Fatbiking in winter is an absolutely fascinating sport. In Alaska and in the Yukon the bikes with the extra wide tires have been around for quite a while. Now this fascination seems to have reached other parts of the world, too. That’s why for some time already I have been toying with the idea to get a special edition YAU fatbike made. And to learn more about these types of bikes and what specs these need to have to work in the extreme cold.
But it was not until Kevin Turek, who is a MTB expert, contacted me with the same idea that the ball finally got rolling. As luck would have it with MAXX-Bike we also found the perfect company to execute our plans. They are market leading custom bikes experts already producing fatbikes and immediately embraced the project. Uwe Matthies, the CEO himself has been a driving force and helped with all aspects involved. The result made us really proud.
Before I introduce you in more detail to our YAU Fatbike here are some more general infos on biking in the cold.
A bike for winter weather needs to have certain features in order to handle cold, snow, ice and the lack of daylight. This is especially true if we are talking about arctic conditions where having the right equipment may even be a matter of survival. Whilst winter cyclist who travelled from Whitehorse to Dawson in the gold rush era had no choice, nowadays fatbikes are the way to go. However, for it to do the job you need to do more thing than just having wide tires. We will now discuss a few of the important components for winter fatbiking.
One thing to consider is if you will actually participate in an extreme race like the MYAU or go on an expedition in a region like Scandinavia? Or if you will actually use the bike more in rather “mild” winter weather like we get it in the Alps? And how much elevation will you have to deal with and what will the trail conditions be like?
Transmission by interal gear hub (IGH) or derailleur drive?
The choice between IGH or Derailleur transmission depends a lot on the type of trail and the expected level of elevation. The classic derailleur drive (our tipp: 1 x 11sp because there are less moving parts) allows for a more sporty gear shifting and is lighter. However, chain, rear derailleur and possibly front derailleur still are plenty of moving parts in charge of transmission – each a potential problem in cold, snow and ice but also other obstacles like mud, sand and bushes.
With a IGH (our tipp: Rohloff XL 14 gear with special oil mixture) you have no issues with any such obstacles – even more so if you configured a gates belt drive instead of a regular chain. Therefore, this is a great solution for rough conditions and when the additional cost and weight are less of an issue ...
Down to – 15° C hydraulic Shimano disc brakes with large discs (200/180 mm) are our recommendation, especially when you also use your fatbike in warmer weather and need the best possible brake performance. If used is in colder temps we recommend the mechanical disc brakes Avid BB7. Not the braking fluid as such is the problem but the sealings on levers and calipers which can turn hard and rigid and thus cause leaks in the hydraulic system. The disadvantage of mechanical brakes is of course less braking power. So, it remains a question of individual priorities.
All moving parts and bearings need to be treated with a special lubricant, e.g. SKF LGLT2, which works down to – 50° C; housings and cables should - and all MAXX bikes have this - be applied inside the downtube, with sealed endcaps from Shimano. In addition to that the entire cable routing inside needs to be filled by the same anti-frost lubricant to prevent humidification. Otherwise the wires will freeze in the housings immediately when the bike is exposed to strong temperature changes, especially from indoors to outdoors. When configurating your fatbike on www.maxx.de/en you can chose the option “Arctic-Setup”. This set-up also works fine in normal temperatures and does not need to be changed when summer comes.
No plastic parts:
No parts that have will need to support weight or have to deal with a lot of forces should be made from plastic, e.g. buckles, holders, attachment parts. Plastic may get brittle and break. Whenever possible use aluminum or stainless steel instead. Please also keep this in mind when chosing any bags or your saddle.
No quick releases:
In extreme cold quick releases on hubs and seatpost will not be reliable. They can even break. Therefore, you should opt for traditional allen key solutions.
An essential ingredient of your fatbike are the winter tires which have a softer rubber, extra nobby profile, even on the sides. Any normal tire in the cold would get too hard and lose its grip on snow, especially when riding on grooved tracks or sloping hill crossings. Spikes only have an impact on ice or icy tracks and should reach way out to the sides. The disadvantages of spike tires are of course the additional weight – that’s why you may only want to have spikes in your front tire. For the width of you tire on snow, there is really only one rule: the wider, the better! Our winter and snow favorite is VEE Snowshoe XL PSC (Pure Silica Compound).
Without tubes? For sure but...
Riding tubeless on a Fatbike is a must! No „snake bites“ and no loss of energy due to the stiff tubes inside. Unfortunately, there is no proven liquid tire seal for the moment that will also reliably work in the extreme cold. So, be sure to have spare tubes and pump in your bags riding on a tubeless set!
Source of energy:
Winter also means fewer hours of daylight. That’s why a good source of energy can have a strong impact on how safe you are and how much fun you have riding your fatbike – especially when you are on an expedition and need a reliable way of charging your batteries for cell phone, head lamp or GPS navigator. Our recommendation is the SON Fatbike hub dynamo along with two connectors - one for the SON Edelux metal headlight/taillight and the other wire connection to the voltage converter/recharger that you wear close to your body. We recommend the Guide 10 Plus Recharger or the Forumslader.
As long as you are riding at a max 15 km/h and the tire pressure is not too high there should be enough damping not to need suspension fork. If you ride faster and are on bumpy ground we recommend the Rockshox Bluto even though it means some additional weight. In the cold of the Yukon you will not move all that fast and the airtightness of the suspension may become a problem. Therefore you should be fine with a rigid fork.
The YAU Fatbike
The first YAU Fatbikes are ready. Here an image from the MAXX-Bike production facility in Rosenheim, Germany:
The most important info:
|Jagamoasta Pro in class specification, size M (47 cm center BB to top of seat tube)||2,059.00 €||15.25|
|Transmission: 1 x 11 sp. XT / Raceface Aeffect 26T fr./42T re.||99.00 €||- 0.22*|
|Pedal: Acros A-Flat MD, black||59.00 €||0.23|
Arctic Set-Up: down to -40° C (grease replacement of all bearings, special anti-frost treatment of shifting cables & housings)
|Disc breakes: Avid BB7 S / Speed Dial 7 - Disc mechanical 200 mm / 180 mm||0.00 €||0.35|
HandlebarStem-Units: Truvativ Handlebar/Stem-Unit: Boobar 740/20/20 incl. stem AKA 90 mm / 7°
|Cockpit Height: Spacer for headset - additional 3 pieces 10 mm each||3.00 €||0.02|
|Grips: Ergon GE 1 Enduro Grip size Unisize black||34.00 €||0.05|
|Saddle: Fi'zi:k Nisene III, 142 mm breit||35.00 €||-0.05|
|Wheelset: DT BR 2250||249.00 €||-0.90|
|Rack: Tubus Fatbike rack, steel, max. load 30 kg||109.00 €||1.19|
|Tires: Fatbike Snowshoe XL Pure Silica 5.05/4.8"||89.00 €||0.4|
|Color choice (lichtblau / 5012)||79.00 €||0.0|
*Some weights are negative as the components are a variation from the standard model which result in less weight.
All components in red typo are pretty much a "must-have". For all other parts their are alternatives. This also goes for the frame color. You can also get your bike without YAU-logos and use other logotypes instead and/or get your name on the frame.
Last but not least I’d like to mention that of course anybody can buy a YAU or winter expedition fatbike with us. You do not need to participate in the race.