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  1. #1
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    Fatbikes for older rider easy trail riding, my experiences

    2 years ago I searched all over to uncover experiences of older fatbike riders who just ride on trails, not intense riding. So, in case someone else is searching, here are my experiences. I ride on gravel or dirt trails and roads, all seasons. I own a Motobecane Boris 4.8 inch tire fatbike with hydraulic brakes and bluto suspension, a Specialized with 2 inch tires, and an older K2 700c bike converted to direct drive brushless electric. I am on social security and my body feels like I deserve it.
    1) What the fatbike works well for: I got a fatbike because I got tired of my 2 inch tires sliding out when I hit soft sand, rocks or ice patches. The fatbike solved those problems and extended my riding by several months every year. It is great when I hit those patches of ice and hard snow on the trails. I don't fall over. I usually use 15 psi on these hard trails.
    2) Snow: It is fine in light snow cover or ice. It is great riding on the frozen lakes without a lot of snow cover. Packed snowmobile trails are fine too (except some snowmobilers don't want to swerve around a bike, so watch out!). I will leave riding through snow over 2 inches to the younger riders. It is harder than heck for me, even with low pressure in the tires. My hat is off to those riders who can peddle through deep soft snow. I stopped working that hard when I retired (that is a joke). I did expect it to be easier in the snow. But deep snow riding isn't necessary in my case.
    3) Mud and water: Yep, when I hit mud and puddles I no longer worry about sinking down and getting stuck. I can just plow right through the potholes that my 2 inch bike would have problems with. Oh, I found out on my first couple rides that fenders or waterproof clothes are necessary. I no longer ride around puddles.
    4) Peddling: Yes, it is about 30% harder to peddle my fatbike than my Specialized 2 inch tire bike (rough estimate). But, hey, I can go out when I normally couldn't and so what if I need to go slower? I am retired and there is no place to be. If I am using a bike to actually get somewhere on city streets I use my 2 inch or my converted ebike. Unless there is ice. Then I will take the security of the fatbike.
    5) Bluto: Ok, they are worth the price for my old abused body. 2 years ago some df did a rolling stop with his car and ran me over, breaking my neck and pelvis. I was walking on the sidewalk. That is another story. This meant no more motorcycles, horseback riding or snowmobiles for me. The bluto gives me a much more comfortable ride than my rigid frame bike. Even on a good trail I notice that it moves up and down about 1.5 to 2 inches. Neck doesn't hurt and neither do my shoulders. Under-inflated tires do not make up for the bluto suspension. My bluto survives the cold fine, but I am not jumping off cliffs, etc..
    6) Hydraulic brakes: Got them, don't go fast enough to need them. But, they sure stop nice! Disc brakes are probably necessary since my rims get too covered with stuff for rim brakes to work (I think). BB5 or BB7 mechanical brakes would be perfectly adequate.
    7) Derailleur: Even though I do not abuse my bike like it is designed to do, the better derailleur I got really makes for a smoother and more comfortable ride. Hey, learn how to tune your derailleurs. It is fun. I only use a small number of the 18 or 20 speeds I have.
    8) Tires: I think in my case the 4" tires would be just as good as the 4.8".
    9) I probably overbought for what I needed. I could have gotten a bike without the hydraulic brakes, a good - but a step down derailleur, and 4 inch tires for about $400 less and been just as happy with it.

    I hope this helps someone else who is wondering if they should get a fatbike and what to get on it. I like mine a lot and enjoy it when hikers on the trails say, "You got some fat tires there"! Sometimes I am tempted to say so do you, but not sure how it would be taken.

  2. #2
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    Good comments. The other place where a fat bike shines: on the streets of Manhattan. I went out for a ride on the route of the Marathon two weekends ago -- we started at 6:00 just as they were closing the streets. Very cool to ride down 5th Avenue when it is closed to traffic. I did about 40 miles -- 13 miles from the finish line to the starting line then about 25 miles for the route.

    You are right that the fat bike is about 30% harder to pedal than a road bike. But I never had to worry about potholes that were a big problem for the roadies that were along with me. I also never had to worry about stopping due to the hydro brakes. In the outer reaches of Brooklyn, where they hadn't yet closed the roads, there is a stop light on every corner. We did almost 200 blocks (and thus 200 stop lights) before getting to the Queensboro bridge into Manhattan. The discs enabled me to stop fast if I was rolling a light but couldn't see a car on the cross street coming from the right, which I needed a couple of times.,

    Several people who passed me called the fat bike an "Urban Assault Vehicle" (taken from the classic 1980s comedy "Stripes"). Even the Brooklyn hipster bike messenger types on antique fixies thought it was a pretty cool ride.
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  3. #3
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    I feel like my fat bike is great for just trucking along. Not fast. Just at a constant speed. It's great over roots and rocks, and climbs so easy - better than my full suspension 29er. I feel like I don't need to think as much about technique, which could be good for a beginner. But I can see how one could get lazy and just expect any bike to just barrel over anything on the trail. I almost feel like a fat bike would be a great beginner bike since it's a more stable and forgiving ride. The only downside for a beginner is that it's more effort to pedal.
    Trek Fuel EX 8 29er.

