Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Like A Modernized Gen I

The Tumbleweed Stargazer. Image courtesy of Tumbleweed Bikes.
 In 2008 I laid eyes on my first Fargo. It was ridden to a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational ride that year at Hickory Hills County Park in Iowa, just a wee bit South of where I live. 

The bike's rider, Jason Boucher, then the Brand Manager of Salsa Cycles, was a very proud 'papa' that day. He was getting out Salsa's latest bike, a bike that would help to redefine the company, give it its own legacy under QBP's ownership, and arguably was the bike that kicked off the whole bikepacking/adventure biking craze which is still happening to this day. 

We got to see an actual production prototype, which was just how the bike came out later in the Fall that year. But we didn't get to see the model name. Jason had covered that up so loose lips could not spill the beans on the bike's name. What he used to cover that name up with- a strip of black electrical tape- became the bike's unofficial name for about a month and a half. "Black Electrical Tape" was a big hit already with many of us 29"er/gravel freaks, and when the name "Fargo" was revealed, well the enthusiasm for this bike was enormous. 

Since that Summer sneak-peek at the GTDRI, the Fargo has gone on to become the longest lived model in Salsa's line. It is there for good reason. The bike is versatile, comfortable, and does what it does very well. However; there was never a bike- a "Fargo Gen I" - like that 2008/9-2010 one. After Salsa started tweaking the bike, all that charm and non-suspension corrected glory went missing. 

The Singular Gryphon- Not influenced by the Fargo!
There have been many very similar bikes which have graced the Earth's byways introduced since. The Singular Gryphon, designed simultaneously alongside the Fargo's timeline, was not influenced by the Fargo. But it never really gained the notoriety that the Fargo did. However; since the Fargo/Gryphon introductions in the late 2000's, we've seen plenty of other players taking cues from the drop bar MTB/Gravel/Bikepacking pages which were largely written by Salsa's Fargo. 

The Bombtrack Beyond, Kona Sutra, Breezer Radar, and many others have tried to bring that Fargo-flavor. Some do it well, others.....? meh! There was just something about those earliest Fargo bikes and many are still coveted rides to this day. However; 2008 was a long time ago in terms of bicycle technologies and standards. So those older Gen I Fargo bikes are starting to get a little long in the tooth. 

Well, Tumbleweed Bikes, who have had one model, the Prospector, for several years now, have just announced a new, drop bar design for fat 27.5" wheels or big 29"er wheels. It's called the Stargazer, but you can totally see this as what a 2008/2009 Fargo would be like if it were updated to 2021 standards. 

 The Stargazer can fit 27.5 X 3.0" tires. (29'ers shown) Image courtesy of Tumbleweed Bikes
The Stargazer has Boost spaced axles front and rear, and those are through axles, of course. There is dropper post routing. The head tube has a 44mm internal diameter to accommodate a tapered steer tube fork. Of course, this final detail could be seen as a regression, but the frame is 1X compatible only. That's the 'modern way' folks, so many will see that as an 'update'. 

But many things which endeared the Fargo Gen I to its fans are still here in the Stargazer. First and foremost is the non-suspension corrected steel fork with a 440mm axle to crown. That fork also has rack mounts along with the triple bosses which are ubiquitous on adventure bikes these days. Rear rack bosses are there, as well as the under-the-downtube bottle bosses. The longer head tube gets those drops up where an adventure biker wants them without the janky 'stack-o-spacers' look. The fork and head angle are right out of the Fargo Gen I stats- 69° and 55mm of offset. 

And the frame and fork are steel, of course. NOT aluminum, not carbon, and nothing weird here- just steel. If you are going after that Fargo theme, steel is a requisite frame and fork material. It is just the way that it is. 

I like that this bike can be fitted with big, fat 27.5" tires or the 2.5" X 29"er tires. I know some may wish for those 3.0" 29"er+ tires, but honestly, those are getting on to be dinosaurs in the bicycle world these days. 29+ is pretty much on its way out, and I can see why Tumbleweed chose to stop at 2.5" for clearance on 29"ers. 

Here's my verdict- At the asking price, this frame and fork is a steal. I think it nails the look and geo numbers are so close, that this may as well be a Fargo Gen I updated. But.....I do not need this! My Gen I Fargo is still a good bike. My Ti Muk can cover a lot of what the Gen I does not. Plus, I'd rather put my money towards a Rohloff "Summer" wheel set for the Ti Muk someday rather than get a whole 'nuther bike, which would be redundant. But for you? Maybe this tics a lot of boxes. Tumbleweed Bikes website.


baric said...

Very nice but are bottom bracket drop and chain stay length usually measured from the center of the bottom bracket ? Somewhat confusing numbers there to me. Which is correct ?

BillHNH said...

As a fellow MCD rider, I'm surprised no mention of the Black Mountain La Cabra, as it seems like a pretty close comp, unless I am missing something. Looks like a pretty cool ride either way!

Guitar Ted said...

@baric - Okay- On Bottom Bracket Drop: Imagine a line, horizontal, parallel to the ground, and drawn through the axles of the bicycles wheels as you look at the bicycle from the side. Okay- now take a measurement from the centerline of the bottom bracket spindle UP to that line described which is passing through the axles. That distance from the line down to the centerline of the bottom bracket spindle is "Bottom Bracket Drop".

