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Fat Bike Blog #2 - Test Ride Report - Fast and Furious

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


My previous blog reported on my testing of two sport utility fat bikes, that included the Surly Pugsley Neck Romancer and Salsa Mukluk 2. Here is the link to Fat Bike Blog #1:


PART 1: Fat Bike Trail Testing

I have demoed four popular fat bikes, including:

1. Surly Pugsley Neck Romancer
2. Salsa Mukluk 2
3. Salsa Beargrease
4. 9:Zero:7 Custom Build

Here is the Surly Pugsley Neck Romancer:

This is a summer photo I downloaded from the Golden Bike Shop website. This is the bike I rode at Beaver Ranch on December 27th 2012.

This is the Golden Bike Shop photo of the very nice Salsa Mukluk 2.

I also rode this bike at Beaver Ranch on December 28th, 2012.

Here is the Golden Bike Shop photo of the Salsa Beargrease, which is a high performance racing bike. This bike tips the scale at 29 pounds!

I rode this bike at Beaver Ranch on January 5th, 2013.

Here is the Golden Bike Shop photo of the 9:Zero:7.

I rode a 9:Zero:7 on December 31st at Beaver Ranch and at Flying J Ranch on January 1st.

The 9:Zero:7 only comes as a frame. The bike shop has to add the front fork, wheels, tires, handlebars, stem, crank, cogs, chain, shifters, brakes, cables, pedals and grips. This is a throw-back to the bad old days prior to 2010 when all fat bikes were custom creations.

PART 2: Grueling Test Track

Fat bikes are snow bikes. Fat bikes are mountain bikes. My test circuit at Beaver Ranch included steep hills and deep snow, The first test segment included a half mile at a 40% grade climb on packed snow. (FYI - 40% means that the trail rises 40 feet for every 100 feet you travel!)

After the 40% climb, my test circuit was deep snow over rolling sections of up-and-down. This is a real acid test. Fat bikes have to maintain momentum to attack short hills with a minimum amount of effort. The huge wheels and tires can store energy, or cost you energy if you lose momentum.

Make sense?

I then took the bikes into the trees to test the maneuverability and traction in deep snow. I purposely hit rocks and buried logs to test the various bike's ability to handle obstacles.

The next segment tested the bikes on a snow covered single track to determine how well the bikes handled. A good handling bike responds to the slightest rider input. A good handling bike should be predictable and feel like an extension of your body!

I then took the bikes back down the 40% grade to test the brakes. Next I hit a long easy rolling "horse trail" to test how fast the bikes could travel over a relatively flat surface.

The final test was a difficult side hill. A "side hill" is an attempt to to travel perpendicular to a steep fall line. The "fall line" is the track that a ball would take under the influence of gravity. If the bike turns to follow the fall line, this is a big problem. Why? The bike should go where the rider points the bike. Slipping on a side hill is not good.

The last test was more subjective. Could the bike "rip"? Ripping a trail means to take on difficult terrain at a high rate of speed with great precision.

Any other issues? Yup! How well does the bike shift between gears? How fun is the ride to bike? Finally, but not least, is the bike pretty?

PART 3: Summary of Surly Pugsley and Salsa Mukluk

The Pugsley was huge disappointment. The Pugsley was slow and, due to the chrome-moly steel frame, way too bouncy! Steel frames are not as stiff as aluminum frames. I rode the Pugs less than 500 yards and knew this was not the bike for me.

The Pugsley is a value priced offering. When I was on the Pugs I felt like I was pedaling a tractor! I did not like this bike. The Pugsley's lousy gearing, high weight and huge rolling resistance made the bike stall on the 40% climb. However, at $1,650 the Pugsley is cheap for a fat bike.

The Salsa Mukluk was a very competent fat bike. The Mukluk did a lot of things well but was not outstanding.

The gearing on Mukluk also caused the bike to stall on the 40% grade. I discovered that fat bikes do not climb well. The bottom-line was that the Mukluk was boring! $2,500 is too much to spend for a boring bike.

I feel that both the Surly Pugsley and Salsa Mukluk could be made into very good bikes. Most people start with framesets and carefully choose components. A lot of bikers ride custom Pugsleys and Mukluks.

