First Impressions: The On-One Fatty

I’ve been riding the On-One Fatty fatbike for a few weeks now, and I am ready to share some initial thoughts with you.

I also want to clarify something before we get started. We reached out to Planet X/On-One USA for this bike primarily to test for our sister site Mtnbikeriders.com after our experiences with fatbikes in Las Vegas last September. But, we thought, “why don’t we try this bike out as a commuter, too?” While we’ve long been advocates of the “you don’t need anything special to be a bike commuter” camp, there ARE times when the right tool for the job is something a bit off the beaten path. Fatbikes, as you can imagine, are definitely not a typical everyday commuter choice for the vast majority of us.

As I mentioned in my introduction, there was almost no snow on the ground when the bike was delivered. I didn’t have to wait long, though, as plenty more came only days later…and proceeded to pile up every couple of days thereafter.

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So far, it has been a lot of fun, but there’s also been a bit of a learning curve. Think of fatbikes as an overgrown mountain bike…but one capable of tackling terrain that may leave a regular MTB spinning its wheels. Riding a fatbike in hairy conditions isn’t always as easy as swinging a leg over and pedaling away, though, as I quickly learned.

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The On-One Fatty features an aluminum frame and a steel fork. I tested the 18″ frame (measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube), and it fit just right (I’m about 5′ 9″). The frame is constructed with a doubled top tube and a low standover height, crucial for when you’ve got to stop in knee-deep snow. That doubled top tube and the overall construction means the Fatty is stiff from front to back; there was ZERO flex even when horsing this brute around in the white stuff.

The parts spec was fine for my purposes — nothing exotic, and everything worked just the way it was supposed to. Remember that we are testing a 1×10 drivetrain, and the newest version of the Fatty comes with a 2×10 for some extra hillclimbing gearing or bailout range if things get really ugly.

The Fatty did well when the snow was packed down or if it was a bit damp and heavy (snow in near-freezing conditions). It did tend to bog down in fresh, dry powder (well below freezing temps) or if the snow was saturated from melting. I asked my fatbike guru Chris Follmer for advice along the way, and he mentioned that generally, ALL fatbikes exhibit the same preferences for snow conditions. Some of that depends on tire tread and pressure, of course. I would like to try other tire patterns to see if some grip better in dry powder than the stock tires that come with the Fatty.

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I did play with pressure, though…going as low as 5 psi, but generally hovering right around 7 psi for the best balance of grip and rolling resistance. On slushy roads or soft, muddy ground, the Fatty sings right along. On dry pavement…well, you can imagine that low pressures mean a sluggish ride. On dry days, I cranked the pressure up around 15 psi to see how the ride was — while there was still a good bit of rolling resistance, I was able to knock out an 18 mile trail/road ride in short order and without too much extra effort. Even with the high pressure (relative to most fatbike uses), there’s a lot of natural suspension effect going on with the huge tire volume. Talk about smooth sailing!

Most fatbikes come with wide handlebars…I mean, REALLY W-I-D-E bars. The El Guapo Ancho bars that came on our test Fatty measure 820mm from end to end! Wide bars are needed to help keep the front end from wallowing out in soft conditions, allowing the rider to apply lots of “body english” as needed. Learning to relax my grip on the bars took me a few rides; at first, I was clenching them pretty tightly and wandering all over the place. Once I discovered that I could track better by relaxing, I started doing that…allowing me to stay in tire ruts made by cars, or packed-down areas on the trail.

Riding the Fatty has been like rolling along on a giant BMX bike — it encourages some horseplay and frolicking in the snow! I really enjoyed the solid lockup of the Avid Elixir hydraulic discs (yes, hydraulic — even in below-zero temps)…it made powerslides on ice an easy thing:

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And, like our friend Vince Rodarte told me, “the Fatty is a wheelie monster!” Oh, how right he was…a big, soft tire and low gearing made it a snap to pop serious wheelies:

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In our formal review in a few weeks, we’ll talk about commuting potential and the particulars of this bike’s running gear. In the meantime, if your commute requires traversing snow, deep sand, mud, or you simply like to take shortcuts over the rough stuff, a fatbike might be just what you’ve been waiting for.

