ANTIQUATED FAT BIKES
(see picture above for an example of an antiquated Fat Bike - Sarma Vortex circa 2015)
(this topic is constantly evolving and updated about once a year - current update is for FALL 2019)
HOW TO SPOT AN ANTIQUATED FAT BIKE
Older technology is constantly being phased out. What was "current" in 2013 to 2016, is now completely antiquated, because CONSIDERABLE changes have taken place in Fat bike design and manufacturing of drivetrains and frameset geometry. Between 2016 and 2018, significant changes and improvements were made to suspension systems. The average weight of a mainstream (alloy) Fat Bike in this competitive field has dropped from 37+ lbs in 2015, to sub 29 lbs by 2019. Carbon hardtail Fat Bikes have dropped in weight from 30+ lbs to 21+ lbs in 4-season capable setups, during this same time period.
We are now looking to the 2020 lineup, soon to be released in mid-late September 2019. In just the last 5 years, Fat Bikes have made tremendous advancements in frame, suspension, component, drivetrain, geometry and tire design. Average bike weight has dropped 8-10 lbs per bike.
If you are shopping for a Fat Bike, your budget will need to be at least $1800 USD / $2500 CDN, to obtain a base-line current model year Fat Bike, that checks off all the boxes of modern design, geometry, componentry, and build quality levels - that are backed up by a comprehensive warranty.
If your budget is below this $1800 USD / $2500 CDN threshhold, you can expect to deal with :
antiquated technology drivetrains, with poor gearing ratios for sprinting and climbing (especially in snow) and only 9, 10, 11 spd compatibilty. Sometimes, you may even be subject to bikes with heavy 2x systems that are very heavy, and wear out easily. Warning signs are crank spindles of about 24mm or less, with names like “SAMOX”. The bottom bracket bearings will fail at a much faster rate than the modern (29/30mm 12spd crank spindle systems)
Budget bikes will feature cranks with very wide “Q” factors - meaning the pedals are farther away from the frame (see seaparate FAQ section on this concept). For riders under 6ft, a wider “Q” factor is quite noticeable (especially for riders 5ft7 and under), and can affect ride quality, especially if using cranks with a 220mm Q, vs say 204mm Q, and a BSA120 Bottom bracket.
Budget bikes will use lower quality bearings, and may replace some bearings with bushings. This can make shifting more difficult with bushings in the Rear Derailleur and front trigger shifter. Less refined shifting can result in stuck or thrown chains, especially when changing gears in climbs. (if in snow, that can ruin your momentum on any climb, and make you lose all traction).
Budget bikes may use mechanical brakes, instead of hydraulic brakesets. A VAST difference in performance.
If you buy into antiquated "tech" now, you will be seriously restricting your ability to upgrade in the future, and it will involve a considerable investment to upgrade "old tech". Your Fat Bikes resale value will also decrease quickly if you buy into outdated technology trends.
EXAMPLE of an ANTIQUATED FAT BIKE:
The introductory picture above, is a 2015 SARMA VORTEX. We will show that it is a complete disaster of a Fat bike design. The main issues found are :
37.5 lb weight - ready to ride
2x Double chainring up front
4-bolt low-end, forged OE crank, that was known to completely come apart at will, while riding
10 SPD drivetrain, with poor gearing ratios, and very sluggish shifting
Low-end mechanical brakes, that never really stopped the bike quickly - even worse if they got wet
135mm Hubs with cheap axles cap spacers 2x7.5mm to "convert to a 150mm" Front hub. - Try taking this wheel off your bike in the snow (like to change a flat tire), and NOT lose an axle cap spacer. You lose either of the two axle cap spacers, and you are done riding for the day, because the entire wheel is now unsafe to use.
VERY HEAVY soft metal 90mm rims were used. They warped very easily, and were not tubeless compatible
The Bikes were sold and stocked with non tubeless-ready (TR / TLE) rated tires... meaning the tires could neither be used or converted to tubeless riding. They had to use tubes, which are 2-3 lbs heavier, and do not provide nearly as nice a riding experience as a tubeless wheelset setup.
QR “quick release” rear hub - a thin QR rear axle caused lots of flex in the rear-end of the bike while riding. Absolutely ZERO resale value on the frame if either front or rear axle is a “QR”.
