Even before we received the new Borealis Fat Bikes Echo that we’re testing, Sven and I were talking on our Weekly Dose of Fat Radio Show about how we wanted to approach the evaluation process for this particularly interesting fat-bike. We came up with the idea to have 4 of the fastest cats that we could assemble, race in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS) event at our local trail system last Saturday. We put together a team with three Bike Black Ribbon Test Pilots and a super fast friend, Brian Fuhrmann. Brian rode first and then Angry Andy, followed by Spinner and then Colin batted clean-up. Today we’re going to share the rider’s impressions of the new Echo over roughly 20 miles of the toughest singletrack that the Southern Kettles has to offer at a full bore race pace.
First up is my amigo Andy!
ANDY OLESON – So sometime back in March I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be racing this summer, between the crappy weather and life in general I figured I’d take some time off from serious riding. Then about 2 weeks ago I get a call from the Fat-Bike.Com World headquarters, it’s Uncle Gomez…..Word has it that a bad ass Borealis race ready Fatbike is headed our way, and he needs someone with mad skills to rail the trails on it. First thing I thought is why is he calling me? My trail skills were put on hold this year, my training regiment was curls and carbo loading for the past couple months.
But being who I am instantly jumped at the chance, I said sure, then the first thing I did is hop on-line to see what kinda races were coming up. Hmmm Wisconsin Endurance Racing Series happens to have a race at my favorite trail system, Southern Kettles, so why not just go out and try and hammer 8 hours of trails with no training?! Wouldn’t be the first time I did something crazy like that. I pitched it to Gomez, and in his Buddah inspired, wisdom he reeled me in, suggesting why not make it a team race? Me and 3 others to tear up the trails? Then it hit me! what a great idea, I can ride hard for 45 minutes and still keep up my curls and carbo loading between laps! So I trained for the next 2 weeks straight hoping to get into some form of race preparedness.
Race Day! Gomez rolls up with this Bitch’n Borealis Carbon Echo, decked out with a Bluto Boinger on the front end, Sweet… I finally get a chance to test a sus-Fork on a fatty. I putt around the parking lot a little to check the seat height and set up along with my teammates Brian, Colin, and Spinner. We figure our strategy for the race, and then its game on! Basically the plan was to rock hot laps as fast as we could for the entire 80 miles (11 laps). Brian headed out first and just rockets off the first lap, setting a bench mark that none of us would match. Then Colin backs it up with an equally blazing lap. People in the pits were starting to wonder what the heck was going on….the Fat-Bike.com cru was killing it! Then it was my turn, I hopped on and blasted off into the trails, quickly zig-zagging through the twisty single track. I floated over rock gardens and tree roots like they weren’t even there. The wide bars/short stem combined with the long top tube made for a very confident handling bike, it climbed like crazy, eating up tight gravely switch backs with ease, then came the down hills! Man I could just totally let loose on this thing, I started riding with a completely different approach than I normally would. I’d like to almost refer to it as reckless abandon, because I could just let the fork eat up the big bumps while the Husker Du’s kept the traction and tracking on coarse. This bike handled like a laser guided battle axe! I could just point it and go! I started to only worry about where the back tire was tracking to keep it safe from big hits and boulder side-wall scrubs. All in all, this bike totally made up for my lack of real race prep, and allowed me to turn some respectable lap times, while not feeling too beat up. I hope to get some additional time in the saddle to really get a good feel for the Echo and give a more detailed review down the road. – Angry one –
Next up is the one and only, Spinner Ryerson
SPINNER – If there’s 3 things I avoid in the woods, it’s Carbon, Gears and Suspension in that order. Poison oak toilet paper is a close 4th. In the past, I’ve been a closed minded little bastard. I was treated to one of the finer things in life this past weekend, courtesy of Fat-Bike.com and the Borealis Echo. I’ve never ridden a bike this light in my life, but the promise of 3 amigos and myself spending a morning in fierce competition under the tutelage of a recreational director, like Gomez, has an irresistible appeal. The Echo a pretty looking bike. The pictures that I’ve seen do not do it justice. I don’t have the best reputation of leaving a bike in one piece and was a curious if the carbon would hold up. I pulled the 3rd, 7th and 11th laps, so this thing was going to get put through the wringer.
