49. DO the Eager Beaver

It’s coming.

It’s almost here.

The Eager Beaver 2.0:  Substance Projects answer to “What’s the Epicest Bike Race Ever?”.

Yup.  Two sleeps until gravel riders, MTB shredders, CX killers, and hardcore roadies from around the province, Quebec, and the States, descend on Nordic Highlands ski hill in Duntroon Ontario, for what I can only say is one of the toughest, most rewarding races of the season–and I don’t even do the full race.

The Eager Beaver is a big, boss, giant, killer bike race.

And the best part is…wait for it…

I.

Am.

Ready.

No more cold-mageddon to deal with.  That ship sailed about a week after the El Bandito.

Lots and lots of riding in the past few weeks.  (the El Bandito 70k, 6 longish gravel rides and 2 big mountain hikes in Quebec–blog to follow soon–all of the Hydrocut–also, blog to follow soon–two neighbourhood 25k rips, and even a King Race Series Tuesday night race).  All told, 13 decent rides in 22 days.  Yeah, Boom.

And for the first time in my riding career, I am not totally out of my wits with fear before the race.  Yeah.  After taming the Beaver last year (totally not as dirty as it sounds,, and a pretty epic season so far (maybe not epic for you, but epic for me), I’ve now got 7 pretty big races under my belt, and I feel good about mounting the Beaver this year (again, not as dirty as it sounds).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared as heck, worried like crazy, and tentative to the nth degree, but in a healthy way, not the usual nail-biting, pant-pooping, up-at-night-sobbing-in-the-fetal-position, sort of way.  It feels kind of boss.  2/3rd place, here I come!

Yes, I’ve started measuring my place by fractions.  I’m usually between half place and 2/3rd place.  It sounds way better than 60th place.  It gets a bit confusing when I tell someone I was 13/19ths place, but whatever.

The race is going to be awesome.  I can’t wait for it, and you should come to the race too. Here’s why:

10 Reasons Why YOU Should Do the Eager Beaver 2.0

  1. You never regret a race you did, only the race you didn’t.
  2. It’s a Dan’s Race.  ‘Nuff said.
  3. If you have a bike, it’s the right bike.  Period.
  4. Where else in the province can you take a stab at a 160k gravel grinder that has up to 2,000m of climbing, 80% gravel roads, killer “Iron Cross” sections, and 5 aid stations?
  5. Choice.  50k, 100k, or 160k.  If there’s something I can now say with absolute surety, ANYBODY can do 50k.  For inexperienced riders, it may not be easy, it might take a long time (and you might even be last place), but you CAN do it.  For additional information, see point #1.  Look at my pictures.  If I can do these races, who can’t?
  6. Playing bikes with a few hundred bike minded people for the afternoon.  So cool.
  7. Mother Nature is playing too.  We’re in for some booming and crackling on Friday, and a bit of rain (or maybe lots) starting Friday afternoon.  Who wants to ride in hot, dry weather when you can ride in EPIC weather.
  8. Free commemorative, special edition, Eager Beaver glass!  On a side note, I was talking to Steve Shikaze this week.  His glass from last year is his favourite glass ever.  Well, it was until he broke it.  True story.  Actually, I think his wife broke it.  Sorry to open an old wound, bud.  Wait, I hope Dan has glasses this year.  I should probably fact-check this before publishing…
  9. Sponsors:  Salsa Bikes and Cycle Solutions are sponsoring the race, along with Pearl Izumi and a bunch of other great bikey companies.  Read: wicked door prizes.
  10. The Eager Beaver 2.0 is Team Colin approved.  This is the last point because it’s the most ridiculous one because Team Colin is a fair rider (at best) and doesn’t have the experience or credibility to actually endorse a race, but if it works for you, cool. Honestly, the only reason I ride, race, and write about riding and racing, is because I love it so much and just want to share the groovy bike love vibe.

Back to the bike choice thing.  Really, the StuporCross Series is an epic BIKE race series, and while Dan promotes the race like a gravel grinder, a CX, gravel, MTB, or fatbike is suitable. Okay, a road bike might be a bad choice, but any other bike is cool.  By the way, for anyone who did the El Bandito, the Eager Beaver is sort of, but not really, similar.  I’ll be on my Norco Threshold.  It’s super sweet!

