Bike Test: Fatback Titanium
Fat, versatile and elegant.
Frame only: $2,100
By Ryan LaBar
Titanium bikes, in any branch of the sport, have a certain lust factor to them. They are lightweight, elegant and offer a ride quality like no other bikes. On snow, however, the soft surface and squishy balloon tires all but entirely mutes the special ride quality of titanium. Despite this, the titanium certainly has its purpose on fatbikes: the material is highly corrosion resistant. While aluminum doesn’t rust like steel, it doesn’t get along well with salt, which is usually present in wintery areas to help keep the roads free of ice. This means, with titanium, the ride to the trailhead won’t slowly be ruining your frame.
While Fatback, an Alaska-based company, is quite small, it has had a huge impact on the world of fatbikes, creating the 170-millimeter dropout standard with a symmetrical rear end. The company also has all of its frames built in the lower 48. Its titanium bikes are built by the ti wizards at Lynskey. Not surprisingly, every weld on this bike is perfect and alignment is straight as an arrow–this bike is truly a work of hand-crafted art. Riders wanting to use the Fatback for winter touring/camping/adventuring will be pleased by the rack mounts on the rear triangle and the ample spacing for a frame bag on the front triangle.
Enough about the bike though, the important thing is how it rides.
The Fatback has a solid geometry for all-around riding. Its balance of stability and nimbleness is perfectly suited for (winter) trail riding, racing or adventure riding.
While ascending in a neutral riding positing, the rear tire stays hooked into the ground/snow and the front end remains weighted enough to keep from wandering off track. This is important, as the moment you get off the packed snow, is the moment you are hiking up the climb. Further helping prevent dismounts, the bike’s light-weight carbon fork makes it easy to maneuver up technical climbs and on log overs. This bike, as built with a mix of top-end components, tips the scales at right around 30 pounds; so its weight isn’t a setback on the climbs either.
On the downhills, the Fatback feels more comfortable than its ridged demeanor should let it–thankfully crashing on snow hurts a whole lot less than on dirt (clipping trees feels the same though). The stability of the long wheelbase and relaxed head angle is a blessing when trying to keep the rubber side down on soft, slick or uneven snow-packed descents. Descending the Fatback is best–or at least the most fun–when done flat-track style, with one foot out and your weight over the front of the bike, letting the rear tire break free and drift through the corners.
Of all the fatbikes I’ve spent time on, none have quite had the appeal of the Fatback. It’s the full package, whether you are adventuring, trail riding or racing; plus titanium is just damn beautiful.