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Framed Wolftrax Carbon Custom Review

Back in January, a Framed Wolftrax Carbon Custom landed in the Fat-Bike.com Bike Black Ribbon Test Pilot hanger bay.  You can read the initial product spotlight with all the details of the build and other minutia here. Over the next two plus months, I’ve proceeded to put the Wolftrax Carbon through its paces. To say that winter conditions in the lower Midwest were less than wintry this year would be an understatement.  As a result, much of my time on the Wolftrax was on dirt and gravel (at times, icy dirt and gravel).  That’s not to say I didn’t make the wheels go round and round on the white stuff (I even raced it at the Sweaty Yeti in some pretty varied snow conditions), but snow was few and far between this season.  In the end, that worked out well, since the Wolftrax is really an all a rounder so riding it in a bunch of different conditions really gave me a good idea of what this bike was about.

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Snow!!!

Disclaimer – I’m not a fan of white bikes.  With that said, the Wolftrax is an attractive bike and it’s whiteness has grown on me.  The fit and finish of the frame is great and graphics aren’t (that) overdone.    The first time my wife saw it sitting in the garage she said “wow, that’s a fancy looking bike.” Although, the matte finish on the fork is a bit odd since the frame itself is finished in gloss.  Additionally, it would have been nice if the insides of the fork legs were red to match the inside of the stays on the frame but that’s getting kind of picky.  If white doesn’t float your boat, the Wolftrax carbon is also offered in yellow or black.

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I’m 5’11” with a 32” inseam so according to Framed’s sizing chart, I’m squarely in Large frame territory so that’s what they sent.  As with most bikes out of the box, fit adjustments were needed  and after a bit of fiddling (swapping out some spacers, flipping the stem, and moving the seat way back on the rails), I was able to get it dialed into to my usual dirt riding position (slightly stretched out) and with a quick swap of some spacers/flip of the stem, I was able to get it close to my normal snow riding position (a little more upright and a little less weight on the front end).  The size large had plenty of stand over as you would expect in any modern fat-bike.

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Overall, as the geometry numbers would indicate, the Wolftrax rides like a mountain bike, more specifically, a four season fat-bike.  With shortish (468mm) chainstays, middle of the road headtube angle (70 degree), and a moderate length effective top tube for the size (the large has a 60.2cm effective TT), the Wolftrax is right at home on twisty singletrack as it is on snowy trails.  The bike is very stable and always stays nicely planted under you.  Balanced, to use an oft used descriptor.  Sure, the bike could have a bit shorter chainstays and be a bit more snappy but possibly at the expense of stability in the snow.  The toptube could be a bit longer and more slack to give you that new stretched out, short stem enduro style handling but how would that play out when the snow starts to fall?  Instead, the Wolftraz aims for the middle ground and in the end, that allows it to work well in a variety of conditions that a four season fat-biker encounters.

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Plenty of room at the seat stays (4.0″ tire on 80mm rim)

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Ample room at the chain stays and no chain rub even in the 46 (4.0″ tires on 80mm rims)

This test bike came equipped with Framed’s top of the line Shimano build kit, specifically, XT 1x11spd with a RaceFace Ride crankset (as a SRAM guy with XX1 and XO drivetrains in my stable, I must say I was somewhat impressed with the performance of the XT). As you would expect with a quality, workhorse drivetrain, shifting was great.  Oh, and having that bailout 46T cog comes in pretty handy when the snow conditions get sloppy and the trail starts to climb.  The SRAM DB5 brakes performed well enough but nothing to get overly excited about.

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Boat loads of room. I ran a 4.8″ Bud (not pictured) with room to spare.

The Framed carbon fork was plenty stiff with no hint of flex and it has plenty of room for bigger tires (I ran a Bud and had room to spare).  Out of the saddle efforts were met with snap and acceleration typical of a nice carbon fiber frame. The Framed HUB Carbon wheelset undoubtly saves some rotational weight and contributes in this department.  Setup tubeless, which I didn’t do but they are tubeless compatible, and you could cut out even more rotational weight.   I beat on them pretty good and they stayed as true as the day I took them out of the box.    While we’re on the wheels – the Framed PUB DT Big Ride wheelset is pretty nice, especially considering they only weigh (2090g claimed weight for 150F/197R), which is only a couple hundred grams different than some of the blingiest fat-bike wheelsets out there and that’s at about half the price.  Wheels are uber important on a fat-bike and it’s nice that Framed is offering a good quality, carbon wheelset for those of us without deep pockets.

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Liked the wheelset. Did not like the tire.

Now for some nitpicks – While Framed is obviously trying to hit a certain price point with the Wolftrax, the house branded parts leave a little to be desired, especially the seatpost and bars.  Since this bike falls under Framed’s Local Only Custom Build program, it would be nice if they had upgrade paths for the cockpit parts to make it a truly custom build experience, especially since the bikes purchased through the Local Only Custom Build program are hand assembled in the USA.  While these bits and pieces can all be easily swapped out later (at a price), it would be great if you could have it the way you wanted right out the door.  Another problem I had was the tires.  While the Terrene Wazia offered increased traction in icy conditions, the front tire was not at all confidence inspiring in the snow.  The overall tread pattern doesn’t scream front snow tire and it showed.  This was especially apparent when I did a back to back ride with my usual snowy conditions front tire, Surly’s Bud, swapped in.  Where the Bud hooks up in the white stuff, the Wazia would fail to grab hold and the front end would either slide out or start snowplowing right off the trail. This was especially apparent in soft conditions.  The Wazia isn’t listed as part of the build spec so maybe Framed just threw them on this test bike but still . . .  Not a fan.

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Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the Wolftrax.  It pretty much handled everything I threw at it and came out on top in a whole wide range of conditions.  For a $2,100 (approximately $3,200 as tested once you add in the upgraded wheelset), you get a very capable carbon fiber fat-bike that’s ready to serve you year round at a pretty reasonable price.  Additionally, through Framed’s Local Only Custom build program there are lots of build options to meet a bunch of different price points.  Bottom line — for those looking to ride carbon but on a budget, this is a great way into the game.  I give it a solid 4 flaming gnome skulls.4-5flaminggnomes

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