Back in July, I began testing my Amigo Jack’s new Blackjack Fate. We published a first look about the Fate in August – https://fat-bike.com/2016/08/first-look-fate-from-blackjack-bikes/. I pursued this review to see if an open mold, carbon fat-bike could hold a candle to the performance of two proprietary, high end, carbon fat-bikes that I spent time testing last winter. The Trek Farley 9.8 and the Borealis Crestone.
The Fate came to us, built with 100mm wide Blackjack carbon wheels and that’s what I prefer to ride in the snow, but I wouldn’t be testing the Fate on snow. So after a couple of weeks of riding the original set of wheels, I swapped them for a set of 80 mm wide, Reynolds Elite carbon wheels with I9 Hubs. This provided an apples to apples comparison to the Borealis and Trek that I mentioned above. The narrower rims made trail riding click like the name brand bikes that I was trying to emulate. I can say, with confidence, that the Blackjack is in the same ballpark as the big boys, for ride quality. In a blind-ride test, I think I’d be hard pressed to tell you which bike is which.
The FSA dominated componentry, that came with the Fate and the Sram GX 1×11 drivetrain have been great. The wheels that came with the bike were just a bit wide for a summer seasonal trail test, but set up tubeless, very easily and were trouble free. All of the testing was done running tubeless on a set of 45NRTH Husker Du tires. The Husker Du’s are a great trail tire on 65 or 80mm rims. Husker’s on 100’s = not that great.
The Blackjack is about $2k less than the name brand bikes, but there are other considerations, to think about when we compare established big brands and a new start-up company, like Blackjack. I really hate to go down the “what if” rabbit hole, but here we go. What if there’s a problem? What kind of warranty comes with a carbon fatty? Just for the sake of reality, I did some checking and here’s what I found.
Framed – 3 Years
Fatback – 4 Years
9:Zero:7 – Borealis – Salsa – 5 Years
Blackjack – Specialized – Trek – Lifetime
What really surprised me was the fact that Carbon Frames come with longer warranties than Aluminum Frames. Any warranty is only as good as long as the company stays in business. So buyers should look at all of those factors and know what to expect if tragedy strikes.
So enough “what if” doom and gloom and responsible adult decision making. The Blackjack is a singletrack ripper. It’s been my mountain bike for the better part of the summer of 2016. About a month ago, I swapped the BJ Carbon Fork for a Wren Inverted Suspension Fork on the fate. It took me a really fun, ride or two to get the Wren set up perfectly, and after that, I started telling everyone that I know, in the industry, that they needed to ride the Blackjack with the Wren! It was that good! I’ll save my full review of the Wren for a future post, but the success of this phase of the review, gave me pause to imagine How would the Fate ride with a set of B+ Wheels. Would BJ-Plus deliver new levels of singletrack shredability?
650b+ – 27.5+ – B+ or Baby Fat – It’s what the bike industry got together and decided that was what we need, right? Well our amigos at Borealis asked if we wanted to try out a pair of their new Carbondale B+ wheelsets and they were configured to fit on the Fate, so the last chapter in the review of the Blackjack could be called ‘The singletrack shredder with baby-fat sneakers’.
First, let’s look at the numbers. The B+ Carbondale wheels with Vee Tire Crown Gem Tires mounted tubeless, saved 640 grams (1lb 6.5oz) compared to the Reynolds Elite Wheels with Huskar Du’s. That’s good right? Also the B+ wheels are pretty close to the same circumference as the 26 x 3.8 wheels. So does this mean 26 x 3.8 equals 27,5 x 3.0? I’m a pixel cowboy, not a mathematician, Jim! The Fate certainly looks like more of a traditional singletrack slayer with the smaller wheel set up, but when I rode the new wheel size, there wasn’t a noticeable feeling of “this is so much better”…..like I have experienced with a tubeless upgrade or my initial rides on quality carbon fat-bike wheels. I never encountered a downside to the B+ wheels. They feel very neutral and handled the sand patches at Kettle Moraine quite well. So they felt the same, which was pretty damn good to begin with! We’ll be putting the Borealis Wheelset through more trials and post a full report.
The Blackjack Fate is a pretty great bike. I put the Fate through quite a few changes in the set up and hung lots of test gear off of this bike. The blackjack took it all in stride and never let me down along the way. This bike even survived Gnomefest and that’s saying something! So we answered the question, “Can an upstart, open mold carbon fat-bike compete in the same league as some better known brands?” That answer is an emphatic, yes!
For more information about Blackjack Bikes visit – http://blackjackbikes.net/