With their growing popularity, there are now a number of choices for fat bike frames to be had. There is the quintessential Surly Pugsley and its cousin the Salsa Mukluk as well as other two popular choices, Speedway Cycles’ Fatback and Chain Reaction Cycles’ 907. Of course, there are several custom builders out there to satisfy your needs as well. One you don’t hear too much about (yet!) is the Schlick Cycles Northpaw (http://schlickcycles.com/bikes/northpaw/). Schlick Cycles is a small company on the north side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin who specialize in building bikes with thoughtful design. My wife (working with a close friend) had my Northpaw built up as a surprise 1st Father’s Day gift at this year’s GnomeFest. Greg at Schlick went above and beyond to make sure this was a special build and left no detail unattended to. Most notable is its murdered out black on black on blackity goodness
As with all custom frames, the attention to detail is what you’re paying for. The Northpaw utilizes a custom mix of True Temper Verus HT and OX Platinum tubes and the welds are a thing of beauty. The frames are made in theUSAby well-respected frame builder Tom Teesdale. Other highlights include Paragon Machine Works sliding dropouts and 1.5” headtube (which allows the user to install an adjustable headset, like Cane Creek’s AngleSet, to further tweek the ride), wrap-around seat stays (awesome!), and a segmented fork. The frame utilizes a 135mm rear hub with a 17mm offset and runs a 135mm hub in the front. And for those that want to go even fatter, while a tight fit, there is room in the back (on 80mm rims) and ample room in the front for Surly’s new Big Fat Larry. The beautifully segmented fork tapers to bladed ends with forward facing dropouts and gives just enough flex without being noodley. The frame has rack eyelets integrated into the fork as well as seat stays lending to very clean lines.
All those specs are great but the real test comes down to the ride, which in a word is outstanding. In the time that I have spent on my Northpaw I haven’t found myself yearning to be back on skinnier tires. Most of the time I don’t even feel I’m on a fat bike except for the cushy ride of 4” tires rolling at 8-10 PSI. With ample time on dirt and gravel, as well as a jaunt into beach riding, the Northpaw has handled it all. The tube set, geometry, and of course, the fat tires, make for a great ride. Handling is on the snappier side due to a slightly more fork rake than is commonly found on other fat bikes resulting in less trail. (One of the benefits of a custom ride is that the builder is not constrained to commonly available forks that are built around suspension fork geometries). This was done to make the Northpaw more of an all around fat bike instead of biasing it towards sand/snow. Several Pugsley owners have taken it for a spin and all commented on the welcome change in handling on singletrack. Of course, with the 1.5” headtube and an adjustable headset, the Northpaw’s steering can be slacked up a bit for the powdery white stuff.
My Northpaw specs are as follows . . .
Frame – size “large”, powder coated flat black with blacked out logo (stealth, reflective white)
Wheels – Surly Drilled Rolling Darryl’s laced to a Shimano Alfine 11 speed (22t) in the rear and Surly New hub in the front
Tires – Surly Larry front and rear
Cranks – The Hive e*thirteen (32T)
Brakes – Avid BB7 calipers and levers
Cockpit – Ritchey PRO bars, stem, and post