The past two weeks have seen several multi-day warm ups. In most places this would mean that snowbike trails become ribbons of unrideable mashed potatoes that only get worse when they freeze. But, if you live in Marquette it means that the wonderful groomers from the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) Single Track Section put in some serious hours to ensure that our trails are top-notch when the inevitable freeze comes.
The NTN groomers have come up with some very unique grooming implements that suit our local climate. Their hard work and innovation is the subject of a great new short called “Whack Jobs.” It’s a true testament to those hardworking volunteers that make winter riding not only a possibility but a real pleasure.
The riding has been stellar so far in 2018. Despite the warm weather, as long as the temps drop overnight the trails are primo early in the morning before the sun hits them. In these few precious hours the planets align and you can really rip.
This weekend my friend Tim came up from Wisconsin to revel in our beautiful trails. I set up the GoPro and we went to the woods. Check it out!
The weather has started to turn in the northern regions and no doubt you are starting to think about putting your bikes away for the winter. You may be considering giving fat biking a shot because they seem to not be a fad and let’s face it; months of hanging out in the gym just isn’t the same as outdoor exercise. I needed to keep my spinning outside in order to maintain for next season.
I was at that same place last year. While I love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, neither of them provides me with the same pleasure as biking.
After seeing fat bikes on the trails and all over the internet I thought that I might like to give them a try. I researched them online, went to local bike shops to drool, and finally came to two conclusions: first, I had to have one; second, I could not afford a brand new name brand bike. I searched the fat bike classifieds on Facebook and my state mountain biking forum (check this place out if you are in Michigan or the surrounding states, it is very well organized) but could not find anything suitable or more importantly in my price range.
After much thought and time I succumbed to the allure of Bikesdirect.com (BD). I have been led to believe that these are garbage bikes with all knockoff parts and factory seconds that will crumble underneath you leaving you alone in the woods. This was probably perpetuated by my much older biking friends who had seen many local bike shops close up with the rise of the internet bikestore.
Against their better judgment and with the mindset that it was better to be out riding than sitting around waiting for something to fall into my lap I took the plunge. I looked at the specs on their site and cross referenced it with many posts from the MTBR Sturgis Forum and finally came to the conclusion that the Motobecane Sturgis Bullet w/Bluto could not be beat.
While most of the offerings from BD use more economical technology like QR axles, square-taper bottom brackets, and loose-bearing hubs, this was not the case with the Sturgis Bullet. The Bullet is not the entry-level Sturgis (but even that bike comes with a much better component setup than most). An updated component list can be found here. (PS looks like if you pick up a 2016 model year you can save $200!)
Shipping was much quicker than BD approximated which was welcome news to me. I rushed home on my lunch to unbox my new toy. Assembly was very quick: bolt the front wheel on; adjust the stem and bars; and check and lubricate the moving parts. It took me about 45 minutes but if I wasn’t so interested in inspecting each part it would have been more like 10.
I started off with a simple shakedown cruise on the beach along Lake Superior. I braced myself but was quite impressed at how the fat tires floated over the loose sand.
Since that initial ride I have taken my Sturgis across many different types of terrain on many rides. The only changes that I have made have been to the fit, I am constantly adjusting all of my bikes in this department. Other than that I have found the stock components to perform very nicely. The thru axles provide stiff, reliable handling even on the flowy trails in Marquette. The Bluto fork is really all that it’s hyped up to be. As if the big tires aren’t plush enough a little bit of suspension goes a long way when climbing and descending chunky rock sections. SRAM x7 provides a hardworking, no-frills drivetrain option. This year’s version comes with NovaTec hubs however it comes with lighter MuleFut hoops.
I was initially worried about two things when purchasing the Bullet: the tires and the brakes. The tires are Vee Rubber Snowshoes. They are allegedly 4.8″ but I measure 4.5″. They are not aggressive by any stretch of the definition. While on the road in between sections of trail they definitely have some rolling bias which makes me feel uneasy. Not that they are going to pop out from under me but at high speeds they tend to wander a bit. On dirt single track the tires perform fine; stable and predictable with low rolling resistance. On the snow however, they are quite bad. The tread pattern is not wide nor aggressive enough to give any bite. On truly hard-packed snow they will start to spin when climbing, especially if you get out of the saddle. On bermed and unbermed corners they slip from time to time. The real shortcoming is that their pattern lacks the ability to really tear through and give you dependable purchase in the snow. This winter season I will be switching to something with bigger knobs.
Tektro Draco brakes were definitely one of the areas where BD economized to get this build under budget. Brakes are normally something that I upgrade because honestly your life depends on them. I have had multiple sets in my cart and different times for the Bullet but after a full year of use I will not be changing the Draco out any time soon. After the initial wear in they have proved themselves to me. They lack the subtle modulation of more expensive brakes but give quite a bit of confidence in all conditions. I was more than a little nervous that they would fail me in some of the -15F conditions but they continued to work through the ice, wind and salty road crossings.
It rocks every season and most conditions. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. This bike has been ridden pretty hard this year and continues to hold up. It corners surprisingly well and is extremely playful for such a fat pig. Once I upgrade the tires it will be ready for another Winter of ripping. This is definitely a gateway bike. It showed me that fat bikes are totally capable and fun to ride year round. I am considering a full suspension fatty next. The Farley EX is currently on top of the list, any Trek riders out there?
We are also looking at the new Motobecane Sturgis NX. Chelsea has ridden mine and finds that the Bluto adds too much height for her to comfortably ride. This year’s version contains many upgraded parts and we cannot wait to check it out. Once we pick that up we will compare and contrast.
TL;DR: Great high-performing, economical way to get into the fat bike market.
Please feel free to ask questions or add your own comments or recommendations below. Fellow Sturgis riders, what changes have you made to your ride?