Jon Severson is lucky enough to live in Colorado Springs home to Borealis Bikes, the manufacturer of the bike in this preview review. Adam from Borealis got Jon one of the first Echos available for some near home testing while we await our longer-term tester here at Fat-bike HQ. Gotta say, I am a little jealous but where you are lucky, you are lucky and Jon is a lucky man! Take it away, Jon! – Ed
When I bought my first mountain bike back in 89, the appeal it had to me was the whole “you can ride it anywhere” sales pitch that came with the consideration of a mountain bike purchase at the time. You could ride it on road. Gravel roads. Dirt trails. No trails. 21 speeds of lightening fast (chain breaking) shifting goodness. See the world. You had two choices of bikes then, mountain bike or road bike. If you wanted one bike…you bought a mountain bike.
But fast forward to today’s market 25 years later. The concept of quiver killer is almost silly and one any of us really dare to think about anymore. And with road, mtb, cross, monstercross, trail, freeride, dirt jump, fat bike, 29+, 26+, 27.5+, xc, enduro, gravel, downhill, 4x, and god knows what I’m missing because I haven’t checked a cycling website other that fat-bike.com in the last 2 hours. Really, why would you want to have “just one bike” with so much to choose from?
Well back here in reality, many can only have so many bikes, and time, to ride, cost to purchase, and a desire to keep “the one” in their life means keeping the fleet at bay or one quickly will have more room for bikes (should a divorce not take them all).
Last June I had the pleasure of riding the world’s first production carbon fat bike, the Borealis Yampa, which weighed in at a mind blowing 23lbs. It transformed my love for fat bikes from a simple addition to the quiver to a bike I realized I really could ride all day anywhere kind of bike. And while I truly enjoyed it on much of what I rode…even on some gravel roads, it wasn’t going to be “the one” for me, but I could surely see how for many out there the Yampa could be that one mountain bike in the stable. For me however, I love a good full suspension bike and with my own 150mm/140mm squish rig only weighing in 3-4 pounds more I was yet to be sold.
I should admit, that when I first saw the Borealis Echo shown off pre-Sea Otter with the new Rock Shox Bluto fork….I thought of it as “oh neat” vs “hell yeah”. Sure. People want suspension forks. People like fat bikes year round. Sure I’ll enjoy the combo, but apart of me still really wasn’t sold on suspension on fat bikes. However, this would change with the Echo.
The Borealis Echo is essentially the Yampa with a hair longer top tube, a hair shorter chainstay, and littel taller head tube, and suspension corrected geometry for the Bluto’s 120mm of travel goodness with a thru axel locking down the rear end vs a QR. It also has stealth routing for a dropper post (no surprise my demo came with a Rock Shox Reverb) and the build was touched off with a Race Face 35mm bar/stem combo.
My first ride started off the same way they go when a sweet light, high performance bike is involved. Big old grin and gotta say….it never gets old riding the best stuff out there. But I still asked myself, will suspension really matter THAT much?
Every ride to come pretty much was the same response. Yep. Yep. Yep. While allergies have taken their toll this Spring for me to an extreme, I still found myself besting times or being almost on top of times on segments I’d ridden the big squish bike on. The gobs of tractions by the Bud/Lou 4.8’s on Turnagin rims didn’t hurt either. The bike is just….fast….with 120mm of suspension.
Really, this should be of no surprise. Whats’ the worst part of riding a fat bike off road when the snow goes away? Those squared off hits up front, having to ride a wee bit slower than the squish bike you may normally rail on. Yes…your fat bike is “fun” to ride off road but it isn’t “fast”. No doubt many are skipping ahead to comment to let me know how much fun their fat bike is without suspension and spewing data gathered from a scientifically a Garmin, from some armchair engineer on a forum, or gathered from the seat of their pants. I’m wrong they’ll say. What do you know. But I’m here to say I was perhaps wrong about suspension a few years ago too in this article from the early days of this site.
But even back then, I did say it was because “Fat bikes were already heavy”. Borealis didn’t exist. Fat bikes, even nice aluminum framed ones, came in at over 30lbs. What lay before me is a 27lb fat bike with a dropper post, a 120mm travel suspension fork, and 4.8 tires. Crystal Ball’s can be a bit fuzzy looking into the future, but there’s always some truth in them. Throw on a set of carbon rims, run ’em tubeless, and go with the new Panaracer “Fat-b-Nimble” tire you’d shave some more weight.
In the end, the Borealis Echo with the Rock Shox Bluto fork is a pretty no brain setup. Carbon frame that performs as you’d expect with such trail worthy features as a dropper post and suspension. You get exactly what you’d expect. A fast bike that can truly be ridden year round. If you truly have to have only one mountain bike for year round use…..I think the Echo just killed off the rest of your quiver.