there’s soft snow for the front wheel to plow through.  You don’t swerve as much while trying to hold your line as you do with steeper headtube angled frames. The short chainstays provide increased traction and float better with the riders weight more on top of the rear axle.  In addition to the slack head tube angle, having a greater % of your weight over the rear wheel also helps reduce the slow speed twitchy steering from any slight movement of the bars and that stops the wheel to from diving one way or the other because of reduced traction while riding on snow.  I’ll see how these theories play out when I get to riding the new bike but I trust Mike when speaking on fatbikes since he’s been riding them longer than most and with many more geometries than others.  My previous fatbikes have had much different geometry with 69.5, 70, & 70.5 degree head tube angles, and regular chainstay length for fatties (447 for the black one, 467 for the Moonlander e-stay, 450 for the newer orange one).  I’m pretty “sold” on the slack head tube theory but not yet with the short chainstay part. Mainly because I think of it in terms of a ski – longer skis float better in snow than shorter skis.  So a longer wheelbase bike should (in my mind) offer better floatation and more stability — a Cadillac versus a Jeep.  I’ll update with any thoughts of course later once I get to riding it more.F23-snow-Side

This frame has a 68 degree head tube angle, 72 effective seat tube angle, 24.5″ top tube, 715mm front center, and a 45″ wheelbase (sorry for not sticking with the same units).  You’ll likely notice the head tube, it’s a rather long 170mm since I like having my bars level with my saddle using as few headset spacers as I can. The fork is also mine with a 450 axle to crown and 50mm of offset giving the bike 100mm of trail (93 of mech. trail). Even though it looks like more, it’s got 6cm of BB drop for a BB height of just over 12.6″ using the Bud/Lou tire combo (without accounting for the sag from low tire pressure).  For parts, it’s built up with a XT clutch rear derailleur, a 26t ring on 170mm crankarm Surly O.D cranks, and a 10-spd XT 11×36 cogset.  If a SRAM X9 would fit without the crankarms hitting the chainstays I’d have chosen that for more gearing options using Wolf Tooth rings. The front wheel is a Clown Shoe with a Fatback 135 hub and the rear wheel has a 190mm Borealis hub. I made the stem – 90mm with 8 degree rise and it’s clamped to a Watson Ti “Revelation” bar.

For those interested in some fabrication details, i used a 38 x 1/0.7/1 True Temper Supertherm for the downtube with the longer butt on the bottom bracket side.  That way, it stiffens up the less-supported BB and also let me weld the e-stays to the thicker wall of the tube.  I supported the e-stays at the bent seat tube (31.8 x 0.035″) with a piece of streamline 4130 (1.18 x 0.5″, 0.035 wall). This should provide superior stiffness and strength than a plate but that’s just my take on it.  The 3/4″ x 0.035 4130 chainstays were s-bent by me and mitered like seatstays to attach to the downtube (definitely had to spend some time on that one). The hooded Paragon dropouts were key in allowing a higher placement of the chainstays on the hood but getting the derailleur hanger at the right angle according to Shimano’s specs. I made a wishbone seatstay to get the huge tire clearance as my current tube bending mandrel isn’t tight enough in radius to get that much bend so soon before the seat tube (I have a 9.375″ mandrel and think you’d need at most a 7″ if not a 5″).  I routed the two cables (rear brake and derailleur) through the top tube and externally from there to the rear dropouts.

The color is a bronze powdercoat to match the root beer colored Clown Shoe rims. It has little silver specks but without sun they don’t sparkle.  The rear rack will hold my skis and a Jandd trunk pack while I hunt for turns. Just need some snow!

tire-clearance-rear

about 1cm clearance on all sides.

TireClearance-X

Plenty of room for Lou with 16.9″ (430mm) chainstays!

borealis

Nice new 190 hub and sweet finish on the Surly rim

Fatbike vs. 29-plus on dirt

Lots of reports recently from Specialized’s Colorado press/dealer camp about their new Fatbike the “Fatboy”.  Trek too is coming out with one, and Kona too.  Fatbiking is no longer a fringe element my friends, and has quickly become the ‘new-29er.’  Now that I say that, it’s all so obvious…it happened a couple years ago really.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that the big guys are releasing their own fatbikes. The Specialized Fatboy has some cool new features specific to their bike that make it able to run 4.8″ tires on a symmetrical frame (no offset) with their 190 rear hub.  The extra width (170mm was the widest till now) makes it able to run a 2x up front and clear 4.8″ tires.  I’m not sure a 2x is ‘needed’  but it’s a nice option to keep the spin and momentum going.  Their own 90mm wide rims are a size between the Surly Rolling Darryl and Clown Shoe and are pretty light because of their unique cutaway pattern. Haven’t seen their tires, but it’s amazing to see the resources they put into this release…they went the whole 9 yards with making everything for themselves including a carbon fork.

