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  1. #1
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    Fat vs Suspension

    I'm looking for views and experiences from all fatbikers regarding the comparison of a 4" + tire to riding a full suspension rig - and this question pertains to regular mountain biking through the warm weather.

    My fatbike experience is only about 3 weeks old but I have well over 20 yrs. on mountain bikes of all flavors, and I'm really liking my new bike.

    I'm convinced the beauty of not having to deal with suspension and all the headaches that goes with the complexity of it, trail grip, and just the fact that a fatbike gives all-season riding should and already is a game changer in the industry.

    I know that fatbike manufacturers are going to try to convince riders that we need a full suspension fatbike, but I don't think we need it. I'm not just resistant to change, I think a larger tire, maybe even 6" with the weight designed out of it, would be great. Tire weight is obviously an issue.

    Anybody else?

  2. #2
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    I don't need a FS Fatbike, but for a lot of the riding that I do, I want an All Mountain/Trail fatbike with 100-120mm of squish, plus 4" tires. That would rock.

  3. #3
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    Suspension enables you to go faster on rugged terrain with more comfort and bit more control. I thought I would keep my fat bike rigid but after 3 months I started feeling a few new aches. Decided to get a lefty conversion and now a happier trail rider.

    Different terrain, age, ride length etc all add to the equation of what is best for you.

  4. #4
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    Fat vs Suspension

    Quote Originally Posted by Montster View Post
    Suspension enables you to go faster on rugged terrain with more comfort and bit more control. I thought I would keep my fat bike rigid but after 3 months I started feeling a few new aches. Decided to get a lefty conversion and now a happier trail rider.

    Different terrain, age, ride length etc all add to the equation of what is best for you.
    Pretty much sums it up. I started riding on a rigid mongoose. I have gone to hardtail to full suspension and back to hardtail. I currently ride a rigid 907 fat bike. I seldom wish I had suspension. There are very few times I wish I had a fork, but never for a fully setup. I love the low maintenance of the rigid fat bike. I have also been leaning towards another fat bike setup single speed.


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  5. #5
    All fat, all the time.
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    Exactly...nobody "needs" suspension...but it sure is nice!!! Bring on the squish.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Montster View Post
    Suspension enables you to go faster on rugged terrain with more comfort and bit more control. I thought I would keep my fat bike rigid but after 3 months I started feeling a few new aches. Decided to get a lefty conversion and now a happier trail rider.

    Different terrain, age, ride length etc all add to the equation of what is best for you.
    60 yrs old... I just look for better line, and let the fast guys beat themselves to death.

  7. #7
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    I ride a fully rigid Ti fatbike with 4" tires and carbon fork. I'd equate it to something like a 3" travel FS skinny tired bike. I say "something like" because there are differences, pro and con. To me, the fatbike seems more inclined to hold a line going downhill, even in the face of decent sized obstacles. But to get the best suspension-like feel requires a fairly low tire pressure (around 7 psi for me), which puts you at risk of pinch flats. For now, it's a good tradeoff in terms of reduced weight and complexity. If reliable lightweight forks come on the scene, I might be tempted.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Testmule View Post
    game changer
    Means "hahaha these people are going to buy this sh$%!" ;-)

  9. #9
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    A little story to add to this. I think it was around '07 when a friend of mine who owned a LBS ordered a Pugsley in. We all had a ride on the bike and put off as interesting, but who would really want one, with all of its oddities. Who knew.

    A fellow who was headed to Africa bought the bike and said it would be perfect for where he was going - apparently lots of sand and dust. Kind of sorry I didn't hear a follow up.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shark View Post
    Exactly...nobody "needs" suspension...but it sure is nice!!! Bring on the squish.
    yea squish squish
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  11. #11
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    Fat vs Suspension

    Full suss has its place, I really like my hard tail, and I love my fat.