Kickstarter Love: SHY-SPY | GPS/GSM Tracker For Bicycles

Hey Bike Commuting Ladies and Gents! As you know, the Bike Commuters staff are not about blasting you with Kickstarter bike-related paraphernalia, since gods know that there are fluffy piles of that out there in internet land… like bunnies in a pillow fight, yo. But once in a while, there comes a Kickstarter campaign that tickles our fancy. So we are throwing out some virtual Kickstarter Love for the SHY-SPY GPS/GSM Tracker for Bicycles.

Stealing bikes is mean, but real.

Short of bringing your bike indoors with you on a leash at all times (“What, you’ve heard of guide dogs for the visually impaired? This is my guide bike, and I’m car impaired, okay?“) there comes a time in every bike commuter’s life when they have to address security. Bike theft is a problem in all cities and neighborhoods, despite the cycle-owner’s best efforts. Cycle gators, in an effort to protect their bike offspring, may go so far as to register in free city-wide systems, implant smart locks, or OnStar the hell out of your ride.

What? Guide Dogs and Bikes… obvious combination.

So what’s so special about the SHY-SPY? Yet another GPS tracker for your bike… you Cycle Cynics may say, as you virtually (or literally) roll your eyes at this post. Well, let me let them tell you (because copying and pasting is way easier than reading comprehension ;):

When it comes to keeping track of our cycling activity, there are a large variety of choices:

  • Inexpensive Cycle computers: to record the distance, speed, total travel time, but no geolocation data.
  • GPS trackers: There are a lot of GPS trackers out there, in form of wearable watches, or mountable on your stem or handlebars. Professional models could have many additional functions such as power meter, heart rate and cadence sensors; And yeah… they cost a fortune. So you have to protect it as well; Mount it when you ride and take it away when you leave the bike unattended.
  • Smartphones: Using our cellphone  along with popular sport tracking apps such as Endomondo, Strava and Sportstracker is another convenient choice; There is a compromise though and it’s the risk of running out of battery on your mobile phone when you need it the most.
  • With SHYSPY however, you always have a tracker with your bike; The  long battery life of 30 hours, lets you track all the activities with no concern of any kind. Using the SHYSPY app you could monitor you activity and/or download it in GPX standard format to be later uploaded manually to major sport tracker platforms such as: Endomondo, Strava and Sportstracker, so you could compare your data with other members and socialize your cycling experience.

SHY-SPY GSM is our low cost alternative to GPS tracking.

Get inside my seat tube any day, SHY-SPY!

What Mir.I.Am loves about this idea:

  1. Welcome to 2014, people: Mir just got texting, so a GPS tracker that can text me the location of my bike sounds pretty nifty and high-tech.
  2. The SHY-SPY can mount  inside your seat tube, for incognito theft-tracking action.
  3. I’m not so interested in tracking my cycling “performance” while commuting, by I am interested in making my life more like any episode of Get Smart.

Click here for the full SHY-SPY Kickstarter details, non Cycle Cynics and skeptics. Enjoy your week and keep your ride safe, however you can!

Bike safety to the extreme: Laser lights, vibrating handlebars and more

This morning I was zipping down a six block descent on my way to work, eyeing a sporty black car that was creeping suspiciously down the hill. As a good defensive bicyclist, I slowed my roll, covering the brakes as I gained on the car and an approaching intersection. The light was green; I was headed straight through the intersection and so was the car until it made an unexpected, unsignaled right turn, cutting me off. Luckily, I had slowed significantly and changed my trajectory, turning right alongside the car. Not sure if the driver even noticed me.

I was lucky. Sometimes defensive biking isn’t enough to avoid a collision.

