I haven't had a flat bar mountain bike in three years. Back then, I had a 29 pounds Focus Black Forest, an aluminum frame 29er with nine gears and a pretty ghetto 1x ring up front. I grew up mountain biking, spending spring and fall racing in the 14 and Under Sport class and watching my dad race, too.
I raced on a cyclocross bike for the past few years, but I knew this spring that at some point I would be back on flat bars. I always knew whatever it the bike ended up being, it would be something a little different. I though long and hard about what bikes I enjoyed, what got me excited about riding.
The most fun I'd had riding a flat bar was my month on a Surly Krampus. We had a demo fleet of the steel, 29+ bikes two years ago and I had a ton of fun riding them. Firstly, they just looked cool, a blend of both traditional steel tubing like my dad's old 1993 Mongoose Rockadile, with big tires that made easy work of sand, which has become my nemesis. As fun as it was to ride, to race it was too much. I'd do a Speed of Light on it and every time the trail tilted uphill, I went rather quickly backwards. My persistent thought on the bike was that a plus bike that was decidedly less than the 34 pound stock Krampus would be perfect.
Flash forward to now, we've got the answer to that, albeit with a little twist. A big aspect of the Bearclaw Bicycle Co. Balthazar was that it was going to be both a racy fat bike and a more than capable (and very drool-worthy) mountain bike in the summer. In fact, we had our ultimate testers, Matt Harris and Wes Sovis, both riding prototype Balthazars with 29+ wheels for nearly 6 months, including tilts at the Iceman Cometh. Not only did we prove that the bikes are insanely tough, we learned that the frame design carries over to plus tire sizes and feels nimble, responsive and extremely fast.
For spring, we brought in the BBCo. Little Chet and Big Chet carbon rims, which are both 50mm wide in 29+ and B+ sizes. I opted for the Little Chet in order to keep the same outer diameter as the 26" fat bike wheel I rode to win the fat bike class at Iceman last fall, and went largely on Wes' feedback after he'd gotten his own set of Little Chets on his Balthazar.
I have a bit of a sentimental streak, so a few parts for my bike came off the Iceman bike. The first thing I raided was the crank, a RaceFace Turbine that's actually designed for a 177 rear end, which makes it really, really close to the chainstays, but she fits. Note, you won't be getting any cadence sensor in that gap. Or a piece of 2 ply. It's a tight fit. Along with that crank, I kept the 34t elliptical chainring from Iceman. I'm elliptical guy through and through, and that is the perfect ring for me for Iceman/Speed of Light and that sort of riding.
I also nabbed the Ritchey Super Logic post because Lowetz has drilled me to have Ritchey seat posts (look at my other bikes) and it's crazy light. Attached to it was a WTB Carbon Volt, which stays enlisted as it's proven it's worth on my Kona Private Jake.
A very cool thing with Bearclaw Bicycle Co. is that you get to pick your serial number. When our friend John Ammond brought the finished batch of head tubes by, he surprised me with a polished steel "007", one of just three serials that he did polished. I went with "007" because I am a huge Bond fan; my brother and I have watched Casino Royale at least 738 times, and the other films a few dozen times each. I also just really like number 7, and have always thought of it has my lucky number. Through all my years of team sports, I never got to actually wear it, so aside from having it tattooed on my arm, I also get to have it in steel on my Balthazar forever. Pretty darn cool.
Now, what you're probably waiting for. The bike weighed in at 25 pounds, 9 ounces, completely dressed with it's carbon ricoCHET fat bike wheels and 120tpi 45NRTH Dillingers. That's sealant, pedals, a bottle cage, Wahoo Elemnt mount, the works. With the 27.5+ Little Chet wheelset, same i9 hubs, and 2.8" Schwalbe Rocket Rons, it's 21 pounds and three ounces. 21 pounds! We're really excited to see what Lowetz's ends up being, with the conservative guess at 18 pounds.
It's a bike I'm really excited about and that's a very cool blend; it's part of the old BBCo. prototype, the Iceman bike, and my own person favorite bits and pieces. And I'll admit, having a similar bike to my brother's (and it being a little lighter) is something that just adds a bit to getting back on flat bars. I'll just have to remember where the shifter is.