  12. #12
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    To compare the fat tire ride to a fs 29er I would say that you can tune the fs 29er to exactly what you need including rebound. The fat tire has some good cushion but there is really no way to control rebound. The higher the pressure in the fat tire the more bounce (lack of rebound control). Less pressure and you reduce the bounce but if you are ridding a hard packed trail you want higher pressure. I ride a 9-0-7 with a Lefty front fork. This completely controls the bounce from the front tire and gives great cushion. I imagine a small amount of cushion on the back end would do the same.

  13. #13
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    Ok, suspension has its place even on a fatty. I have notice the rebound factor, but the squish from the 2 or 3 inches certainly smoothes out the ride on washboard.

    Not having ridden snow yet, and I do live where we usually can count on lots, how would suspension apply then. It's obviously a different style of riding.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Testmule View Post
    I'm looking for views and experiences from all fatbikers regarding the comparison of a 4" + tire to riding a full suspension rig - and this question pertains to regular mountain biking through the warm weather.
    I ride rough technical rocky/rooty terrain and there is no comparison between my fatbike and my regular MTB which has over 6" of high quality travel at both ends.

    I ride my Pugs on the trails from time to time for a change of pace, but my FS bike is better in every way for summer trail riding.

    Having said that when I go to Baja to beach camp I take the Pugs and would never even think of taking my FS bike.

    They are both excellent machines that are good at different things.
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  15. #15
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    I'll quote myself from another current thread;

    Of course there is the weight. However, if a trail or course is anywhere near rough with constant roots, rocks, long gravel sections, and such, I think the benefits of going fat are in the decreased wear & tear on your body. Better concentration, LESS concentration required, less energy expended overall because of the continuous low level absorption. Lots of climbs? Well... duh. Yes, the big bumps are ones to be taken into serious consideration on a Fatty, particularly at speed. However, leveling out the smaller noise really changes the tenor of the ride to a startling degree.

    I rode my RIP9 in just such a venue this week after riding my Fatty for months previously. Tons of glacier dumpings... like rocks everywhere standing straight up on end... with rock outcropping thrown in for good measure. Real tire poppers. The ride was much more difficult with 5" of travel than on a Fatty with "none." Let's not talk about the CONSTANT low BB peddle strikes! The Fatty just cuts all the crap, and you also don't have to be so careful not to wander a few inches off the trail tread and nail one of the vertical stone glaciers.
    There are times when I also wish for a fork, as that is where the beating comes from. Much less deleterious with a Mary bar installed, but still some front squish would help. No need on the rear in my year-round experience. I've got to get back to my fork project!
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  16. #16
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    I went on my maiden ride of my Leftified Pugsley today (and Marge Lites, not a fan of the RD's for anything other than winter) and while I was super happy to have the front suspension now, on the tech-y trail I was on today, my Transition Bandit 29 would have been way faster and more controlled. The benefit to the Pugs was, as usual, it's surefootedness on wet off camber roots, and wet rock crawling.

    It really really depends on how and where you ride, I suppose, that's why people will have differing opinions here. I had a rigid Pugsley before getting my full squish 29er, and at the time when the Pugs was my main mountain bike, I would say "this can do anything I'd want it to do." Now, after becoming semi-proficient at thrashing a 5" 29er, I know that to definitely not be the case.

    Well, it CAN do everything, just not very fast. But sometimes, that's ok.
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  17. #17
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    To me a full suspension fatty would have to be built up fairly light to be enjoyable and efficient (like in the low 30's).

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdundee View Post
    To me a full suspension fatty would have to be built up fairly light to be enjoyable and efficient (like in the low 30's).
    Good point! 3 or 4 lbs. is a lot when you're dragging your ass up that nasty mountain trail. I just spent plenty of $$$$ to put a rigid Carver fork on my new bike. It's so light I'm lifting the front end on climbs.

  19. #19
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    I think Cannondale needs to do an am/trail geo fs with 2"r, 3"f designed around their DYAD shock and their Headshock. It should utilize 26"x3.25" on 65's..of course it would have to accomodate 4.0's on 80's as well because, well...just because...

