Saturday, February 07, 2015

Blackborow DS: Final Verdict

From my record cold commute ride
Not long ago I was making a reference to having a final say on this bike once I had ridden it in some deeper snow. Well, that has happened and with the high likelihood that the snow is going away soon, I figured I was not going to be seeing anymore deep snow till next Winter. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but I'm thinking we're looking at little bits of snow here and there and then Spring will be coming round the corner. Well, however it goes, this is my final say on this bike.

The Blackborow platform from Salsa is for the widest tires and rims on the market now. This provides the best flotation you can get, and as an aside, the most traction as well. The difference that you get from going from 3.8's to 4.8's is palpable and as a big guy, well worth the time to check out. You'll go further with more control, but as a downside to that, you might find that everything that was challenging before is suddenly a dull section of trail! Bottom line: Get the biggest tires and widest rims for the most in flotation, traction, and therefore the best "out of bounds" riding you might want to try.

Now, as far as the chassis, the Blackborow DS is simply the best package Salsa has made so far. The wheel base is in check, the front end is stable, yet the bike is very steerable, not "barge-like" at all. I tried a current Mukluk at the shop yesterday and was immediately struck by the slower handling of that bike. The Blackborow may not seem all that different on paper, but on the trail it simply is the most fun I've had on a fat bike outside of the Borealis Echo I rode last Summer.

Which brings me to two things the Echo had that would make the Blackborow better- Carbon fiber and a Bluto fork. The frame is stiff enough in aluminum, that isn't the issue, but carbon would likely be able to be tuned for a better ride quality and be lighter weight.

The front end would benefit from suspension in most cases. Yes.....even in Winter. But of course, especially during other times of the year. Ideally, I would have both kinds of forks on hand- the rigid fork for touring and adventuring, and the Bluto for everything else where regular trail riding would demand front suspension. Oh.......and I would have to have a dropper post!  I just about forgot about that.

My other posted impressions stand and furthermore, I think that this bike does do better things in deeper conditions than my Mukluks could do. I like the dual single speed drive train, (or "dinglespeed", and is what "DS" stands for here), but in the difficult, deeper snow, a geared selection would work better here. Fortunately you can get a Blackborow 1 with a full drive train. Of course, the DS model has all the fittings for gears and can be converted.

There are things that I think Salsa Cycles didn't quite get right with the Blackborow frames. The thing I will mention here is the lack of rack braze ons at the seat stays. While I don't give a rip for racks on a fat bike, it doesn't make sense not to have an attachment point for racks for those who do. Yes.....Salsa makes that goofy seat collar with a rack attachment, but after spending a fair amount of hard earned cabbage on a fat bike, you'd think it would have rack eyelets, since.....ya know...they say "Adventure by Bike", after all. The other thing I already ranted about. See what that is HERE. Fortunately, the second thing is something one can mod to make better.

So, this Blackborow DS has turned out to be a very positive purchase for me. Besides a couple of small details, the bike has been extremely fun and rewarding to own. Looking forward I want to try a front suspension fork on this, maybe a titanium seat post, and perhaps I will get around to lacing up a set of 29+ wheels with some tubeless Knards for the Summer. But whatever happens, I am sure I will be having fun on this bike in the future. Besides my gravel bikes, this could easily become the only mountain bike/off road bike I own.

Note: I purchased this bike with my own moolah and the opinions and comments expressed here are my own. I was not paid nor bribed by Salsa Cycles for this post.


Exhausted_Auk said...

29+ for the Summer sounds like the way to go. Does QBP make a production set that will fit?

Guitar Ted said...

@ Exhausted_Auk: I do not know. I will check on that, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were not a custom option with Quality Wheelhouse already.

I want to use Velocity Dually rims, since I have had good experiences with those rims.

Head Honcho said...

Dream bike. I rode one at the Frozen Catfish Cup a couple weeks back. Absolutely loved the bike. It had great flotation, was quick where I needed it to be, and climbed well. I will be finding one some how, some way in my garage.

bostonbybike said...

Did you maybe have a chance to weigh your bike? How does it compare to lighter fatbikes? I've never had a chance to ride on 5" tires but I tried Beargrease XX1 with 4" tires and the last thing I would tell about that bike is that it was heavy or sluggish. Do you feel extra weight of Blackborow on trial?

Also, just a thought. What about adding a front der. with a shifter and a chain tensioner? I wonder about a "dinglespeed" setup with only the front der. and a 2-speed crankset. It should work. Changing gears wouldn't be as smooth and fast as with rear der. but you could change gears on the fly instead of removing the wheel and moving chain by hand.

Guitar Ted said...

@bostonbybike- I'll answer one question at a time:

Did you maybe have a chance to weigh your bike? -Yes. A little over 32 pounds without accessories.

How does it compare to lighter fatbikes? -In what way? I assume you mean in "how does it ride?, but I cannot answer this question unless you are more specific.

Do you feel extra weight of Blackborow on trial? Not really. But again- This bike will go places a lighter fat bike with skinnier tire won't for me. For the weight obsessed, this isn't your bike. For those who want to ride in a more capable way, over terrain that 3.8-4.0 inch tires won't take you- This is your bike. Two different types of fat bikes for two very different purposes. Beargrease is for racing, Blackborow for everything a racing fat bike can't do.

What about adding a front der. with a shifter and a chain tensioner?- This may be possible, (cable stops are there and a derailleur mount is available), but I am not interested in complicating a simple system. It's kind of thewhole point of the dinglespeed set up in the first place, ya know? If you were to go to the bother of doing a front derailleur, have it be "easier" to shift, (which would require front rings suitable for the task), then why not just put rear gears and a derailleur on it? In fact, why not just gear up the rear end and leave the front as is. Then you could have a 10 speed drive train with two ranges switchable by hand. A "dual 1X" set up- if you will.

That said, switching the dinglespeed ranges is really not that big a deal. Not from a single speeders perspective, in my opinion.

bostonbybike said...

Thank you for your answers! 32lbs is not too scary but because riding a fat bike may require carrying it over some obstacles once a while, I wouldn't want to haul anything heavier than 33-34lbs. I'm not weight-obsessed especially that I realized carbon fat bikes (such as Beargrease) don't have any provisions for frame racks or Anything Cages so my choice would be limited to aluminum or steel frames.

I realized that comparing this bike to lighter fat bikes is not easy because we are talking about two different tire systems so obviously they would ride differently.

Tyler Loewens said...

Any plans to go geared soon? While breaking trail today with my Mukluk, I couldn't help but think the Blackborrw would have been money.

Guitar Ted said...

@Tyler Loewens - Eventually, I will add an eleven or ten speed wide range cassette. I think either way I am leaving the two front rings and then will simply swap by hand when I need really low gears or higher, as conditions dictate. I may go to smaller tires on the same rims for Summer, or as stated, 29+.

I will not add gears until "slop season" is over though.

Robert Jones said...

GT I agree completely with your assessment of the BB. I'll add and interesting note - I discovered through trial and error that with 2 dogs towing my bike a Bud rides out of deep powder pockets better than a Lou. Don't know why but it works. We definately need wheel sets for every occasion so I'll be building a summer set, too.