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  1. #1
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    Advice for fatbike trail riding

    I live in BC where there is fantastic singletrack, but half the year the trails are really muddy and rooty and there is occasional snow. I used to just put my bike away in the winter and ski, as I hated sliding around and spinning my tires on roots, and it was just too muddy to enjoy riding with a traditional bike.

    2 years ago I bought a pugsly, which was an improvement, and then last year I bought two Nate tires which were gamechangers. I no longer spin out on wet roots and can get up most short steep pitches regardless of how wet the roots are. I've got full length fenders (home-made 29er fenders cut down the center with plexiglass riveted down the center) so that I can stay dry, which is important to me. I only ride my fatbike in the wet and snow, and that's probably not going to change. I've got faster and lighter bikes when the weather is good.

    The two places my Pugsley is lacking are;

    1 the head angle is too steep for the riding around here. When the trails get steep, it feels very skittish, like I'm about to go over the bars. I know that these bikes are designed around flatter terrain.

    2 Even with the 4 inches of Nate in the front, the front end can feel harsh with all the large roots around here.

    So I'm considering some options to address these issues and would really appreciate some input before I dump any cash. I thought about selling my Pug and buying a Sandman bike with a suspension fork. But they are expensive, harder to run with a front fender, and suspension parts will be hard to come by. Also, I might actually have to wash the bike if there was a suspension fork, which I almost never do (what's the point if it's going to get filthy again tomorrow? And I have two young kids so my time is at a premium).

    What I'm consider is to keep my Pugsley but change to a Salsa Enabler fork, buy a lighter set of wheels (currently running the stock pug wheels) and run a Surly Bud as a front tire with a Nate rear. The Enabler fork has a longer axle to crown height, and that with the larger Bud tire should slacken out the head angle, closer to 68 degrees (which is what a lot of hardtails in BC have)? Does the Bud offer significantly more "suspension"? Will the bike handle strange with a 5inch tire in the front and a 4 inch tire in the back? I was going to run Holey Rolling Darryls front and back. Is there a better rim combo for what I want to do? Any and all advice is really appreciated before I throw down my hard earned cash!

  2. #2
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    You could also consider a frame with a larger head tube and an "Angleset" headset to let you play around with the geometry.

  3. #3
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    A longer fork, like the Enabler, and a larger tire will effectively slacken your headtube angle, so that is a good choice. You might also be a candidate of a Fat Lefty front from Mendon. The longer tube on the Lefty Max will slacken your frame a bunch and give you clearance to run a variety of rims and tires. Not a cheap conversion, but way less expensive than a Sandman and very effective when combined with good tires.

  4. #4
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    I'm not sure going to a 5 inch tire will make that much difference in terms of the cushion you seem to be looking for in the front end: you'll still be riding a rigid fork.
    My instinct would be to try a suspension fork on your current setup, specifically a lefty.
    Added bonus: because they have a rubber boot you won't have to worry as much about getting it dirty!
    As for slacking it out, a suspension fork might have a taller axle to crown length than the stock for so that might help, otherwise you'll have to change frames...
    I've ridden a pugsley (and a Moonlander) and agree, they felt very steep and twitchy to me, like a 90's xc bike. I much prefer the Mukluk geo with a higher and slacker front end.

  5. #5
    Nemophilist
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    Hey;

    "Advice for fatbike trail riding?" Do it often!

    I can't say I follow your thinking on when and how you ride it, but that's just me. I've also got "high performance" bikes to ride, but I find my Fatty to be FUN to ride under ANY circumstance, all year long.

    If you want to be extra cautious in your spending, get your Enabler and give it a try with no other changes. This should tell you if your geo hunches are correct, and only cost you a hundred.
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
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  6. #6
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    Works Components from the UK do an angleset for 1-1/8" external cup headsets. It will slacken it one degree. I have one on my regular bike; a one degree difference was definitely noticeable.

    Works Components - 1 0 Degree EC34 - Traditional 1 1 8 Fitment

  7. #7
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    I'm not convinced by the trend to slacken head angles. IMO it's a necessary compromise by frame makers to enable their frames to take suspension forks, so if you are riding rigid the old standards still do the job properly.

    If slacker is what you want, then the Enabler will slacken your head angle by 1ļ and slightly increase your trail. It may well be the cheapest way to fix your problem. Add an Angleset and you can slacken by another 1ļ.

    I tried an Enabler on my Pug, but reverted to the standard fork.

    I tried a few other things so unless you are itching to spend money (nothing beats getting new shiny bits ) so try a few runs with different stem lengths and handlebars.

    Also try different tyre pressures, a 1 psi either way can change the feel dramatically.

    I found that weight distribution makes a huge difference with the Pug on downhills, so a handlebar position that allows you to get your weight back feels more secure. Swept back bars help here.

    Testing like that may not give you the right answer, but it certainly helps to get rid of the wrong ones
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  8. #8
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    Velobike speaketh wisdom!

    Whatever you do, only change one thing at a time. If you change the fork, bar, and stem at the same time that you add an angleset and don't like the new feel, its kinda hard to figure out which item was responsible...

  9. #9
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    Agree, (very) short stem & wide bars are the 1st thing you should try unless you already run them.

  10. #10
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    And, are you running the lowest possible pressure up front yet?

  11. #11
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    Try continuing to drop the pressure in your front tire until you have the rare rim hit. I ride some incredibly punishing trails in New England. My hands and arms feel a bit more beat up than with my 29er (suspension fork), but not much.

