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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Introduction
I was recently in Anchorage, Alaska on two separate trips and had a chance to go on daily rides on a selection of fatbikes. The bikes included EndoRando’s personal Ti 907, his personal Wildfire, a loaner Alu 907, and a loaner Ti Fatback. We had daylight rides and night rides in a variety of snow conditions including fast hardpack, packed powder over hardpack, and in a couple of inches of freshly fallen fluff. The trails were a mix of inter-urban greenbelt routes, groomed multiuse/ski trails, and plenty of narrow winding singletrack through the forest and muskeg. One thing I never saw was dirt. Just snow, and lots of it. The bikes had varying cockpit layouts, though most were similar enough to get comfortable when swapping bikes. Most had roughly similar wheel setups (70-80 mm rims with Endomorph tires) with the one exception being the Alu 907 that had 100mm rims and Spyder tires. What follows are my impressions of the bikes. I will spend the most time describing the bikes I rode the most; the Ti 907 and the Ti Fatback (with about 6 rides each). I had 1 ride on the Wildfire and 2 rides on the Alu 907. I spent about 12 hours total spread across the 4 bikes. I did a few solo rides when I (obviously) only took one bike out, but most rides were with EndoRando, and some other folks joined us on various outings. Rando and I are the same height, almost the exact same inseam, and both ride Time pedals so we could swap bikes instantly on the fly and do same-day, same-trail comparisons. I will break my thoughts down into a number of categories covering what I think are the most important design and performance aspects for snowbikes. I own a Pugsley set up with Large Marge rims and a Maverick SC32, and while I have a lot of miles on it on sand and snow, I probably won’t mention it much since I didn’t have it along for minute-to-minute comparisons with the other bikes. These things are best done with the experience fresh in your mind. I should also mention that the Wildfire was an older model with the 83mm BB shell, so I don’t know how directly it compares with the current offerings from Wildfire, but it was a very nice riding bike regardless of age. I also went by Speedway and begged them repeatedly for an Aluminum Fatback, but none were to be had. Alas. Anyway, on with the show...

The bikes (this is a gif showing each frame for 3 seconds, it loops):



Geometry/Handling
With the quality of the ride it offered, the Fatback Ti wins this category, no contest. It offers the best acceleration, it’s the easiest to maintain speed on, and it offers neutral and balanced handling in all conditions, not to mention its great climbing and descending characteristics. When swapping between models, both Rando and I would come back to the Fatback and always feel the most at home on it, and we both remarked that “it felt like a Turner” (which is high praise coming from a pair of Homers). The Ti 907 was a real handful with the original Black Sheep fork installed, which was a real surprise given how similar the published geometry numbers were to the Fatback (Ti 907: 70.0 deg HA, Ti Fatback: 69.5 deg HA). The Ti 907 was demanding and twitchy in the steering department, and even when given close and concentrated attention it was still hard to keep on really narrow packed trails. I thought the fast handling would be a benefit on climbs or on slow dicey technical sections, but it just seemed to result in oversteering. The difference between the two bikes was immediately apparent when Rando and I swapped back and forth during a couple of rides, exchanging bikes every 15-20 minutes. Rando was already used to his Ti 907 and had it dialed in for himself, and yet he preferred the handling of the Fatback. We swapped out the stock 450 mm A-C Black Sheep fork for a taller fork on his Ti 907, and this helped the steering and front-end behavior quite a bit. It tamed the overly-fast handling and made the bike feel long and stable. It went from feeling nervous to being a pleasure to motor on the flats. It should be noted that Rando’s fork had a 135 mm front hub spacing which was different than two fellow riders who ordered their frames at the same time (they both got 100 mm spaced forks) and they did not report the same handling issues, so there may be something whack with Rando’s stock fork. Fork rake and offset will affect trail, and I don't know how these values compared. Though the handling on the Ti 907 improved a lot with the taller fork, the Fatback still had a slight edge in most categories. The Fatback still offered a more lively and spirited ride, possibly due to the shorter wheelbase and lighter weight (about 2 pounds less than the Ti 907 with our builds, see below) but it also still had more natural, neutral, and intuitive trail manners. Rando, the owner of the Ti 907, seemed to broadly agree on all these points though he wanted to find some more narrow singletrack with climbs to make a final determination. I thought the Fatback reacted better to small weight shifts to coax traction or flotation from uncooperative snow surfaces, and I found it generally made riding easier and more fun.

