Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beargrease Report - or - No Road? No Problem!

Just last night I picked up my new Salsa Beargrease, a "fatbike," from Milltown Cycles. The bikes are brand new from Salsa and arrived at Milltown yesterday - I'm one of the first people to get one!

I'm a total non-professional in the bike world but have done a little ride report on my new Beargrease. It's not technical and all that. It's just my impressions of riding the Beargrease.  If you want to jump right to that report please scroll down. If you like a little backstory, keep reading :) If you want a more technical review, uh, google it. Or click HERE.
Big Tires! Here's some tech specs from Salsa: Tires are 45N Husker Du 26 x 4.0", 120tpi Folding and the rims are Surly Holy Rolling Darryls. In short the tires and rims are BIG and COOL!

I've wanted a fat bike ever since I first rode one over a year ago when I test rode a Mukluk and couldn't stop smiling because it was so much fun! Then Owen got a chance to ride a Mukluk 2 on trails a few months ago at a Salsa demo day and loved it - and that's where I saw the Beargrease and fell in bike-love. So Owen and I ordered fat bikes in early September and have been excitedly waiting to get our bikes since.

The Beargrease is marketed as "the ultimate snow and soft conditions racing machine." I'm not a racing sort of person. I'm more of an ordinary person who likes to eat chocolate and ride bikes (sometimes at the same time) so why would I buy a "racing machine" when a Mukluk 2 or 3 would have been just fine?

Here's why:
  • I'm short and, though strong, kind of a small person overall
  • The Beargrease weighs about 28 pounds, about 5 pounds less than a Mukluk 2
  • Less weight means an easier time for me maneuvering the bike and, likely, keeping up with Owen and the rest of the guys (I don't know any women with fat bikes yet but will probably struggle to keep up with them, too, because I'm more of a I'm slow but I get there sort of rider - but I have fun so I don't care!)
  • The Beargrease is absolutely gorgeous and just happens to be black and turquoise (turqouise is my favorite color - and if you're going to spend a ton of time with a bike you might as well love the color)
Did I mention the Beargrease is my favorite color? Yep. And it even matches my garden bench!

On Tuesday Ben from Milltown called to say my bike would be in on Wednesday. Yay! Owen and I got over to the shop as soon as we could after work last night and Curtis, one of Milltown main guys, helped me get it ready to go.

We made a few adjustments to the stock Beargrease:
  • I had Curtis cut an inch off the end of the handlebars so my hands would rest on the bars in more ergonomic position.
  • We put flat pedals on the bike - nice aluminum VP Vice Trail Pedals (the bikes come without pedals). The flat pedal instead of clipless pedal choice was based on the fact that I'll be riding this bike in snow boots and you can't really put cleats on snowboots. Well, I suppose you can but I'm not going to
  • We switched out the WTB Pure V saddle for a women's specific demo saddle for me to try out, the WTB Deva. 
  • We switched out the black top cap for a turquoise blue one with an owl on it - just because 
I've wanted one of these Salsa top caps ever since I first saw one - it has an owl on it! and it's turquoise!

I was going to add a bottle cage but the XS Beargrease is so small that it will be a challenge to carry a bottle on it. So I picked up a Camelbak instead and will carry my water on my back - a great benefit in the winter as body heat will keep the water from freezing.
Note the small space for a bottle on my XS Beargrease frame. A side opening bottle cage would fit but I opted not to get one for now. Note also the nice finish and the very clean bike chain (it won't be this clean ever again!)

Enough of details - what's it like to ride this wonderful bike? Well, last night it was dark when I picked up the bike. I rode it across the street to my van and that was fun. Then, when I got it home, I found a little headlamp thing in my son's room and strapped it on my head so I could see and rode the bike around my yard, over my landscape rocks, through pea gravel and through the leaf pile. It rode well! It was fun! I smiled a lot!

But today I got to really ride Bear (I think that's my new bike's name - Bear). It was an absolutely perfect day to ride, about 45 degrees and sunny, winds about 9 mph out of the west.

