Written and photographed by Aaron Hautala
Winter fat biking came to Cuyuna Lakes, Minnesota during the fall of 2011. The first year, a wide cross-country, groomed fat bike trail, 6 miles in length was introduced within the Sagamore Unit. Due to the success of that first year, in the fall of 2012, Cuyuna was able to open an entire unit of purpose-built single-track trails for winter fat biking. The Yawkey Unit, home to a downhill flow trail named Bob Sled. A perfect trail for winter fat bike ripping-and-rolling. Needless to say, experiencing nearly 10-miles of the Yawkey Unit’s snowshoe-groomed single-track fat bike trails was a game changer for me personally. Back in fall of 2011, I entered the world of fat biking aboard a Surly Moonlander. At the time, the thought of having the largest tires in the galaxy was all I needed. Moonie rocked, Moonie rolled. I loved that bike. However, after riding the snowshoe-groomed single-track, I was decided to look for a fat bike that was built to take full advantage of groomed single-track versus back-country slugfests.
Fast forward to July of 2013.
There it was.
Trek’s new fat bike, the Farley. Only low-resolution photos of the bike were available online, but the frame design and the fork, which looked like it was designed for the frame, (what a concept!) thrilled me.
In conversation with Trek’s mountain bike product manager David Knauf, the Farley’s frame geometry was intentional, and for a desired purpose. “Trek has racing roots,” said Knauf in our recent conversation, “and when considering the Farley, we wanted to build a fat bike that offered fully-equipped race geometry with the ability to be versatile.” I also learned that Trek modeled the Farley after the 2014 Superfly, Trek’s well-known cross-country race mountain bike. Not bad, I thought, that sounds fa(s)t.
While seemingly overnight the fat bike industry evolved to 4.8-inch tires, Trek did not. And Knauf from Trek explained the purpose behind this decision. “As the Farley was engineered to provide a race-like experience, Trek designed the bike to harness the width of the 3.8-inch or 4.0-inch fat-bike tire. This was for increased speed, and to minimize rolling resistance on groomed fat bike trails.”
Chainstay, headtube, and fork-offset, Oh My!
The Farley chainstay length is short, 440mm to be exact. What does this provide? Nimble, float-like-a-butterfly, sting-like-a-bee handling. In regard to the headtube, I was excited to learn that the bottom of the headtube matched the fork. Far too many fat bikes have forks that look like they have nothing to do with the design of the headtube. By far, the fork was the heaviest part of the Farley. There certainly could be, and eventually should be weight-reduction modifications here. However, weight-reduction equals price-increase, and Trek did their best to keep the Farley priced reasonable to the industry and the built kit. In talking about the suspension-corrected fork, Trek did say the future is vibrant. More importantly though, Knauf mentioned if someone were to purchase an after-market rigid fork and install it on the Farley, the bike’s geometry would be thrown off-kilter. Meaning, a different fork could reduce Farley’s hot-knife-in-butter handling.
Arc de Triomphe.
It was also nice to hear from Trek that the fork’s secondary arch was designed for stiffness. When considering rock-and-roll fat biking on snow-groomed gravity trails, the added strength is a nice perk. At some point in Cuyuna I hope we feature a fat bike half pipe, and a moguls-and-jumps course. The added strength of the secondary arch would be conducive if that day eventually comes.
World of Wheels.
When it came to Farley’s wheels, it was a no-brainer. Call Pete Hamer at Freewheel Bike in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I mentioned to Pete what I was looking for handling in this bike (Rock-and-Roll – Grip-it-and-Rip-it) and immediately the build list was created. We chose Hadley–Made in the USA-Fatback hubs, as Pete has received good long-term reviews on them. At the same time, Pete has witnessed a good number of other hubs on the market under producing in comparative levels of excellence. We also chose Rolling Darryl wheels to allow a wider tire footprint combined with DT Swiss Competition spokes, for once again, the added strength they provide.
Selecting Farley’s tires was difficult. Surly Nate or 45NRTH Dillinger, studded? Nate works wonders in Cuyuna. Over the past two years, Nate has been the tire of choice for the majority of our local riders. Its aggressive tread allows it to climb our steeper hills in the winter. However, my gut told me this year, with the introduction of increased mechanical grooming, and increased ridership, ice could be a larger concern than in the past. I ran these questions by 45NRTH brand manager, David Gabrys. Gabrys assured me that the middle paddle on the 45NRTH Dillinger tire would provide needed climbing ability, while the wide spacing between tread pattern allows the tire to shed snow. This keeps the tread in constant contact with the trail for additional grip. The studs were my insurance policy. Less expensive than AFLAC? Who knows. Will it work? We’ll find out.
The decision was made to bring in the RaceFace Next SL crank. To be candid, this product wasn’t selected exclusively for its lightweight features. Mostly I enjoyed this crank set’s stable of front chain rings. 26 teeth. 28 teeth. 30. And up. This allows for quick change-out via the Cinch and Spiderless direct-mount system. For me, the added flexibility drove home added value when considering riding Farley year round.
Stop. Go . . .
Shimano XTR delivers the brakes and rear shifter, plus 10-ring cassette/rear derailleur (11-36T). We installed this line of brake components on my first fat bike, the Moonlander, and after doing so, it’s hard for me to go any other way. A good number of folks have questioned if mineral oil in these brakes is the right move in winter. To date, I haven’t had any issues. I know our friends at Freewheel Bike recommend Pentosin CH7.1 cold weather cycling, I just haven’t had a chance, or need, to swap it out. Then again, when it’s colder than -20 F, I’m generally not riding, either.
What’s with the color?
Powder blue? It was fun to hear the online blog-o-sphere reaction to the powder blue frame set when it was first introduced. To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to it as well. However, when I envisioned the bike in a natural surrounding of white, that sealed the deal. The powder blue combined with white and red, mimics my favorite winter scene of red ice houses out on Lake Mille Lacs during the winter. Blue sky, red ice houses, white snow. That’s Minnesota magic.
“My, that’s a lot of carbon on that bike, why didn’t you just buy a carbon bike frame too?” So folks have commented.
My answer: I hope to. An OCLV Mountain Carbon Fat Bike frame. Perhaps in 2015? I asked Knauf of Trek, and here’s his reply: “Fat bikes are a valid segment of the cycling industry, and at Trek we’re exploring options. Expect great things as we look forward to bringing Trek’s standards to the industry, to the tires, to the wheels. At Trek, the future is wide open.”
I’m not sure he answered my question. But, to be honest, that’s okay. Are the groomers done yet? It’s time to ride!
Aaron W. Hautala is our latest addition to the Bike Black Ribbon Test Pilot program and the President of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew, the trail stewards of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails. The Crew hosts the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout, a weekend-long winter fat bike race and celebration scheduled for February 28th – March 1st, 2014.
PS) For the record, with pedals installed, this Farley weighed 26.5 pounds on the United States post office scale in Brainerd, Minnesota.
For more information about the Trek Farley visit – http://www.trekbikes.com