Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So, What Rhymes With Carbon?

I just built this one up yesterday. Another Carbon Beargrease XX1
In my post last week about Chinese sourced carbon fat bike frames, I mentioned how some industry folk believe that carbon fiber is the "material of choice" for the average bike in the future. They say it will replace aluminum as the most common bicycle frame material for the recreational cycling market.

Well, in road bikes, I can see that, and maybe in terms of mountain bikes, sure- that might happen, but would people really go to the extent of buying into the carbon fiber fat bike idea? I mean, a fat bike is sort of an odd deal yet. Maybe a "play bike" for someone loaded with bikes and that needs a diversion. I guess I was thinking your carbon fat bike idea might sell a few units, but this season has blown me away as far as how the carbon fat bike idea has taken root so quickly.

As I recall, it took at least 2G to build a Pugsley back five years ago, and that kept fat bikes out of my hands, and I am sure it deterred others as well. Then in late 2010, Salsa Cycles came out with that Mukluk and Surly quickly followed suit with their fully built Pugs option and suddenly you could buy a fat bike for under $1600.00 ready to roll.

Now this made sense to me. Now you could somewhat afford to dive in and take the chance to see what it was all about. Then several other companies started in with their own cheap options, which now have brought prices down to Walmart levels for a fat bike, (quite literally, with the Mongoose "Beast" fat bike. $200.00! ) Conversely Salsa Cycles started to push upward with a titanium offering and higher spec aluminum models. Then suddenly it seemed that everyone was talking carbon fiber fat bikes with crazy drive train set ups like SRAM's new XX1 stuff. (The cassette alone costs what TWO Mongoose Beast fat bikes do!) So, like........who is going to buy into that? Yeah, maybe a few, as I thought, but really.......not that many, right?

The slightly less blingy Carbon Beargrease X-9
Wrong! I have been soooooo wrong about this. It's blowing my mind everyday. I can't really explain it either. Yes- these are lighter by a fair piece than the aluminum Mukluks. (About 8lbs lighter in the case of a XX1 vs Muk 2) Yes, carbon is the premier material for frames in the road world and is quickly, (or already has), becoming the same in the mountain biking world. I guess fat bikes are falling in on the coat tails of this.

Is it really all about the weight? Maybe it is. I do know that the massive, almost cartoonish scale of the frame dimensions is amusing, but so far, I haven't seen any customers laughing, like I did when I first laid eyes on a Beargrease at Frostbike last February. So I don't know if that has anything at all to do with it. Is it the subversive blackness of the carbon frame? Maybe. Maybe fat bike customers are rebels that manifest their disconnect with traditional cycling by buying these outlandish looking steeds. "Look at me! I will crush you with my uber-light, ultra-black wheels of Death!

Or maybe this is the anti-Lance-effect bike. The bike that manifests the backlash against pro roadie drugged performances that has gutted the romance and idealistic dreams of the common cyclist who once played make-believe roadie when Lance was King. But it is still carbon fiber!

Or maybe these are just freaking cool bicycles that blow peoples minds to the point that they have to get one. But I don't know about that. Why didn't the same basic rigs in aluminum fly out the door like these have here then? Maybe aluminum isn't cool anymore. We're going to have to find a catch phrase for carbon like steel frames have. You know- steel is real  and all.  But what rhymes with carbon?

Well, whatever it is that is making this blow up, I can not say. All I know is that big, humongous boxes containing plasticky fat goodness keep appearing at the shop and I keep building them up. What happens after that is anybodies guess, I guess!


JR. Z. said...

Maybe all those people are getting a "carbon hard-on" :-)

BluesDawg said...

Plastic is fantastic?

james said...

you know-carbon is a bargain an all.

Iowagriz said...

Mark, do can you list the MSRP of the various Salsa/Surly offerings? They are not on thier site, or I'm overlooking.

Guitar Ted said...

@Iowagriz: Salsa: Mukluk 3: $1850.00, Mukluk 2 $2400, Mukluk Ti, $4398.00 Beargrease Carbon X-9 $3499.00 Beargrease Carbon XX-1 $5499.00 Surly Pugs $1750.00 Pugs Op $2150.00 Moonlander $2550.00

MG said...

Though I've been developing a steel frameset with Singular, I'm really encouraged by the willingness of companies like Salsa to invest in carbon fatbikes. I think it says a lot about their take on the market and its growth potential.

Though I haven't spent any time on a carbon fatbike, from what I've heard, the ride quality is awesome and the weights they're achieving are clearly impressive.

It's a good time to love fatbikes, and I suspect it's only gonna get better from here...

Robert said...

As someone who lives on the east coast and has relatively little "conventional" use for a fatbike (i.e. snow, sand and backcountry), the appeal of super-light carbon fatbikes actually makes a lot of sense to me. When I test-rode a Pugsley a few years back, it was fun but too heavy and sluggish for me to own for the 1 month out of the year where a "normal" bike wouldn't really cut it.

But while to moving to carbon might save you at max pound or two on, say, a steel 29er, fatbikes stand to lose a lot more weight. And once you're talking carbon rims and tubeless, the bikes really start to get to "normal" bike weights. Suddenly the one-month a year bike becomes an all-year bike, especially if you consider building a set of 29er wheels to swap in.

So I think the appeal of the carbon fatbikes is that they become less of a niche product as they start to ride and weigh similarly to "normal" mountain bikes. And even if the price doubles or triples, for a "normal" mountain biker, they might replace one or two bikes in your quiver and be rideable for more of the year, so it starts to average out.

Iowagriz said...

Thanks, mucho appreciated

Vito said...

Plastic may be fantastic but steel is real. I think what is driving this explosion in carbon fat bikes is that more and more roadies who would ride nothing else but plastic also want their light weight fat bikes. It's been fun watching this niche thing turn mainstream, but at the same time I miss having the trails to myself. I've had a fat bike for six years now and when I first built my Pugs not many in my area even knew what the hell it was all about. Now, everyone has one or wants one and they are all buying the latest and greatest while I refuse to let go of my Pugs. I wouldn't want anything else. I'm thankful that I can go to Northern MN and ride without seeing another soul on a bike. I'm hoping the rest will not follow.