Ride large and in charge, anywhere you want to go, on the F@R - SE Bikes
During recent weeks at Suttons Bay Bikes we received our fat bike fleet! The new models for the year we received included bikes from Surly, Cogburn, LaMere, and Fuji. Perhaps the most impressive bike found in this lineup came from Fuji's BMX brand SE Bikes. The F@R (pronounced "fatter") is the first delve SE Bikes has made into the rapidly growing fat bike market. With the recent boom in fat bike popularity, we have seen a transition from steel frames to both aluminum and carbon, saving weight and enhancing ride quality. The F@R is no exception to this trend as it is built around a double butted alloy frameset. Designed with a front hub spacing of 135mm and a rear spacing of 190mm the F@R comes stock with 4.7" Vee Bulldozer tires (72 tpi) on 93mm rims, a similar setup to that of the Specialized Fatboy models. With rims this wide and a set of 5" tires this bike begs to float over fresh powder. In fact these tires were among the lightest 5" tires we have seen to date weighing in at 1339 grams, undercutting that of the much praised Dillinger 5 by over 150 grams. Complimenting the frame, the bike comes with a mix of Shimano Deore and SRAM X-7 components stopped only by a pair of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. This is where the bike shines in comparison to the similarly priced offering from Specialized and even Trek's Farley. However, one can talk specs and components all day, the real proof is in a test ride.
When first hopping on the bike the larger footprint of the 5" tire is immediately noticeable. The tires allowed me to cover snowy terrain a standard 4" tire would never allow such as nearly foot deep powder. However, the tire did leave me wanting something with a little more bite as the rear tire did begin to spin a bit as soon as the torque was laid down. As an all around tire, the Vee Bulldozer is a fantastic option for those looking to upgrade. I was also quite surprised at how quick and crisp the shifting given by both the front and rear mechs was. Even under pressure and cold weather, the shifting stayed reliable thanks to the fully housed externally routed cabling. Similarly, the bike performed very reliablely and predictiblely under various braking conditions due to the Shimano hydrualic brakes. On this subject one thing to note it that this bike comes standard with Shimano's M445 brake levers which are slightly longer than normal and much appreciated when reaching for the levers with gloved hands.
However, one downfall to this bike was immediately noticed when things turned uphill. The weight of the wheelset seemed to hold back this bike from its true potential. Clocking in at a whopping 1685 grams for the front wheel, these wheels may not be your first choice if you decide to line up at a local race, although the complete bike did come in at an impressive 34 pounds 10 ounces. For a stock bike rocking 5" tires and >90mm rims this is great especially when compared to some of Surly's popular 4" tire offerings which at the lightest come in around 35 pounds. Although this may be a deal breaker for the racing crowd, something everyone can appreciate is the F@R's use of a rear thru-axle. This was feature was much appreciated as it made the 190mm rear spacing feel no different than that of a 170mm spaced fat bike.
Overall, this bike is fantastic for someone looking to get into fat biking who wants both a quality build and a bike that can handle most everything thrown at it. Racing may not be the F@R's forte, despite this fact it will shine on the trails and as an adventure bike. Coming in at a $1449, this bike this bike is unbelievable for the price!
Stay tuned for next weeks review of the F@R's not-so-little brother the F@E!