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Fatties fit fine



Around this month, thirty years ago, I got my first mountain bike.

How it felt to ride it out of the shop is still a sharp memory, because the sensation of big tyres, slack steering and powerful brakes was so new and so different from the several dozen bikes I had ridden before I got that proto-mountain bike.

Of course, the tyres were not that great, the steering was only slack compared to a road bike, and the brakes were nowhere as good as brakes would become. But at the time it was a revelation.

Three decades later and nearly all the improvements that have come along are fully integrated in the mountain biking experience, so that comparing modern bikes is like comparing wines - unless you are an expert, and have access to a lot of examples, its hard to objectively tell one from another.

That is why borrowing a new sub-species of mountain bike this week was so interesting.

I got a chance to borrow a Surly semi-fat bike from RideCentral.

Surly makes several 26” wheel fat bikes with huge tyres, but theKrampus has 29” wheels with monster tyres wrapped around them, making an overall diameter that is off the hook.

Jumping on the thing created almost exactly the same feeling as that first mountain bike ride way back when - the massive tyre, and monster truck handling was new and weirdly exciting. Like, this is going to be a laugh.

First of all, even at about 12psi the tyres had too much air in them. The bike has no suspension besides the tyres, and they are about as much like suspension as a pogo stick. Letting a heap of air out sorted that, and the ride became incredibly smooth over rough ground and small rooty sections. Drops and bigger lumps were still pretty harsh.

I was amazed by how fast it went uphill, factoring in my innate uselessness at going uphill generally. Ungodly amounts of traction and a longer than normal wheelbase meant the back wheel would not slip, and the front wheel stayed planted. Turning corners was also impressive, the traction seemed limitless.

However, even at super low pressure the tyres got bouncy as the speed went up - maybe time on board would help but things got very exciting very quickly whenever a trail went downhill.

All too soon two hours was up, it was dark, and I had to give the bike back.

I am not sure what the Krampus is good for besides riding with a panic-striken grin on the dial - maybe that is enough!





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