So that’s it.  It’s going to be awesome, and I can’t wait for Saturday so I can take another shot at the…well, you know.

See you Saturday!

Ride.

48. El Bandito 70/140

El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpegAnd so, a legend was born…

Saturday’s El Bandito (the first race in the Substance Projects Stoporcross) was a spectacularly epic, mind numbingly gruelling, big boss, bike race. If you were in Southern Ontario just after 9AM, you must have felt it when the earth moved in the collective BOOM of 161 riders starting what I hope will become a Southern Ontario racing legend.

What, you weren’t there?  Such a shame.  You didn’t just miss a Dan’s Race (yeah, that’s thing), you missed the birth of a legend.

The El Bandito was everything a legendary bike race should be: tough and challenging, scenic and gorgeous, communal and welcoming, tough and challenging, fun, and really really really hard.  Substance Projects promised a bike race, and they delivered.  It wasn’t gravel, or MTB, or CX, or road. It was each of them combined into a sweet Dan Marshall blender of legendary epicness. At the core of the race, it was a gravel grinder to beat all–except there wasn’t really any gravel.

However, in another sense, it was a MTB race–except there was no singletrack, even though we hit a whole bunch of doubletrack in Ganaraska Forest, which was almost tougher than the singletrack.

However, in another-other sense, it was a road race–except most of the asphalt was patchy and tougher than gravel.

And in another-other-nother sense, it was a deep-sand/tall-grass festival of wheel-sucking slog.

There was even a last minute addition of a hike-an-asphalt-chunk section that was wickedly nasty.

Wait, I really want to talk about the rip through Ganaraska Forest.  It was too long to call a section, and every inch of it was a spectacular grind.  Each time we passed a connection to singletrack trail my heart felt a little tug, but don’t think for a second that the doubletrack wasn’t just as much nasty fun.  Honestly, I think the Ganny has some of the nastiest (read: awesomest) and gnarliest (read: really really awesomest) doubletrack around.  Ruts, rocks, roots, and hills made it every bit as challenging as the singletrack. In fact, because we were either grinding up, or white-knuckling down, trying to find the most managable line through the deep rutted track was impossible.  I should retire my wheelset after 10k of what I think is best described as “Aw, c’mon Dan, really?” terrain.  It was so tough, and so very fun.

The El Bandito was heavy on sections–Dan’s answer to Iron Cross–which were grossly awesome, sometimes hikable, wickedly hard, patches of surface, that riders somehow either rode over, walked along, or scrambled through–and they were always UP UP UP. One of the great things about the race was that the sections didn’t start until about 45k. There was a quick shot of sand at about 20k, but other than that it was pretty much 45k of easy rolling and then BAM! (not boom), Dan sucker punched us right in the spandex.

Easy rolling?  Yeah, no.  There was no easy rolling.  The Northumberland Hills are really really really, super extra hilly.  Beautiful from a car, gross on a bike.  The parking lot at Brimacombe was the flattest part of the day.  We were either chugging up a loooooooong and steep climb, or tucking in for a blistering descent.  Blistering indeed.

I just want to say it again.  I LOVED THE RACE.

Here’s my Facebook post from immediately after I finished:

20394940_10212753818016161_1653554276_o
Mr. Dan Marshall. Love ’em.

This guy. This guy right here organized the perfect race. El Bandito was pure magic. From the first hike over Mount Chunky Asphalt, to the epic string of road, gravel, and everything in between, the race was an absolute beauty. Dan Marshall, I’ve always loved you, but I think I love you just a bit more after today. Thanks for making my cold worse, my Saturday better, and my legs sing. Awesome.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating.  The El Bandito was pure magic.  It was like Paris to Ancaster–but with hills (and no crowds).  The race was doable on pretty much any bike (except a road bike), and the terrain made it that much more interesting, but the real beauty was that it was so challenging yet doable, and I think that’s what will make the race weather the test of time.  Like P2A, pretty much any rider could suffer through it, and the sense of accomplishment at the end was staggering.  With 1,400m of climbing, and the relentless barrage of climbs and nasty bits, the race was far from easy (like, really really far), and the tough stuff was just Dan’s tacit reminder that we signed up for it.  Dan’s hint for finishing a tough race:  “Just keep pedaling” (D. Marshall.  Every time I ask him how he finishes a big race).