But when I see the testers riding these things in summer I shake my head. It seems like a fall or early winter release would’ve been a better fit but yeah, it had to be done at their main event.  I love my fatbike, LOVE. But Fatbikes are made to float.  Sure they are kinda novel and fun on dirt and have a lot of traction but in my experience they are just not meant for dirt, nor are they that much fun on dirt.  Rock crawling? Maybe, I haven’t tried it yet.  But Fatbikes on dirt are sluggish to turn and have serious countersteer issues because of the big low pressure tires as well as the sheer mass of the wheel.  Then they tend to bounce around if you up the pressure to counteract the countersteering. They’re not performance bikes so why people ride them in summer on dirt alludes me. I guess they are great for just cruising along and could be fun for loaded dirt touring.  But really fatbikes are meant for snow and sand (I would guess, i’ve never beach crawled one).  You don’t need to float on dirt, but I ‘get’ the added suspension from the fat tires.  For me, the reduced handling of fatbikes on dirt make them not much fun to ride.  I have friends that use them on dirt and love it, so they may be offended by this post or say that I don’t get it. But I think that there is another option that is WAY better to ride on dirt and offers some of the same characteristics of a fatbike.

In comes the 29-plus.  Really, right now it’s only the Krampus with Knard tire unless you go custom. The tires are really 30.5″ in diameter mounted up on a Rabbit Hole rim.  Each time I get back on Sasquatch – my Knard bike – after just riding the regular 29er, I never want to go back.  I especially don’t want to get on a fatbike *for dirt trail riding.*   In the snow or softer conditions the Knards/29-plus won’t do as well as the Fatbikes (duh) but it does really pretty OK all things considered.  Like I’ve said before, if ‘they’ release a 3.4″ version of the Knard (let’s call them 31 x 3.4″ and round up) it would have a similar contact patch at 8psi as a 4″ fatbike tire with 5psi and ride better on all conditions – including dirt.

I know that when all the fatbikers riding fatbikes on dirt try out a Krampus or another 29-plus bike on the same trails, they’ll convert.  Yes, it’s yet another bike. But I have no doubt that it’s worth it…it’s THAT much better.  At least the frame I made myself with the Knards on Rabbit Hole rims. It’s very spry, jumpable, carveable, and damn fast rolling.  It accelerates over the top of rises and out of turns where a fatbike slows down.  The traction of a 29-plus is unmatched. With 10psi and such a large contact patch you just can’t wash out, even on the lightly treaded Knards.  The entire casing just follows the ground, it matches the input of the rider instead of sucking out energy.  That sounds pretty extreme but it’s the feel i get while on the bike and comparing how it rides.

But in the end, this is one dude’s opinion of two fringe bikes that will likely BOTH make it.  Fatbikes will keep being ridden on dirt no matter what and I understand it.  I’m a good example of not wanting change.  I still ride a hardtail even though all evidence points to the fact I should get a lighter weight dual-sus XC bike.  I’m getting old, long rides sometimes cripple my back, I could go faster and have more control on the downhill, etc.  But almost in spite of that the new fat-tire bikes offer something especially for aging retrogrouches like me that love tech too = ‘natural’ suspension that doesn’t have as many compromises as dual-suspension bikes (or at least that’s how I rationalize it).  No moving parts to wear out or break – just our bodies and tires serving as the suspension.   A rigid hardtail that soaks up the roughness while still allowing us to rail down (and UP) the trail with a hugeass grin on our faces.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the coming years. It’s just crazy to think how after so many decades of the bicycle people can still dream up and create new designs and ways to have fun on 2 wheels.

Fullbike_hugepondo-2-feb24

Knard ride report #2 – on the DIRT

I got out for a couple hours on the ‘bike-which-contains-Knards’ (for lack of a better bike name) at lunch yesterday, and so did a bunch of other riders. The weather was and is just nuts here — to ride in shorts and short sleeves in the 68 degree temps in late February…? Earliest singletrack I’ve had in over 20 years. I rode the regular local loop – Foresthill Divide from Driver’s Flat counter clockwise to the Connector, Culvert to the road, then Squaw Flat back to the Divide.  It was SUCH a different experience than the snow ride on Sunday.  It’s mostly a smooth singletrack loop with some ‘trail features’ on Culvert to mix it up.  (Culvert is the local shuttle run, and it’s legal! I’s supported by the local trails group FATRAC and the Auburn State Rec Area.)  Fewer rocky spots now that Culvert has been groomed a bit but no matter, dirt erodes so if you really want rocks just wait.  Culvert is the Sugar Mag of Auburn for you Ned and Boulder readers – a big re-do on the trail and some hate it and some love it.  There’s a nice log jump on it (did it), a couple of bigger man-made gap jumps (didn’t do them yet), and some really huge berm turns.

