12 months, 1200+ miles later: the Framed Mini-Sota 2.0- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Good job! 12 months, 1200+ miles later: the Framed Mini-Sota 2.0

    A little over a year ago I jumped ship from my 700C Specialized Work commuter to get a fatbike as a "winter" bike. Taking delivery of my Framed Mini-sota in mid-December 2014 I quickly realized it would be an "all-season" bike. I've put quite a few miles on in wet, dry, snowy, sandy and underwater terrain. Here's my take.

    If you read nothing else in this thread, read the first three points, so we can avoid useless questions later on.


    Use:
    I use this bike for everyday commuting, freeriding (through the woods), 'other' recreational riding and cargo hauling, in that order. I don't own an everyday car, so I use this bike for the vast majority of personal transport.

    Price:
    $600 plus accessories like racks, from the LBS. I am aware that this bike is built to a price, and went into it realizing that if I liked it, I'd be replacing most components with quality stuff. I'll go more in depth with upgrades and wear items later on.

    Fit:
    I am a 62" tall 20-something, and I am not going to be growing any taller. After riding my 26" hardtail on trails and 700C commuter on the street, I didn't want to go down the route of a 26" fatbike with its geometry compromises.

    The bike fits great, though. I could see it working fairly well with someone a few inches shorter, and possibly an inch, maybe two taller.


    Taking delivery

    Handling:
    The wheelbase is shorter than the smallest Pugsley but it does look long because of the wheels. It's not particularly lively, but is stable in the snow and off road. I've taken it on single track only once since I went tubeless and it was pretty fun. YMMV. I don't have much riding experience with other mountain bikes, though, so it's hard to compare it.

    Saddle, Pedals, Handlebar & Grips:
    As with any bike, you'll want to replace the pedals with something better and a saddle to suit you while donating the "old" parts to your LBS or friend. I got a used saddle from a friend and threw on Shimano Saint pedals which have given me zero issues.

    The grips actually gripped pretty well in all weather, but after a year they are worn all the way down to the plastic. Completely toast. I have a Jones loop bar to put on soon for wrist comfort, and am looking at grip options.

    Frame:
    The only available size is 13", which means the top tube and seat stay are essentially a straight line in side view. A 27oz Klean Kanteen will not fit in the bottle cage, so I had to buy a smaller bottle. There is little room for a frame bag, but I'm planning on sewing one soon anyway to store my tools and chain lock.

    There are zero rack mounts and two inexplicable front fender mounts. I have fenders on all of my bikes because rain happens. In the fatbike's case, rain, snow, slush, mud and goose poop happen. I built fenders out of coroplast with a couple bent steel rods stuck in it to hold the shape.

    The bike unfortunately has vertical dropouts. This did not stop me from going 1x1 with a bit of filing, but of course adjustable dropouts would have been much, much preferable.

    The rear triangle looks like it would fit a 5" wide tire, should one become available. The fork, though wide, is a bit tight on the top. You can rest assured that I'll be grabbing the first 5"ers available to try out.


    Getting started

    Note: I have been trying to mount a chain guard onto this for months, and finally may get it to work via an ISCG tab and plastic kid bike chainguard. I know very few people want this, but it'd be nice to have some kind of mounting provisions.

    Racks:
    Since it has no rack mounts, I needed to drop $150 for each of my Old Man Mountain racks. Fortunately they are quality US-made units that have served me well. Panniers are not an issue. The racks helped me mount full coverage DIY coroplast fenders.

    Towing
    :
    When you need to haul stuff around, a trailer becomes very useful. I use InStep trailer hitches. At first it needed to be clamped into the QR, but later I built a bracket that mounts to the brake mounts.


    Putting it to use

    Hubs, Rims & Tires:
    The stock Quando hubs are low quality, but they work alright. External-cam QR levers are guaranteed to become crusty pretty quickly. I threw on a Surly Ultra-New Front Hub and a Rohloff (see: Drivetrain).

    The 80mm aluminum rims are horrible. They are in no way tubeless compatible- don't even think about it. When you air the tires down, they drop the bead seat like third period French. This, as you may know, tends to chew the beads up, let dirt and water into the casing and cause sloppy handling as well as rim strikes.

