Well my new bike actually. And before unleashing the inevitable litany of abuse, there are two things you need to know. Firstly this is not a slavish homage to the latest new and improved dreamt up by men who feel no shame at using the term ‘colourway’*.
No because that’s the zeitgeist often chased, yet my arrival is characterised by the whiff of an evolutionary dead end. 26 inch long, low and slack? I was right there at exactly the same time 29 inch wheels were the next big thing. Followed that only to find, in fact, that 27.5 was the absolute sweet spot. Mined that motherlode deeply thereby missing the bonfire of the standards where some wag added a few inches to everything and declared 29+ as our mountain biking diety. Dragged myself to that altar in a final act of loyal worship, bringing forth the bike above as a token of belief.
Apparently that’s so yesterday. 27.5+ is where the cool cats are hanging out. Really? Do you think I’m some sort of idiot? Don’t answer that. Consider instead the second thing; this is all part of a masterly plan. A bike reduction strategy honing the inhabitants of the shedofdreams(tm) with definite degrees of separation resulting in the perfect quiver**
Admittedly the plan has been reversed with one bike in before two bikes out. Still a fine plan though, I just did things the wrong way round. This happens to most men of a certain age – we just don’t discuss it in polite company.
Enough of this justification; you don’t believe it and neither do I so let’s pretend – for the sake of my sanity – the Stache-9 represents a superb purchasing decision that will be, at worst, cost neutral.
How does it ride then? In a few words like a rear wheel steer monster truck. In a few more not quite as I expected. This is not a Slimmers-World fatbike, more an amped up evolution of the Moustache. It bulges in all sorts of strange places as if spending every day pumping iron in the gym and each night wolfing down protein shakes. The fat bike might be a clown, but the chubby is a bully.
Not a very threatening one if you can even walk briskly uphill. Making progress skywards is limited by three inch tyres slurping at the trail with a 10 PSI wallowing tyre-print. Not sure it’s heavier than the non-chubby version, but it’s certainly not going to win any sprint competitions.
Once centrifugal force finally overcomes gravity, it is hardly surprising there’s not much it won’t roll over- what is is how nimble it is. Some of this is a non chopper-ed out head angle, but so much more are the ridiculously short chain stays. It turns, pop and jumps like a much smaller bike even under my hands of ham. If you do feel the urge to pick a line – as opposed to just heading for the most obstacle strewn nastiness with a Clarkson-esque ‘poooooowwwwwweeeeerrrr’ – it’ll carve one with amazing precision.
Chubby is also comfortable. None of that wrist shattering harshness which lives at the end of a rigid fatbikes’ rubber/air type damping system. Nor the arse kick of a stiff hardtail attempting to jam the seat tube up its organic cousin. Not to be confused with the plush and mush of full suspension, it’s somewhere between thin and fat. With much more grip than the former and a little less ridiculousness of the latter.
Heading downhill is instructive. In a kind of ‘aaarrrrggghhhh, make it stop‘ kind of way. I’ll contest that fatbikes don’t really need good brakes, stop pedalling and the rotation slows like a flywheel spin bike. The 29+ doesn’t do that, once it passes a certain speed it maintains that velocity for a second or two before accelerating like a mad bastard.*** It’s as close to a perpetual motion machine available on two wheels and it’s quite the rush. I dunno who is on physics patrol when this thing is in flight, but they’re clearly slacking off.
The chubster does have very good brakes for which I was immensely and vocally grateful for on a number of occasions, mostly after closing my eyes in terror. God this thing is fast downhill without the excuses normally available to the hardtail rider. Quicker you go, the better it works somehow smoothing out the bumps. Sure it’s got a great – if short 110mm – fork and the aforementioned fat tyres, but there’s something more than that.
Where the fatbike is a faithful labrador the chubby is more of a Jekyll and Hyde character. It’s all lovely to see you, isn’t this pleasant, oh what fun we’re having together until flipping gravity the finger and trying to rip your face off.
I like that. Whereas the Aeris will get me into trouble but be so damn capable we’ll come out the far side as an unscathed pair, the chubby will happily drag you into the red zone before buggering off with a cackle and abandoning you to face-surf some geology. The fatbike of course wouldn’t actually get there in the first place because you’re still patiently waiting for people to stop laughing at it.
So there we have it. So far, so face rippingly good. Big ride on Sunday, by the end of which I’ll be a) dead b) mostly dead c) wondering why I’m not dead.
Something to look forward too.
*sometimes aping the American spelling. When I’m world dictator, they’ll be strung up by the unmentionables hanging from a sign emblazoned with ‘remember the bloody U next time‘
**Don’t fret, I’ll be off to shoot myself once this is finished. Maybe I’ll slip in ‘rig‘ and ‘gnarpoon‘ before I go.
*** the first time this happens, it’s probably worth checking both your understanding of kinetic energy and your shorts for unwanted deposits.