As I mentioned the other day, my buddy at the shop lent me his Trek Farley* to ride for a few days and see what I thought. I did a lap on singletrack last Saturday and thought it felt a bit harsh compared to my Pugsley and made the pre-mature decision to shelve any ideas of considering one in the future. Then I got to thinking: whether I buy one or not, I think my assessment was a bit rash and not all that fair, given that while I have ridden my Pugsley on singletrack, I have only done so for 10-12 miles at a time to mix things up after I’ve done a “real” lap or two on my Superfly, or when conditions were shit.
I’ve love the Pugs in the snow and on the deep sand ORV trails, so I figured I should give the Farely another go before I return it this week, and ride it on surface that would be more akin to what I would actually use a fat bike on. The trouble is (thank God!), there is no snow on the ground and this week won’t really allow for me to head north to those ORV trails. So I had an idea– I would use the Farley for my dirt road ride today. Afterall, some of those roads are pretty sandy and pretty shit… It was a bad idea; sort of.
The first thing I needed to do was get my position a bit more Pugsley-like. Since the bike isn’t mine I could only do so much, so I basically just swapped out the laid-back post for a straight and made some slight for/aft adjustments with the saddle. I got it to within about a half-inch and left it at that. Borrowers can’t be choosy.
Since I was riding big, knobby, expensive fat tires that weren’t mine, I decided to keep the pavement to a minimum and drove out to one of the local parks to start the ride (similar to what I did last winter on my bike to avoid the icy roads and town traffic). Doing so would reduced the time on the pavement to just 2 miles round trip rather than 7 or 8.
Leaving the dirt and sand parking lot, I had high hopes. These high hopes immediately went away upon hitting that pavement. Ug! Beyond being slow(er), I felt like a total ass riding a fat bike on dry pavement in brilliant sunshine and 70˙temperatures.
Like bringing a tank to a knife fight. A World War I era tank…
with no gas… no ammunition and a broken tread.
Once I made it to the dirt and gravel roads I started to feel a little more normal. It still took me a few miles to stop thinking “If I was on my cross bike I would be flying right now!” I kept thinking about all those folks that raced the Barry-Roubaix on fat bikes and all I could think of at this time was “Why in God’s name would you CHOOSE to do such a thing??” But lots of folks did and DO ride them up here on Michiganderburgh gravel all the time (especially those Grand Rapids type people).
Thankfully all those feelings passed and I settled in and embraced the true spirit of what this ride was supposed to be. The first thing, I noticed was that the bike felt much, MUCH better. It wasn’t my CX bike or my hardtail mountain bike, but it felt good and I felt good on it; very nearly on par with the Surly.
Because I am now embracing my Second Season, I promised myself that no matter how odd, slow and freakish I felt riding a freaking fat bike on gravel, I would do the planned 30+ mile loop no matter what.
I did, and by the end I was feeling damn good and having (almost) as good of ride as I would have on my hardtail. Sure, there was some looks from farmers like I was from another planet or escaping from the circus, but the dirt roads proved a nice compromise for the test (for lack of a better word). I think with a couple small changes I could get the bike (not this bike but one like it) right where I want it.
Not real sure if this winter will bring a change to my fat bike rig, but I will be weighing my options for sure.
*Please note, the Farley I borrowed was built up from a 2014 frame and fork. Everything else is a hodgepodge of what my buddy had in the shop, what he could order and what he had lying around in his garage. It’s probably a bit better parts mix than came on the stock Farely last season.