Now, chain stays are traditionally measured along the length of the chain stay from the center line of the bottom bracket spindle to the center line of the rear axle. If you see a "Virtual Chain Stay" measurement, that is a measurement from the line where the bottom bracket drop measurement intersects with that line passing through the axles, (from our example above) and back along that line that passes through the axles to the rear drop out. It is much the same idea as "Reach" and "Stack" measurements used for fitting in that you are using reference points in space to determine certain geometric ideas.

Which is correct? Which makes more sense to you? That is what is "correct". Both ways of measurement are going to reach similar conclusions which help us understand bicycle handling and fit. It's just two different ways of getting to the same place.

Guitar Ted said...

@BillHNH - The LaCabra from Black Mountain Cycles is a great case of "almost- but not quite there" in terms of what I would say is a modernized version of the Fargo. For instance, the LaCabra is still an 1 1/8th steer tube diameter. The LaCabra is only rated to 2.4" 29"er tires where the Stargazer is rated for the slightly wider 2.5"ers. (Given the ASTM standards, I wouldn't be at all surprised if both bikes could take a wider tire, but the Stargazer still is going to be the winner there)

Based upon the limited 27.5" and 29" specs of the LaCabra alone, I cannot say that it would be the "modernized Fargo Gen I". Is it a bad bike? NO!!! I am not saying that at all. Is it Fargo-influenced? Probably...maybe, although Mike Varley has his own take on things for certain.

The one thing the LaCabra does that the Stargazer does not is allow for front derailleurs and 2X or 3X crank set ups.

What NEITHER bike does, and I think is a fault that strongly turns me against either, is that neither the LaCabra nor the Stargazer is single speed compatible. NOT that I would want to run it single speed, but that I couldn't if I HAD to. And that feature is a good thing when traveling in the remote areas these bikes are meant to go in.

james said...

I just pulled the trigger on a La Cabra. It ticks all the boxes for me, some of which are...
No tapered steerer. Overkill on and adds unnecessary weight and stiffness.
Post mount brakes. Slightly bigger pads than flat mount and easier to adjust and look more appropriate on a adventure/mountain bike.
It will take a double chainring.

Guitar Ted said...

@james - I understand the appeal of the straight steer tube fork and brake standard, but the industry has moved off both of those things and as such, I cannot honestly say Tumbleweed got it wrong.

That said, I don’t like flat mount brakes nor do I think tapered steer tubes are all that. But the industry, as I have stated, has spoken and what is “ up to date” now does not reflect my favorites.

That’s why things like the LaCabra are special. I hope you enjoy miles of smiles on yours!

Guitar Ted said...

@james - I understand the appeal of the straight steer tube fork and brake standard, but the industry has moved off both of those things and as such, I cannot honestly say Tumbleweed got it wrong.

That said, I don’t like flat mount brakes nor do I think tapered steer tubes are all that. But the industry, as I have stated, has spoken and what is “ up to date” now does not reflect my favorites.

That’s why things like the LaCabra are special. I hope you enjoy miles of smiles on yours!

DT said...

I was just looking at the models that Tanglefoot Cycles have. They have some interesting takes on geometry, including using a 0mm offset stem.

Daniel from Tumbleweed said...

Flat mount brakes are nice because you can still use post mount calipers with an adaptor, but not the other way around. We are also using the new 160/180mm flat mount standard, which is essential for a mountain bike like this. I agree that the Stargazer is most similar to an updated Gen 1 Fargo, shorter chainstays, higher BB, slacker head angle, steeper seat angle, just a more progressive MTB geometry. The other new bikes in this category have their merits as well, I think it all boils down to the specific design choices that were made. I wanted to make the highest end production steel mountain touring frame possible, and to allow for things that the new Fargo doesn’t have, like a non suspension corrected fork to be able to fine tune the handling with the fork offset instead of matching suspension fork specs, and give a massive front triangle for a large framebag, non sliding or rocking dropouts to keep the weight down and allow for much easier rack mounting (The current Fargo is the number one bike that people complain to me about not working easily with rear racks), I see this type of bike as the future, and I already know of at least one non suspension corrected plus tire adventure carbon fork that will be available soon, hence the oversized head tube.

Guitar Ted said...

@Daniel from Tumbleweed - Thanks for the detailed comment. I agree with most everything you state, but there is one thing I think you might have done which would have put the design over the top. An eccentric bottom bracket would have allowed for that single speed, (and IGH) compatibility. Understanding that this increases pricing, but - speaking for myself- I wouldn't be concerned about what the bike cost if I whacked off my derailleur and couldn't move on because I had no option to single speed out.

Also- Congratulations on bringing this fine bike design to market! Well done, and again- I would be in line to get one if I already did not have a Gen I Fargo. I'd probably go 27.5 X 2.8 with the tires, and I think it would be a lovely all-terrain mile muncher. Anyway, great job on the Stargazer and best of luck!

Daniel from Tumbleweed said...

Thanks, an eccentric bb is the best option for making a touring bike single speed compatible, however it limits the types of cranks that can be used, as 30mm spindle cranks have larger bb cups that interfere with the ability to rotate the eccentric, a trade off I was willing to make on the Prospector since it’s specifically for the Rohloff and I prefer 24mm steel crank spindles. The Stargazer is more of a modern design and I envision people using a wider range of mountain bike cranks, and just like with suspension corrected forks, the vast majority of people who have the ability to run a bike single speed never do, so I made the decision for a standard threaded bb instead of an eccentric.

DH said...

A few years ago I put some drop bars on my Jones SWB and found it very similar to a Fargo I test rode, though I can’t speak to the first gen. Also can be gotten with an eccentric bottom bracket, though that doesn’t stop me from drooling over the Stargazer and Prospector also.