We ran a mid-term review story that you should read if you want to know the full story behind the Otaso Arctodus. To make it easy, I just pasted that review below. If you’d like to see the final review scroll down to the heading – FINAL REVIEW.
A big black Otso Arctodus has taken-up temporary residence here at the fat dash bike com polka lounge. When I first got a look at the Arctodus (on the internet), I was somewhat ambivalent about the potential popularity of a maximum flotation steel fat bike. Like most things related to bicycles (on the internet), my perception became notably brighter after throwing a leg over the top tube of the bike named after a Pleistocene Short-Faced Bear and taking it for a ride. I guess I shouldn’t judge a bike by how it looks on paper (or on the phone)
The best way of getting to really know what makes a bike tick is to take a dozen (or more) good rides. I’ve had the pleasure of those rides and I’ve had time to delve deeper into the refinements that the folks at Otso have engineered into the Arctodus. The bike felt great from the very first ride. I’m pretty stoked about how the big tire setup feels and very interested in how adaptable the Arctodus can be. We’ll be looking at that in the the second part of the field test. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s talk about the Arctodus that came out of the box from Otso and then maybe we’ll share a sneak peek at part two of the report.
I was delighted to see that we received the Black Colorway (it also comes in blue). Otso also sent along a set of their Waveform Aluminum Pedals in basic black. When I got the Arctodus all built up and took a look at it out in the light, it looked like a fat bike that Ripp Wheeler from Yellowstone would ride. Big Black and Bad Ass!
Beyond the good looks, the size large demo bike also fit and rode in that very familiar traditional fat bike feel. It felt like a refreshing return to the old familiar rider feedback that reminds me of my Surly Moonlander. The other fat bikes that are in the shop right now are slacker than the Arctodus. I honestly looked forward to riding the Artodus and felt comfortable with the handling from the first ride. I think that it helped that the bike came set up tubeless with Johnny Fives. The Arctodus weighed in at thirty-three pounds and eleven ounces (with their pedals) but it rolls like a much lighter bike. Johnny Fives help that along with their easy rolling tread pattern, especially once the bike got up to speed. The Arctodus is a pleasure to ride and it feels unstoppable!
During this first semester of our field test of the Arctodus, there have been one titanium, two steel, two carbon, and one aluminum fat bike available to ride and I’ve ridden them all at one point or another. I like to take new bikes out and ride back-to-back bandit loops to get a feel for what’s going on with each bike. In back-to-back testing, it was a little slower than the Ti and Carbon bikes which were both running four-inch tires. Sometimes it’s not how fast you can ride. In some snow conditions, it’s the bike that rides best when things get really slow and soft that you want. That’s where the Arctodus shines.
I think that it speaks volumes that the five-inch maximum flotation, steel Arctodus continually remains a favorite option that I always look forward to because it’s so damn fine. I know I’m the guy that weighs everything and preaches the gospel of lighter is better, but this bike really has surprised me by how little that seemed to matter to my inner bike snob.
If you’ve ever owned and ridden a maximum flotation fat bike, you know what I mean about the ride of 26″ fatimus Maximus! It’s big and lively. It has a way of awakening your inner ten-year-old. That’s not to say that the Arctodus should be pigeon-holed as just a maximum-flotation platform.
The Arcotodus can run 27.5 x 3.8 tires as the Moots and Corvus had mounted in the back-to-back bandito loops in the chart above and probably get a bit faster. If you’d like to shorten up the rear end with your smaller tire setup, the Arctodus comes with a Wolftooth Tuning Chip rear dropout. Wolftooth also offers the Geoshift Angle Headset that changes the geometry of the bike to be slacker for stability or steeper for agility. There’s a lot going on with the Arctodus. We’ll be looking at the adaptability of the Arctodus in part two.