    It would be really cool if the air/oil shocks could be removed and the bike converted to rigid and/or Ti coil springs (no air or oil) as then there would be no seals to worry about in the cold.
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  20. #20
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    I go back and forth between my Pugs and my FS bike this summer and it has been an awesome season in BC this year so far. Slower on Pugs for sure but slower does not have to equal less fun.

    For me the added grip of Fat more than makes up for added weight of Fat.

    If I am looking for a fast, jumpy, downhill oriented ride I go FS. If it is a slower less downhill ride or if conditions are not ideal I go Pugs. I tend to ride Pugs for solo rides.

    I do wish for a front Sus fork on the Pugs fairly regularly.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselFuelOnly View Post
    I tend to ride Pugs for solo rides.
    I think this is the huge thing for me- when I ride solo, it is a very scenery-oriented, ponderous, relaxed ride. The Pugs bumbling along fits this pace perfectly. When I am with friends, we tend to really rip it, so my FS is better.
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  22. #22
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    I don't remember who posted a similar thread a little over a year back, but someone mentioned a rigid fatbike being "un-damped" suspension. So far where I normally ride or race, I've only encountered one long bumpy downhill where I had to seriously hit the brakes to avoid bouncing out of control. Quite a few people that have never ridden a fatbike always ask me if it's a good downhill bike. I always tell them it has it's limitations without a front suspension fork, otherwise you can bounce out of control on the really big hills.

  23. #23
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    Most of the trail riding I do with my fat bike is on the snow. One of the reasons I bought it was to save the suspension components of my FS rig I was riding in the winter. So for me, a FS fatty defeats the purpose. I'm quite happy with a fully rigid ride on the snow covered trails around Durango.
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  24. #24
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    What's involved in mounting a Cannondale Lefty? Are the crowns the same or different?
    I owned a Scalpel a few years back and enjoyed the Lefty - no problems over a couple of years of hard riding.

  25. #25
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    Around me (SE Michigan), there are some trails that seem purpose-built for rigid fat bikes, and there are others that turn them into instruments of torture. I've yet to find one where the big tires weren't welcome, but the lack of suspension is a different story.

    So I guess I'm saying "It depends..."
    Let the market decide!

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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Testmule View Post
    What's involved in mounting a Cannondale Lefty? Are the crowns the same or different?
    I owned a Scalpel a few years back and enjoyed the Lefty - no problems over a couple of years of hard riding.
    You need to get an older Lefty Max 140mm or Lefty DLR that have the removable clamps. Mendon Cyclesmith sells replacement clamps with more offset and a 1-1/8" steer tube. I've got a Lefty Max on my Pugsley, with a clown shoe and bud on the front, and it's great in rough terrain... Just point it and forget about it. If you're planning to ride your fatbike year-round, it's a massive improvement.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by XJaredX View Post
    I think this is the huge thing for me- when I ride solo, it is a very scenery-oriented, ponderous, relaxed ride. The Pugs bumbling along fits this pace perfectly. When I am with friends, we tend to really rip it, so my FS is better.
    Hallelujah! Except I just bought a Covert 29 and the honeymoon ain't over yet!

  28. #28
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    It's really hard to pin down really. My only previous experiences were on a walgoose FS, AKA box spring with wheels. It was bouncy and ill handling, heavy, and pretty useless at speed. And then a Pugsley with various tires and pressures. I thought I had it pretty well sorted and dialed in. I had gotten comfy, confident and pretty quick on most of the rough downhill sections on our local trails.

