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Specialized Fatboy Expert – The Three Way Review

 

Way back in November, when it was still warm and snow-free here in the midwest, Gomez gave you a rundown of the Specialized Fatboy Expert that had recently landed on the doorstep of Fat-Bike.Com World HQ.  He rode if for a couple weeks, gave some first impressions and then decided to hand it off to a trio of FBdC test pilots with different fat-bike backgrounds for a tag team style battle royal of testing. Then over the next 6 weeks, the three of us got together and rode bikes with each having their way with the Fatboy.  Here is the culminating take away message . . .

 

First Impressions

Julio (everyday ride – Schlick Cycles Northpaw) – The first thing you notice when you look at the Fatboy Expert is that it’s a sleek bike.  Nice lines. Muted branding. Internal routing (I know it’s a pain, but it looks great, especially on a bike like this).  Best of all – its Matte Black.  The best kind of black.  You pick it up and a smile comes across your face – it’s a light bike.  As you would expect on a bike of this caliber, the frame quality is flawless.  Nice touches such as integrated chainstay guard, routing for dropper post/front derailleur.  Lots of tire clearance. For me, it ticks a whole lot of boxes.  I’ve thrown a leg over quite a few bikes here at FBdC, and this one ranks near the top on first impressions.  And the size 19” frame fit me like a glove right out of the box (I’m 5’11” with a 32” inseam).

LT. Larsson (everyday ride – Surly Pugsley) – Hello fatlandia, it’s your ol’ friend LT. Larsson.  I must have been a good boy last year, because I got to throw a skinny leg over the fattest and (almost) greatest that Specialized has to offer.  If the SR-71 wanted to be a bike, it would take form as the Specialized Fatboy Expert.  I say god damn, god damn this machine is sexy looking!  The moment you lay eyes on her you can’t help but travel along the smooth body lines.  The matte finish accentuates the shape and you start to see subtle degrees of flow along the tubing.  It’s really a thing of beauty to look at.  Coming from my steel Pugsley that I love dearly and have tried to destroy, the Faboy Expert grabs my attention and whispers to me, “go fast”.  Well, let’s see if I can oblige this black beauty.

Robb (everyday ride – Advocate Watchman)- This bike reminds of my rigid single speed 29er race rig ~ sub 18lb nearly full carbon fiber phuck yeah machine, all murdered out in matte black.  Upon picking up the Fatboy, I naturally noticed how light it was but what struck me more was how balanced the weight was.  I’m a huge matte black fan so right off the bat, I thought this thing looked sick and knew it would be an awesome ride.

 

All three Test Pilots love the Ground Controls

Build

Julio –  As you would expect on a bike at this level, it’s well spec’d.  RaceFace Next cranks and post.  SRAM XO1 11 speed drivetrain.  HED Big Deal carbon hoops.  You get the idea.  For $5K you expect a build like this. There are other nice touches such as the S.W.A.T. multitool bottle cage and chain tool/quick links under the top cap.  However, I can easily see the multitool going missing since you’ve got to have it in the holder just right or its going to fall out. Yeah, Gomez is right, it would have been nice if they included a RaceFace Next carbon bar to round it out and a Race Face stem to bring the whole thing together . . .  kind of like a good rug.  Yeah, the SRAM brakes might be a weak point (there were zero issues with them during the test).  But overall, you’d be hard pressed to find fault with this bike fresh off the showroom floor.  Well, maybe — Except for three sets of bottle braze-ons (two in the inner triangle, one on the bottom of the downtube), there are no other attachment points on the frame or fork for fenders, racks, Everything cages, etc.  This might be a big deal to some, but your mileage may vary.  The lack of attachment points doesn’t really factor into my needs (there’s plenty of ways around this via frame bags).  Plus, that’s not what this bike is all about.

The Tools in S.W.A.T

Quick links and chain breaker tool under the topcap

LT. Larsson – Damn they love their acronyms…  Functional Advanced Composite Technology aka FACT.  Stiff in all the right places (that’s what she said).  The FACT carbon fiber frame has been built to maximize weight savings (for your pleasure) along with internally routed cables to irritate your LBS mechanic.  I like the internal cables, it just helps you get that “stealth” look.  I also dig the fact that they used HED Big Deal wheels because they just look like they belong on this bike, not to mention they’re also 85mm wide, carbon fiber, and tubeless ready.  Combine the HED wheels with some Ground Control tires, which were set up tubeless thanks to Gnomez, and you’ve got a solid set of hoops.  I will say that SRAM hydraulic brakes are not my cup of whiskey, but so long as they work (and they did) I won’t complain.  The housebrand handlebars and stem leave me wanting more, like something from RaceFace to compliment the RF NEXT crankset, but after spending…  wait… how much?  $5,000.00! . . .but I suppose Specialized had to save the best stuff for their best bike.  The S-Works.  If you want a breakdown of all the gimcracks you can click (Insert Link to Spec Sheet) but what I want to do is take this sly bird for a ride.

Robb – What’s not to love about the build. Pretty high-end parts all around.  The wheels, HED Big Deal, were awesome and so light it took little to no effort to spin them up to speed.  They came tubeless and had no issues running low pressures.  RaceFace Next cranks.  SRAM XO1 11 speed.  There was very little that I would have changed if this were my bike to love.

Enough said

 

Ride

Julio – I’ll put this out there right away- this bike is fast.  Noticeably fast.  Fast in the corners.  Fast going up.  Fast going down.  The bike begs to be pushed and thrown around.  It is a blast to ride.  When either Lt L or Robb were on the bike, they were noticeable faster (and having a blast doing it).  