The Alu 907 was a very nice handling bike. It offered a lot positive ride characteristics though it seemed to lack the refined material feel of both the Ti bikes. There may be a placebo effect working here if I think I can feel the Ti’s characteristics when floating along on 4 inch tires inflated to under 10 psi and riding over soft surfaces. Especially since the Alu 907 had very different wheels (100mm rims, Spyder tires) than the Ti bikes (70-80mm rims, Endomorph tires). The Alu 907 also had considerably less expensive components, which can affect the overall perception of the bike. We never got a chance to trade out the 100mm rims on the Alu 907 for something lighter and narrower for a more direct comparison to the other frames, but we were still plenty happy with the bike’s handling even with the hefty hoops. The Alu 907’s head angle seemed just about right (despite the published numbers matching the geo of the Ti 907 just about down to the last measurement) and overall it offered a solid, capable, fun and forgiving ride. If I were a budget-minded buyer in the market right now, among the bikes we rode I would not hesitate to grab one of these. I really liked a lot of the design aspects of the Alu 907 over my current Pugsley like the vertical rear dropouts, corrosion-proof frame material, and the nice ano finish. This one is a winner.

The Wildfire also rode very nicely and had a similar feel to the Alu 907 and kept pace beautifully with the Ti 907 but had a slightly more neutral and stable steering manner than the Ti 907 (with the stock Black Sheep fork). With the taller fork, the Ti 907 had a longer, and more stretched out ride feeling (think ‘stable wheelbase’) than either the Alu 907 or the Wildfire but otherwise steered similarly well. Once we got the forks sorted out, there really wasn’t a bad bike in the bunch, and despite the Wildfire being one of Mark’s older creations, it did not feel at all long in the tooth and had every bit as much to offer in terms of ride quality and handling prowess as the newer brands on the scene.

Standover
I have never been particularly stuck on the issue of standover, but if you find yourself on a barely rideable trail of powder or punchy crust, and you end up dabbing repeatedly and having to remount every 20 or 50 feet, you will come to appreciate generous standover in a big way. We rode some trails with a packed tread area about two or three tire-widths wide, and with marginal traction. We weaved off the packed tread into the fluff over and over again necessitating unclipping, getting straightened out, and pedal-kicking to get back into the saddle. The snow just outside the trail tread was deep and soft, so when you unclipped and your foot landed off the side of the trail it sank in a couple of inches below the packed trail tread where the bike stood. In these conditions, the amount of standover available becomes painfully (pun intended) obvious.

Standover can be helped or hurt by where the cables are routed on the top tube, with most builders opting to run them on top of the top tube. I have to admit that I fail to see the reason why this is so popular. Perhaps it is so you can carry the bike without the cables digging into your shoulder, a la a cyclocross carry, but most folks who dismount due to snow conditions tend to push their fatbikes, not carry them long distances. I also thought it may be due to interference with front triangle frame bags, but in my opinion running the cables under the top tube makes more sense even in this scenario. In any case, how the cables are routed coupled with how low the top tube sits can make all the difference in soft conditions. All the bikes with the less-than-generous standover (which was most of them) had me resting on the top tube with every stop, and I don’t exactly have short legs. The Fatback, however, was the lone bike that never was in the way, and with the cables routed under the top tube I never felt like I was being threatened with a zip-tie vasectomy (though the cable guide braze-ons on the Fatback do have some frighteningly sharp edges). The Ti Fatback appears to use a short seat tube with a long top tube in its sizing scheme, so while I normally would want a size large frame (~24” top tube), the medium Fatback with its 23.8” was perfect. Even Rando, coming off his large 907 seemed happy on the medium Fatback. The exposed length of seatpost was the only concern.