Oh, and the scenery.  The Northumberland Hills are almost too pretty.  Since the course summited pretty much every big road climb around Brimacombe, we were rewarded with some beautiful sights.

Oh, and Brimacombe.  Wow.  What an awesome facility for a bike race.  Great chalet, huge parking lot, giant BBQ, a balcony to watch all the action, and a terrific fit for a Dan’s Race.

Race Report:  El Bandito 70.  Brimacombe Ski Hill: June 22, 2017

My bike for the day was my dreamy Norco Threshold SL.

Honestly, Barry Cox already did the FULL course some awesome justice in a Facebook post, so I’ll post it at the the of this blog, but I want to report on something unique for me in a race.  It’s so unique that it’s the first time it’s happened in over 40 big races.  I RACED WITH A PACK!!!  Yeah, Team Colin raced with a pack. I’ve never been able to manage racing with a pack.  I’m either too fast or too slow (usually too slow, I’m just sayin’) but within about 7k of the start, I was riding with 3 other racers and after jockeying back and forth a bit, we started chatting and stuck together for the remaining 62k.

It was terrific.

For most of the race, I think our pace was faster than it would have been if we were alone, but for the last 20k, we were chatting and just talking, and I think our pace may have dropped a bit (although I don’ t think by much).

A few observations about my pack:

  • El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpeg
    My Avg. Speed wasn’t as low as this.  I didn’t stop my GPS until 20 minutes after the race.

    Brent has an absolutely fearsome tuck.  Like, fearsome.  I maxed out at 76.58 km/h (yeah, on a CX bike with 33mm knobby tires), but he passed me.  He didn’t pass me, he smoked me.  Awesome technique.

  • Simon is awesome.  Dude loves to talk, and it’s all interesting.  Can’t wait to see you at the Eager Beaver, and I’m definitely taking you up on your offer of a sweet rip at Goodrich Loomis.
  • Stewart was worried for nothing.  Seriously Stewart, I don’t know if you’ll be one of the 20 people who read this (hi mom) but you rocked it.  I’m still not sure if we dropped you (unintentionally) or if you dropped us, but we broke up somehow around the 45k mark, and couldn’t see you.  We thought you were ahead of us.  Stewart admitted that he felt a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the race when he saw all of the hardcore riders (and there were some seriously heavy hardcore racers), but races like this draw pros and first timers, and Stewart was closer to pro than newb.  I’m still waiting for that picture Stewart…

By the way, Stewart wasn’t on a 23 pound carbon CX dream.  He was on a commuter bike, and even rode with the back rack.  Dude was awesome.

El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpegThe race was nasty and hard and so much fun.  Honestly, I don’t know how Dan strung together such an awesome array of terrain and challenges.  At every corner, and at every peak, we hit something new and wickedly cool.

And the best part?  Brent, Simon, and I crossed the finish line handlebar to handlebar to handlebar.  Great riding with you guys.

End of Race Report.

I placed at the top of the bottom third of riders, but given my cold, the preceding three week nap, and the whole snot factor, I’m okay with my results.

These folks were pretty epic though.

 

 

You know, I can’t believe I almost didn’t make it to the race.  I’ve been nursing the worst cold humankind has ever experienced (totally not exaggerating) for the last three weeks, and didn’t register until 9:05 on Friday night.  In fact, at 8:59 on Friday night, I wasn’t even contemplating it.  Looking back, my logic was sound for deciding to do the race.  I felt lousy, so I figured I’d rather feel lousy and on a bike, than feel lousy and be in bed.

I wasn’t wrong.

Was it easy racing with a cold?  No, not at all.

Did I give myself a hernia during a fit of hacking while stooped over my bars? Very likely?

Did I lose 10 pounds of snot during the race?  Definitely.

Was it worth it?  Ab.  Sew.  Lootely.

On a side note, my apologies to anyone riding within 3k of me on Saturday.  I cough loud, I hork loud, and well, I’m just sorry.