  4. #4
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    I'm in the same boat - a senior. I commuted to work in Anchorage, Alaska for years, summer and winter. A studded MTB got the job done mostly in winter but not a fun commute and real limitations as to plowing through snow or mucked up bike path. Last two years before I retired I got a Muk3 fatbike and was in hog heaven. Not fast but a honey badger for all but the worst conditions. Slick wet ice was one of them, I would have to revert to the MTB and realized I should have done it days ago! Dillinger 4s with studs solved 80% of the slick factor although the studded MTB tires still outgripped the D4's. A stud in every lug and a lot more pressure on the contact patch for the MTB. Pretty much all slow mo cruising so the D4's get the job done. Just added another row of studs to the front D4 down the center lugs and improved the sticky factor a lot. BB5 brakes are just fine, the 2X9 setup is solid. Only gear change I made was putting a 22 tooth small chainring for more low end power. It's what that bike should have had from the factory and for the 2015 models, did. The Muk3 has a steel front fork and the bod tolerates that. The MTB had a suspension fork but the winter foot pocked trails would give me a headache after a half mile. Like riding a jackhammer! Between the effectively 29 inch wheel on the Muk and lower tire pressure in the 7 to 15 psi range no problems. I ride the fatbike almost exclusively in the winter now and use it regularly in the summer too. Run errands on it instead of the van, set of panniers will hold a lot! Great for rooty trails and boondocking. Rode one gravel trail (Portage Valley Trail of Blue Ice) on my 29er hybrid and then on the fat bike. Two totally different experiences. Noticed a ton more of the scenery on the fat bike, just so much more relaxed to ride.

  5. #5
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    So just how old are you guys? I'm 70...have a Charge Cooker I...along with 11 other bikes...love the fb...ride 3 seasons, but ski in deep winter here in Maine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in Maine View Post
    So just how old are you guys? I'm 70...have a Charge Cooker I...along with 11 other bikes...love the fb...ride 3 seasons, but ski in deep winter here in Maine.
    Mid 60's All my ski gear is the same vintage!

  7. #7
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    I'm 43 but abused my body crashing snowboarding and being tossed from motorcycle dirt biking. I also am a big fan of city riding with a fatbike where the crappy roads are no longer an obstacle. Now I only have to worry about cars when riding.
    Totem KDS-D fatbike, Brompton M2L-X Ti, 6kg Dahon Dove, 1998 GT Forte Ti road bike

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSchmitz View Post
    ...Noticed a ton more of the scenery on the fat bike, just so much more relaxed to ride.
    To me that is the whole point. Not having to spend my time scrutinising the few metres in front of me like I do on a skinny bike is what it's all about.
    As little bike as possible, as silent as possible.
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  9. #9
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    Fat bikes are just so much fun! I guess part of that is simply psychology, but that's my take. Yeah - overall they are MUCh more work to get from point A to point B, but you can't deny - there is something about a fat bike that just .... well.... fill in your own feelings!

  10. #10
    tm3
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    Great thread -- thanks for posting! I would appreciate it if I can pimp for some more info. I am not quite medicare eligible, but close, and am shopping for a new bike trying to narrow the choices down between fatbike, 29+, 27+, all with varying degrees of suspension from none to HT to DS. LBS says that based on my kind of use the 29+ HT is ideal but I'm still considering other options.

    My current ride is a 25 year old 26" hardtail with Softride suspension stem (about 1" of travel, or enough to take out most of the chatter) and 2.0 tires inflated to 35psi. I ride forest service fire roads almost exclusively, and find that this rig works well for me. I have tried 29er (not 29+) DS bikes, most recently a couple of weeks ago, and have not been impressed that they are any better than what I currently ride. I think that because of the larger wheels and the wider Hbar they feel kind of unwieldy while my bike feels more responsive but maybe I would adapt over time.

    The appeal of a fatbike to me is 1) owners say they are so much fun, and 2) I would like to avoid sus if possible, so the question is if the 4" tires would be equivalent, or better than, my current sus stem.