Most of the snow bikes use pretty tall head tubes giving a nice, upright position without resorting to a million stem spacers (the older Wildfire was the exception, but it also seemed to have a taller fork axle to crown so the result was the same). To support the tall head tube most bikes weld the top tube pretty high on the head tube, which further reduces the standover clearance. The Fatback attaches well below the top of the head tube, which looks pretty weird in my opinion, but gives the bike another ~1 inch of clearance. All the models aside from the Fatback had similar to top tube heights and cable routing. If those other bikes did something to lower their top tubes and get the cables down and out of the way it sure would be nice. I think the swooping top tube on the Faback is pretty ugly, but I fully agree with the functional intent of the design. In order of standover clearance (from best to worst) were the Fatback Ti followed by the Alu 907, then the Ti 907, and last was the Wildfire. For a very rough comparison of the frame layouts, refer back to the animated gif image at the beginning of this post.

Climbing Performance
This was so dependent on tire pressure, gear choice, rider skill and whether the rider was feeling spunky or not, it is hard to compare bikes without taking a digital tire pressure gauge and psychiatrist along and doing repeated runs up a slope. I will say that all the bikes did very nicely in this category, but I would also say the longer chainstays on the Ti 907 did seem to keep the front end of the bike down when there was enough traction to scurry up a really steep incline. You can keep your weight on the nose of the saddle and not have spend as much energy finding that sweet spot between having the front wheel pop up or losing traction in the back. Overall, all the bikes exhibited good climbing performance though the lighter weight of the Ti Fatback may have been one of the reasons why it seemed to climb with a smidge more ease.

As long as we are on the subject of weights, here are the complete bikes we rode and frame weights (thanks, Rando & IPA Rider):
  • FatBack 28.9 lbs (~3.5 lbs frame for 18")
  • Ti 907 30.4 lbs (~3.3 lbs for 17" frame)
  • WildFire 31.6 lbs (~4.6 lbs frame for 19")
  • Al 907 (without pedals) 35.8 lbs (~3.7 lbs frame for 19")
  • Pugsley *Not Demoed* (~5.7 lbs frame for 18")

The 100 mm rims on the Alu 907 let us run very low pressure with scant casing deflection and the big contact patch and cushy ride made motoring over chop or up hills pretty darn nice, despite the extra weight. Again, the Alu 907 felt different than the Ti 907 despite the geometries nominally matching and the stock forks having the same A-C measurement. This may have been due to the gyroscopic effect from the Alu 907’s considerably heavier wheels. A note on the 100mm rims- at any given time, they only seemed a little slower and heavier than their lighter/narrower counterparts, but there seemed to be a cumulative effect where after a while the added weight wore the rider down. In tempo sections with quick ups and downs or with repeated accelerations like when slogging through snow that shifts under the tire tread, these rims do slowly sap your strength.

Frame-Tire Clearance
Both the Ti frames definitely had the advantage here, with the Ti 907 coming out on top. I am hopeful that in the future someone might offer a ~4.5” tire, and I personally would like the option of running 100 mm rims. Both the Ti 907 and Ti Fatback had ample room between the tire sidewall and the stays to accommodate the largest current common tire/rim combo (100mm/Endomorph) and possibly even have a bit of room for the tire to grow. The Alu 907 was awfully tight when shod with the 100mm rims and the Spider tires. Where the tire passed through the chainstays I could see the ano was getting polished, and while riding and watching the wheel flex there was scant daylight between the sidewall and chainstay at times. If you weren’t planning on running a 100 mm rim in back however, then this would not be a concern and the Alu 907 offers plenty of clearance with the more standard 65-80mm rims, and is certainly comparable to the Wildfire and Pugsley in terms of clearance. It’s true that 100mm rims are pretty extreme at this point, and they are heavy enough most folks would not want to run them unless the conditions really demanded them. But I would not be surprised if in the future someone came out with a heavily drilled single wall rim wider than the current 70-80 mm offerings that would open the ~100 mm rim class up to mere mortals. The Wildfire offered plenty of frame-tire clearance with the 70 mm rims mounted up and would certainly take 80’s with aplomb.

