This year’s muddy winter convinced me that I needed a new lightweight 29 single speeder to replace my ageing On One Inbred, perhaps something carbon. Then Big Al suggested that I have a ride on his Singular Puffin singlespeed and I saw the light – fat and single is the way to go.
After a bit of dithering between a Singular Puffin, an On One Fatty and a Trek Farley 8, I went for the Trek. One reason was the fact that I could buy the Trek ready to go, whereas the Fatty and the Puffin would need a bit of my time to work on them, which I currently don’t have.
I was looking for a Farley 8 in 19.5” but there were very few left in the UK, with no prospect of more imports before the summer. So after lot of phoning around and a bit of help from Trek, I managed to secure one at Leisure Lakes Bikes in Daventry – and after a sunny afternoon making the 200 mile round trip from Surrey, it was sitting in my shed glowing brightly green though the winter gloom.
The key components on the bike include a RockShox Bluto 100mm fork, SRAM X1 1×11 drivetrain, Avid DB3 brakes and Bontrager Jackalope wheels with 3.8” Hodag tyres – which I immediately converted to tubeless.
At this point you are probably wondering why I have a 1×11 bike when my original objective was a new singlespeed. And I’ve asked myself that, although I tend not to dwell on it as I enjoy unimagined levels of grip honing down The Surrey Hills’ finest descents.
So what is it like to ride? Uphill, it’s much faster than I expected. Although the weight from the shop was only about 30lb, when you also consider the rolling resistance of those chunky fat tyres it should be hard work on the ascents.
I am normally reasonably nippy up hill and was pleased to find that although I probably won’t be setting any uphill PRs on it, the main difference seems to be that I work a bit harder to keep the speed up and feel a bit more tired at the end of a long ride.
In some situations it’s better uphill than a regular bike, such as when the rear tyre resists slipping on steep greasy climbs, or the rolling momentum of those big wheels carries you up over obstacles on technical climbs.
Downhill, it’s just a blast. I am always a careful rider on descents and will never threaten anybody’s downhill Strava KOMs, but I found a lot of extra confidence from the overall stability, the grippy tyres firmly holding on across off camber slimy roots, and the big wheels smoothing over features like log rolls and drops. I’ve been setting PRs on almost every downhill I’ve ridden on it and am finding I can sometimes almost keep up with the more proficient riders in the group.
Overall it suits my riding style very well, I am happy to trade a little extra effort uphill for a lot more speed and enjoyment downhill.
There are some other fat bike quirks that I notice, in particular it takes more of a firm hand to get it to turn. Perhaps it’s the gyroscopic effect of the weight around the rims and tyres, or the Stan’s sloshing around inside, but I notice I have to be much more purposeful in leaning it over otherwise it sometimes seems to fight back.
Once it’s started turning the short (for a fatbike) chain stays make it nicely nippy on the delightful Surrey singletrack. When it hits deep mud, the big tyres tend to float on top of the mud rather than cutting through it, which surprisingly can make it a bit more of a handful to keep on course in that situation.
Overall it’s a fantastic bike and installing a Gravity Dropper completes the package. The only real niggle is the SRAM Bottom Bracket was loose after only 425 miles of Surrey Hills mud, so I replaced it with a proper BB – from Hope. It’s a shame Trek don’t fit decent bearings to a bike of this price. I am looking forward to swapping out the 1×11 for a singlespeed setup, now that the “energy sapping bastard glue mud” has finally being chased away from the Surrey Hills by the start of Spring.