After hiking over 10 miles last Tuesday from Ohlone College over Mission Peak then Monument Peak and down to Ed Levin Park where we left his truck, my friend went to his family's beach house in Aptos near Santa Cruz ahead of me the next day. I wanted to stop for a ride at Pogonip on the way, but decided to skip the ride and only stop at Wednesday's downtown Santa Cruz Farmer's Market. On the walk back from the Bagelry, I noticed Salsa had a van and a lot of bikes outside a shop across from Market and stopped for a look. They were demoing next year's bikes and after returning to the car for bike shorts, shoes, gloves and helmets, I went for my first ever ride on a Fat Bike.
I took out a full suspension 2015 Salsa Bucksaw which runs 26 X 4" tires, 1X11 gears (30 front and 10-42 rear) and has a claimed weight of under 32.5 lbs. See http://salsacycles.com/culture/introducing_bucksaw for more details. The Salsa reps recommended taking San Lorenzo River trail to Pogonip and then riding up the fairly new Emma McCreary trail. This is one of my favorite rides with moderate climbing, bridges and redwoods, a lot of turns and great sight-lines most of the way. For the demo, it was disappointing that a lot of the trail is so hard packed from lack of rain, but there was some softer dirt available on edges and banked corners. I did find myself getting into lowest gear earlier than on my bike that has 3X8 gears and almost stalled out and fell over once when my momentum stopped more abruptly than expected.
Otherwise, the bike rode great and could be as much of a game changer as fat, rockered skis in soft snow. Similar to skiing in powder or soft spring snow, you no longer have to worry about front digging in and trying to send you over frontwards. You also have inreased gyroscopic effect since so much of the bike's weight is in the wheels and tires. I thought the effort to pedal was going to be way higher, but it was not that much and the rep explained it that you have also have such much tire to ground contact for power that offsets the increased resistance. I was only able to go up the McCreary trail and the first five minutes of the UConn trail before having to turn around. The downhill was a blast as you could confidently roll over anything since fat tires are only running such low pressure. The big disk brakes took a little getting used to as between them and the amount of tire contact, you could stop very quickly, but you need a lot of brake to stop that much tire. I felt like getting most of the performance out of the bike was much easier than on my full-suspension bike with about the half the tire width.
I reluctantly returned the bike after about an hour and a half and thought maybe next year for my 60th birthday I should ask my wife to get me one. I also will have to try to rent a fat bike and see if it would be great as great as I think it would be for coming down very sandy Tunnel Creek trail off Tahoe Flume trail. The reps had one more stop in CA the next day before returning to MN. My friend and I returned the next day and rode same trails to the top behind UCSC and I did find I was in my lowest gear for part of the time. I wanted to return the same way or over the top and come down Wilder Ranch, but my friend's bike was jumping out out of gear so we rode down paved roads out of UCSC and around Santa Cruz. Maybe tomorrow.
First picture is view from Mission Peak along ridgeline to Mt Allison then Monument Peak. Fog kept us cooler for beginning of hike
The Bucksaw at top of McCreary trail
At the Salsa demo van in downtown Santa Cruz after the ride