I got on my bike and headed out on the grass and - believe it or not - couldn't figure out how to shift. Did this new bike have some kind of special one lever shifters? I wondered. No, but for some goofy reason I couldn't see them/feel them/find them so could only manage to shift up into the big rings in front and back. Doh!

And now that you are laughing at me and my incompetence remember I told you I wasn't a racing sort of a rider, more like a chocolate eating sort of rider. Though I'm totally embarrassed I couldn't find the darn small shift levers - in my defense, the second set of levers are tucked back quite a ways and are, at first, kind of hard to find. And I have short fingers so it's a bit of a stretch to reach them. I will adjust them so they are easier to reach, if I can. If not, I'll manage.

Even though I could have skipped telling you this bit and saved myself from embarrassment I told you about not shifting anyway because the point I want to make is this:

Even with riding in one gear the whole time the Beargrease rode wonderfully!!!

Here's where I rode:
  • on grass
  • through a plowed field
  • through really long grass
  • on flat, hard packed gravel
  • on tar
  • downhill on gravel
  • uphill on gravel
  • on dirt two-track trails
  • in ditches
  • on loose gravel
  • through woodchips in my garden
Unlike riding on my road bike or my hybrid where I'm limited by terrain, on Bear I can go anywhere. No road? No problem! No trail? No problem! Plowed field? No problem! Snow? Yep, I can't wait to get some snow and discover that the Beargrease has no problem handling that, too!
Nice place to stop

How it Rides - The Beargrease is light and easy to maneuver. It was extremely stable going down gravel hills that are a challenge on my old Specialized Crossroads hybrid fitted with gravel tires. Bear was darn fast on downhills, easy to pedal on flats, and reasonably easy on uphills. On one of the hills I rode I have to I have to shift into my easiest gear on my Crossroads in order to get up it but on Bear I managed to do it fine in a middling gear with no downshifting (and I couldn't have downshifted if I wanted to because I'm brilliant with those shifters, you know). I live in the country and am surrounded by farm fields so I decided to ride through one. I wouldn't call it easy riding and it would have been better had I been able to shift but still, I rode through plowed dirt, stuff that's even hard to walk through, and managed well. On tar on my way home it was almost too easy to ride. It was as though he was begging me to take it off the road and get into some fun terrain. So I did.

As for comfort - the bike is extremely comfortable. I really didn't feel bumps when I went over them. The XS frame size is the right size for me. The reach feels about right. The saddle I tried worked fine though I may switch it out for a different WTB women's saddle that I've tried and like. I may end up switching out the standard handlebar (I think it has an 11 degree bend) for one with a 17 degree bend because my right wrist got a little sore (I've struggled with this wrist when biking for years) and more of a bend might help that. Another option might be some different handlebar grips to dissipate the pressure on my wrist.

So there you have it. My very non-technical review of the Salsa Beargrease.
In short - it's awesome!!
One of my favorite places to ride - not easily found on a road bike. Perfect for my Bear! 

7 comments:

Loving the Bike said...

That is such an awesome bike. I'm so happy for you. Congratulations on making one fantastic purchase.


Darryl

Griff Wigley said...

That's a great piece of writing, Myrna. I'm looking forward to riding the MN River Bottoms with you and Owen!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the world of Fatbiking - you will love the snowbike experience - superfun - we have been fortunate to have had 2+ weeks of it already :-)

Myrna CG Mibus said...

Thanks everyone. I can't wait for some snow!

Shebicycles said...

Super cool! Love the color too. I can't wait to see you ride in some snow ... So much fun!

Anonymous said...

What's your height? I'm thinking of getting a Beargrease for my wife, but can't decide if I should be shopping for a XS or Small. Thanks!

Myrna CG Mibus said...

I'm just over 5'2". I hope you get your wife a Beargrease - one thing I like about it is that it's so lightweight I can pick it up by the top tube and carry it :)