    That was until I demo'd a Pivot Mach 429 the other night. I was trying to take it easy being a demo bike I wasn't able to afford if I wadded it up. But I was simply flying down even the roughest sections at double the speed I do on my pugs, on a completely unknown bike. The confidence it inspired was nothing short of legendary. The only thing missing was the traction, especially at the higher speeds. I sorely wished for an extra 2 inches of rubber between me and the dust below. I also learned later that it is a rather well sorted and coveted FS 29'er, so that doesn't hurt. I'll admit, after that ride, I was having wet dreams of such a supple ride with the girth and traction of a Fat tire. That would truly be bliss. It's going to be a challenge to keep the weight in check though. As my demo bike weighed several pound lighter than even my slightly weight reduced pugs

    So yeah, my mind has been poisoned by the lure of the well sorted full squish, but not enough for me to plunk down 5k+ any time soon
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  29. #29
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    A rigid fatbike is like riding a rigid bike. Car tires are a lot wider than 4", so replace your shocks with solid steel rods to get a similar feel. I ride a rigid fat bike, but the "suppleness" provided by the tires is like 1/10th or less of what you get with 2" of controlled suspension travel. It's fun to ride, but you ride it like a rigid bike. Amongst the worst things are shallow depressions/potholes in the middle of your line around bermed turns. You try to take the turn at speed, but those screw you up so bad as the g-forces are pushing you into the berm.
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  30. #30
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    Re: Fat vs Suspension

    From a riding standpoint, fat is a low tech rigid that provides incredible traction, ability to traverse a wide variety of terrain, and is very proficient at small bump compliance.

    Full suspension is a high tech solution to going fast over bumpy stuff.

    I'm glad to have both, but if I had to choose one it would be the fat. More robust, easier maintenance, more riding season, and I'm a traction whore. Riding a pugs with Nates... hell yea.

    But I also like riding fast on fairly groomed trails where traction is king. If I did fast rocky or rooty descents mostly, it would have to be the FS.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by HOV View Post
    From a riding standpoint, fat is a low tech rigid that provides incredible traction, ability to traverse a wide variety of terrain, and is very proficient at small bump compliance.

    Full suspension is a high tech solution to going fast over bumpy stuff.

    I'm glad to have both, but if I had to choose one it would be the fat. More robust, easier maintenance, more riding season...
    Well put.
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  32. #32
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    Re: Fat vs Suspension

    I'd say it is pressure dependent, but a fattie is essentially like a ~1/2" FS rig, with the only 'damping' coming from the sidewall resistance to deflection under load. The true length of 'travel' would be the change in height of a loaded vs unloaded bike, less the same measurement on a normal MTB tire.

    Riding a fattie off a 4 foot drop to almost flat can be pretty jarring, as it would be on a sub-1" suspended bike. I've noticed that it is much harder to hop the fattie at 15 psi on the road than at a lower pressure. The inability to preload the front tire, as you would on a suspended bike, makes a huge difference.

    In the end, riding fat is more about small bump compliance, ridiculous traction, stability, and FUN.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochunk View Post
    That was until I demo'd a Pivot Mach 429 the other night.The confidence it inspired was nothing short of legendary. The only thing missing was the traction, especially at the higher speeds.
    +1 - and that was on a short-ish travel FS bike. You'll find that in dry conditions with the right tires, pressure and suspension setup you'll have as much traction as you can use with a 2.4" tire.

    As much as I love my FS bike one issue with them is that you need to spend the time to tune the bike to get the most out of it. I see lots of people on FS bikes who aren't tapping into half the bike's potential.

    A rigid fatbike is a lot easier in that respect since you can only adjust tire pressure.
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  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    +1 - and that was on a short-ish travel FS bike. You'll find that in dry conditions with the right tires, pressure and suspension setup you'll have as much traction as you can use with a 2.4" tire.

    As much as I love my FS bike one issue with them is that you need to spend the time to tune the bike to get the most out of it. I see lots of people on FS bikes who aren't tapping into half the bike's potential.

    A rigid fatbike is a lot easier in that respect since you can only adjust tire pressure.
    It's likely the traction issue was purely in my head. As a mental confidence thing than anything else. But the perception was certainly there that in corners I knew well in normal conditions, it felt less. Shrug.

