Is it time to Upgrade Your Legacy Fat-Bike? by Jeff Price

Editor’s Note – we should probably try to set some parameters for what we’re referring to when we talk about a ‘legacy fat-bike’. Legacy fat-bikes usually have a drive train with more than one front chainring. They generally have quick-release skewers instead of thru-axles. They might have a fork with front axle spacing that is 135 mm wide and rear triangle with 135 or 170mm hub spacing. My Legacy fat-bike (Otis) has 135 front and 190mm rear spacing with Quick release skewers. The original drive train was a 2 x 9 Sram set-up.

L – Fatback Aluminum Legacy Fat-Bike, R – Fatback Corvus FLT New Generation Fat-Bike

I’ve owned three legacy fat-bikes – a Pugsley, a Moonlander (both Surlys) and the Fatback Aluminum, Otis (above left) and for the last couple of winters, I’ve been lucky enough to ride a new generation Fatback Corvus FLT, Ten Beers (above right). I love Otis but Ten Beers is lighter, stiffer and way less purple. If you read further, you’ll see more of my thoughts on the debate of Old School vs. New School interspersed with Jeff’s Text.

Before you go to red alert and order your science officer to throw up your sheilds….We’re not saying that legacy fat-bikes can’t do everything that more modern fat-bikes can do. Legacy fat-bikes have raced and won the Iditarod Trail Invitational and continue to open up new terrain to cyclists. They remain one of the leading producers of fun on bikes! We’re not trying to sell you a new bike. My inspiration for pursuing this article came from riding both new and old school fatties and from watching all of Jeff’s adventure reports with photos and videos of him pedaling his old school black ribbon Mukluk. Every time I saw those (undrilled) white surly rims, I would think to myself, Jeff needs to experience what a nice light set of new school wheels ride like.

So if you’re curious about what a next-generation fat-bike might have to offer, in the way of, improvements over an old school ‘Legacy’ fat-bike…then this article will probably be of interest. If you’re a die-hard Luddite with “there’s no school like old school” tattooed on your chest, you might want to stop right here (scroll to the bottom) and leave us a dirty limerick in the comments.

Peace Love & Frisbies – ~gomez~

“Why it’s time to upgrade your legacy fat bike…”

Your legacy fat bike, what does it mean to you? For me, my legacy fat-bike is my 2014 Salsa Mukluk which I’ve been riding since October 2013. If you’ve ever seen any of my videos, you’d have seen my legacy fat-bike in action on the mountains and beaches of Wales, England, and Scotland in the UK. 

I’ve had many an adventure which has included numerous overnight trips which have fuelled my passion for the fat bike. I’ve watched more sunsets and sunrises since having the Mukluk than what I had in the previous 40 years. By riding the Mukluk and posting about my adventures, it has introduced me to new friends with similar interests and it’s good to know that I’ve even inspired others to give fat biking a go with the odd overnight trip involved too. 

Riding the Mukluk over the last 6 years has driven me to ride on new terrain which has opened up new routes. The terrain I’ve ridden on and the views I’ve seen has given me something that I didn’t have riding the old MTB around the trails. My legacy fat-bike has inspired me to enjoy the scenery more and to simply enjoy the ride and more importantly, the bike. 

These are the reasons my 2014 Salsa Mukluk is classed as my legacy fat bike. However, after riding the 2020 Salsa Mukluk Carbon NX Eagle for the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize that it could be an even better experience.

So, why is it time to upgrade your legacy fat-bike?

These last few weeks have shown me the advances that have been made to fat-bikes compared to my legacy 2014 Salsa Mukluk. In just a short 6 years, the difference in the bikes is remarkable. Yes, they may be different model types but what you can potentially upgrade to is very special indeed.

1 Gearing

My legacy fat-bike is running a 2 x 10 which I thought was fine. It runs a double ring up front which is a 22/36 tooth chainset and 11-34 cassette. The 2020 Mukluk is equipped with Sram’s NX Eagle which is a 12 speed and has a whopping 50 tooth ring on the rear cassette! 

Coupled with a single 30 tooth chainring up front, I was pedaling terrain I had walked in previous years. This mega low gear ratio is opening up even more new terrain to pedal on than before, which is just phenomenal. If you thought your legacy fat-bike was a ride anywhere bike, it really is with NX Eagle equipped. 

Editor’s Note – You can upgrade a legacy fatty to a 1x drivetrain. Here’s a link to a story about how we upgraded Otis from a 2×9 to a 1x 11 box drivetrain –×9-to-1×11-conversion/

2. Your bike is looking tired…

So your legacy fat-bike is probably looking a bit ‘tired’ by now. You probably have a few scratches here and there from a tumble or two. You may even have the odd ‘ding’ from crashes which are great for sharing tales to your new friends on how it happened. 

Or you may have lost a bit of paint from the frame due to bikepacking. All these events from the life of your bike will make it look old and weary next to your friend’s shiny new fat-bike out on the trail. 

Everyone loves a new shiny bike!

3, Lighter bike  

As bike technology moves forward the weight of them goes down and this is really noticeable when out on the trails compared to my legacy fat-bike.

My legacy fat-bike is an aluminum frame which has been a solid but heavy, especially when carrying over gates. The new Mukluk is a lightweight high-modulus carbon fibre frame with 12mm rear thru-axle and a 15mm front thru-axle instead of the old quick-release skewers. The ride is noticeably more comfortable due to the flex of the frame, the width of the tyre and the thru-axles.   