    My questions:

    1) How much suspension travel do the fat tires provide? Is it enough to smooth out the ride over gravel, road bond, washboard, etc? I'm not really concerned about the back but definitely want to quiet down the front. At least 1" would be ideal.

    2) What do you all mean when you say the fatbike is harder to pedal? Are you saying that it is more work to make the same speed, harder to bring up to speed, or ? Since I ride by myself most of the time I'm not at all concerned about being able to keep a certain pace.

    3) What are the big, soft tires like when climbing? I like climbing a lot better than descending and every rear suspension that I have tried has at least a little pogo effect that makes me feel like I'm going up slower.

    4) Have you all compared the fatbike to any of the plus bikes with 3" tires? How would you describe the difference?

    Thanks for any help!
    Last edited by tm3; 11-22-2016 at 07:12 AM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tm3 View Post
    I ride forest service fire roads almost exclusively
    1) How much suspension travel do the fat tires provide? Is it enough to smooth out the ride over gravel, road bond, washboard, etc? I'm not really concerned about the back but definitely want to quiet down the front. At least 1" would be ideal.
    The fat bike makes small rocks basically disappear. Depending on the tire pressure, you may be able to deal with washboarding pretty easily. But if your tire pressure is too low, you'll bottom out on washboards; if it's too high, you'll bounce like you're on a road bike. When you're on fire roads, a fat bike is way less skittish than a mountain bike.

    2) What do you all mean when you say the fatbike is harder to pedal? Are you saying that it is more work to make the same speed, harder to bring up to speed, or ? Since I ride by myself most of the time I'm not at all concerned about being able to keep a certain pace.
    There's a lot more friction from the tires on flats and downhills. Heavier wheels are much harder to spin up on the road. I have taken my fat bike on a 15 mile training ride that I do on my road bike and it takes about 20% longer than the road bike. I'm also a lot more tired. It's a combination of tire friction, lost energy due to bouncing up and down due to the lower tire pressure, and lower gears on the high end meaning I have to push harder to maintain 15-16 mph on the road.

    3) What are the big, soft tires like when climbing? I like climbing a lot better than descending and every rear suspension that I have tried has at least a little pogo effect that makes me feel like I'm going up slower.
    On the kind of terrain you're talking about, a fat bike is pretty good. You'll still have a little bounce in the front wheel on a fat bike when you're climbing but it will probably be less than your mountain bike. Hard to tell for sure because a good front fork on a mountain bike reduces the bounce, while a cheap spring fork makes it worse.

    The key to eliminating bounce when climbing is getting your tire pressure right. This requires fairly consistent experimentation and a willingness to change pressure in the middle of a ride. I started on fire roads with 20# but it quickly became clear that was way too high. I'm now down to 10.0 in the rear and 9.5 in the front for dirt, maybe a little less for flotation in mud. Your mileage will definitely vary.

    4) Have you all compared the fatbike to any of the plus bikes with 3" tires? How would you describe the difference?
    I have not tried a plus bike so I don't know.
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  12. #12
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    I'm "older" as well -- late 50's. I enjoy riding the trails in my area in more of an exploration/touring mode. While I would say my pace is a couple steps up from leisurely, I'm certainly not seeing how fast I can turn a lap. I've noticed that when I ride a trail like I ride on the road (the highest pace I can sustain for the distance and terrain) I get tunnel vision and don't enjoy the landscape as much.

  13. #13
    tm3
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    Thanks for the information. Since my post I have visited multiple shops in the area and they unanimously say that a FB would not be good for my intended use. That I never see any FB where I ride seems to support that. The advice is unanimous that I focus on a 29er, either FS or hardtail.

    I'm hearing all that but, I'm also stubborn and hope that I can find a way to demo a FB and see for myself.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by tm3 View Post
    Thanks for the information. Since my post I have visited multiple shops in the area and they unanimously say that a FB would not be good for my intended use. That I never see any FB where I ride seems to support that. The advice is unanimous that I focus on a 29er, either FS or hardtail.

