About a month ago, I bought a carbon fiber 2014 Salsa Beargrease. I test rode this bike at a Salsa Demo day at Endless Cycles earlier this year. My intent at that time was not to buy a fat tire bike. I was at the demo to test ride the 2014 Spearfish with the new split pivot design (by the way, it was awesome and a way better ride than my 2013 Spearfish, which doesn’t have the split pivot). For the heck of it, I took out the fat bike too. I tested a carbon fiber Salsa Beargrease, which has no suspension. Salsa calls this bike their racing fat bike.
Despite this beefy bike’s looks, due to the big, fat tires and fat frame, it was pretty light (31 lbs) and it had low enough gearing to peddle uphill easily. When I hit the down hills, I had a grin on my face. The big tires give the bike lots of traction, which made me feel more in control, instead of feeling scared of falling and skinning my knees and elbows or worse if I didn’t tap on the brakes and slow down (I am a big chicken about hurting myself). On the Beargrease, I didn’t want to slow down. Granted, the fat, heavier than normal tires increases the Beargrease’s rotational mass, but with it’s bigger footprint, I found myself peddling on fast down hills and through turns because I felt safe. Big tires = lots of traction.
I didn’t buy the bike then. My complaint was that there was too much vibration on the handle bars at speed. Scott at Endless told me to let out some air from the front tire and the tire would absorb more of the vibration. My demo time was over though, so I couldn’t try doing that. I told Scott that if Salsa came out with a full suspension fat bike, I would be very interested.
About a month ago, Salsa came back for another demo day. They were featuring their 2015 bikes. Salsa introduced the full suspension fat bike, the Bucksaw at that demo day. I was very excited about it so I was at the demo early in order to take this baby out. The Bucksaw was not carbon fiber, but was aluminum and it was still light. But, for some reason, I was not as impressed with the ride as I was with the Beargrease. Or, maybe, I was just only as impressed as I was with the Beargrease. But, because of the price difference between the Bucksaw and the Beargrease, I asked myself, “Do I really need full suspension on a fat bike?” The Bucksaw was a little heavier than the Beargrease and it cost more. I asked the Salsa rep if they were going to come out with a full suspension carbon fat tire bike. The response was that if they did, it would be very, very expensive.
I loved the Beargrease I had test rode earlier in the year, and I told Jeff at Endless Cycles that I’d get the Beargrease if it had front suspension. As always, Jeff had a solution. I could change out the carbon fork for a RockShox Bluto fork.” I said ok, and bought the 2014 Beargrease off the showroom floor and ordered a Bluto fork for it.
I’ve been taking the bike to Lake Chabot on the Endless Cycles Tuesday night rides and on an occasional weekend trail ride. I’ve also ridden it on a 15 mile Thursday night Endless Cycles road ride out on Cull Canyon. I even ride it around Castro Valley. I LOVE THIS BIKE. It’s really lightweight, t’s fun to ride, and, as a side benefit, I am the center of attention. I had a guy stop me on the road to take a picture of me and the bike for his mountain biking girlfriend (at least that what he said). I get a lot of comments, like “Where’s the engine?”, “Oooh, big fat tires”, “Is it heavy?”, “Looks like a motorcycle”, “Can’t take a motorcycle on a trail”, “Can I pick it up?”, “I’ve never seen a bike with tires like that before”, and “Do you take it to the snow?” Regarding the last comment, I hate the snow—too cold, but I will say, although it was initially developed for the snow and works great on the beach as well, but you don’t need sand or snow to ride this bike, I ride it everywhere. Currently the bike won’t fit on my Yakima bike rack because the tire trays are too small for the fat tires, so, until I figure out how adapt that, I ride it from my house to wherever I want to ride (locally).
I mentioned earlier that the Beargrease is big framed, which adds to its beefy looks. Well, I was at the Castro Valley Fall Festival recently, walking my Beargrease through the fair, and there was a guy walking towards me with his standard, but now wimpy looking in comparison mountain bike . He looked at me, he looked at my bike, then back at me…I think I felt him physically shrink. My Beargrease is just badassss looking.
Downsides, the black “paint job” (I don’t know what you would call it, it’s not exactly paint) on the frame is not even (note from the editor: it’s the naked clear coated carbon fiber, no paint. Naked carbon fiber has no uniform look) but I don’t mind it. Also, sometimes, I feel the wheels make the bike a little too bouncy, i.e. hard downward strokes on the pedal make the bike bounce a little. Scott suggests taking out some more air, and I’ll have to try that. Right now, I use 8 psi in the front and 10 psi in the rear tire. I make sure to move my butt away the seat when I’m going downhill over bumps. I don’t want that seat to bounce up and knock me off the bike (I guess this would be true on any bike though). Once, I did see Mike at EC bounce a fat tire from his Mukluk like it was a basketball! Finally, the brakes are not hydraulic, and are too mushy for my taste. One of my many fears is coming down the steep last part of Live Oak and not being able to stop for cross traffic. I’m considering putting hydraulic brakes on the bike.
Now, my 2013 Salsa Spearfish is just sitting in my garage feeling neglected. I can’t help it though, the Beargrease is just so much fun to ride. And for newbie riders, I think starting out on a fat bike could do wonders for building confidence on the trail. There’s just something comfortable and comforting about the big ole, fat tires.
Georgia – Boffo Ride Leader & Shop Consigliere
Action Photo provided by Don K.