Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fat Fargo v2

The original Fat Fargo experiment did not work. 
Five years ago I tried 650B X 2.8" wheels in my Fargo Gen I bike. I was really hoping that it would work, but there were issues. First, the clearances were minimal. The tires would spin freely, but there wasn't much room there with the fat 27.5"ers. 

The second thing was that the smaller wheel diameter put the bottom bracket on this bike in the weeds. That wasn't going to fly at all. So, I abandoned that idea, pulled the wheels off, and stuck them in my Fargo Gen 2 bike which I used to own. The wheels stayed there until I sold the bike and then those wheels went on the Sawyer which was sold recently. 

The B+ experiment was a qualified success. I did a couple of things, which in my looking back on it, were very unlike what the industry did with the idea, or what many riders did with the idea. Had I modified one component in that wheel assembly, the experiment likely would have been short lived. So, what was it that made it so compelling? 

I think the main ingredient was the WTB Trailblazer 2.8" tires. Had the tires been anything other than this tread pattern, I likely would have bailed out on the trial sooner. Much sooner. See, the Trailblazer had certain attributes that made it ideal for my applications. First, it wasn't too wide. It was a true 2.8", but it didn't have a super wide casing, so it fit the Fargo, and it made the tire ride well on the rims I chose to use. 

Those rims were Velocity Blunt 35's. They were far narrower internally than what the industry first went with for B+ tires, and far narrower than what most riders thought they needed. However; that narrow profile crowned up what was a really flat profile. The WTB Trailblazer was a very flat tire putting a LOT of its tread width on the ground, especially by the popular pairing of this tire with 50mm wide rims. This made the tire slow, but the Blunt 35's made the tire ride reasonably fast for its size. Especially on that center ridge the Trailblazers have. 

Me riding the Fat Fargo (Gen 2) at Odin's Revenge. Image by Wally Kilburg

I had some excellent rides on the Fat Fargo (The Gen 2 Fargo). I used it to great effect at the "muddy year" of the DK200 and later at Odin's Revenge. The big tires had their day in the Sun in specific conditions where some float was advantageous, but a fast rolling tire was paramount to success. 

The set up was good, but there were some things that weren't so good. Big diameter wheels just were much more to my liking. Once I had ridden a fat bike set up with some very light 29+ wheels, I was smitten by the possibilities of having a large diameter wheel with a wider tire in the 2.8" - 3.0" range. However; manufacturers didn't quite see things that way, offering few choices, and most of what was available was over-built, suspension corrected, or more mountain bike-like. 

So, despite the 'almost but not quite' 2.8" Fat Fargo set up, I ended up going back to 29"er wheels for the Fargo Gen I and rode that bike so much I sold off the Gen 2 version and as stated earlier, moved the wheels over to the Sawyer. Then gravel bikes took off and well...... I left the Fat Fargo idea to simmer, maybe never coming back to it at all. 

However, the other day I was offered some 29" X 2.5" Surly Extraterrestrial tires that Andy, of Andy's Bike Shop, had which he never used, or if he did, very little. They looked nearly perfect. Now Extraterrestrials were a tire I was very familiar with, having run them on the 1X1, ironically now in Andy's possession. They are heavy tires, but they roll fast, are tubeless ready, and are very voluminous for their size. I was quite tempted many a time to run the Surly as a gravel bike, as one of its previous owners, Jeff Kerkove had. But I never got around to it. 

These tires in 29'er size? Intriguing. I took them with plans to mount them on my old Gen I Fargo. That bike is set up with a rather pedestrian, and very heavy wheel set, a Bontrager Duster wheel set laced to Shimano Deore hubs. Nothing too fantastic but a serviceable wheel set. Duster rims are modestly wide, and in fact, are about the same width many 'gravel' rims are now. I was afraid to mount these big, voluminous tires to anything wider or they may not fit into the Gen I Fargo. 

The Fat Fargo v2 with 29" X 2.5" Surly Extraterrestrial tires.

Well, happily, they did fit. The clearances are acceptable, and these tires, while not quite the volume of a 3.0" tire, have the same, or very close to it, volume of the old 2.8 Trailblazers. I know it says 2.5" on the tire, but on these narrow-ish rims, they already have puffed up to exactly 2.5" and I suspect that they will stretch a bit beyond this, as the 26"ers I had did. 

Will they scratch the itch I have for large diameter wheels and big, floaty tires? That's yet to be determined, but if they end up being anything like what the 1X1 was like, hmm.......I think maybe- yes. And if they do pass that test, lighter wheels will be in order. There is no denying the weight and inertia these monsters have now, and a LOT of the fat is in the hubs here. Those Deore disc hubs weigh a ton. 

There are a few other 'upgrades' to come to the Fargo Gen I, so stay tuned for those and I think you will be surprised by a couple of the things I have in mind to do here.


S.Fuller said...

Looking forward to reading about the G1 changes

. I'm running 27.5x2.8 tires on my 2014 right now. I had planned on maybe using that bike on the Baja Divide but plans and desires have changed. Good for gravel, not the most clearance to the chainstays, but the Blunt 35 rims keep them a bit narrower. I've had a couple of issues with pedal strike when I've taken the bike on singletrack, but that was never it's intended purpose

baric said...

About three years ago now I acquired a 2012 large framed Fargo in Des Moines from the original owner who originally had it built up by Rasmussen's to his specs. When I picked it up, it had a Velocity Dually wheelset with XT hubs and Schwalbe Big Apple tires squeezed on it. I had read and bookmarked your Fat Fargo Thoughts on B+ Wheels. I really wanted to swap out at that time the Big Apples for a set of 29" Schwalbe Super Moto's but they had just become discontinued in favor of 27.5 Super Moto's and become scarcer than Ragley Luxy bars. At the same time Surly had just come out with the 29" version of the Extra-Terrestrial. So after reading a fairly in depth review of the 26" version, I bought in. Personally, I think the Dually's and the ET's are a match made in heaven. Properly aired up they run about 2.6 wide. I call them my tank tires because they plow through and over just about anything comfortably. So needing another more sanely width wheelset but still jonesing for a set of Super Motos, I purchased a set of 27.5 Velocity Blunts and 2.4 Super Motos E-bike rated and about as flat proof as money can buy. I regularly swap out these wheelsets, both seem to be pretty bulletproof and I like the characteristics each one brings to the bike. Your analysis between 27.5" vs. 29" is pretty much spot on.

Nick said...

Hi, can you provide a recommendation for replacement rings on your crank? I have a similar vintage crank, LX I think, with 4 arms that each split into 2 riveted connections on the big ring, but I haven’t been able to find any replacement big rings to match. Funny thing, I was trying to find any info online for this crank, went onto your blog and boom, there’s the same crank! Any help is appreciated!

Guitar Ted said...

@Nick - it's an increasingly rare part. I found this LX one on ebay:

It's all I could find just now as I look. This is why I am planning on replacing this crank set with my original equipment XT crank this bike came with. Even those rings are getting scarce, but at least that crank doesn't employ the 'cassette' style ring set up which Shimano used for only a short time.