The growth rate of fat bike sales is staggering. It is estimated that out of the 20,000 fat bikes on the trails today, about 80 percent were purchased in the
last 18 months. While this segment of mountain biking is
still in its infancy, there are already mutations of the original 3.5-inch-wide-tire fat bikes. Dubbed 29+, these bikes
are designed to straddle the line between 29ers and fat
bikes. The American-made Fatback 29+ out of Alaska is
one such offering.
WHO IT IS MADE FOR?
A better question is, “Where is it made for?” The Fatback
29+ is definitely a trailbike, but where it will shine is in
areas where riders have to contend with ultra-soft trail surfaces (think deep sand, gravel and snow). The Fatback 29+
has the ability to navigate trails that have never been possible on a mountain bike. Think rock crawler.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The aluminum frame and fork are made in the United
States. The bike uses a tapered head tube and sports a
dropped top tube design to allow for more standover height.
The frame accepts a direct-mount front derailleur, although
ours skipped the front derailleur in favor of a 1x10 drivetrain. The frame has mounts for a fender or rack, and cable
and hose guides are well-positioned.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
The wheels! The Surly Rabbit Hole rims and Knard tires
steal the show on this very basic rigid bike. Mechanical disc
brakes keep things simple, and the Race Face cranks with a
single ring look very much at home.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The setup: There is not much to adjust except the tire
pressure, which is probably too high. These giant-volume
tires run single-digit psi levels— 3 or 4 psi is not out of the
Ergonomics: We were surprised the bike
stayed out of the rider’s way. We expected some
leg-to-stay rubbing with tires this wide, but it
didn’t happen. Fatback used their fat-bike expe-
rience (they make the real thing too) to cleverly
tuck everything in tight while still offering plenty
of tire clearance (surprisingly more than
on many conventional mountain
Moving out: The surprises
continued. We expected
lethargic acceleration, but
the bike is surprisingly
peppy. No, it is not as
responsive as a conven-
tional 29er trailbike,
but it is not like an
geometry lends itself to
tight and twisty trails,
and there is no way
these tires are going to let
go on the technical stuff.
It is so fun to negotiate
loose, rocky and sandy cor-
ners feeling like you are riding
on moist, tacky terrain. The real fun
begins on fast corners where, when you allow the tires to get
past their limit, the bike drifts with a confidence and control
that will have the rider laughing.
Climbing: Again, not as bad as expected. The big rear tire
offers so much traction that out-of-the-saddle attacks work if
you have the lungs, heart and legs. And, you will need to get
out of the saddle with the very tall low gear of 6. 7 feet per
Descending: The big tires help take some of the sting
out of downhills, but you never forget that you are riding a
rigid bike. The tires do offer a degree of suspension, but it’s
suspension without any rebound control. That means riders
need to keep their speed in check or the tires will begin to
bounce like basketballs.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The bike really needs nothing. It is ready to roll. One
word of warning for riders who plan to use a 29+ in winter
conditions: According to IMBA, most groomed snow trails
will not welcome 29+ bikes. This is also true for most trails
groomed especially for fat bikes. The 29+ tires are well
below the minimum width of 3. 5 inches.
Remember, 29+ bikes get flat tires too. Carrying a spare
is a bit of a pain. Not so much because of the weight as the
Where mountain bikers enjoy great traction and easily
negotiated trails (like in Southern California), the 29+
would only make sense as a second bike to play with. For
riders who constantly struggle to maintain traction and control on the trails available to them, the 29+ is an answer
to their prayers. It can make unrideable trails rideable to a
degree you could never experience from the saddle of your
conventional mountain bike. ❏