So that’s it, my cold is still hacking at my lungs and dripping out of my nose, I still get the occassional flu sweat, and my lower intestine may be strangulating itself inside my testicles, but there was a race on Saturday, and I did it.  Because, after all, nothing bad ever happens to Team Colin on a bike.  Boom.

By the way, if you didn’t make it on Saturday, don’t worry, I have a feeling the El Bandito will be back next year, although if I have another cold-mageddon, maybe I won’t.  Yeah, who am I kidding…

Ride.

 

PS.  I cannot end without a huge shout out, a giant high five, and a big sweaty post race hug for the Substance Projects crew.  Aside from the paid staff (and the staff from whose loins Dan didn’t fall), they are awesome. I’m so happy my friend Nadia joined my other (now) friend Lorraine at the BBQ, and the other familiar faces at the aid stations and START/FINISH were just amazing. I’m a little more than bummed that I didn’t get to see Florence and Liz Grootenboer, but that’s because Florence was trapped in the bushes for the day, and Liz was riding across the country to raise money for charity. Dan Marshall, Substance Projects, and the rest make the sport richer and we’re all lucky to have their dedication and support.  Big giant BOOM for Substance projects.

 

 

And here, as promised (and in its entirety), is the other Race Report, courtesy of legendary Lapdog, Barry Cox:

Race Report:  El Bandito 140.  Brimacombe Ski Hill: June 22, 2017 (by Barry Cox)

I was so apprehensive about this race. The pre-ride a week and a half ago was really, really tough. I suffered hard. I hated it. I wanted it to be over. I doubted my ability to even finish the race. I assumed I would be DFL.

Turns out the pre-ride was the best thing I could possibly have done. I took the last week and a half to eliminate many of the problems I had on the ride. I planned. I came up with a nutrition plan, used drop bags at the aid stations, and executed it. I removed the 120mm 17deg negative rise stem which came on my bike and replaced it with something more comfortable. I put gel inner-soles in my shoes to cut down on foot pain and shoe discomfort. Basically, I figured out what the problems were likely to be and tried to eliminate them.

I lined up towards the front of the start line but didn’t sprint hard off the start. I walked the bike down the first descent, upon which someone had dumped a bunch of jagged asphalt two days ago, rather than risk a flat or a crash.  Others didn’t and their day was over quickly.

The first 20 km of the race was mostly road. I found that I couldn’t put down the power in the climbs. My legs felt heavy. I compensated by trying to work with other riders on the flats, and getting as aero as possible on the descents. It almost worked, but I got passed a lot.

el-bandit0-team-colin.jpeg
Barry Cox.  Post race.  Alive.

20km in we hit the first sandy section. I was in a group and it took one of the riders in front off-guard. He went down hard, knocked himself out and from the look of it broke his collarbone. I stayed at the scene for about 5 minutes to make sure that help was on the way (I had the medical number on my phone) but after that there was nothing I could do to help – someone else who appeared to have first aid training was taking charge, so I decided to keep riding.

The first 45km was mostly pavement. I just was not going as fast as I would have liked and got passed by a bunch of riders. It could have been because I was using 700 x 40c tires with a lower pressure. But when I hit the first stretch of ATV trail (and and dirt) I was loving the tires and picked a number of other riders off.

I kept pushing and picked up a bunch of positions. I saw a lot of skinny-tired riders struggling in the sand and at about 55km got out on the road again. Then there was more sand and I was able to plough through by keeping my weight back, letting the bike find its own path and keeping a steady cadence.

The middle section of the ride was like that…make up ground on the ATV trails and lose a couple of spots on the dirt. By about 80km in I started feeling really strong and pushed a little harder. Just in time for a 5-6km grind of road climb.

I kept it up and around 100km hit what I knew to be a long sandy section followed by about 12km through Ganaraska Forest. On the pre-ride, this felt like it was never going to end, but on race day I felt great, kept pushing and made up 5 or 6 more spots.

