DEVELOPING BUCKSAW - THE STORY BEHIND OUR FULL-SUSPENSION FATBIKE
Finished Bucksaw 1 and one of the original protos...
The spirit of adventure drives our product decisions and creations. We like to go places and do things that may not be “normal,” and we like to use bicycles to get us there.
When we introduced the Mukluk, we knew the places fatbikes could take us and the experiences we could partake in. What we didn’t know was just how far this fatbike thing was going to go. Still perceived by many as “snow bikes,” they got us Minnesnowtans out in the winter and helped create a passionate army of fatbike riders.
The attachment and passion for these bikes had many people, including us, using them in the summer on “normal” mountain bike trails. The fatbike’s incredible capabilities and confidence-inspiring nature had several of us verbally contemplating riding a fatbike exclusively, year-round. Riding a fatbike year round meant that rocks and roots, which were usually hidden under a layer of snowpack in the winter, were now exposed features that needed to be negotiated. Firm dirt made for higher speeds, and folks were finding they could quickly outride their ability to keep the front end in control. Many started experimenting with various ideas to add front suspension to their bikes.
Because a dedicated suspension fatbike fork did not exist, most had to be improvised. Modified and cobbled together Maverick SUC32s and DUC32s, Manitou Dorados, old Marzocchi Z1s, and Girvin linkage forks, among others, were attempted. Results were promising, but there was always a catch; inappropriate geometry, old damping technology, limited tire clearance, etc. Craig at Mendon Cyclesmith proposed the idea of modifying the crowns on a Cannondale Lefty Max, and he and I made eight crude CNC-machined prototypes to play around with.
One of the first, solid-block Lefty Max fatbike adapters...
Around the same time (Fall 2011) Pete Koski and Mark Rane from the Salsa product design team were kicking around the feasibility of creating a fat suspension frame using parts and pieces from our Spearfish and Horsethief models. They concluded it could be done without a massive tooling investment, and we decided to take a chance, and see what would happen if we added rear suspension to a fatbike. We built six prototype frames, based around the SUC32 and Lefty Max forks, with 80mm of rear travel. The prototypes arrived before the snow flew that winter and we got a few test rides in.
Koski inspecting the first prototypes...
Immediately, we knew we were onto something big. We decided to ask the world what they thought, to get a gauge on the buzz, and we went public with the idea on our blog. To this date, it is still one of the most popular and interactive blog posts we’ve ever done.
Following another season of testing riding, we were fully convinced. Pete spent the most saddle time on a proto in a variety of places and had some solid ideas about where things had to go:
“After riding another full season on the proto, I knew we needed a fork with a more modern and adjustable damper unit, more travel overall, and a completely revised geometry. The combination of traction and suspension was allowing me ride the bike in ways I had never imagined I would be able to.” –Pete Koski
But one thing was missing before we could produce it, and that was a proper suspension fork. Our Mavericks and Leftys were working fine on our six prototypes, but we would need a production fork. Shopping the idea around to various companies led to a lot of interest, but no commitments since the fatbike market was still considered very small. We looked further into creating our own, but found that the tooling costs were quite high, and frankly, Salsa is not a suspension fork company and didn’t want to become one.
Feeling a little deflated, we decided to just keep riding the prototypes and sharing our ideas with anyone who would listen. We took protos to various manufacturers and showed them off. Some of the frames were even given to these companies to keep and ride. We took it to tradeshows and talked to the media about it. We felt a little bit like evangelists of a movement.
Greg Herbold slaying the Whole Enchilada aboard prototype #5...
Prototype #3 on display at Frostbike 2013...
And we were not alone. As with any niche movement, the first items available for sale started to come from the small one-off builders, and Craig at Mendon Cyclesmith was having great success selling production versions of his Lefty Max clamps, complete with fork bodies. The idea was here to stay.
Right around this same time is when Salsa began working with Dave Weagle to license his Split Pivot™ design for our 2013 Spearfish and Horsethief. Dave knew about fatbikes, and was intrigued.
“When Salsa approached me about my Split Pivot design, one of my first questions was, "Can we build a full-suspension fatbike?" Anyone who has ridden one will tell you that fatbikes are a blast to ride.” – Dave Weagle
One of the hurdles was still the missing suspension fork, but after all of our work, we also began working with Dave to understand the different needs that might go into designing a suspension fatbike. We gave Dave a prototype from the initial round, and he rode the heck out of it to begin the process of defining what a Split Pivot equipped fatbike would be.
During some of this initial design and testing, with the intent to hold off on actual production until a fork was available, we received the email we’d been hoping for. RockShox told us they would be making a dedicated fatbike suspension fork for the model year 2015. In fact, the email said “We are 100% go on the project.” It seemed like eons away, but we were giddy. A fork…and our bike…were finally going to become reality.
We decided to hit ‘ full go’ as well, and our whole team went to work. We went through another round of prototyping to flush out the details, and worked through a few ideas about how a “normal” suspension bike and fat suspension bike differ, and how we could incorporate Split Pivot to further refine and maximize the end result. We were extremely proud of how this iteration rode, with only a few subtle tweaks being needed for production. Collectively, I believe we (Salsa, Split Pivot and RockShox) all knew that this bike would really evolve the way people use fatbikes.
Kid Riemer aboard the proto nicknamed The Thunder Down Under...
Benton on a Split Pivot proto...
And That Brings Us To: Bucksaw
Bucksaw is our full-suspension fatbike. It features Split Pivot rear suspension and is the first suspension bike designed from the ground up to address the ways riders use fatbikes, and how fat tires interact with both the ground and the machine.
“Fatbike tires have a lot of give to them. To address the special needs of how those fat tires react to terrain at speed, I've put as much new technology and creative thinking into the Bucksaw as many of the one-off and World Cup level DH bikes that I've developed. It's a truly special bike, and one that I'm immensely proud to have been given the opportunity to work on. This is a real mountain bike, one that can be ridden on any ride, and on any terrain. It rules.” – Dave Weagle
The 6066-T6 aluminum frame and carbon seatstays are designed around the 177mm symmetrical thru-axle rear spacing standard for optimal shifting. Maximum rear tire clearance is 3.8” fatbike tires mounted on 82mm rims.
Available in the fall of 2014, the Bucksaw 1 will be $4,999 and Bucksaw 2 will be $3,999, and both will come with the RockShox Bluto fork.
We’ve come a long way to get here. Where will Bucksaw take you?
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I come from the land of trees, lakes and cheese. I like beef jerky, singletrack and pale ale. I believe derailleurs were invented for a very good reason. Long rides with good friends and campfires is really what its all about. Oh, and if its not anodized, its worthless.