So some time ago, I had posted enthusiastically about the new Carbon Beargrease from Salsa. I’m pretty excited about it. I had also posted an April Fools post that Trek was making it. As it turns out, the sarcasm of that post was not picked up upon, and the rumor was propagated by other bike blogs and news sources, much to the chagrin of friends at Salsa and Trek. Let’s be clear: it was a joke…but in retrospect, it was a plausible enough joke that some took it seriously.
Trek has now released their Farley fatbike, and Specialized has released their own fatbike which I briefly commented on here. In short, while I am a Trek supporter (and love my Madone), I’m disappointed in the Farley, because it really doesn’t break any new ground. In the long-term, it will probably be good for fatbikes, because more manufacturers producing them should hopefully mean greater parts availability and reduced parts cost. But on the other hand, with mainstream manufacturers grabbing for market share by releasing uninspired fatbikes that will compete against the innovators like Surly and Salsa, I’m concerned about what this will do to companies like that, who work to break new ground and pioneer this type of bike.
Enough about industry concerns. On to the Beargrease. I’ve borrowed pics from across the web, and in no particular order, here they are (I’m focusing on the XX1 version because, well, that’s the one that I’m looking to get). I could not find attribution for these pics, and thus cannot give attribution here…
I am sooooo glad that Salsa kept the black on black color scheme.
Thru-Axle Front FTW!
Thru-Axle rear with XX1.
Lotsa room with the carbon fork. Also, note the Escalator tire choice…from what I saw of those on Tobie’s bike last winter, they should be a GREAT choice.
So what excites me about the Carbon Beargrease?
Thru-Axles. On a fatbike, these make perfect sense to me. I’ve already staked out that I don’t need thru-axles on a gravel bike…but with fatbike tires to control and the conditions that we ride them in, the extra rigidity of thru-axles will be much appreciated. I think this is a huge leap forward.
Shorter Chainstays: Little design feature, but the more I ride bikes with shorter chainstays, the more I love them. Alternator dropouts make perfect sense on more ‘general purpose’ or expedition fatbikes like the Mukluk. On a more race-oriented bike, short chainstays and fixed dropouts make more sense. I’m really excited to see how these bikes handle.
New Drivetrains: Chicken/Egg, and I don’t know who pushed for it…but I am thrilled to see new drivetrain options. Since Salsa is the first on the block with it, I’m assuming that Salsa worked closely with SRAM to develop the XX1 fatbike drivetrain. XX1 makes a ton of sense on a fatbike. Lighter, no FD to worry about, huge range of gears, no chainslap, simpler. All wonderful things. I am curious to see the use of trigger-shifters instead of gripshift. In my experience with 1×10 on the Superfish, I’ve found that gripshift is the way to go. With a 1x setup, you can’t drop into the little chainring at the bottom of a big climb…so if you’re going downhill fast, and then transitioning to a climb, you have to go all the way through the cassette. With gripshift, you can do that in one fell-swoop. With trigger shift, that’s a lot of clicking. I’ll be curious to see how it works, and I’m curious to know why they made that selection. Perhaps XX1 trigger shift works better in the cold? Perhaps it was cheaper for an OEM selection? Maybe something else? In any event, I’m very happy to see pioneering drivetrain options.
Tapered Fork: No, not the first fatbike with a tapered fork (heck, it’s been on Mukluks and Beargreases since last year, not to mention other manufacturers), but it clearly makes sense. Did I mention that it’s suspension corrected? So when Salsa comes out with their suspension fork partner this year, it’ll be an easy swap onto the bike. (I don’t have any inside intel, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that: 1) all of the Salsa guys have been experimenting with front suspension on fatties and loving it; and, 2) all of the Salsa fatbikes are now tapered steerer, suspension corrected fork-equipped. It’s just a matter of time. Heck, even the hubs on the base Mukluks can be converted to the new thru-axle standard when a fork becomes available).
Hydro Brakes: Again, not breaking new ground (they’ve been featured on other fatbikes, including last year’s aluminum Beargrease), but as I found with the Mukluk, hydro brakes are a huge improvement over mechanical disc brakes, on a fatbike.
Full Carbon: I’m excited to see Salsa go into the realm of full-carbon, and I wonder what they might have up their sleeves next. (Note: when they release the full-carbon, XX1 Spearfish with 100mm of travel front and rear, I will be the first one in line for one). Going to a carbon fork on the Mukluk made a huge improvement in ride quality and the handling characteristics of the bike. Going to a much lighter frame with the ride quality of carbon is exciting. This is drivetrain related as well, but I think the pressfit BB makes a great deal of sense on a fatbike.
Perhaps the other important thing to recognize about a full carbon fatbike is the commitment that Salsa is making. I’ve read different estimates about the costs of building up the molds for carbon bike frames, and it’s well into six-figures. Some have suggested that it can be six-figure costs per mold. In any event, it shows that Salsa sees the fatbike market as expanding and worthwhile–and worth putting their effort into. It’s not just another cookie-cutter fatbike like the big guys. Salsa is coming forward with great, new bikes.
My one question, for my own purposes, remains with the rims. I’d have preferred to see Marge Lites (65mm) instead of Holy Rolling Darryls (82mm). For that 17mm difference in width, the Marge Lites drop nearly 1/3 of a pound of rolling weight per wheel. From what I’ve read, the small difference in rim width doesn’t make a perceptible difference in handling with the current crop of 4″ tires…and since the Beargrease is optimized for those 4″ tires…it seems to me that Marge Lites may make more sense. We’ll see.
In any event, I see the Carbon Beargrease as a bike that is groundbreaking–the next step forward in fatbikes. The Full Suspension fatty and the hardtail fatty are just around the corner.