Low-end Bluto “RL” fork, only 80mm travel, provided sub-par suspension performance. This is the worst suspension fork available at the present time, and weighs 4 lbs on its own. Better to replace with a rigid carbon fork for everyday riding. Since the Bluto is 80mm, the frame is “suspension corrected” to 80mm forks. Today, the average low travel fork is 100mm, with the hightravel hardtails with 120mm suspension forks, and the full suspension bikes, like the FOES MUTZ, using a 150mm travel fork. ROCKSHOX BLUTO RL 80 = zero resale value, and repair parts getting very hard to find to fix it. (The suspension on this fork felt more “spongy” than anything else… it was not inspiring, like modern alternatives - but in 2015, this was the first suspension fork available for a fat bike, so it was highly regarded back then, and for good reason - it ushered in all the competition to build better suspension forks that it. So hat’s off to SRAM for engineering this fork in 2014-15, and that fork in turn forced Fat Bike manufacturers to redesign their frame geometries, and steer them to where they are now in 2019, with better fitting, shorter wheelbase, higher travel bikes.
Frame incompatibility with the majority of the tire/wheelset combinations (noted below).
Stack and Reach settings were just terrible.... riders were overly stretched out on these bikes and they provided poor traction
The bike was not comfortable to ride for any length of time.
I could keep going down the list, but hopefully you get the idea.
Retail was originally about $1800 in 2015. Then sales started online and vendors were hoping to get $1200 cash for the bikes, then it got so bad some were moved for only $800, still brand new. Then this Brand (and type of bike) pretty much disappeared all-together. Lately, such chinese-OEM bikes are making a final resurgence on the market.
THE “NOS” NEW OLD STOCK TSUNAMI
Bicycle technology is moving so fast, that there is currently a MASSIVE SURPLUS of old bicycle parts overseas. Chinese factories are trying desperately to find ways to sell off these parts and at the same time, deal with the Trade Wars between the USA and CHINA. Price dumping of very antiquated bikes, with old discontinued parts, unfriendly frame geometries, badged with all sorts of “manufacturer” names, have been hitting North American shores in late 2018 and will continue through the end of 2019. These overseas OEM companies know the older (NOS - new old stock) bikes have zero resale value on the secondary market, so they are attempting to get whatever they can for the bikes on the primary sale to a North American customer. Otherwise, the bikes, and their old parts become a complete loss and write-off.
(Ebikes and their electric drivetrains are also putting pressure on the liquidators and wholesalers of NOS (new old stock) 9,10,11 SPD bikes)
RESELLER RED FLAGS :
Beware of buying from ANY source that cannot backup your sale with a comprehensive warranty
Beware of buying from ANY source that uses a personal email address such as Hotmail, Google, Rocketmail, etc, and that is how they contact you, after you submit initial information requests through their business website. Your information can easily be hacked this way, and their “business” email account is not tied into their Business Domain Name, so you are liable if they run a scam using those credentials.
Beware of low-grade reseller websites with lots of pop-up windows that require you to close their announcements, to continue. Even by clicking the “X” to close the pop-up window, you can be inviting malicious malware code into your Internet device and get your PID hacked (Personally Identifiable Information).
Do not buy using a credit card, while on PUBLIC Wi-Fi or hotspots. There are always nefarious people at conventions, in hotels, on airlines, and in coffee shops, that set up devices to specifically hack the open Wi-Fi airwaves around you, in an attempt to grab all the data you transmit over that connection.
FAT BIKE RED FLAGS
STRONGLY HESITATE BUYING A FAT BIKE IF YOU RUN INTO THESE ISSUES :
Hub spacing that is not TA (thru-axle) both front and rear.
Frame Hub spacing that is not 150mm FR, and either 177mm or 197mm RR.
Wheelsets that use 135mm front hubs with 7.5mm spacer sets (to equal 150mm). Likewise, 190mm rear hubs with 3.5mm spacer sets (to equal 197mm). (spacers get lost when changing tires).
2x Double FR chainrings, using 9spd or 10spd drivetrains.
1x Drive-train systems that are not either 11spd or 12spd. The 9 and 10spd shifting systems are vastly outdated at this point, with extremely low resale value. You will have to replace the RD, FD, chain, cassette and shifters to move up to 11 or 12 spd systems, which can become quite expensive.
Wheelset Hubs that are not 11 and 12 spd compatible. (This is a must have)
80mm Front Suspension forks, or frames that are not suspension corrected, or corrected in geometry for only 80mm of suspension travel.
Bluto suspension forks, either (RL) or (RCT3) versions. They have been surpassed by the Wren ATK and Mastodon PRO models. Bluto forks also cannot handle 27.5 x 4.5in tires/wheelset combinations. (This applies to all other "Fat Bike" suspension forks currently on the market)
Non-tapered headsets (significantly limits suspension fork options)
Complete Fat Bikes that weigh more than 33 lbs, with 4in tires. (vendors put narrower tires on Fat Bikes to give the "appearance" their bikes weigh less - it's a very deceptive sales technique to "save" at least 2-3 lbs off the declared factory weight of a Fat Bike).