    I really forgot to mention the most important part I noticed, is how so not beat up I felt. Where I would be out of the saddle, pumping my arms and getting my full body abused on the fatty, I never felt that on the FS. Just point and glide... I didn't have to be my suspension. That makes the riding session length potentially longer no doubt. This is of course if you're in the mood to be going full out. There are certainly days I will meander around in the granny gear chugging away at those same trails. In those cases, the suspension would be just a weight burden.
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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by mochunk View Post
    I really forgot to mention the most important part I noticed, is how so not beat up I felt. Where I would be out of the saddle, pumping my arms and getting my full body abused on the fatty, I never felt that on the FS.
    +1 - Two days in a row riding my Pugs on my local trails and I feel like an old man! I can and do ride my FS bike on uber chunky terrain 14 days in a row with some double ride days and I feel normal.

    That said my local terrain is rocky and rooty so it's not a failure of the Pugs just a reality of my local conditions and my aging body...
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    +1 - Two days in a row riding my Pugs on my local trails and I feel like an old man! I can and do ride my FS bike on uber chunky terrain 14 days in a row with some double ride days and I feel normal.

    That said my local terrain is rocky and rooty so it's not a failure of the Pugs just a reality of my local conditions and my aging body...
    This is a good point. I moved up North and was starting off this summer with no bikes. I got a fat bike and rode that around while I saved up for a more conventional FS bike, which I got almost two months ago. The long rides I did on the fatty took a lot more out of me than I'd expect given the terrain and lack of rocks/obstacles. I dreaded the downhills, they were just so harsh.

    Also, when it gets a little damp/wet on the hardpack the big fat wheels slide all around the trail, especially when going downhill. It's fairly predictable, but we found a guy last week that broke an arm due to sliding and falling on the same trails. This trait really surprised me, as I expected more traction, not less. I guess it's too little weight on too great of a surface area, in contrast to how "mud" tires are narrow with big spikey knobs (even though I'm referring to damp hardpack trails).
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  37. #37
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    When making the comparison between FS and fat, perhaps the terrain is being ridden should be made clearer.

    For example is it a maintained bike specific trail or something more random such as a deer track or stalkers path?

    I ask because it is clear that some of the posts, the rider is going at a fair speed so presumably is able to rely on knowing that there will still be a track round the next blind corner or that an unseen dropoff will be something that can reasonably be ridden.
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  38. #38
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    I rode with a guy yesterday with a Salsa Fatboy. Very cool bike. He was explaining the lack of rebound control and how he'd like suspension. Typical NE single track. He is going to ride the Hampshire 100 today on it. I saw other Fat Bikes coming in.
    I'd love one for winter.
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    If your "big fat wheels slide all around the trail" maybe you should put some tires on them. ;-) If you do have tires on them, maybe they are the wrong tires. If they're BFl's they are almost always the wrong tires. It's pretty useless when folks compare Moonlanders to Mukluks, for instance, and don't mention which tires they're riding on. It's all about the tires.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by hamiljim View Post
    If your "big fat wheels slide all around the trail" maybe you should put some tires on them. ;-) If you do have tires on them, maybe they are the wrong tires. If they're BFl's they are almost always the wrong tires. It's pretty useless when folks compare Moonlanders to Mukluks, for instance, and don't mention which tires they're riding on. It's all about the tires.
    Or maybe you should ride in the rain? This state gets a lot of rain and moisture. After spring thaw, they get extremely hardpacked and all the rain just runs off the trails, but because the trail is so hardpacked and the packed surface doesn't absorb the water, it leaves the trail extremely slick. Although even 29ers slide around a little on this surface, fatbikes do it even more. The plus is that everything stays pretty moist and most of the time it's just awesome velcro-dirt, but during a little shower or right after it can be one slick ride, especially on fat tires.
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  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Or maybe you should ride in the rain? This state gets a lot of rain and moisture. After spring thaw, they get extremely hardpacked and all the rain just runs off the trails, but because the trail is so hardpacked and the packed surface doesn't absorb the water, it leaves the trail extremely slick. Although even 29ers slide around a little on this surface, fatbikes do it even more. The plus is that everything stays pretty moist and most of the time it's just awesome velcro-dirt, but during a little shower or right after it can be one slick ride, especially on fat tires.
    I'm not disagreeing with you, but you still didn't address his point... "and don't mention which tires they're riding on. It's all about the tires."

