I am not a “fatbiker.” Or “fat biker.” In fact I’m not even sure what those folks want to be called – you know, the ones who ride almost exclusively on fat bikes all year long. We have a few of them here, around Prescott, Arizona, leaving their oversized tire tracks on the same trails on which everyone else rides “normal” mountain bikes. I’ve always wondered why they they’re riding those things.
That being said, I’ve had a Mukluk for years now. When I lived in Colorado and winter had a strong grip on the mountains, I’d take out the fat bike and ride white, slippery singletrack. It was amazingly fun. The Mukluk was the right tool for the job. Where I now live in Arizona, we get a taste of winter from time to time, and again, when the trails are snowy, the Mukluk makes riding fun.
And whenever I’ve had a hankering to go exploring the rugged old mining roads or washes around the Bradshaw Mountains, the Mukluk has been my go-to bike. Once I got a suspension fork adapted to the bike a couple years ago, it was even better suited for that kind of rugged, loose riding.
But in all honesty, my Mukluk normally hung in the corner of the garage, relegated to just those particularly trying routes.
In November, Kid showed up in Prescott with a shiny new Bucksaw Carbon in tow. He only stuck around for the weekend, but the Bucksaw had six weeks before it had anywhere else it had to be. So the bike and I became well acquainted, rode on trails all over central Arizona, did some exploring, did a little racing, and I was ceaselessly impressed. The capability of this bike stood out for notably distinct reasons on four different rides.
The first of these rides was my first impression of the bike in Prescott’s own Granite Dells, a playground of slickrock fins and spires through which miles of highly technical trails snake. Traction and balance are the name of the game here as slow-speed technical moves are required for forward progress, up or down. Even after just fifteen minutes on the Bucksaw Carbon, I was cleaning sections I had never come close to riding in the past. The combination of traction from wide tires, easy acceleration due to the frame and wheels’ low weight, and stability was game changing.
Once or twice a year, a crew of adventurous souls rides up and over the Bradshaw’s on some of the worst (or rather some of the best in the eyes of these folks) chunky trails the area has to offer. We race each other downhill, challenge each other uphill, and fix many flats. On the Bucksaw, “unrideable” climbs became rideable, and I didn’t even need to search for a line down the most treacherously rocky descents. Point the bike down, avoid boulders, and let the suspension and big tires do the rest. My legs still had ample energy to pound pavement back over the low pass toward town at the end of the day.
In the Cave Creek area, I tied together a big loop linked by the apparently infamous Trail 4, a classic “forgotten” Forest Service trail of basalt babyheads and overgrown with catclaw. Much of the trail was only marginally rideable on the Bucksaw, but on pretty much any other bike, I would have hiked for literally miles, uphill and down. I can’t say I didn’t get frustrated with the trail at times, but it was far more enjoyable than if I had been on narrower tires.
The following day, I made an unplanned trip to a low-key race in the McDowell Mountains, part of the Arizona Endurance Series (no entry fee, no prizes; just a bunch of folks that head out for long, challenging rides together). For most of the race, my legs took a pounding trying to maintain a pace brisk enough to stay near the front of the field. After 50 miles of rolling fat tires through the desert, I got weary, fell back, and watched the leaders climb away from me. But then the climb got steeper. And steeper. I watched as everyone above me was pushing their bike up the loose, steep switchbacks. My fat tires bit into the rocks and gravel, and slowly, I pedaled up to and passed the leaders, put in a few hard digs over the top to get a small gap, and then let the bike eat up the steep, rocky 1,000’ descent. By the bottom, I was alone and pedaled the last few miles to the finish in disbelief. Unexpectedly, the full-sus fatbike seemed to provide a key advantage in the closing miles of the race.
Now call me biased if you will. I’m a Salsa sponsored athlete. I’ve been riding Salsas for years now, and I obviously love them. But never before have I had so much fun riding one particular bike on such a huge variety of terrain. Never before have I been so impressed with the capabilities of any bike. And never before have I been so reluctant to box up and send off a bike to the next lucky tester.
Hopefully Santa was paying attention, because with this new Bucksaw Carbon, I could certainly see myself becoming more like one of those fatbikers…
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After growing up in Minnesota, I’ve been lured away by the rugged charm of the mountainous west. I relish every opportunity I find to spend a day (or days) on the bike, linking together unknown trails and forgotten routes through deserted country, enjoying the simplicity and unpredictability. When driven to race, I am growing ever fonder of pushing the limits of endurance and sanity. www.krefs.blogspot.com