Frame incompatibility for 26in tires up to 4.8in width
Frame incompatibility for 27.5+ tires up to 4.0in width
Frame incompatibility for 29er+ tires up to 3.25in width
Frame incompatibility for 26in rims up to 100mm width
Frame incompatibility for 27.5+ and 29er+ wheelsets
Frame incompatibility for Dropper Posts
Frame incompatibility for up to 32t round front chainring (on 1x system).
There are some issues with Crankset Q-Factor and Bottom Bracket (BB width)... usually "Q" is 193 or less, and BB is 83-100mm width. Some current brand designs will use Press Fit bottom brackets of 121mm or less.
Press-fit bottom brackets MAY save a bit of weight, but they add complications to maintenance, and can lead to crankset creaking (and play) issues which can be extremely hard to resolve, once it starts. External bottom bracket systems are suggested for these reasons.
If Stem length is 80mm or more, (on a SM/MD/LG frame) the rider (6ft or under) has usually been sized to the wrong Fat Bike frame. They are on a fat bike frame that is too small for them.
Wheelsets that are not tubeless compatible.
Tires that are not tubeless compatible.
TECHNOLOGY AND FAT BIKES
THE 12 MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A NEW FAT BIKE
Excellent warranty coverage. Seriously, with what we have seen take place in the last 5 years, this is THE most important thing to need in a new quality Fat Bike… it all starts with a good warranty, backed by reputable companies that HONOUR their warranties.
Tubeless compatible tires and wheelset. (can’t even stress how important this is to the weight, maintenance and ride quality of the bike)
Good quality tires for 4 season riding. (they need to work in both hot summer and freezing winter temps, and both dry and wet climates)
Modern Geometry with favorable STACK and REACH numbers similar to your favourite MTB. (Road or TT bike STACK and REACH is not directly transferable to FAT bikes). You must get a comfortable fit, with good power transfer for sprinting and climbing, or else there is no point buying the bike in the first place.
Dropper post compatibility - even on a rigid Fat bike, a dropper post can make a HUGE difference in fun factor and ride quality
Frame Compatibility for front suspension forks of at least 100mm travel
Frame Compatibility for tires up to 26x4.8”, 26x4.5” and 29x3”.
Modern 12spd gearing, with compatibility for up to 32T front chainring and 10-50T rear cassette gearing.
WEIGHT - hardtail alloy fat bikes should be 27 lbs or less, carbon hardtails should be 25 lbs or less. Front suspension bikes should not weigh more than 30 lbs, and full suspension All-Mountain rated race rigs should not weigh more than 37 lbs.
ALL parts on the bike should be ASTM Class 3 (or higher) 4-season TRAIL or AM rated.
Good quality set of hydraulic brakes.
Comfortable saddle and hand grips
NICE TO HAVES - ON THE HIGHER-END FAT BIKE PURCHASES
Good set of grippy platform pedals, or a good pair of ergonomically configured SPD clipless pedals w/matching shoes.
TOUGH, LIGHT, WHEELSETS - capable of surviving lots of trail abuse, remaining true, and getting you through those long adventure rides, and stage races, without delaminating, bending, or losing air due to warping rims, while still providing that light rotating mass feel, and excellent tubeless grip and feel, and seriously fast spool up times. This is one of the most noticeable (expensive) improvements on a Fat Bike. These wheelsets MUST be able to take on suspension fork fork abuse too. The weaker brands literally crack in half, sometimes even on the first ride.
High-Tech carbon framesets with specific geometry configurations aimed at endurance, adventure, race, trail, long-commuters, or anything in between that NEED a fully dialed in frame to throw down their insane training regiment and STRAVA personal bike times. Serious riders ALL agree, ergonomics is KEY.
Pack and rack mounts, both on the rear frame seat and chainstays, as well as front frame triangle frame bags and panniers and cargo fork “anything” cage mounts. Well though out bike make it easier to balance out all the pack weight of an ultra-endurance of adventure reedier.
A GREAT crankset, that is dependable, lightweight, does not flex, and can throw down the miles in a “LOW Q” configuration.
Adjustable 4 piston premium grade hydraulic brakes, with modified brake rotor lengths and brake pads for the terrain and climate the ultra endurance riders and heading into on their trip.
Purchasing two sets of high end wheelset - one WIDE FAT set for tackling the deep snow and winter races, and another set for PLUS+ riding on more trail / gravel environments, where you need to cover a lot of ground each day, like say, with a 27.5x3.0 carbon DERBY or ATOMIK setup using BERD poly spokes for a VERY compliant ride that absorbs trail chatter and road shock, and drops over 0.5 lbs off any other comparable wheelset on the market.