    And don't get me started on the stupidity of using Presta valves on an 80mm wide rim. I swapped to Schraders at the first tube change.


    Finding the limits

    I swapped to Nextie tubeless carbon rims as soon as they hit the market and have not looked back. HED has introduced aluminum tubeless rims now, so they should be a little less expensive.

    The Chao Yang tires, though low quality, have pretty decent grip. With the bead seat issue I didn't get to test their full potential, but they are not a bad place to start. I wore them out after perhaps 1000 miles, mostly pavement, and replaced them with Ground Controls which are awesome.


    New vs. Old


    Drivetrain:
    It comes with a SRAM X5 9-speed rear derailleur with a twist shifter. This worked well enough for a while, but ended up getting horribly gunked up. I don't clean my bike- just lube and adjust. So after riding a beach (some of it completely submerged), the shifter cable was replaced. The shifter got sand-water in it, seized, then moved sloppily and never fully recovered.

    I think I could replant a prairie with all the reeds, grass, sticks and detritus that collected in that low-hanging derailleur.


    Feeding the drivetrain some healthy whole grains

    When swapping to Nextie rims I went with a Rohloff 170mm 14-speed internal gear hub. The Rohloff was not particularly easy to set up, but I have been riding it for about two months now with no real issues. The biggest everyday change would be that I can no longer jam it through gears under power (not that this was a habit)- it wants to be driven like an old Mack truck. Steadily and deliberately. Off road, it's such a great benefit to be able to come up to an obstacle, track stand for a moment while shifting down three gears, and proceed as planned. On top of this all, I can use a cheap 50-foot roll of single speed chain, the only things to adjust are the shifter cables, and there is nothing hanging below the axle line!

    For reference, I am running a stock 32-T chainring with the included 16-T cog on the Rohloff.


    Ahhhhh... better.

    Bottom Bracket and Crankset:
    Make SURE you pull the cranks off and grease the spindles after purchase, or you will have a much harder time pulling them off in the future due to galvanic corrosion. I did this half a year in, and am glad it didn't get any worse. Otherwise the cranks have presented no problems, aside from perhaps being a bit long at 165mm.

    Probably partly because of the submarine action, my bottom bracket was toast. A friend actually showed me how to rebuild it last night with new bearings and cups, and it's good to go again. Replacement bearings are $4 a piece and you'll need a gear puller.

    Brakes:
    The stock Avid BB5's with 160mm rotors work well, but I swapped to a front BB7 with a 185mm roundagon for the hell of it, and no longer run a rear brake because Rohloff (and rear brakes are unnecessary).


    Pugsley, left. Mini-Sota, right

    Overall durability:

    Because of "normal" wear (I mean it is a fatbike after all), I have in the past year replaced the chain, shifter cable, derailleur, shifter, pedals, bottom bracket, grips and tires with parts that will hopefully last much longer. It doesn't come with top of the line components, and you should expect to upgrade as things wear out.

    Overall Impression:
    This bike is built to a low price, so Framed is saving money where they can. If you're buying this bike for a kid your outlook will be different, but if you're looking to keep it for a few years be aware that you're going to want to build up a new wheelset and drivetrain at the very least, just to make the bike more enjoyable to use.

    It's served me well for the past year, but if another frame came onto the market tomorrow with a higher top tube, adjustable dropouts and a few more bosses, I'd be looking at a frame swap in short order. (SURLY ARE YOU LISTENING?) The Mini-Sota is great as an entry-level, complete 24" bike. You can pay more for a Baby Fatty, but you'll still be stuck with SRAM X5 and crappy rims.

    Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes! For your money it's the best 24" fatbike on the market right now.
    Last edited by Sven7; 01-05-2016 at 09:00 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas
    Pedal-powered tractor!

  2. #2
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    I don't have any interest in this, but I read it all anyway because it was a phenomenal write up!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tfinator View Post
    I don't have any interest in this, but I read it all anyway because it was a phenomenal write up!
    Ditto, excellent write-up.

  4. #4
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    I really wish more companies would get on board with 24Fat.

    I'd like a fat bike with 4.5-5" wide tires, but really don't want 31" tall tires.