Here are the widths in millimeters at the point where the widest part of the tire casing passes through the stays (chain stay / seat stay):
  • Ti 907: 121 / 125
  • Ti Fatback: 119 / 122
  • Alu 907: 111 / 111
  • Wildfire: 111 / 116
  • Pugsley: 112 / 115

Drivetrain-Tire Clearance, and Chainline
This design aspect can be just as important as the frame/tire clearance, depending on what rims you want to run. You can’t run a big tire/rim combo just because the frame allows it if the chain doesn’t also clear the tire. Some bikes address this possible chain-tire interference by running an offset rear triangle (like the Alu 907, Wildfire, and Pugsley) or use a widely spaced, symmetrical rear end (like the Ti 907 and Ti Fatback). All the offset rear triangles should be roughly similar in this regard because they all use the same offset strategy: a 135 mm hub shifted 17.5 mm to the drive side, giving a driveline that approximates a 170 mm rear axle spacing. The only bike we rode with 100 mm rims was the Alu 907, and I have to say the drivetrain clearance was really quite impressive. Even in the 22t granny/32t cassette combo (and this was with a full 9-speed cassette), there was a solid 3 mm clearance between the tire and the chain. The Alu 907 equals no drivetrain worries, though at times there was some tire-frame contact as mentioned above. The other offset bikes should theoretically offer similar chain-tire clearance, but without mounting a 100 mm rim on them I cannot state this as a fact. All the rear offset bikes (the Alu 907, Wildfire, and also the Pugsley) have very respectable chainlines with the middle chainring lining up nominally with the middle cog of the cassette. You could run into some small deviations from this depending on your choice of cranks and bottom brackets, but the offset rear triangles seem like a very good strategy for getting a desirable chainline and have the added (and not inconsiderable) bonus of allowing you to run any standard rear disc hub. Very, very nice.

I have to say the chainline on Rando’s Ti 907 is not a very pretty sight. If someone wants a long-winded technical explanation I can post one, but suffice it to say the combination of the poorly spaced King rear hub (King’s fault) and the slightly narrow rear dropout spacing on the Ti 907 (relative to the slightly wider Fatback) results in a less than optimal chainline. I often like to climb in the middle chainring and the largest rear cog, and the cross-chaining on the Ti 907 in this gear was pretty extreme despite the fact that Rando had dropped the smallest cog on his cassette, spaced the cassette out, and so is only running 8 gears. Basically, the middle chainring lines up with the second to last (smallest) cassette cog. This misalignment would be corrected by about one cog spacing by running a Hadley 160 mm rear hub. On the Ti Fatback (with a Hadley rear hub), the middle chainring lined up exactly with the center of the cassette (which had 9 cogs). I’m not sure if Speedway’s custom Fifteen G cranks were helping out in some way, but the chainline was perfect. We did not put a 100mm rim on the Fatback so I can’t comment on how that bike’s chain would clear the tire, but I did check out a Ti 907 with 100mm rims and a full 9 speed cassette, and when I shifted it into the lowest gear the chain had to bend around the tire significantly to travel from the cassette to the chainrings (this was with a Hadley hub and RaceFace Atlas cranks). I personally feel the rear end of the Ti 907 had the most room for improvement out of all the bikes we rode.

As a thumbnail reference, here are the drivetrain specs by the numbers:
  • Ti 907: BB width- 100 mm, rear dropout spacing- 160 mm symmetrical
  • Ti Fatback: BB width- 100 mm, rear dropout spacing- 165 mm symmetrical
  • Alu 907: BB width- 100 mm, rear dropout spacing- 135 mm with 17.5 mm driveside offset
  • Wildfire: BB width- 83 mm**, rear dropout spacing- 135 mm with 17.5 mm driveside offset
  • Pugsley: BB width- 100 mm, rear dropout spacing- 135 mm with 17.5 mm driveside offset
** Note that this is an older bike and the current Wildfires run the 'standard' 100 mm BBs now.