    I'm hearing all that but, I'm also stubborn and hope that I can find a way to demo a FB and see for myself.
    Fatbikes are not as efficient on trails. Does that really matter to you?
    If you are trying to avoid suspension, find a shop that will let you try a fatbike. you should also try a couple of plus sized bikes. I have a Krampus 29+ rigid bike that I love on trails. I would like to put a suspension fork on it eventually but I have been riding it rigid for over 2 years. Tire pressure is critical for both plus bikes and fat bikes and I have found bike shops are notorious for just pumping them up hard and calling it good!!!I am 190# and I ride 10&12psi on Krampus and 6-7 psi on Mukluk for riding trails. Tires are set up tubeless so another I-2psi is o.k with tubes to avoid pinch flats.
    With suspension forks you might need a little more as speeds will be faster.
    Find a bike that you love, Don't settle for what is right for the guys at the bike shop. I am 65 and don't ride the same as I did 30 years ago, I do have a full suspension bike and that is the right tool for some rides, but so is my singlespeed or my Krampus or my fatty. Try different options and pick what is right for you. YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT HOW GOOD BIKES HAVE GOTTEN in the last 25 years.

  15. #15
    tm3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mactweek View Post
    Fatbikes are not as efficient on trails. Does that really matter to you?
    If you are trying to avoid suspension, find a shop that will let you try a fatbike. you should also try a couple of plus sized bikes. I have a Krampus 29+ rigid bike that I love on trails. I would like to put a suspension fork on it eventually but I have been riding it rigid for over 2 years. Tire pressure is critical for both plus bikes and fat bikes and I have found bike shops are notorious for just pumping them up hard and calling it good!!!I am 190# and I ride 10&12psi on Krampus and 6-7 psi on Mukluk for riding trails. Tires are set up tubeless so another I-2psi is o.k with tubes to avoid pinch flats.
    With suspension forks you might need a little more as speeds will be faster.
    Find a bike that you love, Don't settle for what is right for the guys at the bike shop. I am 65 and don't ride the same as I did 30 years ago, I do have a full suspension bike and that is the right tool for some rides, but so is my singlespeed or my Krampus or my fatty. Try different options and pick what is right for you. YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT HOW GOOD BIKES HAVE GOTTEN in the last 25 years.
    If by efficient you mean maintaining speed with the same effort, no, this does not matter as I am not trying to keep up with a group I'm usually riding by myself. I watched a youtube that compared a FB to a FS 29er over the same timed course. On the 7 minute uphill section, the FB was only 16 seconds slower (same rider).

    My current bike has a Softride sus stem with maybe 1" of travel. I find that to be enough, and while I can feel a difference with rear sus it is not a huge one vs my hardtail. So, if a FB could give me the equivalent sus of my current stem, and if I didn't find the handling objectionable, I would go the full rigid FB route to avoid fooling with sus altogether.

    I got to try a 27.5+ last weekend but the shop over inflated the tires so I did not learn much. Nobody seems to have a FB demo or rental so it is a challenge trying to get out on one.

  16. #16
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    Hmm.... I ride on some trails around here that are mostly hardpack with some sand and mud during the summer and lots of snow during the winter. Can you ride them with skinnier tires? You bet. I've been on rides where a couple of guys were riding cross bikes. Can they go faster than me? You bet. But going fast isn't why I got the fat bike. I'm not racing, I'm touring. I enjoy how smoothly I ride over every obstacle, not how fast I get there -- that's for the road.

    Find a place or person that will let you test ride one and see if it's what you want or not.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reverborama View Post
    Hmm.... I ride on some trails around here that are mostly hardpack with some sand and mud during the summer and lots of snow during the winter. Can you ride them with skinnier tires? You bet. I've been on rides where a couple of guys were riding cross bikes. Can they go faster than me? You bet. But going fast isn't why I got the fat bike. I'm not racing, I'm touring. I enjoy how smoothly I ride over every obstacle, not how fast I get there -- that's for the road.

    Find a place or person that will let you test ride one and see if it's what you want or not.
    Yeah, what he said. I am mid 60's and have known for decades that no-one else can know what I need or want. All the shops in the Minneapolis area let you try out fatbikes. I think you need another shop if none of yours are letting you test drive. Kind of like when you go to Best Buy looking for a computer. If the sales person is a computer nerd (like me) he will try to get you to buy the fastest, biggest and most powerful computer - When all you need is the slowest one made since you only do email. I don't think I could ever get by with less than 3 bikes: Fatbike, Specialized 2", and electric. And, yeah again. It is unbelievable how much better bikes are now than 30 years ago, even 10 years ago.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ttakata73 View Post
    I'm 43 but abused my body crashing snowboarding and being tossed from motorcycle dirt biking. I also am a big fan of city riding with a fatbike where the crappy roads are no longer an obstacle. Now I only have to worry about cars when riding.
    You and everyone else...you think it's bad now, just give it another decade, it just hurts more and gets harder every year you get older

    I used to laugh at commercials about old football players leaning against a wall to get their socks on, then I found myself doing it...yup, I got old.