    24" x 5" (in theory) sounds awesome
    I like 'em long, low, slack and playful

  5. #5
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    Great, detailed review! I purchased a Blackborow for my wife last year but was strongly considering a Framed Minnesota. We got the BB because I felt long term the stock components would outlast those on the Framed. You have made a lot of very tasteful and sensible upgrades!!!

  6. #6
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    Excellent write up and love the utilitarian perspective.

    But, someone's got to say it. What's with the 5' long rear fender?
    "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

    16' Trek 8.4 DS
    16' Farley 7
    and I'm OK admitting..
    16' Sturgis

    Minneapolis MN

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff_G View Post
    But, someone's got to say it. What's with the 5' long rear fender?
    If you can't angle the fender down to follow the tire profile it has to be a lot longer to block the thrown up spray. Notice that the fender he uses with a rear OMM rack is much shorter.
    Last edited by vikb; 01-05-2016 at 12:12 PM.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  8. #8
    mamadirt
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    Excellent review - thanks for posting. Good to see a real world perspective on the use of a 24"er

    On-One Fun Fatty on its way for me (I'm based in the UK) but I had also considered the Mini. Now . . . where can I get some snow?
    Welcome to the Hotel California . . .

  9. #9
    aka bOb
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    Quote Originally Posted by 06HokieMTB View Post
    I really wish more companies would get on board with 24Fat.

    I'd like a fat bike with 4.5-5" wide tires, but really don't want 31" tall tires.

    24" x 5" (in theory) sounds awesome
    I agree.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 06HokieMTB View Post
    I really wish more companies would get on board with 24Fat.

    I'd like a fat bike with 4.5-5" wide tires, but really don't want 31" tall tires.

    24" x 5" (in theory) sounds awesome
    I'm with you. I'm surprised how much this will go through, too, considering diameter is more important for contact patch than width. But if you can't fit on the bike in the first place it won't go through anything!

    Quote Originally Posted by mohrgan View Post
    Great, detailed review! I purchased a Blackborow for my wife last year but was strongly considering a Framed Minnesota. We got the BB because I felt long term the stock components would outlast those on the Framed. You have made a lot of very tasteful and sensible upgrades!!!
    Probably a good call if you've got the cash. I would have loved to have some more options, but in December 2014 it was (iirc) just the Baby Fatty and Mini-Sota. And, thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff_G View Post
    Excellent write up and love the utilitarian perspective.

    But, someone's got to say it. What's with the 5' long rear fender?

    As vikb said, You've got to cover the vertical tangent off the rear tire to ensure your back is going to stay clean, and I wanted a fender without stays. Once I got the rear rack on, I could constrain the fender. The racks really enabled my fender setup.

    Edit: here's a recent side photo where you can see the fender. ignore the yellow thing


    Quote Originally Posted by mamadirt View Post
    Excellent review - thanks for posting. Good to see a real world perspective on the use of a 24"er

    On-One Fun Fatty on its way for me (I'm based in the UK) but I had also considered the Mini. Now . . . where can I get some snow?
    My pleasure! The Baby/Fun Fatty has a pretty cool frame that looks ready for a wide frame bag! I just couldn't pull the trigger on the $1300 it cost a year ago!

    If you find some snow, tell me where you got it. The stuff in my last photo was gone within the week.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas
    Pedal-powered tractor!

  11. #11
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    I missed the point of this entirely. (24 vs 26)

    What advantage does a bike with 24" x 5" rim/tire combo have over my 26" x 4.8" set up?
    "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

    16' Trek 8.4 DS
    16' Farley 7
    and I'm OK admitting..
    16' Sturgis

    Minneapolis MN

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff_G View Post
    I missed the point of this entirely. (24 vs 26)

    What advantage does a bike with 24" x 5" rim/tire combo have over my 26" x 4.8" set up?
    I'm 5' 2" tall and I want to be able to see over the handlebars
    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas
    Pedal-powered tractor!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff_G View Post
    I missed the point of this entirely. (24 vs 26)

    What advantage does a bike with 24" x 5" rim/tire combo have over my 26" x 4.8" set up?
    Some of us don't like the height of 26x 4.8 kinda like the 27.5 vs 29er debate.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff_G View Post
    I missed the point of this entirely. (24 vs 26)

    What advantage does a bike with 24" x 5" rim/tire combo have over my 26" x 4.8" set up?
    It fits people of smaller stature!

