I’ve had the 2015 Caribou in the stable now for about a month and in that time we’ve been bonding. The Trek with its comparatively thin 29er wheels has been unloved and unused in the corner. There is something alluring about the super fat 4.0 inch profile tyres on the neon orange beastie that scream ‘abuse me’. So I have – and I have to admit – ‘I rode a fatty and I loved it’.
Winding the clock back to mid October, the weather was on the turn, and my whippet 29er was starting to bog down in the East Lancashire moorland we call home (with pride!). The lovely people at Keep Pedalling in the Northern Quarter of Manchester are evangelical about fat bikes and have been for some years. I made the regular pilgrimage to their door to discuss my options. Up until recently the market for £1000ish fat bikes was very limited, but of late a demand has been growing and now there are a few candidates to choose from.
Keep Pedalling steered me towards the new Genesis offering and at once I was struck by the great (read LOUD) colourscheme. If you are going to ride fat – then let’s get one thing straight, you can’t hide – so why not go the whole hog and ride a neon orange fat bike! A great colour, although I am nervous that it may not stand the test of time and seems a little prone to chipping – we shall see though, at the moment the only damage is self inflicted – but we’ll get to that shortly. I paid there and then for a 19.5inch Genesis Caribou 2015.
So Shona had convinced me to buy the Caribou (frame number 17!) and I was ready to immerse myself in the murky underworld of fat bikes. My first ride saw me slogging up the hill in the dark, on a short familiarisation ride – the warning not to bite off more than I could chew for the first outing ringing in my ears. It was evident from the off that fat bikes don’t give out easily. They make you work for the grin factor rewards. This is a good thing though as being only a 10 x 1 setup – it has encouraged me to refine my riding style to get the most out of the bike and the reward is that it has doubled as a good winter training ride too – bonus.
Once on the downhills the tyre pressures are key. Too much air and you bounce around like cookie monster on speed. Too little however as I found out to my detriment and pain, and you can stop dead on terrain you would otherwise glide over. Its a balance and a skill I am still learning! The ‘right’ pressure is a personal thing – for me its about 15PSI.
The frame is a solid steel offering which frankly appears bullet proof. Lots of fixing points for trinkets and racks that I will probably never need, but no doubt will buy anyway. I have bought and fitted the Muckynuts fatboy mud guards to good effect – this thing can throw mud up like you would never believe. The groupset is a combination of Deore rear mech and shifter with raceface crank – all seems good. The TRP brakes were a new one on me. Having been a strong supporter of all things hydraulic the return to mechanical disc brakes did on instinct seem like a large backwards step.
However I stand corrected. The brakes are great. The ability to adjust the pads in situ without any other adjustment of the cable is a really good idea, and the feedback / bite is excellent. The ethos of mech brakes on a fat bike being that they are easier to put right when in the middle of nowhere. The pads that came with the bike though were hopeless – and had worn through within 20 miles. I’ve now got some decent sintered offerings in there that seem more up to the job – beware though, fat bikes like to eat brake pads quicker than I can demolish scotch eggs (fast!). I now carry a spare pair as backup. I have found occasionally that the front brake can resonate causing a bit of fore and aft vibration on the fork – I’m working on how to get rid of this – i think it may be to do with pad adjustment though.
So, one month down, and I am finally getting the hang of this new machine and the change to riding style that goes with it. Full suspension is great, and a fatbike cannot replace that silky smooth feedback – but the tradeoff is a robust, go anywhere working man’s steed. I’ve flown it, crashed it heavily and abused in on the rocky descents of Rossendale and Crag Quarry and its not missed a beat. My strava times have taken a back seat for now – but I’m happy that come the spring, I wont have a bill for seals and bearings as a result of the lack of moving parts. At the same time, I’ll need time off to recover from the constant grin I have from riding a fat bike over the winter while the rest of the gang slip and slide their way behind me following in the wake of the Caribou’s huge tryre tracks and ability to empty puddles on sight.
Ice road trucker? you bet! I’m converted – once you go fat, you may never go back. Big thanks to Keep Pedalling for the advice as always.