Fraser Kennedy lives in Hampshire, England about 30 miles southwest of London. The rolling hills of southern England might not be very big, but with a network of ancient paths and trails often through ancient woodland there’s no shortage of great riding right on his doorstep and Fraser can ride the 50 miles to the south coast pretty well all offroad. They only get 1 or 2 small snowfalls each winter, but in the summer there’s lots of soft sand, so fat-bikes allow Fraser to ride areas often out of bounds to normal bikes.
Fraser’s been an avid cyclist since his teens, so he’s now into his 4th decade of riding bikes, plus Fraser’s also a bit of an endurance / outdoor sports nut. As well as cycling, he’s still competing in flatwater kayak racing – his kayak has a custom, haida-inspired design (just like the new bike)
Fraser worked in product and industrial design for a number of years, so designing his own bikes and other equipment gives him the opportunity to satisfy his creative desires whilst giving himself truly unique ‘toys’ to play with. Through his work, he’s been working with titanium and composites for over 25 years. Fraser told FBC –
“I like titanium, it’s an ‘honest’ material – this is my fourth self-designed titanium bike frame, not including the bikes I’ve designed for others.” “I’m enjoying my fatbike so much…. I’ve not really give much thought to “what next?” as there’s certainly nothing I’d change with this one
Continue to read below, where Fraser fills you in on every detail of his spectacular and unique Titanium Custom Fatty!
I’d always been fascinated by fatbikes, particularly since reading about the original bikes developed for the Iditabike back in the 1990s, but since I live in the south of England didn’t really see the need for one. However, the intrigue for fatter tyres, getting Waltly Titanium to build me a custom 29 plus frame loosely based on the Krampus, but optimised for a shorter, rigid fork in 2013:
This was my fifth custom titanium frame from China so pretty comfortable with the process – previous frames being CX and road frames – but this being my first MTB.
I’m pretty small in stature and only weigh 130lbs, so have difficultly finding stock bikes that suit – I’d rather run a shorter, rigid fork than having a jacked-up front end. Last summer I picked up some carbon Fatback forks and built myself a ‘fat’ front wheel just to try to convince myself that ‘full-fat’ was the way to go:
And so my project fatbike started to take shape over the last 6 months. Geometry is based on Surly’s ICT, with a slightly shorter toptube and again, adjusted for a shorter, rigid fork. I like the aesthetics of twin, curved toptubes but not without compromising standover too much plus the clean lines of the integrated seatpost. My original design was going to be for 4″ tire, but then decided I’d go for 5″ clearance and 197mm rear with through-axle. I stuck with 450mm chainstays to give the option to run 29×3″ tires and a bit more stability. I also went with a 100mm BSA bottom-bracket as it gives me the option to run a narrower chainline with a shorter-spindle crank for summer use.
As my last frame was polished with etched logos, I’d thought that matt, vapor-blast finish with polished design would be a nice contrast. The downtube design is inspired by Haida mythology and I had matching, chrome-effect vinyl made for the forks. I placed my order in October expecting 9-10 week delivery – and it delivered only 5 weeks later, spending the next few months under-wraps in anticipation of my build.
The rest of the build specification goes as follows:
Nextie 65mm carbon rims – having light wheels with a nice rounded tire profile would suit my typical riding more than the need for wide rims and float. Hubs are Hope Fatsno front and 9:Zero:7 rear. Built the wheels myself with double-butted spokes and brass nipples for durability – alloy nipples are pretty useless in the UK due to salting of the roads in winter.
Transmission is 1×10 with Raceface Turbine Cinch cranks – I went for the longer-spindle version to make sure I had sufficient chainline clearance – shouldn’t have worried, finger’s-width of clearance. Running 26 chainring and 11-36 cassette with Hope T-Rex 40 tooth extender – get’s me up the climbs that have defeated me for 25 years! XT bar-con and rear mech handle the shifting duties.
I’ve been riding some On One Mary bars so I jumped at the chance of some cheap H-bars. Managed to find the orange Mowa headset and stem on ebay – I have a branded version of the former on another bike and it’s wearing well. Grips and saddle chosen to keep the color co-ordination! Brakes are BB7 with fully-sheathed cables and 160mm rotors – may look at getting some TRP Spykes when they become available in the UK.
So how does it ride? Like an old friend – everything felt immediately natural and in place, very few tweaks and adjustment needed – apart from a short ride on an ICT around a car park, this was my first meaningful ride on a fatbike, but I shouldn’t have worried. No problems with the bigger Q-factor or heel-strike on the seatstay either. Really stable handling with no vices e.g. steering ‘flop’ like some other big-wheelers I’ve ridden. After a 1-hour shakedown ride, I headed out on the weekend for a ride, named the “Filthy-Fifty” or more aptly 50 miles of mud!
Expect to see lots of riding this year, from 6 hour races and planning a 2-day, 200-miler for mid-summer…