Rocky Mountain has laid down the blueprint for modern cross-country race fat bikes. Along the way they also have established a place in the endurance and adventure sectors as well. After an intense 5-week schedule of fat bike races during the heart of winter and capping it off with an impromptu excursion to the Midwest fat bike mecca which is Marquette Michigan, my testing is complete. This winter, much like many other in Wisconsin, has served up every condition necessary to give Suzi Q the proper shakedown. To see the bike specs and a first look at the Suzi Q click here.
Suzi Q is born at the base of Vancouver’s north shore mountains at Rocky Mountain’s development center. Here the test crew has access to a mix of aggressive terrain. With the R&D facility nearby, they can rapidly test their designs creating aluminum prototype mules on a days’ notice. The refinement and quality Rocky Mountain delivers was apparent throughout my testing. But even before I took Suzi Q out on the first ride I couldn’t help but be impressed with the pride and care which had gone into packaging for shipping. I have un-boxed many new bikes across 7 years of wrenching at 3 different bike shops plus un-boxing a handful for reviews for this website. Hands down this was the best packaging job I had ever seen, even better than one of the biggest names in the bicycle industry. Seeing this attention to detail in something unrelated to the ride quality put any suspicion or doubt of the bikes quality to rest.
My first ride was on 3-4 inches of fresh snow at my local trail system here in Southeastern Wisconsin. Steering was very responsive while descending and allowed me to make minor adjustments all while pushing speeds up to the breaking point of traction. The 68-degree head tube angle added confidence and allowed me to make precise adjustments during fast descents. The bikes 434mm rear center length was solid on climbing and nimble through quick turns. The overall frame geometry was predictable and stable underscoring the fact the bike had gone through mature refinement. I did notice a slight need to shift my weight forward to keep the front wheel pressured to maintain tracking and direction. Later on, in my testing I dropped the stem as low as possible to keep my center of gravity over the sweet spot keeping the front wheel tracking. There also was a welcomed small amount of bump compliance felt through the front end, likely due to the forks monocoque one-piece design.
To me, the most exciting feature was the narrow q-factor. At 192mm its about 20mm or ¾” narrower than most fat bikes. Feeling the difference between my personal fat bike was night and day. I really liked the way my ankles, knees and hips aligned better throughout the pedal revolution, feeling much more natural like riding a traditional mountain bike. For those who are switching bike as frequently as the seasons, or who have knee issues, having a narrow q-factor can be a huge plus. There is some drawback to the narrow q-factor, one being maximum tires size. As the spacing between crank arms decreases so does the room for the frames rear triangle and subsequently the envelope in which the wheel rotates. Rocky Mountain specifies maximum tire width as 4.2”. However, I did mount up a set of Barbegazi’s as I heard they would fit. More on that after the race reports.
Heiliger Huegel Ski Club hosted the first race of my 5-week race stretch. The course was laid out on the base of the private ski area, surrounding wooded hills and open fields. The field section had a small base of soft snow on top a significant layer of ice from a previous melt/freeze cycle. With snow in the forecast, I opted to switch from the stock 27.5 X 3.8” Maxxis tires to a set of 4” studded Terrene Cake Eaters. More fluffy white snow fell overnight and my attempt to create a bigger footprint and added security for the icy sections shown no yield. On race day the course was soft, and Suzi Q and I struggled. Of the 3 riders who finished ahead of me all were on larger volume setups; 80mm rim and 4.3” tire or wider. As excited as I was to test Suzi Q on the downhill and technical terrain it just wasn’t possible in these conditions. Even with the 27.5” wheels and only enough air to keep the tires from shearing, it wasn’t happening. To be fair the conditions were extremely soft as most racers were in hike-a-bike mode for anything uphill.
I kept the Cake Eaters on from last weekend’s race and arrived in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin for the Sturgeon Spectacular. The 3.3-mile flat and cyclocross-style track was laid out through Lakeside Park Grooming from previous days and temperatures staying below freezing left the course in a semi-solid state. The Sun Mulefüte 65 rims created a good tire profile for leaning on in the tight hairpin turns. The rim tire combination also provided a nice buffer between rim and curb as I dashed over the road crossings of the park. A wider rim would have been more vulnerable to rim hits. After 5 laps I came in 3rd and was really starting to enjoy the ride performance.
Next up was the Fat Abominable Snow Race, a 3-hour race on (built-by-Gomez) single track at Silver Lake Park in Kenosha Wisconsin. Conditions were hardpack and firm with patches of ice. The trail was fast, twisty, and full of small punchy ups and downs. There were even a few flat straights that allowed me to sit in the saddle and crank out some power. The narrow q-factor was something I really enjoyed for this longer duration of a race. With the sun out and the temperatures rising I almost forgot I was riding a fat bike. This race would be considered a sprint compared to other endurance events like the Arrowhead 135 or Iditarod Invitational. This leads me to believe the comfort I experienced would only be projected on longer durations. This is a huge plus in my mind. Everything went according to plan as I finished in first place.
