Here it is!…we received our shipment of two Salsa Beargrease XX1 FatBikes last week. Both are already accounted for as specific customer pre-orders, but we’ll happily order more if you want one.
One of the two top end Beargreases ordered was for yours truly, so after a week of riding I can offer some first hand feeback. Here’s the scoop:
Yes, this thing is light. My medium sized bike, built almost completely stock and with a cheap set of Egg Beater pedals, with an uncut steerer tube and post, and running the wheels with tubes (they do come tubeless ready) weighs in on our scale at 23 lbs. 7 oz. Getting it below 23 lbs would require very little additional effort or money.
To put it in perspective this means the Beargrease XX1 is as light as my carbon F series Cannondale cross country mountain bike spec’d with a 1 x 10 XT/XTR component mix (i.e. no front derailleur or shifter and just one chainring), a carbon Lefty, and a carbon Si crankset. Wow.
The light weight combined with racy geometry makes the Beargrease XX1 feel very close to the same as a ‘regular’ cross country racing mountain bike. Running the tires at a high PSI the biggest noticeable difference between the Beargrease and, say, the F series Cannondale is that in corners you can feel the front tire push you out a bit from the corner you’re diving into because of its larger width (the actual diameter difference is negligible because a 4″ FatBike tire measures about the same outer diameter as a 2″ 29er). This makes the bike not quite as nimble as a regular cross country bike, but the difference is minor.
Braking into a corner is virtually identical to braking on a cross country bike though, due largely to the similar weight. On heavier FatBikes you have to make sure to brake earlier to get all that mass down to the correct speed. Not so with the Beargrease. In fact on the right trails you can actually brake just a little bit later because you have more tire grip to prevent you from skidding out. The carbon Whisky rims obviously help reduce rotating mass compared to even the lightest weight aluminum FatBike rims, so the rims also help with the reduced braking distance, and for that matter they help mitigate the aforementioned nimble-reducing tire width/cornering issue somewhat.
I’ve been running the tires at about 20 PSI in these summer like trail conditions we’re still enjoying before the snow finally flies and I consider that similar to, say, 45 PSI or so on a 2″ 29er tire. On pavement you can definitely still feel that you’re on a fat tired bike but on buff dirt singletrack the 4″ Dillinger tires don’t really feel much different than the equivalent 2″ rubber, like for instance a Schwalbe Racing Ralph.
The Beargrease XX1’s drivetrain isn’t new to us but it is still relatively rare and worth mentioning here. I’ve been riding a 1 x 10 XT/XTR set up on my Cannondale with a wide/narrow chainring up front mated to a Clutch Drive rear derailleur and a 42 tooth chainring “in place of” the 17 tooth, and it has worked pretty well. If you already have a good 2 x 10 set up and want to make the switch to a 1x set up without getting a whole new drivetrain the set up described here is a good, workable solution. However, the Sram XX1 set up is undisputedly better. The shifting is really, really crisp with less effort required. It is, in my opinion, the current pinnacle of cross country mountain bike shifting.
It’s also important to note that the XX1 Beargrease is not actually all XX1. Somewhat disappointingly it’s a mix of XX1 and XO1, but the functional feel compared with a full XX1 drivetrain is virtual indistinguishable.
The ‘other’ bits on the Beargrease XX1 are almost all top notch. Stem and post are Thomson, and the bar is a carbon Whisky to compliment the gorgeous carbon rims. However, the wheels use the same Salsa hubs used on all levels of the Beargrease and the spokes are straight gauge – both of those things contribute to a less than very top end wheelset and seem a bit incongruent with the rims themselves, but it’s still a great wheelset that obviously doesn’t weigh the bike down too much.
What is the purpose of this bike? Locally Fatbikes started out mostly as a safer and easier way for diehards to keep riding after snow hit the ground. More recently they’ve been used for summer riding as well, often for enduro rides and/or on really rough terrain. For various reasons some people have even begun using their FatBikes as their primary mountain bike in most or even all conditions, though admittedly with some compromises. This is a first time I can say that riding a FatBike (that is this one in particular) in almost any condition can be done with virtually no compromise, assuming you don’t absolutely need front suspension beyond what low pressure 4″ tires can provide. Because this bike can also be ridden on conditions a conventional bike would find difficult the Beargrease XX1 is arguably not just the one bike that can do most things well, it might be the one bike that can do most things the best, or at least equally as well as some other options.
There must be some downside here to temper our enthusiasm. Enter our head mechanic, who was kind enough to point out that there’s about a $2000 differential between the lower end carbon Beargrease and this one but only about a 3 lb weight difference and very little functional difference (the lower end component spec on the cheaper carbon Beargrease is still a 1×11 set up and still works really well). That means you pay A LOT more to save those 3 lbs on the higher end build.
Is it worth it? At $6200 plus taxes, and with a very good alternative lower spec’d Beargrease selling for a little over $4000, I have to admit that it’s past the point of diminishing return, but is that really the point we’re interested in talking about here? When I was 12 years old there was a guy a few blocks over who had what I thought was the coolest bike ever and I dreamt of owning something like that one day. Yesterday as I helped lead out the 1st lap of the Kids Races at the National Cyclocross Championships on the Beargrease XX1 one of kids yelled up to me, saying “that’s the coolest bike ever”. This bike is about living the dream.