Midfat bikes

We’re only in the middle of the year, and already it’s time to start looking at 2016 bikes. Which is odd because while some companies are moving towards eliminating model years, everybody else seems hell bent on getting next years bike out as soon as possible.

Kinda reminds me of the owners of professional sports teams begging for salary caps. Essentially asking their league for protection from themselves. Maybe you should get yourselves all on the same page hmm?

Anyway, what’s happening in 2016 is the midfat bike. Without trying that hard, I’ve found four companies bringing out these hardtails in the fall; Airborne, Orbea, Trek, and Specialized. They like the Boost hub spacing (148mm rear, 110mm front) and run 27+ or 29+ wheels with 3.0″ or 3.25″ tires.

Now, any time you try to say that so-and-so invented a bike genre, someone will invariably come out of the woodwork with a story about their buddy that built a bike just like that back in ’85, blah blah blah. Fully expecting that to happen, I’m going to say that Surly invented the midfat bike.

I would further say that Surly invented the fatbike too, but there’s guys in Alaska that would dispute that. I’m not interested in getting into that, I just know that the first fatbikes I saw were Pugsleys, and there was nothing else on the market like it.

After bringing that 26″ beast to market, Surly decided to go fat on the shiny new 29″ wheels. They called it 29+ and the bike was, and is, the Krampus. Surly being Surly made it work with established MTB standards like 73mm bottom brackets and 135mm rear wheels, allowing potential buyers to pick up a frame and use extra parts that were just lying around, or move parts from a bike they already had.

And this is why Surly is the best.

Orbea Loki

Orbea Loki

But time marches on, and here we are with wider hub spacing and 1x drivetrains, enabling bikes like the Airborne Griffin, Trek Stache, Specialized Fuse/Ruze, and the Orbea Loki.

The wide hubs and lack of front derailleur allow designers to shorten chainstays. Fat tires with low pressures gives big traction, and in the end you have a very solid trail bike that goes up and down really well.

What I especially like is the lower end bikes in both the Loki and Fuse ranges are going to $1500 or less. The Loki features Shimano SLX derailleurs, Deore level brakes, and a Suntour fork, which is just fine for a guy like me that doesn’t ride that much.

Airborne Griffin

Airborne Griffin

And even though the Airborne Griffin looks totally bad ass, I doubt in my abilities to run a 1x drivetrain – I’m just not that fit. I would much rather have the 2×10 setup on the Loki, which should ensure that I have a low enough gear to really take advantage of all the traction.

One last thing, and it might be the most important thing. What do we call these bikes? When 29″ wheels came along, “29ers” was a slam dunk as a name. But I don’t think 27.5″ bikes have yet settled on a standard name. Some people call them 650B, some call them 27.5, and I think Intense tried 275 – which I preferred.

Specialized is calling their bikes “6Fattie.” I don’t know what that means, or even how it’s relevant.  The + sign is a common factor here which could work. But I like “midfat.” It’s a good catchall term, which you kinda need because you have both 27.5″ and 29″ versions.

Whatever they are, I’m looking forward to them.

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