Otso is uniquely positioned in the fat bike market having been founded by its own component company – Wolftooth Components. They have the advantage of being able to manufacture parts that help control their chain line and keep the Q factor as narrow as possible. The build on our Arctodus demo is filled with Wolftooth goodies and includes an interesting collection of components. The rider cockpit features a pair of Wolftooth Fat Paw Grips. Probably the best feeling round grip that I’ve ridden in recent years. RaceFace bar/seatpost with a WTB Volt saddle. The drive train is a one-by-12-speed Shimano SLX (shifter/der.) with a RaceFace Next carbon crank with a Wolftooth chainring. The brakes are Magura MT hydro disc brakes. This is my first experience with Magura brakes and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better. The wheelset is the ever-popular 26″ Sun/Ringle Mulefut rims laced to Sun/Ringle hubs and Terrene Johnny Fives.
The Arctodus (as built) is ideal for conditions that trend toward the need for maximum flotation. The Arctodus ranks up there with the fattest of the fat and it does that with a 100mm bottom bracket. This is 30-40mm narrower than other fat bikes that have the same tire clearance. I’m happy that they sent the Johnny Fives instead of Vee XXL tires. At nineteen hundred plus grams the XXL’s are a bit too heavy for my taste and the Johnny fives have proven themselves to me over the past couple of winters. On a trip to Alaska in ’19, I came to hail them as my secret weapon (mounted on 100mm wide HED Rims). #johnnyfiveisalive
If you think that the Arctodus is just a steel rigid fat bike that can run the biggest tires today, you’ve only scratched the surface of what Otso designed into their big fat steel machine. We’ll be testing the Geoshift Angle Headset and the new Wolftooth Components Resolve Dropper in part two of our Arctodus Field Test along with a variety of wheel and tire sizes.
The bottom line on the Arctodus as far as this Mid Term is very good! This is the style of legacy fat bike that really lit my passion for riding these fun machines a dozen years ago. It also has a great deal of the best thought-out modern innovations included in its design making it sort of the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for a steel fat bike, the Otso Arctodus should be on your list of bikes to test ride.
The Final Review
During the last ten days of field testing the Arctodus I had an over-ambitious goal of trying out a variety of tire and wheels options along with the new Wolf Tooth Resolve dropper post. I guess getting to try a new front wheel and getting in some fun singletrack with the dropper is a good portion of what I wanted to explore with the Arctodus. The thing that I didn’t get to experiment with during the last part of the test is the Wolf Tooth Geoshift Angle Headset. I’ll get to try to slacken out my Krampus this summer to complete that experiment.
I only switched the front wheel on the arctodus and kept to the 26″ rim size because the Arctodus has 5mm of offset built into the rear wheel. I wanted to try 27.5 x 85mm and 26 x 100mm wheels, but I couldn’t utilize those rear wheels. The same wheels that fit on most modern 197/12mm thru-axle frames. The front wheel is a normal 150/15mm fat bike wheel so it can be swapped, but the rear wheel is laced specifically for an Arctodus Frame. If the Arctodus is your only bike and you’ll never want to swap out wheels with another fat bike, it’s no big deal. For my situation, it completely halted any wheel/tire size testing. I was basically stuck with the 26″ rear wheel that came with the complete build. It’s not a deal-breaker, but you have to know that before you pull the trigger on one.
The Wolf Tooth Resolve dropper post was a great addition to the Arctodus. It probably will get its own review in the near future. The dropper did illustrate the contrast between the improved cornering aspects of the standard fat bike feel of the Arctodus vs. the slacker Rocky Mountain Blizzard. There’s tangible leverage to the rear tire that dropper posts provide while cornering and it’s a little better on the (slacker/smaller) Blizzard. Of course, with a Wolf Tooth Geoshift 2-degree Angle Headset the Arctodus can perhaps mimic that same “motoAF” feeling.
My final gut feeling on this bike remains overwhelmingly positive. I loved riding the Arctodus, especially in soft snow. We just got eight inches of fluffy snow and the arctodus would be a great choice for that kind of trail conditions. Since I have multiple fat bikes and wheelsets, It’s a real chink in the armor that the Arctodus uses a proprietary rear wheel. But not everybody wants to interchange wheels as much as I do. However, the final score went down half a gnome for me, but I still feel like Otso and Wolf Tooth are rising stars in the fat bike world.
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