Specialized has the Fatboy dialed in for going fast.  Slightly stretched out geo.  Shortish chainstays.  70.5 degree Head Tube angle.  The carbon takes out just enough trail chatter but is still plenty stiff where it needs to be.  The bike feels extremely well balanced on the trail to the point you don’t even think about it.  Of course, I’ve also got to give some love to the HED Big Deal wheels and the Specialized Ground Control tires.  I love the Ground control tires.  They may be one of my favorite dirt tires and the limited time I rode them on (packed) snow, they were equally impressive.  The HED wheels spin up very quickly and the decrease in rotational weight was very noticeable (note: we all ride heavier wheelsets and knobbier tires).

The only issue we had with the bike was one of a mysterious squeak that developed for me (and then Mr. Larsson) over the first couple of rides.  This was tracked down to a noise from the front axle. After a bit of fiddling, all it took was a little grease and it was good to go.

Evan keeping up

LT. Larsson – Those who know me or have seen me race understand that I’m not in it to win it.   The f*cks I ride with on the regular are MUCH faster than me.  No matter how hard I try, I end up losing them.  Enter the Fatboy Expert.  Granted this bike is around 15lbs lighter than my Pug (20 if you count the beer I pack), but for the first time I was able to stay with the group.  My trails consist of tight and twisty singletrack mixed up with some punchy climbs and quick descents.  No long stretches of anything, up or down.  An 8-mile loop feels like, well, more than 8 miles.  This first ride on the Fatboy had me grinning when I was able to blast up a climb that usually gives me a run for my money.  Even with the longer chainstay I didn’t feel like I couldn’t accelerate up a climb.  In fact, I was able to conquer every climb that ever gave me a hard time.  I was also able to carry my speed better by snapping around the turns and I have to give credit to the modern geometry for that.   On the short yet fast descents, the Fatboy maintained a good line and I didn’t need to work very hard to correct myself.  I wish I could’ve tried her out on a long fast flowy section, but I’d need to travel elsewhere to get that kind of riding.  I’ll say it twice; this bike is fast fast!  IF I was a Strava guy, I’d bet it was the fastest times ever recorded by me.  But I’m not.  I judge the ride on how big my smile is at the end of it all.  And the Cheshire cat grin on my mug after a ride on the Fatboy was all the proof I needed.

The only issue I had was that I “hucked to flat” and landed hard.  Hard enough to find a “creaky” noise had joined my ride.  Juliodotcom was with me and let me know that it happened to him and the rear axle needed to be re-tightened (it actually ended up being the front but still . . .).   Enter the SWAT multi-tool!  Tucked away under the water bottle cage is a hidden gem that will save you when you forget to remember to bring one.    If you manage to install the multi-tool upside down (like I did or maybe it was Julio) it becomes a giant pain in the ass to get out again.  Add cold fingers to the mix and we were looking pretty stupid trying to fiddle this thing out of its holder.  Still, it’s a great idea to have your gear attached to the bike.

Robb moving right along

Robb –  My first fat bike was a heavy ass steel Pugsley as I was just testing these waters to learn if this was something I wanted to invest more on.  Later on, as I started enjoying the fat bike format more, I switched to a steel fat bike with carbon fork from Advocate that was quite a bit lighter.  I found those bikes to be fun but there was a lot of squeeze with very little juice.  The Fatboy reminded me of my race days on the Superfly as the bike felt very nimble and responsive.  It wasn’t long before I started ripping around trails as if I was on my race rig, slicing and dicing with surgical precision.  This bike was super maneuverable and extremely easy to get up and over logs and other such obstacles.  I attribute this to the way the weight of the bike is distributed and balanced. It was effortless to get it to do what I wanted and go where I directed it.  I’ve truly never felt like I was on a “fat bike”.  More like I was pedaling a cumbersome beast.  The Fatboy Expert changed that.

Plenty of room down below

Plenty of room up top

 

Final Verdict

Julio – Obviously I loved this bike.  It was hard to box it up and see it go.  Given the chance, I wouldn’t hesitate to have one in my stable.  My personal fatbike is 28.5 lb.  Not the lightest but not heavy by any means.  Riding the Fatboy made me long for a lighter sled, which doesn’t happen often, especially the HED wheels.  Yeah, $5,000 is getting into (or well into, depending on your perspective) some serious bank but hey, sometimes you’ve got to pay to play.  I give the Specialized Fatboy Expert five blazing fast fun Gnomes!!

LT. Larsson – I’ll be the first to say that I couldn’t justify dropping $5K on this bike (or any bike) but that being said, if you can, and you’re looking for an all-out race machine, then don’t pass up the Specialized Fatboy Expert.  If you’re shooting for a do-it all fat bike then you may want to keep on keeping on.  I like a bike that I can change to what I want but if what you want is to be at the front of the pack, get a podium, or just not be DFL, then this bike is all ready for you!  I give the Fatboy Expert 5 out of 5 shrunken heads!

 

Robb – I can certainly say hands down it has been the best “ride” I’ve ever had on a fat bike.  Coming from a race and endurance background, this whip wouldn’t hinder those efforts at all and in fact could see myself in the saddle for an all-day effort without strain.  In the words of the great Ferris Bueller…. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

 

For more info on the Specialized Fatboy Expert go here.   

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3 Responses to Specialized Fatboy Expert – The Three Way Review

  1. Erv Spanks February 5, 2018 at 9:10 pm #

    Awesome write-up guys! Like 3 reviews in one, such the value!

  2. Scott (guy with a heavier bike) Peterson February 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm #

    Nice job on the reviews, guys. 18 lbs? Without pedals? That’s flat out amazing. How much do those Specialized tires weigh?

    • Robb February 6, 2018 at 6:07 pm #

      No, the 18lb bike is my Gary Fisher SS SuperFly… with pedals.