Editor’s Note – I think that Thru-Axles are the most important improvement that new school frames have over legacy bikes. T/A’s are lighter and stronger than their quick release predecessors and they allow the frame to be designed to be lighter, because they lock down the foundation of the frame and fork to the wheels. This makes for a very responsive feel when accelerating and a nice quiet ride when you’re putting the power to the pedals or carving the bike through bermed turns at speed. I would add Stiffer to Lighter on Jeff’s reason 3 above.

4. Tubeless

My legacy fat-bike is running the ever-faithful but heavy Rolling Darryl’s on 170mm rear hubs and 135mm front hubs which meant a 4” tubed tyre was on the limit. The new Mukluk is tubeless, on 80mm SUNringle Mulefut rims laced to 197mm and 150mm hubs which allows a 4.6” Dillinger 5 to roll with plenty of room to spare.

By running tubeless, you’re saving weight and also able to run lower tyre pressures and not worry about pinch flats.

Editor’s Note – Tubeless is another benefit that you can achieve with your existing legacy fatty. Tubeless tires roll easier than a tubed tire. Tire size is another issue. Most new school frames these days can run a five-inch tire. If you’re searching for more flotation you can find that with wider tires and if you so choose – taller wheels (27.5 Fat).

With lighter wheelsets, running the bike tubeless and lighter carbon frames, fat-bikes can no longer be looked at as those heavy awkward bikes .. Fatbikes today really are a four-season bike that can be used for your everyday ride.

5. Ride more

You know what’s it’s like when you get a new bike, you end up riding more than what you did on your old bike. And why not? During my time on the Salsa Mukluk Carbon NX Eagle I went out most days either down on the beach or up in the hills of north Wales as it was so much fun to ride.

I also loaded the Mukluk up for a night in the hills of Snowdonia as this bike is all about adventure. Salsa’s carbon Kingpin fork offers 2 three-pack bosses per fork and multiple accessory frame mounts dotted around it’s compatible to take a rear rack too, that’ll keep your kit off your back. With a lighter bike for bikepacking, adventures can be achieved with less effort, win, win! 

So, is it time to upgrade your legacy fat-bike?

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13 Responses to Is it time to Upgrade Your Legacy Fat-Bike? by Jeff Price

  1. Pistil Pete November 12, 2019 at 10:06 am #

    Shields engaged!

    Engineer,we need more power to shields!

    It’s all she’s got Cap’n!

    Helm,put the Moon between us and the website!

    • Sienk November 12, 2019 at 5:09 pm #

      Tired and weary. Old and heavy. Still rolling along 7+ years later. Pretty much a reflection of its rider. Didn’t say it was a pretty reflection.

  2. Sienk November 12, 2019 at 4:49 pm #

    Kept seeing the words tired and weary. We’ve aged 7+ years together. Got a feeling the moonlander might outlive me. Great, tough, old bike. “This getting older,it ain’t for cowards” (John Mellencamp)

  3. Allroy November 12, 2019 at 5:54 pm #

    I loved my legacy 2015 Norco BigFoot and probably would have been happy to ride it into the dirt, however one of the welds on the drive side chainstay cracked. ????
    Norco was good enough about replacing the frame but I had to supply every other part due to the incompatibility of the specs between the 2015-2019 frame geometry. Overall the newer bike is cooler. 1x drivetrain, wider bars , slacker HT angle and stealth route for a dropper post.

  4. Phil November 13, 2019 at 6:59 am #

    I was just thinking of resurrecting my mark 1 Mukluk….

  5. DAVE November 15, 2019 at 7:39 am #

    Moonlander to open and pack fresh snow covered trails, Beargrease to ride after the trails are packed.

  6. greg November 16, 2019 at 10:40 pm #

    Still love my 1st year Mukluk. Just rode it today, but it is tubeless and 1x (although 1×9 with a 42T rear, which is plenty for steep Utah hills. Only have 3000 miles on it so far, so it’s almost like new.

  7. summittoppler November 17, 2019 at 11:27 am #

    Loving the comments guys, keep them coming!

  8. Gomez November 17, 2019 at 11:39 am #

    The lack of dirty limericks in the comments has been rather disappointing.

  9. Mike November 19, 2019 at 8:30 am #

    Got my first fatbike 2 years ago – Stevens Mobster ’18. Love that camo paintjob, the geometry’s also perfect for some XC-like riding.

    Apart from the frame, fork and crank arms nothing else left from the original – swapped the drivetrain for NX 1×11, wheels for DT BR2250, bigger tires (4,8 vs 4,0) and some carbon components (bar and seatpost) – dropped the weight from 14,4kg to 13kg. And I don’t think i’ll be leaving it behind – it’s exactly what I expected from a fatty, so it’ll stay with me until one of us breaks down. 🙂

  10. Co-opski December 3, 2019 at 6:43 pm #

    There was a dirty man of Wisconsin.
    Who used Dumonde Tech instead of bear grease.
    His eggs slid off the skillet and bounced on the floor.
    and something about a bucket.

  11. Phil Esempio May 12, 2020 at 10:52 am #

    The best part of having a “legacy” fat-bike? I got a well-maintained 2015 Mukluk at the local swap meet in October for $500. A few inexpensive upgrades (saddle, grips, and a larger front rotor), and she’s good to go for a while. I may upgrade to tubeless wheels and tires eventually, but man, this bike was a bargain for what it is capable of. I have to admit, though, that the lure of a brand-new Shand Tumshie is like a siren song…

  12. summittoppler May 13, 2020 at 5:38 am #

    As I wrote this back in November I’ve slowly been upgrading my legacy Mukluk. New braking system, a couple of other little bits and new Surly Edna tyres! My word it makes the bike feel so different and handles much much better. Looking at upgrading the rims when funds allow which should make a huge difference.

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