Aesthetics
Ok, I know this is personal and subjective, but I don’t tend to hold back on my opinions so why stop now? The Ti 907 nailed the other bikes’ nipples to the wall and stole their girlfriends in this department, no question. It is simply an incredibly beautiful bike in every way. The Ti tubing is HUGE, the welds perfect, and the proportions endlessly attractive. On the other end of the spectrum (in my opinion, anyway) was the Ti Fatback. I have to be honest here and say I think the Lynskey signature design features (curved and lowered top tube, and helical downtube) are sort of ugly and look a bit gimmicky. I don’t doubt they offer real performance benefits (actually I know the curved top tube provides a benefit by the standover clearance being nothing short of amazing) but the look just rubs me the wrong way. It looks like someone forgot it was on the roof rack when they tried to pull into the garage. 'Nuff said. Otherwise the brushed Ti on both bikes is beautiful, and both have nice welds, machining, and detail work. I am going to reserve judgment on the Alu 907 we rode since someone obviously made it as hideous as possible in order to be able to recognize it from low earth orbit. I can only assume that someone who is not colorblind building one of these would come up with nicer looking results. Anyway, the ano was durable and beautiful, I liked the gussets in key spots, the welds were uniform and thick, and overall the construction seemed top-notch. The Wildfire was a very pretty bike with a custom iridescent metal-flake purplish color and I especially liked the crazy fat fork legs that balanced nicely with big tires (though 100 mm front hub spacing needs to be banned on fatbikes- getting a big rim and tire out past the brake caliper sucks!).

Ginormous props to EndoRando for playing trail guide, wrench, chauffeur, and all around riding bud for the demo. Also a HUGE thanks to Chain Reaction Cycles and Speedway Cycles for letting us take their babies out and beat them. :D

Manufacturer websites for specs, geometry, and pricing info:

Some more shots of each bike (thanks, Rando):

Alu 907:





Ti 907:





Fatback Ti:





Wildfire:



 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Coming next: videos and more pics.

Alu 907:

Ti 907:

Ti Fatback:

My apologies but the only times we rode the Wildfire was in the dark, so no video of that.

Random images from the demo:



















































 

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this is epic. no one has done this before it deserves to be a sticky. you sir are a true pioneer.

i agree with your assessment on the fatback geometry and handling. i was amazed that i was able to ride one handed on fresh snow while filming a vid. the Mav fork helps, but it is way stable.
 

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props

Really nice work, and I'm totally jealous of the chance to do the comparison riding. Throw in some more specs on each model and I think it could be a sticky.

So how did the bare hydration tube work in the cold?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Blksocks said:
Is it tough riding in the snow with a fatty?
That depends on the snow conditions. It can range from road-bike-like to absolutely impossible. Generally I would call it a total hoot and worth any added effort if you have some semblance of a trail already established.

IPA Rider said:
Throw in some more specs on each model and I think it could be a sticky.

So how did the bare hydration tube work in the cold?
Geometry? Component list?

I think the tube was left over from the summer and froze before the garage door was done opening. ;)
 

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Specs

tscheezy said:
That depends on the snow conditions. It can range from road-bike-like to absolutely impossible. Generally I would call it a total hoot and worth any added effort if you have some semblance of a trail already established.


Geometry? Component list?

I think the tube was left over from the summer and froze before the garage door was done opening. ;)
Specs and such: Geometry, weights, BB and hub spacing, fork options, materials, and prices (kind of like I tried to do here: http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=502625)


I've tried the hydration bladder in winter for backcountry skiing a bunch and even with insulated sleeves and shoulder straps (and using the tip of being sure to blow into the tube to clear the water out between drinks), it still freezes up - not worth it IMO.
 

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Put your hydration pack under at least your outer layer of clothing and blow the water back into the bladder after drinking. Most of the guys at the front of the ITI seem to run hydration packs the whole way. If they were freezing up on them constantly, I don't think they would use em.


Great review Tscheezy. Rando's 907 is indeed a very well put together bike and looks good. I think the Fatback might look alittle better with less spacers and more rise in the stem, but that still wouldn't address your issues with it's appearance. Definitely need to get a modern wildfire in there, and the alu fatback for more comparison. Next trip in will have to be a pug, al fatback and current wildfire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
IPA Rider said:
Specs and such: Geometry, weights, BB and hub spacing, fork options, materials, and prices...
OK, good points. I sprinkled some more info into the writeup where it seemed appropriate and then provided links if folks want more info.
 

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Ts...

What was your impression of the front gen hub / light on the ArcticCycles 907?
-note- I run one, just wondering your thoughts...
 

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hydration

sean salach said:
Put your hydration pack under at least your outer layer of clothing and blow the water back into the bladder after drinking.
but that seems smart ;)


I can't fit my ski pack under a layer, but a minimal hydration sleeve I can do...
 

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Holy treatise, P! :eekster:

Thanks to all involved for taking the time to test, and share.