The handling was great. I could really put a little bit of “English” on it when I needed to move the rear end a little bit laterally. I also had a very easy time wheelie turning up the tight switchback climbs. I could throw the front end up and around the turn and easily land in the middle of the trail. The bars were much longer than I like, but the bike handled so nimbly that I was still able to navigate tight tree sections at speed without a problem. My bunny hops, literally, felt like bunny leaps!
The XX1 drive train is how I would run gears, if I ran gears all the time. The set up is simple and efficient. The Bluto was alright, I kept it locked out most of the time. The Bluto did eat up the rocky sections nicely, but I’m not sure how much of that effect came from the shock and how much was the tire. I personally thought that this was one of the fastest and nimblest bikes that I’ve ever torn through quality, wooded, singletrack!
Last up is Colin Ford
AIR COLIN – My initial impression was “dang this is light!” 190 spacing with thru axles, makes for a real stable feeling carbon race rig. A very stiff front end on the bugger. Great frame design all the way around from head tube to bb (beefy) and a very slender top tube. Not as slack as id like on my personal rig but a great platform. Didn’t notice much flex at all. The Echo Handles well, is fast, and very flickable. It still has a short rear end for great response and wheelies. Wheels were good but carbon rims would really pimp this ride. The parts group was awesome. I shifted under lots of load and the SRAM xx1 didn’t even flinch. Dropper posts rule. It helped with sizing the bike for team mates too. BLUTO: good, handled well, but started to show signs of fatigue at the end of the race. Preformed well for me on the downhills and rock gardens. Definitely smoothed things over. Id still keep my personal bike rigid because that’s one less moving part. And less $$. Overall… the Echo is a really awesome racing fat bike. Borealis is really pushing the boundaries.
And now for some closing thoughts….
GOMEZ – So at the end of the day, our quatro amigos took the win and simultaneously came in dead f*cking last. (There were no other 4 person 80 mile teams). You can check out the race results here. So our fastest guy, Brian, used his high end 29r race rig on his first lap and ran a 35:57 and then went out on the Echo and did a 38:54 and 39:00. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty interesting and impressive. Keeping in mind, that this was Brian’s first time riding the echo and the bike was not specifically set up to perfectly fit any of our 4 racers. How close would the times be, with more familiarity and a more dialed set-up? So that gets me wondering…..If we dropped a couple of pounds with a carbon wheelset, would those times get closer? If the terrain got more rugged, would the advantage go to the Echo? What do you all think?
As you can tell, the boys had some fun with their podium photo-op. Fat-Bike is all about having fun! I had a chance to ride the Borealis Echo at one of our local trails and all I can say is this bike is a BAMF! The Echo/Bluto descends like no other fat-bike that I’ve ever ridden. Next up for the echo is a WORS Race with Aristotle at the wheel so stay tuned for more on our Borealis Echo, testing at Bicis-Gordas.com!
For more information about Borealis Fat Bikes visit – www.borealisbikes.com
How’s the Bluto stack up against the Carver?
So I run a Carver on my Ti Mukluk, it is definitely stiff, much stiffer than the stock enabler fork that it came with. I’ve dome plenty of 6-8 hour off-road rides on it and came away feeling not to beat up. As for the Bluto it’s a totally different animal, it really helps to soak up the bigger bumps, and lets the front track better as is helps to keep the tire in contact with the ground more. My overall view is that with a suspension fork you can run your tire pressure a bit higher and have a faster rolling tire, and allow the fork to do its job. So for racing I think it a great idea, if I were just a weekend rider out to cruise the trails, I’d opt for lower pressure and a lighter front end like the Carver.
Thanks Andy – are you talking about the Carver carbon rigid fork? I’m hoping to see a comparison between the Carver USD suspension fork vs Bluto.
Yes I was referring to the Rigid Carbon Carver Fork, I didn’t really put two and two together there, as that fork is branded under a couple different companies banners.
In most of the conditions I ride in the Midwest I don’t think I’ll every really find the need to go to a suspension fork. If I lived out west and rode burley trails then I might consider it.