I was never really a bike person. As a kid I remember getting my first bike and being wildly excited by it, and growing up outside of town bicycles were the mode of transport of choice until we earned our driving privileges. But somewhere between then and now biking just kind of became a chore. There were friends that I had that loved road biking but generally speaking that was about the sum of my exposure to bike culture, spandex and skinny smooth wheels. Generally something that interested me about as much as a dentist visit.
But that all changed one day hiking in Alaska. Hiking around a muddy patch in the trail I noticed a tire impression in the soft earth. This wasn’t a standard bike tire, if anything it looked like the print of the Bigfoot of bikes, ridiculously wide and well treaded, I assumed that it was most likely a 150cc motorbike, nothing else would explain a tread that wide. It was only a few miles up the trail that I met the rider of that tire print, silently coming down the trail. I was flabbergasted when I saw the bike the guy was riding. It was like no bike I’d ever seen before but as badass as anything I could imagine. The bike oozed adventure. As so on as I could get online I began searching for what possible kind of bike it was and first heard the term “fat bike”
Even two years ago most of the information on forums or online often refereed to fat bikes as a “fad” or “gimmick” a “new trend that will never last”. But then there were the rider posts, photos of fat bikes with them strapped to packrafts, on glacial silt that a normal bike would flounder in, in desserts, snow, beaches and climbing over imposing rocks. I knew that I to try one, but were the doubters right? Was it just some passing fad? Two years down the pipeline and time has proven the naysayers wrong.
If you Google fat bike today there are forums, blogs, stores and accessories dedicated to fat bikes and its style of riding. There are photos of fat bikes in amazing scenery from across the globe. Recently there was even a biker to become the first to reach the south pole by bike, his ride of choice? A fat bike. Fat bikes have moved out of the realm of “fad” or “gimmick” and into the very real world of mainstream adventure bicycling.
The only problem with fat bikes were the price tag. If you had an extra 1500 dollars you might be able to find an entry level bike used on Craigslist somewhere, but those bikes tended to go quickly or be far away. Then there was the option of buying new. For your average guy interested in giving these new bikes a try, it could cost as much as three or four thousand dollars for a fat bike. Shelling out that kind of cash just didn’t seem possible for me, or I imagine, the many others like me, dying to try out a fat bike, until Framed Bikes decided to change that.
Twin Cities Born
Framed Bikes is a Minnesota based company with a simple, no nonsense approach to its bikes that you’d expect from a company that applies Midwest sensibility to its products that would make any Midwesterner nod in approval. Frameds motto boils down to a few simple things, most importantly that a great bike doesn’t have to be overly complicated and expensive. This doesn’t mean skipping important details or cutting corners, instead it means putting a great product together while keeping the cost to consumers down to a reasonable standard and when you compare a Framed fat bike to some other entry level fat bikes you begin to see the difference.
The Nitty Gritty of it
If you take what most people consider to be the standard entry level fat bike and stack it up next to the Framed Minnesota 2.0(what I would consider their entry level fat bike) you can pretty quickly begin to see the differences right from the get go. Let start with the price, a Surley Pugsley fat bike will run you about 1,750 brand new. While that might not brake the bank for some, you could almost buy two Framed Minnesota 2.0s for that. The Pugsley is made with a steel frame giving it a weight close to 38 pounds and, from talking to a few riders, a propensity towards rust if not taken care of. The Framed Minnesota on the other hand is made of 6061 aluminum alloy saving several pounds on the total weight of the bike and is also corrosion resistant. Both come as a standard 18 speed and both use Avid brakes, the Pugsley BB7 and Minnesota the BB5 both with 160mm rotors. The Pugsley comes standard with 26”x 3.8” tires and the Framed Minnesota with 26”x 4” tires. I could list off the whole spec sheet, but my point being as a basic bike for a part time rider or weekend warrior, to the die hard mountain biker, why would you spend almost twice as much for a bike that can not honestly claim to be superior to the Framed Minnesota 2.0?
The Bike Itself
The first time you get onto a Framed Minnesota 2.0 it feels like a bike that could take you anywhere and that certainly has proven to be true for me. From sand to rocky trails, over downed trees and in the snow, this bike has handled the best that I’ve thrown at it so far. I’m sure there are many who would argue with my previous point that the parts don’t make a bike but instead how we enjoy the ride does. To that I could only agree because riding the Framed Minnesota 2.0 has been nothing but a joy so far.
The 4” tires give amazing traction on every surface, and can easily be adjusted to fit riding conditions, with lower pressures for greater float over sand and snow and higher pressure to fly over hard packed trails. The Minnesota 2.0 holds a line easily and it gives you plenty of confidence on even tight corners (Framed decided for a slightly shorter frame giving it a sportier trail ride feel). Its Avid BB5 breaks have great stopping power, even on slippery, snow covered hills I’ve yet to run into a time where I’ve felt let down by them. Its 18 speed SRAM X7/X5 drive train shifts smoothly and gives the rider plenty of options for gearing the bike to whatever conditions the bike, or its rider, are in!
The Framed Minnesota 2.0 is a bike that across the board should be on anyone’s radar. I can’t tell you the number of times that people have seen my bike on top of my car and told me how they really want a fat bike but just can’t afford to spend the money, not knowing that the day of the 1700 dollar entry fat bike are over. As I have told them, if your looking to first get into riding fat bikes the Minnesota 2.0 is, in my opinion, the bike to get you started, as well as a fat bike that will continue to fit your needs as you grow into riding.
Fat bikes are no longer a fad and many serious mountain bikers I know are converting over, getting rid of their old bikes, so they can ride year round. But the appeal goes way beyond that. I’ve seen photos online of fat bikes converted into bug out vehicles capable of towing a cart behind them, for a worst case scenario situation. Why? Because in reality there is no better style of bike that offers the rugged, all terrain and all season capabilities of a fat bike and the Framed Minnesota 2.0 offers, I believe, the greatest bang for your buck in the fat bike market.
Before I started riding a fat bike I probably would have said there was very little chance of ever getting me to ride a bike. But through a season of pushing the bounds of where I thought a bike could take me on a Framed Minnesota 2.0, my perspective has changed quite a bit. As a guy who has spent the last several years dodging winter, I have to admit for the first time in a long time, as the temperature drops I find myself actually excited for winter now, for no other reason then the opportunity to get my fat bike out in the snow.
Not Accepting Good Enough
Beyond the fact the Framed Bikes decided that it was time to offer an affordable fat bike, they have also continued to push the lines of what you can get from an affordable bike. They now have the Minnesota 3.0, priced comparably to other companies entry level bikes, that includes a Rockshox Bluto suspension fork for taking riding on trails to a new, way more comfortable level, as well as its Alaska Carbon, cutting even further on weight(but not frame strength) by introducing its first line of carbon framed bikes. As excited as I was to first ride my Minnesota 2.0, I will admit I’m almost as excited to see where Framed Bikes goes next. If your ready to finally step up to a fat bike I suggest you absolutely start at www.framedbikes.com.