PART 4: Riding Too Fast

My best friend, named John, lives in San Francisco. His mom still lives in the old neighborhood. John spent a couple weeks in Colorado over the holidays. I have known John since we were both 10 years old. We used to go a lot a places on our bicycles.

We were chatting about bicycles. Out of the blue, John says, "When we were kids, I didn't like riding bikes with you. You rode too darn fast!"

I was surprised! I thought riding fast was something I started to do just recently. I hate to think that I have been me my whole life!

PART 5: Testing The Salsa Beargrease

The Salsa Beargrease resembles the Mukluk. However, the Beargrease has a lower center of gravity, its several pounds lighter and has way better components than the Mukluk. The Beargrease has a wider range of gears than the Mukluk. List price of the Beargrease is $2,999.

I started my ride on the Beargrease pretty late. I had attached my Garmin, headlight and tail light. The temperature was a comfortable 18 degrees F.

The Beargrease is black anodized aluminum. The 45North tires are very light but have dubious traction.

Here is the Beargrease at the highest point on the ride.

This bike actually went up the 40% grade pretty easily without stalling out. The Pugsley and Mukluk were harder to pedal and I had to push these two heavier bikes the last little bit. However, the Beargrease was easy to pedal and climbed right up the steep hill.

This is a shot from the Beargrease cockpit.

Unfortunately, the light North45 tires on the bike were not optimal for traction in loose snow. I had to be very careful going through the forest. Sometimes the front wheel would slide-out while trying to make a turn. I needed to give trees a pretty wide berth.

Fat bikes can stand on soft surfaces all by themselves.

Pretty cool, huh? A track stand is a piece of cake with a fat bike.

I am on my way back after a fast run down the "horse trail".

The Beargrease is pretty fast but did not feel as controllable as the Mukluk.

The temperature was really dropping after the sun went down. I was glad to make it back to the truck.

I only rode the Beargrease an hour. The Salsa claims the bike's geometry provides a low center of gravity for optimal handling. Although lighter, with better gearing, the Beargrease felt all the world the same as the heavier Mukluk.

The Beargrease climbed well and was pretty fast. The Mukluk is cheaper and has more utility than the Beargrease. The beefy tires on the Mukluk made the Mukluk better in deep snow. I really didn't like the Beargrease. I think the bike is designed for fat bike racing courses that happen to be groomed and packed-down. I want a bike that can handle all sorts of snow conditions. But I also want something that is fast and handles well.

PART 6: Testing the 9:Zero:7 - One Fat Bike to Rule Them All!

I actually tested the 9:Zero:7 before I tested the Salsa Beargrease. The 9:Zero:7, pronounced "nine-oh-seven", is made in Anchorage, Alaska, and is named after the Alaska area code "907".

I was not expecting much when I picked-up the blue demo 907 at the Golden Bike Shop. I liked the looks of the 907. The geometry specifications and components were similar to the Salsa Mukluk.

The 907 is lighter than the Mukluk. The 907 I demoed was just a tad heavier than the Beargrease. Since the 907 comes only as a frame, each 907 bike is a custom build. The 907 frame is made from hydroformed light aluminum alloy and is expensive. Bikes built on the 907 frame range from $2,000 to $4,000. The 907 bike I demoed was about $2,600.

On New Years Eve, I picked-up the 907 from the Golden Bike Shop for a two day demo. Here is the sleek 907 at the start of my ride.

I put my speedometer, headlight, taillight, water bottle, and seat bag on the 907. I started my ride at 7:00 PM. The temperature was downright pleasant at 15 degrees F.

I started pedaling the 907 up the half mile 40% grade. The 907 didn't chug up the hill. The 907 didn't grunt up the hill. The 907 flew up the hill! This bike has wings! Here is a shot of the 907 at the top of the hill.

There were 3" of new snow on top of a base of 12" to 14". The 907 floated through the snow!

I couldn't wait until I could go through the trees in the deep snow. I found myself slaloming through the trees! The 907 rules! This bike has "it". My Allez, Stumpjumpers and Camber also have "it". For me, as a rider, "it" is that perfect bike that becomes part of you.

