The Specialized Fatboy Expert, that is the star of this review, was all lined up for Angry Andy to test, but just when it arrived, he herniated a disc in his back, skateboarding. So the task fell to me (and Julio) down by the school yard. The Fatboy is very similar to the bike that is my daily driver (Otis). It’s a one hundred and ninety millimeter spaced, five inch bike with 100mm rims. It features an aluminum frame and a two by ten drive train, (just like Otis). There are a few differences…like the Fatboy’s carbon fork and Ground Control tires, but the most glaring difference is the price tag. The Fatboy retails for hundreds of dollars less than my Fatback. Welcome to fatbikenomics when the big boys get involved. And…speaking of the big brands – If you’re a ‘Specialized Hater’…maybe just click on this link to this really powerful interview of Jesse LaLonde from our archives and let’s all try remember that kindness is the pathway to tranquility and enlightenment. With that, out of the way, let me share my thoughts on a month of test rides that I took on a Specialized Fatboy Expert.
My test period for the Fatboy ran from Indian Summer, at the end of Rocktober, till the first snows of the season, all through November, in Two Thousand and Fourteen. All of the specs for the FB Expert can be found at Specialized.com as well as the article that we ran back in August. You can check that out here. I rode our test-bike stock, for the first couple of rides and liked the bike so much, that I decided to really get serious and changed the stock saddle to my personal favorite Brooks model. Then I asked Specialized about a wider handlebar and they supplied us with an S-Works Carbon Riser. With those two small changes, the Fatboy’s rider cockpit, nearly duplicated my set-up on Otis. With the test bike now set up for my preferred ergonomic touch points, I set out and rode all of my favorite local dirt twisties. I took it out and rode my favorite part of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest singletrack. It’s a trail that I like to call the Mangan Ridge Trail, but it’s commonly referred to as the Connector Trail. Our test bike purred like a kitten and did everything I could ask of it. This fatty has that ‘short stem, wide bar’ – get her up to speed and let it rip – feel that I get on my Krampus.
I guess the first thing that I noticed, when riding the Fatboy were the tires. The Ground Control tires are a true to size, four point six inch, big and bad ass, knobby fat/mountain-bike tire. These tires are made for off roading. On my very first ride with the Ground Controls when I was climbing a steep asphalt hill, they brought back an instinctual memory of a familiar tactile feel similar to the best knobbies that I’ve ever ridden…. 26/29 or fat-bike. The GC’s emitted a snarling gripping noise that matches the actual traction as climbing torque was applied with each pedal stroke. On the trail they lived up to their aggressive looks. Climbing was outstanding and carving turns was confidence inspiring. Of course you can’t have all of that grip without some rolling resistance. If you’re looking for a tire that will answer the call for traction each and every time, the Ground Control is your huckleberry. So as a trail tire I rate the GC very high in the big aggressive category of fat-bike tires. I tested the GC’s with stock tubes, but we have plans to do further testing with the GC run tubeless. This Tire KICKS ASS!
The gales of November brought two early snow accumulations to our local trails and I took advantage of both and got fresh tracks each time. The first snow of the year was just enough snow layered over perfectly frozen dirt that basically any mountain bike can handle, but the next storm laid down a few inches over the frozen remainder of the old snow and made for some really fun riding. My experience on snow with the Ground Controls was all positive. To get a true idea of how the ground controls will handle snow, I think we need more time on a variety of conditions, from groomed, to busting fresh trail. I predict these tires are going to rock in the white stuff, but the proof is in the ride. Julio is testing our Fatboy for the next month, and will have a better report on how they handle a wider variety of snow situations.
The Fatboy is decked out with Specialized branded components throughout the entire build. Specialized Pedals, Rims, Rim Strps, Seatpost, Bar/Stem, Hubs and Saddle. The black and red color scheme is impeccably executed from stem to stern on the Fatboy. It reminds me of the Batmobile from the 1960’s TV series. I happen to like black bikes and I’m partial to red as an accent color. YMMV. The fatboy comes with a Specialized full-monocoque carbon fork with a tapered carbon steerer tube. Our test bike also came with Specialized’s SWAT mini multitool on the bottom of the bottle cage. SWAT – (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) is a pretty innovative option for trailside repair. Fortunately I never needed to do any trailside repair during my month of Sundays.
Shifting of the Fatboy’s two by ten drive train uses sram grip shift. The grip shift worked great even though I have not really utilized grip shift over the years on my own personal rides, I see the advantage when wearing gloves or mittens and it worked as advertised. Braking is handled with Shimano’s excellent new Deore Dual Piston Hydraulic Disc Brakes that performed wonderfully set up for single finger rally corners.
I like this bike so much I started calling it Fatboy Slim. FBS is a bad motor scooter. My overall feeling is that the Fatboy is an extremely capable fat-bike. I would even go as far to say that I would be totally happy to own and ride this bike…even though I’m a [4 out of 5] star bike snob. The Fatboy disappeared beneath me out on my local singletrack, and that’s what I look for in a trail bike. Something that let’s me feel like I’m flying through the trees and when the trail goes up, gives me the traction of a goat with a smooth shifting drive train. This bike was born and bred to rip and shred!
Next up for our Fatboy test, we’re sending the bike to Julio, along with a set of carbon wheels to take our test up a notch! First Julio is going to ride the Fatboy Stock and then well pimp our Fatboy with a set of carbon wheels run tubeless…….followed by a full report. So stay tuned to fat-bike dot come for those shenanigans, which should publish in early January of 2015!
(click to enlarge)