Back at the very beginning of November 2017, I ordered a Fatback Corvus FLT. I pulled the trigger because after riding a Corvus for over six months we reviewed the Fatback Corvus earlier in 2017 and I wrote that I thought that it was one of the 3 Best Fat-Bikes that I’ve ever ridden. I also wrote that as soon as they made one with black graphics on that beautiful sinuous matte black carbon frame “my money would fly out of my wallet”. The fully murdered out livery became available in Fatback’s newest and lightest Corvus model that’s badged an FLT. I know what you’re think’n, but the FLT stands for Fast – Light – Technology….and it represents more than just shaving grams. Fatback also takes into consideration, comfort and cold weather loaded performance. Their product development process is based on feedback from thousands of miles that riders like Jeff Oatley, Tim Berntson, Heather Best and Kevin Breitenbach put in training for – and competing in – the most challenging ultra-marathon fat-bike races in the world. And it’s also freak’n light = (FLT).
I placed my order and a few days later a frame sized box was delivered. I unpacked everything and took some photos and set forth to build it up. It made my mind drift back to earlier fat-bike builds and that brought back memories of the scavenger hunt that was required to build up a fat-bike back in the old days. Things are much easier now, but I still needed the help of a shop to trim and bleed the Hydraulic Brake lines and I don’t have a RaceFace bottom bracket tool. (I really should procure one of those.) I’d like to send a shout out to Andy at Gib’s (back alley) Bike Shop in Lake Mills! Andy did most of the work on the build, while I tried not to explode with excitement about the new bike, mainly because this bicycle…was and still is…a thing of fucking beauty!
I ordered the Corvus FLT with Fatback’s standard XO Sram Group, with a gripshift shifter, just like the Corvus that I had previously tested. That group comes with Sram Guide Brakes and the balance of the bits (Bars/Seatpost/Stem) are all matte black Fatack Carbon. I didn’t order any wheels because I knew we had wheel tests coming up that would fit the new ride. The wheels for the new bike will be a revolving door of 26 inch and 27.5 hoops and tires as part of some gear testing that’ll be keeping me busy for the rest of the year. The initial build incorporated a set of 26″ x 80mm wide Reynolds Elite Carbon Rims laced to a set of Industry Nine Hubs (of course, all black).
When I get a new bike, I like to take it on a trip somewhere and this new whip’s birthday coincided with an early November snowstorm up in the Northwoods, so I loaded up the truck and headed up to Langlade to ride the Nicolet Roche Mountain Bike Trails the morning after three inches of fresh fluffy snow fell. I was pretty stoked for the first snow of the season and a brand new bike all in one ride! Someone had gotten out just before I found my way to the trailhead, so I had clear tracks to follow. There’s always a few ergonomic tweaks that need to get dialed between the work-stand and the trail, but I was having too much fun playing in the snow to stop and make too many adjustments. The seat post kept on slipping down into the frame, so I stopped a couple of times to raise the seat back up. The bike felt just like I remembered the Corvus that I had tested and, of course, since it was the first snow, I crashed a couple of times. When I got back to the shop, I applied some Park Tool Carbon Prep to the seat post and torqued it to spec and it hasn’t slipped since then. I got to enjoy a couple of great rides in the snow up north and later on trails back closer to home, the Corvus, let me know that this FLT badged version was every bit as sweet as the Corvus that I’d tested earlier.
Our autumn was the second warmest on record and while a lot of folks were praying for snow, I decided to go with what Mother Nature had planned and started the wheel testing that I mentioned earlier. I switched to a set Borealis 27.5 x 50mm wide Carbondale wheels with Maxxis Minion FBR/FBF 27.5 x 3.8″ tires. We published an article about that wheel set-up here. (I know what I’ll be riding next summer). I think that’s the best “Plus Bike” wheel set-up that I’ve ridden yet, even though technically, it’s a low-fat tire on a plus-bike wheel. I really like this narrow-low-fat wheel tire combination on my local trails. I’m very impressed with the versatility of the new whip to take on a different wheel size and still rock the casbah! I’m more stoked about this summer’s singletrack set-up with these wheels, rather than facing another summer on a Surly Krampus that weighs 6 pounds more than the Corvus.
Once we started to get snow accumulation, I remounted the Reynolds/I9 80mm wide rims with the Terrene Cake Eater on the rear and a Vittoria Bomboloni in the front. The new Corvus really challenges my grading scale for riding and reviewing other fat-bikes. It’s only natural to compare test bikes to the bike that one might regularly ride. The Corvus has set the bar for excellence higher for every other bike we review.
I’ve had an opportunity to load the bike up with gear and camp out. I’m working on my Bivvy a Month Challenge Merit Badge this year. Our amigo Jeff Price is writing a monthly column in 2018 all about the Bivvy a Month Challenge. You can read his first installment about Bivvy a Month here. I’ve been testing some new bags and I’ve done a couple loaded trips with the new Corvus FLT, so I don’t have a ton of time riding the bike all loaded up, but I’ve ridden enough to have a good feeling about how things will go in that regard. The Corvus comes with every cargo nip* that a good American could ever ask for and so far, I haven’t run out of room to carry what I need.
One of the hardest things about getting a new bike is coming up with a proper name. Up until the middle of winter, I just referred to the new bike as #theblackbikewithnoname. Over the winter, we started to pile up some snow, especially in areas, up north, that I get to visit. So as part of our revolving door of wheelsets, we’re also running a set of HED 100mm rims mounted to Onyx Racing Hubs (all black, naturally) for maximum flotation with a set of Maxxis 26×4.8 Colossus snow tires. I remember it like it was yesterday…I mounted up these beautiful big meaty featherlight wheels and stepped back to take a look. At that moment, It came to me. Ten Beers. The new black bike’s name would be Ten Beers!
I spent last winter swapping between the 100mm wide HED/Onyx/Colossus Wheels for snowy rides and the 80mm Reynolds/I9/Studded Cake Eater Wheels for icy melt-back conditions and again the new bike has performed flawlessly all winter long while riding groomed trail, snowmobile chuff, ungroomed snow, lake and river ice and everything in between.
So I have this jay oh bee (for lack of a better term) writing about fat-bikes. And I’ve been there, applying my craft, for the last five or six years…and during those years, in the normal execution of my daily responsibilities, I get to demo fat and plus bikes and then write about those experiences. I’ve demoed dozens of bikes and brands and written a litany of articles about them. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m experienced when it comes to fat-bikes. I’m not trying to say that I know everything that there is to know and I’m always actively engaged in activities that help me to learn more. All of that being said and based on my personal set of requirements, I think this bike could be the very best fat-bike available today…..but that’s only after the first 120 days. How will I feel at the end of 250 days and then a full year? We have more new tires and wheelsets to test and the whole summer to spend out on the trails, so stay tuned for further reports coming up….somewhere down the trail, amigos!
The Corvus FLT gets 5 out of 5 gnomes!