I'm not in the market for a new phatty but I get frequent 'whaddya think' questions from many of those that are. Your detailed review mostly confirmed/clarified the way I feel about each. More importantly, instead of waxing philosophic I can just send them to this link to draw their own conclusions.

Cheers,

MC
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
damnitman said:
What was your impression of the front gen hub / light on the ArcticCycles 907?
I thought it was a very cool concept and worked well in many regards, though there are a few things I would want to change before committing to one myself. First, I think the hub should act as a generator to charge a battery that would act as an energy reservoir or have more capacitors to regulate the light output. This would make the amount of light output independent from the bike's speed, would allow the light to stay lit (for longer) when you stop, and would eliminate the strobe effect. At slow speeds the light could run off battery, and above a certain speed the hub would recharge the battery and power the light. A direct light-hub connection could be made in emergencies like extended very slow speed riding, I suppose. The battery would add weight and complication, but my MagicShine battery is tiny and light and hardly a burden and can power a light for many hours. My only complaints about the light were the stroboscopic effect at slow speeds and how dim the light was unless you were going a fair clip. I also don't like that you are limited to a 100mm front hub spacing. For a wilderness epic with no chance of recharging your light, it is a fantastic product. For fair weather townie riders I guess I don't see the point. I was impressed that the amount of effort required to turn the hub was basically vanishingly small.
 

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Great write up Tscheezy. Having ridden 3 different 907s (1 ti, 2 alu), and 2 ti Fatbacks (including the one I own) a few Pugs and 1 Wildfire (old) I concur with Tscheezy's geo and handling assessment. Of these the 907s are my least favorite to ride due to strange handling - just a handful to keep on top of going down the trail - while the others seem more docile and natural to ride. Hopefully the handling can be improved on the alu 907s with a simple fork swap ala Endorando. That said, all fat bikes are a hoot to ride (!!) and no matter what you get you will be able to dial in the fit and get used to the handling and have lots of fun.

As far as the helix down tube on the Fatback, it does seem to make the frame stiffer at least on the 29" bikes - the difference between the Ridgeline and Pro29 is very distinct, presumably due to the down tube since that is the main difference between the two of them. At any rate, the new Fatback's don't flex much.

Regarding traction, the 907 seemed to wash out in corners more easily than the other bikes, but that could have been a few different things including tire pressure, but it seemed like a function of geo at the time.

At any rate, we are lucky to have so many great options to choose from now - and you really can't go wrong with any of the choices.

As always, if you can, ride a few different bikes before you buy, preferably side by side, and see what you like. But if you don't have that option take Tscheezy's review to heart.
 

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Well done...

This is a fair and balanced assessment from someone who really knows and understands bikes (read his reviews from Interbike), and I feel very fortunate to have received feedback. We like hearing the good stuff, but we're not afraid of hearing the constructive criticism either. You work will be thoughtfully put to good use.

In regards to the 9:ZERO:7 Ti, we have moved the platform to a 17.5mm offset (as of the last ordered batch). In fact, we have built up four of the new bikes, and the offset addresses the issues you brought up regarding chain line, though the Hadley hub makes a huge difference in the 160mm-spaced design.
 

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slightly off topic, but lynskey seems to be pretty confident of their new tube sets. http://lynskeyperformance.com/morespeed/ . i have to give these guys major props for innovation. and cudos to speedway for using them as their builder. also note worthy..........i am biased against litespeed/ABC due to personal negative experiences with them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks, Bill. I know it can be a nerve wracking thing letting a stranger take your personal creation out and evaluate it in public with a critical eye, as we did. You guys have a totally infectious enthusiasm for the sport and it shows in all aspects of your operation. Kudos to you and your crew. :)
 

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after another 2 hours on my fatback i am amazed at how stable the rear end is. when i rode a pug i would feel something up front then a few seconds later i would feel the rear sway. i think it has a lot to do with the non-offset wheel. i also have never felt so at home so quick on a new bike ever.

there is two classes of fat bikes emerging.

entry level sub $1,000. framesets
pugsly
Alu 9 zero 7
Alu fatback
Alu wildfire

Ti super bikes$1,500. and up.
Fatback
9 zero 7
 
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