Fat bikes are usually thought of as heavy and slow. They're also typically ridden in wintery conditions. Jason Woznick of Fairwheel Bikes decided to challenge both of those notions, however, with an ultralight carbon fat bike that will very likely never see a single snowflake.
"I had a couple of reasons for wanting to do this one," Woznick told BikeRadar. "The biggest was that fat bikes are fun, but in a place like Tucson there really isn’t a reason to choose a fat bike over something like a 29er in most cases. I wanted to build something that I’d want to take on rides rather than just always grabbing the 29er. To me a big part of that was building something light that handled and rode well. This bike simply makes me smile when I ride it and when I finish riding it, I still want to ride it again."
'Light' is, of course, an incredibly subjective descriptor but few will argue that it applies here. As pictured, Woznick's custom fat bike project weighs an incredible 9.18kg (20.24lb), which is lighter than many dedicated, high-end XC racing machines and an especially amazing feat considering that each 4in-wide tire weighs upwards of 1,200g.
Not surprisingly, then, this special machine is dripping with exotic componentry. Woznick started with a carbon fiber Salsa Beargrease frame and fork, and then dressed it up with a SRAM XX1/X01 transmission and Magura MT8 hydraulic disc brakes. Race Face's Next SL crankset was an obvious choice, given the hollow carbon arms and fat bike-friendly modular 30mm-diameter aluminum spindle design.
Wheels were built with Tune's new Fat King and Fat Kong hubs, feathery LaMere double-wall carbon rims, and Sapim CX Super stainless steel spokes, all wrapped up with 45NRTH Hüsker Dü tires set up tubeless.
Woznick reached further into the European parts bin for the Schmolke carbon fiber seatpost and handlebar, the Extralite CNC machined aluminum stem, the Tune carbon hulled saddle, and the impossibly minimal carbon seatpost collar from Parts of Passion.
Even the smallest details weren't overlooked. Capping things off are Aican segmented aluminum derailleur housing, a headset and stainless steel brake rotors from KCNC, Ashima aluminum rotor bolts, an Mcfk steerer expander plug, and aggressively machined Cane Creek AER headset spacers.
Some folks – us included – might consider a few of the parts to be somewhat questionable for real world riding. The bars are quite narrow, for example, most of the swept area on the rotors has been milled away in the interest of saving weight, and the saddle has no padding. That said, Woznick built this bike for himself and finds the bars to be wide enough and the bike isn't likely to see the extended, steep terrain that might cause the spindly rotors to overheat. Having sat on the bike ourselves, though, we can confirm that the saddle is as marginally comfortable as it appears.
"There’s nothing that I consider questionable for real world riding, but of course that depends on the rider," said Woznick "The handlebar and seatpost have a 180lb rider weight limit which is of no concern to me. I think the only drawback comes if you are a rider who is predisposed to crashing a lot. Some of the parts ride well and are plenty durable until you start hitting them against the ground on a regular basis."
We didn't spend much time on Woznick's pet project but even just a few pedals strokes prove how special it is. The bike is remarkably quick, particularly when compared to other fat bikes that can often weigh 50 percent more, and acceleration is notably brisk for the segment. Just as you'd expect, it's also almost laughably easy to toss about once up to speed – a key attribute since there's no real suspension to be had.
Not surprisingly, then, the bike is also very expensive. Woznick estimates that the full retail price would be just over US$9,000 but even so, he says he's nowhere near done yet (and well within the range of other Fairwheel Bikes projects).
"Next on the docket we have a few projects," he said. "We’re going to take this fat bike to the next level and drop its weight by more than full pound, taking it just under 19lb. I’ve finally finished the worlds lightest BMX bike, which was shown but not finalized at Interbike. USA BMX will be taking that one for a ride on the track to verify its functionality in late May or early June.
"I’ve got a one-off Parlee fixed gear I’m doing just for fun," he continued. "I'm also finishing up a Calfee Manta disc road bike that was shown at NAHBS, waiting for some pre-production EE direct-mount brakes to finish up a Parlee ESX aero project, and also working on a really special steel project once again pairing Rob English and artist Geoff McFetridge."
Needless to say, Woznick doesn't seem to complain much about having to go into work each morning.
Frame: Salsa Beargrease, size medium
Fork: Salsa Makwa
Headset: KCNC Radiant R1 w/ Mcfk expander plug and Cane Creek AER spacers
Stem: Extralite OC
Handlebars: Schmolke TLO, 660mm
Tape/grips: Lizard Skins DSP
Front brake: Magura MT8 w/ KCNC Razor 160mm rotor and Ashima aluminum bolts
Rear brake: Magura MT8 w/ KCNC Razor 140mm rotor and Ashima aluminum bolts
Brake levers: Magura MT8
Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1
Shift levers: SRAM XX1 trigger
Cassette: SRAM XO1, 10-42T
Chain: KMC X11SL
Crankset: Race Face Next SL w/ 28T direct-mount chainring
Bottom bracket: Race Face Next SL
Rims: LaMere carbon, 65mm
Front hub: Tune Fat King
Rear hub: Tune Fat Kong
Spokes: Sapim CX Super
Front tire: 45NRTH Hüsker Dü, 26x4in, 120TPI
Rear tire: 45NRTH Hüsker Dü, 26x4in, 120TPI
Saddle: Tune Komm-Vor Dual
Seatpost: Schmolke TLO
Other: Aican Bungarus derailleur housing and DLC cable, custom Fairwheel Bikes top cap, Parts of Passion seatpost collar