Out onto the road at about 115km. At this point I did not have much left. My back was in knots. I hit a steep climb and had to walk the bike up. This slowed me down and bit but I think the time off the bike caused the knot in my back to loosen up. Back on the bike for the last 10k. There were some steep climbs and I went to a very dark place getting through them. Across the finish line and home. Was good for 34th place. Not sure how many riders there were, but I am guessing 60-70, so mid-pack I think. Not my strongest race, but I did better than I expected and had an epic, if challenging day in the saddle

What went right:

  1. Riding in sand. I made up so much time and passed a lot of riders by keeping it rolling in the sand
  2. Bike setup – 700x 40c tires were the way to go. And the shorter less slammed stem was awesome. Less foot pain (although I kicked in towards the end).
  3. Nutrition. I say down a couple of days before, figured out how many calories and how much in electrolyte bottles I would need, made some drop bags and stuck to my plan. A number or others bonked. I didn’t

What went wrong:

  1. Climbing. I felt overgeared with a 42t chainring and a 12-36 cassette. I think it hurt me having to bring the steep stuff rather than spin. Solution: I have ordered a 38t oval chainring which should help
  2. The road sections/putting down the power. My legs felt heavy. I didn’t fee recovered despite a lot of sleep and sticking to the plan this week. Maybe the CP3/20 should have been tuesday not wednesday?

Anyway, it was a good ride, with a respectable result against a very competitive field. I’ll take it.

End of Race Report (courtesy of Barry Cox).

This is the second time I used a guest voice in my blog, and I kind of dig it.  It happened to be Barry both times because they were both about the El Bandito, and he’s done the course twice, but I’m hatching a plan to include others in the future, and I’ve already talked to a few boss people.  I hope it works.

As always, if you have something to say about the race, riding, or BIKES, comment on the blog, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

Review: Salsa Beargrease

A Salsa Beargrease, the Snumbler, and Team Colin

snumbler-salsa-and-meOn my third foray into the world of bicycle reviews, I dipped my feet into a pool of Salsa, and demoed a 2016 Salsa Beargrease X01.

The Salsa Beargrease (and Mukluk, and Bucksaw)  have a huge chunk of the fatbike market. The Mukluk is most popular because the aluminium frame gives it a great entry price, but it’s the Beargrease that seems to be their flag-bearing fatbike, especially for RACING.  They’re everywhere you look, and there are legions of fans who swear by their Salsa fatbikes. They rave every chance they get. “Salsa this”, “Salsa that”, “MY Salsa is better than your…”  So I jumped at the chance to debunk the Salsa groove, and demoed a sherbet orange and pink monstrosity (officially called the orange/pink fade), in race #4 of Dan Marshall’s 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Race Serie, the ”Snumbler”: A 25k romp through the rolling Northumberland Hills, just north of Coburg, Ontario. The race was presented by Substance Projects, and my bike shop, Cycle Solutions (who also provided the demo).

I also thought the review would be a chance to say “Take THAT, Salsa”, and dispel the notion that I’m a lightweight “fanboy” bike reviewer.  Finally, I’d be able to demonstrate my technical knowledge with some witty barbs and critical comments, instead of my usual position of fawning over a review bike.

Aw dangit dangit dangit. Dang. It. I LOVED THE BEARGREASE! I wanted to hate the Salsa vibe. I wanted to sound like a critical rider. I wanted to poke fun at the fact that it looked like you could walk-up to its order window and order a large vanilla swirl ice cream cone…

Instead, after the race, I wrote this in my blog:

“Best fatbike ride ever… by far, the most fun I’ve ever had on a fatbike. Ever”.

You can read the whole race report on the Team Colin blog.

Also, full disclosure, I LOVE the way the bike looks. It’s not an orange/pink fade monstrosity. It’s a sherbet delight. So damn boss looking.  It’s like an orange and pink DREAMCYCLE.  See what I did there.

Now, since I’m being honest, I have to be clear and say the course conditions on race day were perfect. Seriously perfect: Great hardpack, exceptional grooming, and just enough granular stuff for maximum traction, grinding, and rippage. Combined with the rolling terrain of Northumberland County Forest, and a course designed to perfection, I really don’t think there was much that could have put a damper on the day.

However, somehow I don’t think it would have mattered because the Salsa Beargrease X01 is one heck of a fatbike.

My past fatbike reviews have employed generous portions of words like “weapon”, “legendary”, and “loggles”.

Oh, and I may have used the words “awesome” and “boom” a few times.

