We are continually bombarded in this digital age to be skinny, lead a lifestyle of fitness and gluten free diets and to have as little excess weight as we possibly can. Bigger things have been brainwashed out of us as normal and lower self esteems are now accepted in everyday life.
Well, it's time to throw that all aside, embrace the soft, pudgy tyres and accept your frame to have a wide, accomodating frame structure, let it all hang out where you like and rock on.
Enter the Kona WO, a rigid fat bike built for all seasons and all rider types that will honestly make you and the non cycling folk of this world smile.
Fat Bikes are one of the later designs and styles of bikes that are rapidly re-shaping the current mountain biking, touring world as we know it. The basis of the Fat Bike is to essentially allow higher traction on surfaces that normally would not accompany everyday mountain biking like Sand, Snow, Mud and excessively slippery terrain while allowing a payload with panniers to tag along like that guy from accounts on your daily coffee schedule.
Being a complete fat bike virgin and a plus sized model myself, I managed to twist the arms of the guys at MyBike to let me steal it for the weekend. I was skeptical about riding this bike that seemed to go against so many morals of mountain biking. Excessively steep head angle, overly Soft tyres, masses of rolling resistance (in theory), a larger spinning mass and a visual weight disadvantage.
But was all of this correct?
Weighing in at a surprising 15.3 kilograms, the WO certainly broke the first mental hurdle I held. The bikes weight was accountable to the range of well spec'd shimano equipment aboard with a more traditional 2 x 10 gearing setup. This weight could easily be lowered further with a drive-line refinement and a change to tubeless but as it stands out of the box, the weight is negligible.
Jumping on the bike for the first time, you couldn't help but grin. The 4.8 tyres quickly made my high volume 29er 2.3's look like road slicks and the sound accompanying them is nothing but pure grip. A comfortable seating and bar position was easily achieved by the smallest of tweaks to my liking so naturally, after a few attempts to ride up anything and everything around home (with ease) it was off to find a trail and put it to the real test.
Riding the bike over as many different trails and styles as I could find over the weekend was a fun challenge. Pavement, road, gravel track, slippery clay and rutted, root clad single tracks were no real challenge to the limits of the bike and it proved that regardless of the surface the modern fatbike is in fact a very versatile bike.
The biggest plus[h] I found with the WO was the comfort, even with being a rigid bike. The Schwalbe Jumbo Jim's cushioned the ride nicely while rolling with an amazingly low resistance. The climbing traction and gearing combination made for an effortless spin and left the mashing and gasping to a minimum.
I have noticed the 2017 variant recently released is a 1 x 11 gearing combination and a granny combination of 26/42 which equates to almost the same as the variant tested but the 1 by drive train will offer a better more consistent range and a substantial weight saving for a trade off for top speed.
Now all fun aside, these bikes are an acquired taste which may not suit the masses. They are definitely not a trail slaying, jumping machine but if you want a fun, all weather enjoyable ride to suit long distance and comfort riding then this style of bike should be strongly considered and test ridden instore to see what you think.
For me, this fat bike suited this fat boy for a day of simple, fun trail riding and was a welcoming change to a regular style of riding I am well versed in. I can see why the bikes have caught on heavily with bike packing and long distance touring as a day in the saddle on this bike would be a little like a relaxing snooze in a hammock with a pina colada.