Folks, we are pre-empting our normal Wallpaper Wednesday to bring you this special report. Wallpaper Wednesday will resume next week at it’s regular time.
On with the story!
Colorado Springs is the home of Borealis Bikes and also the home of our bud Sevo who had a chance to take a pre-production Borealis Fat-bike out on a shakedown cruise on the Colorado trails new home base. Here is his report:
Written by Sevo!
For years steel was the only real option for a fat-bike. Then Salsa, 9:Zero:7, and a host of others brought out beautiful aluminum bikes (My first rig was aluminum, loved it). The progression to carbon is not unique to Borealis as we all know, Salsa showed off their prototype…..show off is probably not the right phrase, a very controlled sneak peak at best. However, that was all it took to get the wheels turning in the industry.
Enter Borealis Bikes
While not first to the scene to unveil a production carbon bike, it looks like Borealis will be the first to deliver with their first shipment of framesets scheduled to land in Mid-August while Salsa has neither confirmed nor denied when theirs will land. Lucky for me, living in the same town Borealis calls home, I’ve gotten a chance to get out on not just a prototype, but a pre-production bike and I have to admit, weight was my initial only excitement to try this rig out. But I’d soon learn weight savings was not the only incentive to pedal a carbon fat bike.
First off, Borealis Bikes is a new player to the fat-bike market but Adam Miller, co-founder, is not new to fat bikes. Growing up in Alaska and having worked with another notable and impressive brand for a few years, he proved to be a quick learner. Combined with a business partner a few years his senior with multiple start up experiences under his belt allowed them to skip the normal learning curves and move straight into production. Adam pulled off the design, made a trip to China, and had tests done all in under 6 months. The results are impressive.
Basic details are simple. Like many newer fat-bike brands, Borealis choose to go with a more traditional mountain bike feel vs the briefly touted “fat bike” geometry. Top tube is slung low, but not so low or curved weird to prevent the use of a frame bag. The rear end sports rack mounts. Chain stays and seat stays, flattened to aid bump absorption (my Salsa Chili Con Crosso has this as well…love it). Per industry standards these days, it’s set to run a tapered fork (theirs in particular and worth it). They do incorporate the new 190mm hub standard in the rear and the frame/fork cleared the 4.7” BFL’s mounted to 100mm Surly Clown shoe rims rather well with plenty of room.
Yet, I was happy to see that Borealis did not adopt one of the many press fit BB standards. No need to buy new tools or make a run to your LBS to get your bottom bracket in….Borealis is threaded for standard BB’s. Great considering the harsh conditions many fat bikes are used in can affect BB life. I prefer the idea of picking up a standard set of external cups or being able to run a Chris King BB vs special order bearings needing special tools. So fear not, your standard external cup bearing tool gets to stay in your toolbox at least one more season. A standard QR is used in the rear, and while armchair internet engineers may cry for a thru axle, it’s unwarranted on a hardtail….and the reason you do see it is because for race teams having only one rear wheel standard that works on both the hardtails and suspension bikes made sense. Otherwise it’s more marketing than need. Front however does utilize a 15mm thru axle, which helps get the fork weight down and allow a tuning of flex while keeping steering precision true.
Ride wise is pretty much what you would expect from a proper carbon bike. Just like a carbon road or MTB, it has that special snappy feeling a big old carbon reinforced bottom bracket shell delivers. On climbs I felt like I was on a fine road bike when I got up on the pedals, with the signature fat bike tire buzz reminding me I was not. Steering just felt a bit more precise than other rigs I’ve ridden, which I feel is more the geometry but sure the added stiffness of carbon deserves a wee bit of credit as well.
One thing I did question, even though I’ve liked it on my cross bike, was the flattened stays. Aesthetically, they do look rather pleasing and in your heart you know the purpose. But would it really matter on a bike with 4.7” wide tires? As I’ve stated in the past I haven’t felt even 3”-4” of rear suspension is warranted. So could flatted chainstays matter? Answer turns out to be a big old yes. While I wouldn’t say it’s like driving a Caddy, it did take the edge off some of the rougher Colorado trails I took it on and a worthwhile addition
It’s a tough bike to beat. Price is a competitive $2249 frame/fork. Weight is about 1250 grams for a medium frame) and 575 grams for an uncut fork, making it one of the lightest platforms out there, yet still has versatility with rack mounts molded in and room for a frame bag. Frame/fork have been tested to exceed industry spec, so no worries to be had.
If you’d like to see some of the Wallpaper Wednesday posts from the past – Check this out – Wallpaper Wednesday Gallery
About the writer: Sevo started riding/racing in ’89 and started selling bikes at the age of 16. Raced in the Midwest for 10 years for Adventure Cycle/TREK as well as Decorah Bikes/KHS. Owned a regional cycling publication in Colorado. Published in Mountain Flyer. Did Sales/R&D/wheel building at LEW Composites. Tested products quietly for many. Worked for Minoura at shows and raced snow races before their were fat bikes.