And this review will be no different. The fact is, I just love bikes, and there is no doubt in my mind that any company selling bikes with a retail price over 5 grand must know their stuff. Also, as my reviews have proven in the past, my enthusiasm for bikes has made me what the industry calls a “not-so-great reviewer”. However, there’s more to this bike, and here’s what I have to say about the Salsa Beargrease X01: I only had it for two hours, on one cold Ontario winter afternoon, and it was more than enough time for me, but not nearly enough time for me.

It was enough time because of the sheer beauty and performance of the bike, but it wasn’t enough time, because now that I’ve had a taste, I want MORE.

This review is taken from the perspective of a race setting, which is a really great opportunity to push a bike. Under race conditions, you get a REAL feel for the performance of a bike, REALLY fast.

Hold on a sec. Do your bikes talk to you? When you ride a bike, does it speak to your soul? Bikes talk to me. It’s true—and when I sat on the Beargrease, we exchanged all of our knowledge in a cool, Vulcan bike-mind meld. I felt like a bike whisperer.  BOOM. Sorry, I should have whispered that.  boom.

With virtually no warm up (having put on my pedals with no time before the race started, and only riding it a hundred metres to my van to get my sunglasses, and a hundred meters back to the start line–it’s all in the Race Report), I was a bit worried immediately before the race started. And then, I had to pee. The race was moments from starting, and I was busting a kidney. What did I do? Well, I peed.  I was in the midst of actually peeing when the race started just a few feet away from the door of the port-o-potty. What the? After finishing, reclothing, regloving, and regloving again, I was under the gun to seed myself within the pack. Actually, by the time I got going, I couldn’t even see the tail end of the pack and first had to catch up with them.

It was a less-than magnanimous start, but I was immediately comfortable and aggressive on the bike.

The race course had it all:

  • gentle stretches of double track, and tight and winding switchbacks;
  • perfect, and less-than-perfect-but-still-awesome singletrack;
  • gruesomely awesome climbs that made my lungs SCREAM; and
  • long, swooping, downhills that felt like they lead directly to Fatbike Heaven (totally a real place).

I knew the race was going to test me, and the bike. Sweet.

Salsa Beargrease X01: Review

So, I’d like to start with a Team Colin PSA rating (Pure and Simple Awesomeness: a PSA of 10 is perfect, a PSA of 1 isn’t). My PSA rating for the Beargrease is infinity. Actually, it’s infinity plus one. Some people will say that infinity isn’t a number, so you can’t add one, but they haven’t ridden the Beargrease…

However, for a more scientific method, I want to talk about:

  1. Build
  2. Fit
  3. Reliability
  4. Value
  5. Performance

1. BUILD

The X01 that I rode had a ton of custom components. It was a demo from Cycle Solutions, and my good buddy dialed it in with some sweet extras that made it sing. To be safe, I think there was probably about a grand worth of sweet extras. Most of them were pretty comparable to the factory specs, but the build also included Hope hubs, with Rolling Darryl rims, and Dillinger 4 tires that were custom “semi-studded” (two sets of studs: 120 on the front and 80 on the rear). The engagement and sweet ride from the Hope hubs was stunning. Powerful, quick, and smooooooooooth. I could write a whole review on these puppies. When you crank a Hope hub, the bike roars to life.  Instantly. So damn awesome.

The demo also had a sponsor seat made by Fabric. snumbler-fabricGotta say, pretty sweet for the money. Supple and comfortable, and their pricing is very competitive.

In terms of performance and durability, aside from the hubs, I really don’t think the custom build components made a huge performance difference from the factory spec components, and were probably just preference.

Although, the Hope hubs sure sound cool when you’re ripping…

2. FIT

I cannot say more than the Salsa Beargrease website:

“At its core, we used the shortest chainstay possible in conjunction with a headtube angle and fork offset that place the rider’s center of gravity further over the rear wheel. This location and combination of front and rear center is key to getting a fatbike that is stable, steers well in loose conditions, and still feels nimble and agile despite the massive wheels and tires. A low bottom bracket height is also key, to keep the rider’s center of gravity low, and make dabbing and dismounting easier.”

Truer words were never spoken. That is all.