    Don't discount suspension, it improves ride quality and traction, allowing you to sit and pedal over small obstacles. Even a suspension fork is a significant improvement.

  19. #19
    tm3
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    Thanks for the additional input. Still have not found a FB to try out, but am going to demo a 27.5+ and a 29+ back to back next week.

    If I become convinced that a wide tire on the front (either the 27.5+, 29+, or fat) would be enough to take out the "trail chatter" (say, at least 1" suspension equivalent) on the front without any significant drawbacks then I will buy a rigid and be very pleased.

  20. #20
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    I'm 66 and can completely empathize with these concepts. I've been biking a long time, mostly road bike. We have some fantastic MTB trails, but they just aren 't fun anymore - too much work to really enjoy, too much risk on my hardcore Trek MTB at the speeds I always needed to have fun. My Fatboy...that lets me cruise those trails, and with less risk. Plus our rec area includes 40 miles of winter-groomed fat bike trails. As a nod to my poor old arthritic wrists, I just put a Bluto on my Fatboy. Jeez...that makes it a whole new world. In 40 years of biking, I can't remember an upgrade that has this big an impact on my enjoyment of a bike. And just in time too...right when I need it the most.

  21. #21
    Rippin da fAt
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    Here is my 2 cents on the fatbike...

    1. NO!! It is not more difficult to pedal.
    2. Yes, they get piss poor fuel economy.
    3. They reduce a fella to a giggly lil 10 year old and life's issues are far from mind while riding em.
    4. Can you say Jeep?? Cause they are the Jeep of the bicycle world. Yup, mhmm, they are, indeed!!
    5. My Mayor has been a godsend in many ways, including the prescription provided by my cardiologist.

    After suffering a massive heart attack and heart surgery 3 years ago, the fatbike has been instrumental in recovery. One year later and there is little to no scar tissue to speak of. Results in followups have been met with improvement in a huge way.

    That aside, riding in the Colorado high country on the snowmobile trails that I am involved with the maintenance of is a blast. Global Fatbike Day is a highly enjoyable time out there with BBQ etc. going on in the midst of zany fatbike follies. Doesn't get better than that!

    Year round for the Mayor along with the Sergeant and now the Wildcat are on the prowl routinely. Just cause 3 RSD's are better than 1...

    The best part of fatbking... Smiles per mile factor is at the highest on the meter when a fatty is involved...
    Get fAt, Stay fAt, Ride fAt
    Doctor recommended...

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tm3 View Post
    Thanks for the additional input. Still have not found a FB to try out, but am going to demo a 27.5+ and a 29+ back to back next week.

    If I become convinced that a wide tire on the front (either the 27.5+, 29+, or fat) would be enough to take out the "trail chatter" (say, at least 1" suspension equivalent) on the front without any significant drawbacks then I will buy a rigid and be very pleased.
    Exactly what I thought when I bought my Fatboy without the Bluto. And it was true....it did take out a lot of the chatter, provided a HUGE increase in traction, and was easy to pedal. It was a blast to ride on the fire roads and mining roads around here. But when I actually took it on some of the "yellow", more technical MTB trails in the actual rec area, I found that I wanted more. Adding the Bluto made a huge difference in comfort and controllability. I stay off the double black diamonds these days, but cruising those technical trails with that kind of traction and low speed handling is truly a blast.

  23. #23
    Rippin da fAt
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    Quote Originally Posted by tm3 View Post
    Thanks for the additional input. Still have not found a FB to try out, but am going to demo a 27.5+ and a 29+ back to back next week.

    If I become convinced that a wide tire on the front (either the 27.5+, 29+, or fat) would be enough to take out the "trail chatter" (say, at least 1" suspension equivalent) on the front without any significant drawbacks then I will buy a rigid and be very pleased.
    Might not get the 1" in front, but do try some fabikes and see how they feel. You can always let some air out if they aired up rock solid...
    Get fAt, Stay fAt, Ride fAt
    Doctor recommended...

  24. #24
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    3 yrs Fatboy with bluto and i ride it on the road, trail and sand every chance i get.
    I get the occasional " why did you bring a tank to the ride " comment. I tell them, more smiles per mile, now move aside before i run you over with my fat tires .

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    I'm sixty-one and without a mountain bike for the first time since 1983. Sold my cyclocross bike when I fell off that in traffic last year. I make do with two fatties. One is a singlespeed I leave in California for the beach, the other is a Specialized 1x10. I ride 4 inch tires in the summer and 4.6s in the winter. All I need besides my beater bike for getting beer. Thinking about a Mastadon for the Specialized, but given how slow I am now, I'm not sure I'd need it.

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