Monday, June 16, 2014

A short test ride - Salsa Beargrease XX1

It was the Father's Day yesterday. Not that I was celebrating in any special way. In fact, I wasn't. My father lives 4000mi away and even though I'm a father myself, my kids are at that age that the best gift they can give me is go to sleep. Or at least stay quiet.

Nevertheless, I managed to had some fun yesterday - about 30 minutes of fun with Salsa Beargrease XX1. Wheelworks in Belmont together with Salsa Cycles were organizing a Demo Day - a good opportunity to try out some of the most recent Salsa's offerings in their natural habitat. To tell the truth, the models I was particularly interested in test riding were either Vaya or Fargo, but these were unfortunately unavailable. Mukluk would be my next choice but that one was out as well. So that's how I ended up with the Beargrease - the top XX1 model with a hefty price tag of $5500. Yikes!
Now I must explain that my quick and dirty ride with Beargrease was in fact the first ride on a mountain bike in... 12 years! That's right. I had a loooong break. Twelve years ago I was riding in Austrian Alps with my brother and haven't used a mountain bike since (I moved to cross/touring/road/city/utility bikes). Surely, a lot has changed in the MTB world in that time.
Just by looking at Beargrease, I was expecting a heavy, sluggish mountain bike. I was wrong. Very wrong. This thing is absolutely fantastic. The ride quality is amazing. The bike feels incredibly light (~26lbs or 12kg) despite the monstrous 4"-wide tires. The XX1 rolls over obstacles with such ease and lightness that after a while I nearly stopped paying attention to the path. That high curb in front of me? No problem. Those large rocks? What rocks?! These tires swallow everything you throw under them. Riding downhill was easier and more comfortable than ever, but the real surprise came with going uphill. Thanks to the large contact area, fat bike tires exert very little pressure on the ground and provide excellent grip. Climbing on Beargrease was probably easier than on a regular 26"-wheeled mountain bike. I would go even further and claim that I much rather have these tires on a mountain bike than a full suspension.
Obviously, a major part of that lightness is possible thanks to components bolted to the carbon frame and carbon fork. The top-of-the-line Beargrease comes with 1x11 SRAM XX1 drivetrain, which is a very costly offering. This is why I would rather be looking at more budget-friendly Mukluk 2 (even though it's not exactly cheap either). Well, "I would be", even though until yesterday, I wasn't even considering a fat bike at all. I kept telling myself that it's not worth spending money on something I would use very occasionally. But after riding Beargrease, I am not so sure anymore...


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