No it’s not! I really love talking about this bike. It. Just. Fits. The demo was a large frame, set up for regular height and weight riders. I’m irregular. I’m 6’2” and I weigh 250 pounds. And did you read that part at the beginning about my warm up. There wasn’t any. Was it because I spent my time before the race sizing the bike for me? No! It was because I was late. Before the race, I only had time to adjust the seat height to “stupid high” clip in (and pee) before racing. Everything Salsa says about center of gravity, cornering, stability, and agility is actual fact. No need for manipulative advertising here—the bike is the proof, and instantly, the bike sprung to life.

Fit and adaptability with the Salsa are also pretty cool, and it’s fitting that the demo I had was so dialed, because I think that’s part of the Salsa thing. The bike can accommodate a huge range of tire and rim sizes. They’re listed after the review.

3. RELIABILITY

What can I say?  This bike was a demo, not a freshly unboxed new build, but it still hummed like it was on its first rip. Durability is a reputation game, and the reputation of the components on the Salsa is there from top to bottom. Seamless shifting, precise and nimble braking, and rolling that was easy like Sunday morning. The reliability on a bike in this price range is unquestionable, and Salsa delivered with top components that will stand proudly to any test that most riders can throw at them—both in terms of durability, and performance.

Also, aside from the sweet aesthetics of full length cable routing and housing, maintenance is less frequent, and way easier.

I wonder about durability issues that I’ve heard about with the PressFit bottom bracket, but I haven’t experienced any, and I think the problems usually aren’t catastrophic. Plus, you get such an awesome fit with a PressFit BB that it’s worth any risk.

Also, the reliability of the frame’s High Modulus carbon is no stranger to anyone who rides bikes. Aside from the awesome stiffness and supple vibration damping of the High-Modulus carbon, it’s almost a pound lighter than the aluminium model. The factory build comes with an optional RockShox Bluto (with 100mm of travel), but the model I demoed had a matching orange/pink fade fork made of the same High Modulus carbon. Wow.

4. VALUE

I know that PERFORMANCE is key, but without value, it’s moot. Compared to the Trek Farley 9.9 that I reviewed earlier this year (with a retail of 10 grand) this bike stands its ground.  It’s comparable to the Norco Ithaqua 6.1 (with a slightly lower retail price), although it has a very different feel.  It also has a different (and I think maybe even a little better) frame composite.

Plus, there really isn’t a flaw in the bike’s build that I could see.  Every component was pretty excellent.

5. PERFORMANCE

This is where the matte finish of the orange/pink fade really shines.  Everything else aside, the PERFORMANCE of the bike is what really matters.  In a race, you don’t pay attention to what gear you’re cranking, or have time to test the range of your brakes. But I didn’t have to. Whatever gear I needed, the bike had it:  hard-pack granular, deep soft snow, grinding climb, or gut busting sprint.  The course tested the range of this bike’s drivetrain, and it didn’t flinch. And when I needed to feather my brakes before a corner, or help me not die when descending, the brakes were there at every twist in the trail.

Nuance. That’s the word I think of when I daydream about this bike, because the performance of the bike isn’t confined to cranking and braking. The performance of the Beargrease relies mostly on the nuance of its ride, and, while the ride is something to behold (infinity plus 1, remember), I couldn’t believe that a rigid fatbike felt like a full suspension bike.

The Beargrease literally wraps itself around corners, torques through heavy pedal cranks, and hugs the terrain like a, um, well, like a torqueing-wrapping-hugger thing. I get it, groomed snow is more forgiving than hard singletrack, but there was no mistaking the FEELING. Around corners, the frame “schwinnnnngs” back into place with a quick snap. I think the torqueing motion may have actually helped propel the bike.

Better yet, at full sprint, the bike feels like an amorphous beast, bending, transforming, and adapting to the terrain.  I don’t care how that sounds, there simply aren’t better words that I can think of. Try to imagine the ride I just described. Yeah, pretty awesome.

Here’s a story for you.