    If you want a slacker head tube angle and softer front end, the best solution is to get a lefty setup from MendonCycle. I'm sure he can work with you on the offset to preserve your trail numbers.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by lookiel View Post
    I'm not sure going to a 5 inch tire will make that much difference in terms of the cushion you seem to be looking for in the front end: you'll still be riding a rigid fork.
    My instinct would be to try a suspension fork on your current setup, specifically a lefty.
    Added bonus: because they have a rubber boot you won't have to worry as much about getting it dirty!
    As for slacking it out, a suspension fork might have a taller axle to crown length than the stock for so that might help, otherwise you'll have to change frames...
    I've ridden a pugsley (and a Moonlander) and agree, they felt very steep and twitchy to me, like a 90's xc bike. I much prefer the Mukluk geo with a higher and slacker front end.
    On most sizes Pugs and Mukluk have only 1/2 degree of difference on head tube angle so a big change in feel is probably coming at least to some degree from somewhere else like that higher handlebar. As others have said try playing with stem length/angle and wider bars to see if that helps. And, as others said, let out some air unless you are already at the point where steering is getting weird because the tire is rolling sideways.
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  13. #13
    nothing to see here
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    +1 short stem first
    I see hills.

    I want to climb them.

  14. #14
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    When I upgraded from my Pugsley to the 9:zero:7, I was pleasantly surprised with the confidence the different head angle gave me when bombing down loose off-camber grades. Pugsleys may be the catís meow for snow and stuff, but for singletrack bombing, the 9:zero:7 is the tigerís growl. Or the cougarís purr. Or theÖ nevermind. I am sure that other frames like the Beargrease and the Sandman offerings provide similar characteristics. My recommendation would be to upgrade if youíre primarily riding technical trails.
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  15. #15
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    I have the flame, slackening does help, here what I just posted in fatback or sandman:

    Quote Originally Posted by Nothing's impossible View Post
    I have never ridden the fatback, and only briefly ridden a gobi, but I have a sandman with a flame fork.

    With the fork completely low, say zero to 20 mm of travel you have a very nerveus, responsive bike, lower air resistance ,...
    Nice for beachraces, road rides and XC rides with fat tires,.. You hardly have travel but the tires provide more than enough travel on that kind of rides.
    With the 29'er wheels it's a pretty agressive bike!

    With the fork complete up it's a completely different bike!
    The bike becomes gravity orientated, the steering becomes rather stable, you get less weigth on the front wheel,... pedeling becomes a bit less responsive but the bike remains rather fast for its weight and drag in the offroad climbs, but on technical and downhill stuff the bike is so inviting and foregiving ,...

    This stable comfy riding setting works also pretty good in deeper snow and soft sand.


    With the fork in the midle position you have a nice trailbike. it remains responsive, and yet it provides enough confidence for technical rides!
    I mostly ride this setting.

    I have no idea how other frames cope with such addaptation in fork hight, but with the sandman it works great, i would spend the extra bucks on a front suspension!!
    On trails I easily use 5" of travel, I do believe that helps a lot as well.

    I often turn the stem upside down and replace some spacers from above to under the stem, that makes a big difference in my position on the bike but it's way less efficient than changing the fork heigth!

    If you are seated correctly on the bike as it is you need to combine the shorter stem with a different bar, only the stem will give you a shorter cramped position. If you are sitting to long only the pen might be fine!

    Another big help on trail riding is the seat dropper, with the seat out of the way you can push the front wheel over stuff!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leopold Porkstacker View Post
    When I upgraded from my Pugsley to the 9:zero:7, I was pleasantly surprised with the confidence the different head angle gave me when bombing down loose off-camber grades. Pugsleys may be the catís meow for snow and stuff, but for singletrack bombing, the 9:zero:7 is the tigerís growl...
    I currently have both those bikes and I haven't noticed any real difference when using a 100mm Pug fork. I've tried an Enabler fork on both and didn't like it as much.

    I have used an even shorter fork on the 907 and liked that better, but it made the BB too low. I was using a very narrow rim at the time so the tyre profile was different which would have had some effect on the flop.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by sryanak View Post
    On most sizes Pugs and Mukluk have only 1/2 degree of difference on head tube angle so a big change in feel is probably coming at least to some degree from somewhere else like that higher handlebar.
    For the sake of accuracy I just wanted to point out that the Mukluk geo has changed this year (except the Ti) so they're now 69.5/73 and the pugsley/necro are 70.5/72

  18. #18
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    A setback seatpost will also help move your weight back, and maintains your riding postion if you go with a shorter stem.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by SmooveP View Post
    A setback seatpost will also help move your weight back, and maintains your riding postion if you go with a shorter stem.
    Indeed!

  20. #20
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    or go with a wider bar to maintain position with a shorter stem(what I did) especially with the fatty a 780+ bar really gives you massive amounts of control on your front end.The weenie bar/stem that came on my pugs would be better off melted down and rolled into a Coors light can

  21. #21
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    Moving the seat back changes your body alignment to the pedals. I find that more critical to comfort than seat to bar length.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhz06 View Post
    Moving the seat back changes your body alignment to the pedals. I find that more critical to comfort than seat to bar length.
    Yep. May help or hurt, depending on your preferences.

  23. #23
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    Bud feels a lot more cushy, all else the same, than Nate.

    Nate has gobs of traction but (no matter which casing) the ride is pretty harsh.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by lookiel View Post
    For the sake of accuracy I just wanted to point out that the Mukluk geo has changed this year (except the Ti) so they're now 69.5/73 and the pugsley/necro are 70.5/72
    Yes but I'll bet that most of these ride comparisons are on "older" Mukluks so what I said should mostly apply.
    Latitude 61

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhz06 View Post
    Moving the seat back changes your body alignment to the pedals. I find that more critical to comfort than seat to bar length.
    If you go back with the seat and bars, you can maintain your body alignment by also going up with the bars. Just like rotating your entire body rearward around the BB.

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