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    Or maybe you should ride in the rain? This state gets a lot of rain and moisture. After spring thaw, they get extremely hardpacked and all the rain just runs off the trails, but because the trail is so hardpacked and the packed surface doesn't absorb the water, it leaves the trail extremely slick. Although even 29ers slide around a little on this surface, fatbikes do it even more. The plus is that everything stays pretty moist and most of the time it's just awesome velcro-dirt, but during a little shower or right after it can be one slick ride, especially on fat tires.
    This is true. It doesn't really matter which tire you have on this kind of surface. I did a fatbike race on a cyclocross course that had conditions like this, and EVERYONE was going down.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wish I Were Riding View Post
    I'm not disagreeing with you, but you still didn't address his point... "and don't mention which tires they're riding on. It's all about the tires."
    As dramatic as this is, no, it's not about the tires, unless we're running slicks.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

    You're turning black metallic.

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    After getting my Moonlander in January I hadn't rode the Tallboy until July because I was enjoying the fattie so much and it seemed like a good all around bike. I then rode it on some very technical and rocky terrain that I would ride the FS on and was pretty beat up at the end. I finally took the Tallboy out and what a difference! Everything was smoothed out and I wasn't beat up afterwords.

    I so wanted to take the fatty on my anual mountain bike vacation this month but ended up taking the FS. I was glad I did because some of the trails were so technical and rocky. I guess it depends on what you are doing and the terrain you ride which is why I have different bikes for different tasks. I still think if I could only have one mountain bike it would be the fatty!

  45. #45
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    I ride my necro in the snow only. Fat tires are not suspension. When I threw on my widened Fournales on the front I could hit every iced in footprint without cringing and I road farther and faster with a bigger smile on my face. I still am goingto stick hard tail but am looking into a suspension seatpost.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WickedLite View Post
    . I still am going to stick hard tail but am looking into a suspension seatpost.
    I have thought about this too but I am wondering how that would affect your pedal stroke when you hit a bump mid stroke. That's gotta be weird to all of a sudden have your seat height change by a few inches.

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    From my experience my seat to pedal-stroke is compromised anyway, when my rear hits and I bounce up off the seat in pain. Foot prints turned ice is a no fun ride without suspension.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WickedLite View Post
    From my experience my seat to pedal-stroke is compromised anyway, when my rear hits and I bounce up off the seat in pain. Foot prints turned ice is a no fun ride without suspension.
    Good point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Testmule View Post
    60 yrs old... I just look for better line, and let the fast guys beat themselves to death.
    LOL...... I am 52 and "get it".
    Reply to original topic statement.
    "Suspension = high maintenance" - not at all, modern times, if a hard tail. Simple, low cost, coil/oil front suspension forks are light years better than the best were in the early mid 90's and cost little. They are very reliable and have very little maint
    If you ride recreation, non race competitive , dual track, smooth single, fire/free road,urban, adventure / bike pack tour...........it's all you need imo.
    I only rode a fat bike once recently (surly). Though the squish was apparent and much more so than a rigid 29er, it still felt less than a modest 63m travel coil/oil hard tail with 1.8" free / fire road , Renegade front tire, even aired up.
    I DO like fat bikes though.........and personally would be rigid on them BUT with a non suspension corrected fork and one with a curved rake.

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    Just sold my FS 29'er since it was collecting dust since I have been riding my necro most of the summer.. have a hard tail 29'er that I pull out if I know the group ride is going to be fast paced.. but quite actually I am not missing the full suspension.. trails are typically hard pack, some roots, not overly rocky, just yesterday there were a few times I could have used some front suspension, but at 47... I am not hucking off everything.. I don't expect the fatbike to be all the FS was... but I don't end up feeling beat up by it.. I stay loose up top, hover over seat when it gets rough... my back checks out of the ride at about the 20 mile mark, whether fat, full susp. or hardtail...

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