Seven days later I headed to the sandstone bluffs of Levis Mound recreational area to compete in another 3-hour event, the infamous Sweaty Yeti. Again, I was treated to some excellent groomed fat bike single track around the bluffs and through the rollercoaster of hilly forests. It was a beautiful weekend for racing and one with numerous heavy hitters in the race lineup. The course featured a long downhill valley section which banked its corners naturally back and forth on either side. No matter how fast I pushed speeds through the section the bike handled with great confidence, Suzi Q’s strong point. Although I placed just outside the top 5 I had a blast and I believe the guy who won (Corey Stelljes) was also on a Suzi Q C70.
The last race in my 5-week stretch was at Trek headquarters in Waterloo WI. Due to the series points race, I had to ride a Trek bike to receive valuable bonus points. To replace this testing opportunity, and in conjunction with switching my 9 to 5, I ended up with a long weekend. I headed north for some much-appreciated non-race scene fat biking.
I arrived in Marquette to freshly powdered trails and mounted up a pair 4.5” Bontrager Barbegazi tires. Marquette Michigan is known for its many miles glorious trail all year round and has a deep history of fat biking. Please note that Rocky Mountain safely recommends tires up to 4.2” wide only. After reading some comments on the internet and hearing of people using 4.5” wide tires I figured I must try. The tire setup was great for the soft and hardpack conditions. The increased volume provided much more grip over the 4” tires also providing slightly more bump compliance. Had I only had them for the Heiliger Huegel race.
However, a dozen times I did experience tire rubbing. At first, I thought it was the front cable getting bounced into the side of the tire. The routing seems too close on the inner side of the fork and with my stem positioned at the lowest point the housing had extra slack swooping it closer. I was able to recreate the rubbing on a few occasions by applying a high amount of torque to the pedals. Not every attempt created the rubbing, so my thoughts are that the rear wheel was compromised. So when a heavy pedal push was timed just as the compromised section of the wheel passed the chainstay it would rub. It could have been the wheel out of true, a tire imperfection, or the tire was mounted slightly off, or something else? Upon frame inspection, black streaks remained against the inside of the left side chain stay and a sticker in that location began to peel back.
The 65mm rims on this bike are a great choice for racing and year-round riding. Tires in the 3.8” to 4.2” range are perfect for fast rolling conditions which you typically find at race venues or groomed trails. If you ride a lot of fresh snow I would recommend putting on a larger front tire and keep the rear tire 4.2” or smaller. I believe the 65mm rim width would also be better over wider rims for summer riding. The narrower rim will do a better job of hiding itself behind the tire from rocks and roots. The tradeoff is a loss of performance in deep snow and breaking-trail conditions due to the inability to safely mount up a large enough tire.
Alongside the narrow q-factor and 27.5” wheels, Suzi Q is full of some other nice features. On each side of the fork are 3-bolt nibs for extra water bottles, pumps, or accessories. 2 more on the seat tube and 3 on the downtube. Two more on the underside of the top tube to mount up a custom frame bag. These additions extend the capacity and options for endurance and self-supporting adventures or for any other use. On long days this was nice, keeping more of the gear off my back.
A Di-2 compartment exists inside the frame just ahead of the bottom bracket. Keeping the center of gravity low the stealth compartment is hidden behind the protected downtube cover and intended to store Di-2 battery. Unbolting the compartment revealed a small puzzle as to how one might install the battery. It appears you may need to temporarily remove the rear brake housing to allow the cover to be fully removed of battery installation. Still a nice feature for those who are interesting Di-2 systems.
The last thing I really like about this bike you notice first; its looks. The paint is a beautiful glossy speckled orange and the black and teal graphics give it a retro/modern contrast. This bike also receives high marks in the aesthetics category due to its long frame lines, interesting shapes, and blended junctions. It’s as if the engineer and industrial designer each had their own idea on how the frame and fork should look and it came down to rock, paper, scissors for each different section. The result is interesting and sharp.
All configurations are dropper post compatible. If you prefer to add a suspension fork Rocky Mountain recommends using 20% sag for a Bluto to retain designed geometry. Suzi Q comes in 4 different configurations, 2 alloy and 2 carbon. The Alloy 30 model is priced at $1799 and Alloy 50 at $2499. The Carbon 90, a bump up from the tested C70 gets you an XTR package and carbon seat post and handlebar, priced at $4299.
Rocky Mountain has paid attention, learned from the trends, and listen to what their users want. 27.5” wheels have proved to be fast and should be a sought-out feature for the racer centred fat biker. Fat bike companies that haven’t begun to look at minimized q-factors for their fat bikes need to start. I won’t be giving you any more of my money. Suzi Q is one great year-round bike. The 65mm wide rim puts you in the middle of a nice range of tire choices for all seasons. If you weight 225lbs or more I would give more thought before pulling the trigger. With the max tire width restriction, it will be hard for you in those extra soft or deeper snow conditions. I really think Suzi Q has pulled out the stops to create a fat bike that leads the way in optimized fat biking. Suzi Q checks all boxes for me. Therefore, Suzi Q gets a 5-gnome rating.
For more information click: Suzi Q.