The fat bike has long-since proven itself as virtual Swiss Army knife. Ride it wherever, whenever, however you want. It truly serves as a do-it-all bicycle, from winter commuting, to mountain bike racing, to touring, and nearly every application in between.
And now, it can do all those fair weather things faster. It's a mind-blow of psychedelic proportions, it's come about it a relatively short amount of time. The 29er+ movement really got started with Surly's Krampus, the first production bike to feature a 3" tire and a 50mm rim, namely the Rabbit Hole. It's a setup that makes sense a lot of places, including Pedaling Nowhere's 1,000km ride in Africa. The Krampus also found itself happily between the legs of us handsome guys at the shop. Eric called it "the perfect Vasa bike", and after doing an Iceman Out and Back on it, I'd have to agree.
It was simply a matter of course that brands like Salsa and Borealis would keep the 29+ in mind, especially with their light, fast carbon frames coming onto the market as 2013 neared its end. The type of person who wants a 29 (Beargrease X9 build) or 26 (XX1 build) fat bike is likely to have more than a passing interest in riding such a bike all year long, and if it can be darn fast then, shoot, sign them up.
29+ builds start with the rim, particularly the standard 50mm width. The Rabbit Hole is still a bit hefty, even though it utilizes the same cut-out design you'll find on many of Surly's fat bike rims, like the Rolling Daryl. The Rabbit Holes are bombproof, but hefty after 699 grams per rim.
The trendy (and USA made, 'Murica) alternative, at a glance, isn't that much lighter, but it's what it lets you do that makes it worth while. The Velocity Dually, with the same 50mm width, comes in at about 675 grams, but it's solid design makes tubeless set-up a bit easier. Tubeless makes a massive difference, and while it's possible on the Rabbit Hole, you're looking at doing a slightly narrower version of a fat bike tubeless setup, which can add unnecessary weight. Nearly all of the 29+ wheelsets we've built have included the Dually.
The rubber is another big aspect, and one that is offering more and more choice over the past few months. The Surly Knard, stock on the Krampus, spent a few months as the only option, albeit with 27 and 120 tpi casings on offer. The 27 tpi is around the 1150 grams mark, with the 120 tpi coming in around the 820-840 range. It's a pretty big difference, and for now, all the build are going with the 120 tpi Knard...for now. Maxxis, Continental, Schwalbe...watch for everyone to be in the game by this summer, and with some lighter options.
Recently, we did a build for Ec Super Customer Keith Conway. He made some big moves to create a bike that is truly the only one he'll need for the dirt. Step one involved taking the XX1 and other parts off his already rockin' aluminum Salsa Beargrease, putting the parts onto a carbon Beargrease frame. Nate took a quick second to compare weights finding that the carbon Beargrease was 110 grams lighter than the aluminum frame, 2600 grams to 2710.
With Velocity Duallys, 120 tpi Knards and Competition spokes, Conway's cruiser ended up at 22 pounds, ten ounces without bottle cages or pedals. That. Is. Awesome. A comparable 29er at the 23 pound mark is easily over $2800, with the wheel build coming in around $1100. It's a race ready, 28 pound fat bike for the winter, and a veritable world-beater come summer with the 29+ build.
We'll update this piece with Keith's reactions from his first race at Pontiac Lake XC as soon as we can get him to stop riding the darn bike.
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