Anyways, back to the task at hand…Knards on dirt.

Remember when you first jumped on a 29er after riding on a ‘regular’ 26er for years?  Well that is what it felt like to be on this bike for the first time at speed with the Knards and Rabbit Holes.  I had to re-learn not to blow through corners, the gyroscopic force feels greater than a normal 29er.  Must be the bigger effective wheel size and heavier rims and tires?   I had to use more brake, or so it seemed, since once it got up to speed and it feels like it accelerates faster than a normal 29er on the downhills.  You feel like you’re barreling down stuff without even pedaling.

It accelerates into and out of the  turns. This one is the thing that really got me, you FEEL it in your bones.  It’s the same thing that’s going on with the other things I mentioned, but this is the one you notice first because it’s the reason you blow through turns and need to be ready for it or use more brake.  It’s a creepy (in a fun way) feeling, and once you get used to how you need to manhandle the bike a bit more…it rocks.  I found myself leaning the bars over more into the turns apex, laying it down more since the low pressure in the tires could easily handle it without washing out.  I don’t think you could wash the front tire out if you tried unless you went over the bars immediately afterwards.

Tire pressure.  I am running tubes for now since I don’t trust the sidewalls of the 120tpi tires yet.   I started out with 10psi front/15psi rear.  After the first braking bumps on the trail I stopped and let out more air.  I lowered them to 9psi front/12psi rear.  I rode with 8psi front/10psi rear for a bit but it had a bit more of that self-steering effect that Fatbikes get at low pressure so I raised it to 9 again in front and felt better.  Set up this way,  I was able to smooth out the washboards/braking bumps and smaller rocks but don’t fold the tire bead as much as you’d think on cross-sloped slow techy spots or corners.  The traction and connection to the ground is pretty amazing from the sheer size of the tires but the low pressure mostly.  On snow I wasn’t much below these tire pressures which made me realize I’d be fine going lower on snow for more flotation.

It definitely has a rigid hardtail “suspension” feel because of the low pressure and fat tires and rims.  But I can tell people are going to want suspension forks for this tire size just like with fatbikes.  I’ve seen Lefty’s already set up for Knards online.  I can see it more with 29-plus bikes than with Fatbikes since the 29-plus bikes are really rail-able mountain bikes compared to fatbikes.  You don’t feel the sluggishness of the tires like you do with a fatbike and don’t get any of the self-steering of the tires at low pressure (ok, maybe a tiny bit).  You don’t get that tractor sound as much on pavement.  You don’t get nearly as much of that boingy bouncy tire thing at higher tire pressures like you do with fatbikes (and by ‘higher’ i mean 15psi).  You still get some of that ATV-go-over-anything-feel with the 29-plus but you also can manual off stuff, wheelie, jump and whip around the bike more than you can fatbikes since it’s really still a mountain bike and not meant to float on sand and snow…even though I personally think it will do that pretty well too.  I hope someone comes out with more tire choices, up to a 3.2 or 3.4″.  The 3.2 would be nearing the max for all-mountain bike riding IMO, and the 3.4″ would be a great snow tire with a comparable contact patch to a 26 x 3.7″ Endomorph.  I hope they come out with more tread patterns.  The Knards are a good dry conditions tire and can hang since you can run such low pressure, but they still can slip out while standing on steep climbs or while braking hard in turns, so having the choice of a larger knob profile in a rear tire would be great.

I’m not getting rid of my normal 29er bike, but it’s going to be a battle each time I look at them and think…ok CHOOSE!   I’ll likely race my regular 29er even thought it’s not much lighter with a suspension fork, but I can see running the 29-plus as a singlespeed year round and for certain races. I’d choose the 29-plus instead of my full fat for packed snow rides and races where the course has been groomed (not sure there are any Fatbike races in CA yet?).  I think that it’s just one of those things…yep, you need yet ANOTHER bike.  Ok, not need but you definitely will want one after riding it for 5 minutes.  The 29-plus class is not going to take over the popularity of 29ers in my opinion, but it may take out some of the umph that fatbiking has right now. We’ll see…