This was not my first near miss, not even the first one of the week, so when a friend told me about the BLAZE Laserlight, my first thought was, “I could definitely use a little green bicycle fairy.” Because that’s what the BLAZE light is: a high-powered LED that projects a green bicycle shape onto the roadway about 16 feet in front of a cyclist, warning drivers of an approaching rider. Hopefully, the green bike will alert space-cadet drivers and make cyclists less vulnerable to blind spots and other potential dangers.

A little green friend.

It’s true, BLAZE Laserlight is just the newest iteration of an idea that’s been around for several years—check out these laser beam bike buffers—but I have yet to see this concept in action on the street. Maybe it seems like overkill to have little green bikes (or laser beams) announcing a cyclist’s every turn.

On the other hand, maybe laser beams are just the beginning. A group of engineering students at Northeastern have taken bike safety to the extreme, creating the Interactive Bicyclist Accident Prevention System (iBAPS). The “smart bike” prototype incorporates a plethora of safety features.

Extreme safety measures.

Smarter than your average cyclist? The iBAPS features:

  • Sensors to detect cars impinging on a cyclists space
  • Laser beams (of course) that project a 3-foot wide virtual bike lane
  • If a car comes too close, the bike “emits a loud message, telling drivers to move further away.” (I think we’re all wondering the same thing, what is this message and is it customizable?)
  • When approaching an intersection at high speed, the handlebars vibrate as a warning to slow down. (Frightening.)
  • Using Bluetooth tech, the bike can sync up with a rider’s smartphone leading to all kinds of excessive data extrapolation. Like tracking riding trends to inform the biker how likely it is that their riding behavior will lead to a crash.
  • With the smartphone GPS, the bike can vibrate the handlebars, alerting the rider to make the correct turns to reach a destination. (I just can’t get over the vibrating thing. It would scare the crap outta me.)
  • As cars get smarter too, eventually the bike will be able to communicate with vehicles on the road. (Where’s  my self-riding bicycle, Google?)

Read more about the iBAPS smart bike from the Boston.com.

All these features make my measly helmet & flashing lights seem antiquated. I’m all for bike safety measures and, although some of these seem a bit extreme, to ensure I arrive to my destination unscathed, nothing may be too extreme.

How far would you go to ensure your safety while bike commuting? Is it possible that the iBAPS is missing any features?

 

Happy birthday to the incomparable Mir.I.Am!

Oh, man, I’m gonna catch heat for this…seein’ as how Mir’s birthday was YESTERDAY.

In any case, please wish staff writer and Bikecommuters.com’s go-to humorist a very happy (and belated) birthday!

Here’s Mir jumping over a hotdog:

Mir
Yep, she’s THAT rad.

Please join us for a slice of virtual birthday cake, and raise a glass to Mir.

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Get Outta My Bike Lane, Amsterdamnit!

Hey Bike Commuters. Do you ever find yourself cruising on your commute to work in the happily-allocated bike lanes, only to end up dodging weird obstacles and moving individuals peppered on scooters, rollerblades, shopping carts, or rolling dumpsters? I know I have… (Honolulu commuters: think Ala Wai canal bike lane towards downtown, knowhadImean?)

Scoot it, or boot it, scooter!

Well, in the flat bike-loving city of Amsterdam, it seems a similar battle has begun to unfold: Crotch-rocket scooter commuters are fighting for space in the bike lanes with, well, bicycles! How DARE they, you say? Check out this article from the perspective of a London-based bike commuter that was just released today on The Telegraph, called Battle in the Bike Lanes of Amsterdam.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatlife/10634524/Battle-in-the-bike-lanes-of-Amsterdam.html

The author takes a look from both sides: one day, she and her partner rent a souped-up scooter and the next day a Dutch cruiser. Only to realize that it’s every commuter for themselves, lanes and lines be Amsterdamned!

The downside is that when you’re on a scooter all you can think about is how many cars you’ve already overtaken and when you’re on a bike all you can think when you see a scooter is “don’t be an idiot, don’t be an idiot, dontbeanidiot!”.

IMHO, there should be enough room for everybody on the streets: cars, bikes, scooters, pedestrians, and public transit. Can’t we all just get along?!