I’m a fairly conservative rider. I like the race vibe, and a podium finish is out of reach for me, so my philosophy in a race is to ride hard, ride fast, push myself as hard as I can (and maybe bust a lung–or two), but I don’t take chances because I want to be able to drive home and snuggle my kids without a trip to the hospital. I don’t rail corners, and I often take it a bit too easy, especially in the snow when I’m not sure how the conditions will shuffle my wheels.  On the X01, I actually railed a few corners. Well, I’m not sure it was me.  I’m convinced the bike is like some sort of Herbie, and it took over and cornered for me. This bike made me feel like a pro team rider.

One more thing, the bike actually feels, rides, and performs way lighter than its listed weight. The factory specs weigh in just over 29 pounds. I think they weighed the bike with a 5 pound bag of avacados on the seat (Get it, avacados. To make GUACAMOLE. You know, for SALSA. Oh, forget it).

The nuance of the bike may intangible to talk about, but I have to say this, it’s something you have to try.

 

The bike stands on its own. Look, it’s literally standing on its own. Magic

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The Beargrease is light, super high quality, nimble, and stunning, without the pro price tag. Granted, when you’re paying around 5 grand for a bike, you expect that, but compared to its peers, this bike will keep the weight in your wallet, in the form of dollar bills.

Plus, I’m not convinced the extra coinage is worth it for a few newer, and (slightly) more durable, components that you’ll find on more expensive bikes, especially given the exceptional performance of the Beargrease.

 

Conclusion

There’s a reason why Cycle Solution stocks predominantly Salsa fatbikes as their go-to fatbike:  It’s awesome. Matt Morrish, and the staff at the shop know their stuff, and they know the Salsa Beargrease is one heck of a sweet fatbike dream.

End of Salsa Beargrease X01 review.

The Salsa Beargrease actually made me a better rider. No, that’s no entirely accurate. I was a better rider when I was on the Beargrease. After always hearing about Salsa’s legendary fatbike racing groove, I now get it. I finally get it. The Beargrease cuts through the trail like a bullet, and soars through the forest like a wild animal. One race, two hours in the saddle, and 25k of fatbike perfection: my time with the Beargrease was definitely a game changer.

Do you know the way we see ourselves riding in our dreams. With this bike, it’s possible.

The only problem is now that I’ve had a taste of the Salsa, I want more. I probably won’t even need to make guacamole with that extra bag of avocados. Pass the nachos…

Ride

 

2016 Salsa Beargrease X01: Factory Specs

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Frameset

  • Frame:  High-modulus carbon fibre
  • Fork: RockShox Bluto RCT3 (with 100ml travel)
  • NOTE:  the demo I rode had a High Modulus carbon rigid fork

Components

  • Seat/Seatpost:  WTB Silverado Race/Thomson Elite
  • Handlebar:  Salsa Salt Flat carbon (750mm)
  • Stem:  Thomson X4
  • Brakes:  SRAM Guide RS

Drivetrain

  • Crankset/shifters/rear derailleur:  SRAM X01
  • Cassette:  SRAM 1180 (10-42)
  • Bottom bracket:  PressFit 41/121mm

Wheelset

  • Rims:  Runringle Mulefut SL (80ml)
  • Hubs:  Salsa Fat
  • Tires:  Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26 x 4

Rolling Adaptability:

  • Wheels up to 100mm wide
  • Front:
    • 26 x 3.8 -4.8” (on up to a 100mm rim)
    • 29 x 2.25-3” (including 29+)
    • 27.5 x 3.0t3.25” (including 27.5+
  • Rear:
    • 26 x 4.33” (up to 100mm rim, 1x drivetrain)
    • 26 x 4.34-4.7” (up to 82mm rim, 1x drivetrain)
    • 29 x 2.25-3” (incl. 29+)
    • 27.5 x 3.0-3.25 (27.5+)

2016 Salsa Beargrease X01 Retail cost:  $5,499

 

Well, there you have it:  Team Colin’s take on the Salsa Beargrease X01.  Did I get this right?  Have something to say about this sweet piece of fatbike dreaminess?  Comment on the blog, or send me an email:  Team Colin Email

One last thing, don’t forget to enter the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic, and come to Team Colin Day, um, Night @ Joyride 150 (on April 7).

Here’s one more picture of the bike leaning against the Cycle Solutions Team Support vehicle.

snumbler-salsa-cycle-solutions