  15. #15
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    Got it. Thanks.
    "At least I'm enjoying the ride"

    16' Trek 8.4 DS
    16' Farley 7
    and I'm OK admitting..
    16' Sturgis

    Minneapolis MN

  16. #16
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    Nice thoughtful post, pictures, critical thinking, unique bike.

    I do have some questions and comments I don't believe were covered.
    -weight as currently decked out, about 40?
    -no rear brake? Don't the heavy loads (trailer) require or do you keep ground speed low on mostly flat terrain?
    -bottle cage...I've hunted around for cages that position the "holster" lower in relation to the frame bosses so that a taller bottle can fit, or just allowing for easier access before bumping the TT. Sure you could band clamp a cage lower on the down tube, if that's your thing. Some cages have more material along the spine that you can re-drill yourself, lowering the whole operation. This blackburn for instance:

    or https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...549&category=2
    https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...619&category=2 (I've used this one)
    https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...496&category=2 (lots of material here)
    https://www.universalcycles.com/shop...egory=2(velcro option)
    -do you get many flats, or is that guy with the e-fatbike commuter on Bud/Lou's that much of an anomaly?
    -PSI? most people complain about fat tires on dry pavement.

  17. #17
    drev-il, not Dr. Evil!
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    Awesome writeup!

    To add to bme's comment about cages, King Cage makes custom cages that you can move the holes up (effectively moving the cage down) or vice versa. I'm not sure of the upcharge, but I don't remember it being much more: King Cage - Bicycle waterbottle cages handmade in Durango, CO

    I've had a couple of their standard titanium cages that I use on every ride, and they are only showing signs of wear after 7+ years of use
    "Keep your burgers lean and your tires fat." -h.d. | ssoft | flickr

  18. #18
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    Around 40, yes.

    The rear brake really doesn't do anything. For about a week I had only a rear brake and almost ran into a Grand Prix that right hooked me. When you brake, your body wants to pivot over the front wheel's contact patch, which reduces traction in the rear and renders the rear brake almost useless. It's the same reason you don't see a lot of FWD drag cars.

    With the drag of two 16" wheels behind me, plus the fat 24" tires, I don't get going very fast with a loaded trailer. It's kind of beautiful, actually. More weight on the trailer means slower cruising speed which means less braking power is needed.

    The 27oz Kanteen is basically just too big for the frame triangle. I'm planning on mounting dual king kages behind my seat tube, basically on top of the fender- this may require some machining of custom seat tube mounts and a beefy bracket. My small 18oz should mount vertically to the front of the seat tube.

    Essentially, the water can't be mounted inside the frame triangle after I make a frame bag, so I'm looking to move the bottles elsewhere.

    I've gotten one pinch flat with the stock rims because I was an idiot and didn't bunny hop onto a curb at 10mph. That's all I've had. I don't understand all these "flats" everywhere. I have been riding over a broken liquor bottle on the sidewalk for a week and barely even notice it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas
    Pedal-powered tractor!

  19. #19
    mamadirt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sven7 View Post
    If you find some snow, tell me where you got it. The stuff in my last photo was gone within the week.
    May have to consider swapping my V Missions for a set of paddles - UK weather sucks at the mo'
    Welcome to the Hotel California . . .

  20. #20
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    Great write up.
    Still cleaning my Fatback.
    It's a life style.

  21. #21
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    Great write up. I have this bike for over a year for my kids to share. Still size is fine and they have other trail bikes so not getting much use. Good tip on the BB, will have to grease it up. Any tips on lighter tubes?

  22. #22
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    Nice job, on my muni I did the same tire swap and much prefer the Specialized tire.

    You can get better rims, but tubeless will remain challenging if you try to put what is essentialy a 3.5" tire on a 80mm rim. I got the original Chang tires to go up tubelss on a 50mm rim, but they're folding bead. The Spec tires are wire bead and they have been impossible to get seated.

    I wish there was a quality 24 x 4" tire, like the Spec GC but folding bead. Back when Spec first molded the 24 x 4" GC, there was a folding version advertised, but it was not released.

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