Those that have been following me for a while know that I started this whole biking caper as a way to shed some of the excess baggage that I'd been carrying around with me (starting weight was about 138 kg... now lurking somewhere between 78-88 depending...). Anyway, so the idea of going fat might not make a lot of sense...
But hey... irony, geddit?
Late last year a mate went overseas and asked if I'd like to look after his fatbike for him. 'Sure' was the response. To be honest, more out of the fact I had shed space rather than any desire to ride the silly thing... big fat and slow bikes aren't my thing (and with the Witjra, still aren't!). The thing (Salsa Mukluk) sat in my shed for ages until I got bored one afternoon...
Wow, hooked! More fun than I'd had on a bike for a very very long time. Sure, it was awesome on sand - actually just on this - fatbikes make riding on sand easy and fun, almost like riding on a path - but I digress; to my surprise I found it was a hoot to ride pretty much anywhere. Sure you didn't get there fast but hey, I ride a singlespeed as well so taking time to 'smell the roses' is all part of the fun.
It was so much fun that I hooked it up with a baby seat and a trailer hitch and took the little ones on the Annual Sydney-Wollongong bike ride. Amazingly, 90km of tar with a trailer and two small boys was a hoot for all concerned!
So. I was hooked... now to get one!
A bit of research and some assistance from the guys at City Bike Depot and I settled on a Salsa Beargrease. This was a new model for Salsa and it was a 'racing' fat bike - apparently Snow racing is a big thing through the Northern Hemisphere where they have lots of months of the white stuff.
Of course given my propensity to fiddle I had worked out a few 'extras' on the standard build... I think I drove the guys as the Depot a bit nuts (is it here yet? Is it here yet? Is it here yet?... you get the picture).
Then, disaster struck... seems that Winter is peak fat bike purchasing season in the US and the Australian shipment got... diverted...
So I was looking around for an alternative when an option came up to get a frame from a new Aussie Fatbike builder - Muru Cycles... and not just any frame... a sweet tasty Ti frame - better yet, at 1700g it was about the same weight as the Beargrease... add that to an XX1 groupset that was originally destined for the Scalpel and this was looking like a pretty serious fat bike...
Although, its pretty cool being one of the first people to ride a bike from a new bike company... the problem is that you're kind of in uncharted territory. A bit of research on the various fat bike forums will quickly give you the idea that getting these things together can be 'difficult' - there can be a lot of mixing and matching of components to get things to work.
Also, XX1 on a fat bike? Yeah... not a lot of people doing that!
After much reading and discussions with various people the spec I ended up with was:
- Frame: Muru Witjira
- Cranks: Middleburn RS7 Square Taper - I chose these cause of a great combination of light weight and durability
- Bottom Bracket: Phil Wood Ti Square Taper
- Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 (front ring is a Middleburn Duo 29t - getting a SRAM ring on something other than an XX1 crankset is nigh on impossible at the moment)
- Hubs: Hope (135 Front, 170 rear)
- Wheels: Holy Rolling Darryls
- Tyres: 120 tpi Big Fat Larry's (was originally planning to go for Husker Dus but no availability)
- Bar: Mt Zoom 740mm (bit of leverage to throw the beast around)
- Stem: Ritchey Carbon (no reason apart from the fact it was lying around the shed - think it was on my roadie at one point)
- Seatpost: Eriksson Ti
- Saddle: Selle Italia Max Flow (surely they could have thought of a better name?)
- Pedals: Shimano XTR Race (came off the Scalpel)
- Brakes: XTR Trail - want to keep it the same as what's on the Sheep
- Fork: Carver Carbon O'Beast (although there's a Salsa Enabler on it at the moment until the Carver arrives)
She turned out all right...
My worries about XX1 turned out to be unfounded... a bit close but Fatties Fit Fine!
Ok, enough about the build... how does it ride?
Well, firstly... its not the Mukluk experience of slow and fun. Oh its still fun but slow it aint! The geometry quite 'racy' I'm running a couple of spacers under the stem and I still have more drop than I do on the scalpel (29er). Its not uncomfortable but as soon as you get on it you realise that this is a serious trail / race machine... its just got fat tyres.
I was away for the weekend so only managed a short 2hr trail ride but luckily there'd been a bit of rain and I managed to find mud!
Ride wise, you just forget the fat tyres and just concentrate on the trail - it goes where you point it. The BFLs are a bit floaty on the gravelly trails I was riding but thats probably a pressure thing - I was running about 14psi or so... no issues with grip on the climbs just a bit of vagueness.
Now, climbing. So weight wise its around the 13kg mark - silly light for a fatty but a bit porkier than the sub 9kg singlespeed I've been getting around on lately. Well, with XX1 out the back paired with the 29t up front theres plenty of gears to get up pretty much everything and the BFLs gripped nicely.
My ride also had a fair bit of tar and the 29 / 10 combo was about right... I used it but certainly wouldn;t say that I was spinning out. No issues with the chain dropping either - I know that SRAM have invested a lot of effort in the whole grippy tooth profile thing but on my first ride, a normal SS ring (the duo isn't ramped) held on just fine even over the rough rocky downhills.
So. Muru. I'd like to say that as a first effort the Witjira is pretty good... but I can't. See, its just good period. It built up fine with a pretty eclectic set of parts and rides fantastically. More updates to come once I get a chance to put some serious saddle time in but gotta say - given the hand destroying experience of riding the Rigid SS at Stromlo for 100kms or so... don't be surprised to see me fatting it up at World Solo Champs this year!
See ya on the trails!