I had found my fat bike!

Here is the 907 by a Beaver Ranch facility called the tepee.

I took the 907 on trails the Pugsley, Mukluk and Beargrease could not go! I didn't want to get off the 907.

Here is the 907 on a Vita course.

The 907 has great lines. I could stand-up on this bike and pedal like crazy. All the other bikes I demoed tended to break traction when I stood-up to pedal. The 907 was glued to the snow! I rode the 907 for 3 hours at Beaver Ranch. I did not want to get off the bike.

Part 7: The 9:Zero:7 at Flying J Ranch

I took a second ride on the 907 on New Years Day at Flying J. For the first time I was on a trail with hikers and joggers. Flying J had seen a lot of foot traffic and was packed down.

Here is the 907 at Flying J. This shot should give you a good idea on trail conditions.

A lot of people I met on the trail really responded to positively to the fat bike. One guy with his young family exclaimed, "That is sick!". I think that means "good".

I found some deep snow off the beaten path.

I went all over the place on this bike.

Here is the 907 on a little bridge that goes over a frozen marsh.

This bike rips! As I was flying down some tight single track, I looked at my speedometer. I was going over 30 mile per hour and packed show on a fat bike! Wow!

PART 8: Getting My Fat Bike

I put down a deposit at the Golden Bike Shop on my 907. I am working with the guys there to spec-out the custom build. I am getting an orange 907. This is a great bike.

My bike will look at lot like this one.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • LUVS2BIKE101
    As I went snowshoeing through Stewart Forest the other day, I thought seriously about biking the same trails, if only I had "fatty tires". You've given me much information and pushed me to start shopping!
    Have fun on the trails!
    2293 days ago
    Thanks for the great info. Now, I know what bikes can be used on snow. That is amazing. emoticon on the Holiday weight loss.Keep going!
    2293 days ago
    You should get a commission from the company for all the free advertising you are giving them LOL. Glad you found what you really wanted!
    2293 days ago
    Do you get paid to test drive the bikes? You should. You write a great blog. I'm going to pass your blog info on th my friend James McDonnough. He is the Eastern Mountain Sports bike man in Peterborough, NH.
    2293 days ago
  • NWFL59
    Congratulations on a successful search and selection of a new fat bike to enjoy the trails in winter. Sounds like you are going to really enjoy winter trail biking. I look forward to learning about your final combo and how the first ride(s) went. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2294 days ago
    Awesome! Great info!
    2294 days ago
    eet ride! That 907 looks like tons of fun. Leave it to the Alaskans to build something best suited for snowy conditions. Thirty mph in snow?! Holy moly. You are a wild man, sir. That's all there is to it. Enjoy your new fat bike! Can't wait to see pictures!
    2294 days ago
    very interesting. congratulations on your new bike! (i feel i say this to you a lot: this is the third new one in the last 12 months, no? road bike & new stumpy & now this?
    ride it in good health!
    2294 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    Thank you for another great blog packed with great info about fat bikes. I did enjoy this and keep being you. emoticon emoticon
    2294 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/8/2013 1:18:16 PM
  • KA_JUN
    Holy crow, you hit 30 in heavy snow?!?! Never heard of 9zero7 prior to your review, very pretty lines and tubes, reminds me of a Santa Cruz with the swoopy tubes, for some reason. The fact that a bike that looks like that can be climbed aggressively, that's just "sick". emoticon

    Great blog about your adventures!
    2294 days ago
    Great blog. Love that bike in orange! Happy trails!
    2294 days ago
    Another strangely fascinating blog. Good reading.

    I'm sure we'll get great pictures of your custom 907.
    2294 days ago
    Being you for your whole life....it happens to the best of us ;-)
    Yay 907!!!
    2294 days ago
    Well... congrats on the new purchase! May you enjoy many years of happy snowy riding on it.

    But you can keep the 15 degree temps. emoticon emoticon
    2294 days ago
  • LADYJ6942
    Wow, lots of info re bikes I didn't know. I didn't know there were actually bikes built for snow riding. Thank you for the new knowledge and good luck!!!!
    2294 days ago
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