Not the best start this ride as the night before Friday had been a night of beer and bento with the lads. Woke up early then drove to Blair Athol
Set off up Glen Tilt and then realised that my spare batteries for the GPS were still on charge at home.
Only had half a charge but had my OS maps ready with me so off I went through the first wood and spotted my first red deer in the Woods. 20km in and had to stop for recovery food beans and sausage lunch cold but effective hangover cure.
Headed on and track became muddy and rocky and nearly too narrow for the bike was feeling calorifically low.
The valley is obviously used by the RAF for training as a Hercules buzzed me about 80 foot up. More red deer crossing river and bounding up slope opposite – very skittish of humans sign that it must be hunted.
Stopped at Glen Tilt ruin where the trail opened onto flood plain valley floor then afterwards headed left over the muddiest moor i have seen in a while. Normal mtb tread just disappeared into gloop but i was fat so did better but still had to get off every 50 foot to cross burns or mud holes.
Crossed makeshift crossing over the river by waterfall and then faced with two deeper river crossing but misjudged depth which came to crotch so shoes were sodden.
The last 2 km to the Bothy screamed down a technical downhill smacked a rock hard and punctured – was going to walk to the bothie but decided to change tube and discovered that the small lezyne pump I had with me unscrewed the valve when I was taking it off – what a pain after 4 mins of huffing and puffing to get the FAT tube pumped up to have it all WOOOSHHHH out.
Sunday 5:40 AM woke up in bothy after a good sleep maybe helped by the contribution of the two Edinburgh climbers with either their 2nd hand dope smoke or a rum and Coke I drank.
Packed and try to inflate me a tyre some more and enjoyed the unscrewing of the valve once again. Decided to divert to Kingussie and the food co-op there to restock on food I haven’t figured that the ride would take so long at a slow 10km/h average.
Cycled out the enjoining valley which was much easier going ( a tip from Fossil cyclist) past 2 fast 29er riders and then later by 2 female mountain bike on their way to Nethy bridge (a long haul for sure)
Finished the ride with a long section of tarmac which felt so slow on the fatbike into Blair Athol – Tired drive home my arse tender and my legs sore.
been mapping out a route for bikepacking / fat biking through some parts of the cairngorm range. So planning to stop at a bothy overnight but although fine in principle there is always the uncertainty of not knowing what the bothy is like.
A chance came to do a test recce – one of my ex wife’s elderly relatives passed away so she flew up to shetland with my oldest daughter for the funeral. The younger daughter was with me and this coincided with a break in the weather.
So we headed off to feshie bridge with a plan to cycle in to glenfeshie bothy. It is barely a jaunt at 12km in on trails but for a 8yo it seemed longer.
I loaded my fat bike up with both sleeping bags, sleeping mats and carried spare clothes. I put cooking stuff into my backpack along with some food. Rehydrated packs for dinner and some porridge for the morning. And then some fruit and also some jelly baby enticement for the young one and a wee hip flask of single malt for me.
It was good going although she was tired and kept on with ‘how long ’til we get there’
The river/ streams were snow melt but only knee high – although 3 crossing each time of the 4 rivers – once for my bike once for hers and once with her meant my feet got chilly
But we made it after a longer than it should have been ride
The bothy was great and despite the great weather – it was 16C – it was empty apart from us. During easter?
Needn’t have bought all the pots either as there was plenty to cook with, good to know for the big adventure
The next morning there was a bit of fog to burn off but it was hot by the time we left.
Equipment wise everything is working well- the fat bike is superb laden on rough trails the low psi means it just conforms to the trail. The salsa anything cages keep the weight distributed all over the bike and the alpkit handlebar and seat bag are secure and stay steady even down stone steps.
I am not sure they really understood what Fat Bikes are good for – a lot of the review is done in comparison to more normal MTBs ….. It can’t really be compared.
In the wilds of North America, caribou have evolved with wide, concave toes to prevent sinking into the soggy ground and soft snow that dominate the landscape. It’s a fitting name then for Genesis’ fat bike, with the trend for big floaty tyres also originating in this often desolate land.
Ride and handling: rethinking your style
If you haven’t ridden a fat bike before you’ll quickly notice that the handling is far removed from what you’re used to. Heading to the trails along the road, you have to rethink how a bike handles, you become acutely aware of how much, on a ‘normal’ bike, you lean to corner.
With the Caribou’s 4in-wide Vee Mission tyres resisting directional change you have to turn the bars far more than usual, and with more force, as the bike resists leaning over. On hard-packed surfaces this isn’t a bike that wants to change direction on a dime – even the camber of the road had us quarrelling with the bars.
Hit the trails and the ungainly handling is muted somewhat. At trail centres where corners are banked and cambers generally levelled, the Caribou behaves better. The geometry is trail orientated, with 69.5-degree head and 73-degree seat angles – it’s not a nervous bike through the corners, but nor is it the most lively or agile. Let the tyres down to below 12psi and all of a sudden the low-treaded Mission tyres really do have acres of grip in normal trail conditions. It takes a bit of getting used to but soon you can pick the speed up and sling it towards corners.
On faster trails, through flat corners or bomb-holes the compromise of running low pressures is evident in tyre roll. While we stayed rubber-side down during testing, we knew when we’d pushed too hard and our planned arc round the corner very quickly became a lot wider. It’s the same when you hit an unexpected bit of off-camber trail – all of a sudden you’re battling with the bike to go where you want it to.
The bars have a huge amount of sweep, which compromises technical control
Heading to soft, wet, rooty woodland trails you start to see why those crazy Americans love fat bikes. Unlike a traditional mud spike the fat tyres don’t cut through the mud, they surf around on top of it. You don’t get pin sharp accuracy, and if you head through a rock garden that extra width and undamped suspension from the nigh-on 3in deep tyres bounce around from rock to rock. If you take your time, pick a line and let the bike monster-truck over it you’ll get to the other side with a grin on your face. Individual rocks and roots disappear under your footprint only to re-emerge the other side none the worse for wear.
Frame and equipment: specced for adventuring
Genesis has specced its Alt Riser bars with a massive 20-degree sweep. On long gentle rides the sweep puts your wrists at a relaxed angle, but in more technical terrain it conspires to keep your elbows in and puts extra pressure through the outside of your palm, compromising control and grip. When the trail gets steeper, especially where rocks and roots are prevalent, the lack of a shoulder on the tyres mean they step out too frequently for confident climbing or descending, with the bars adding to your nervousness.
With adventuring in mind, Genesis has made the bike as luggage friendly as possible. The fork alone would take a rack, mudguards and at least one bottle cage or carry cage per leg, while the front triangle has eight bolts bolted in. At the back there are yet more rack mounts. Essentially, if you’re going to disappear for a long time, this is the machine to get you there to begin with.
The wide rigid fork gets a full complement of mounts
The drivetrain is a basic 1×10 setup, with Shimano Deore gearing and Race Face Ride cranks. The ring is a 30-tooth version, which helps lower the gearing. This isn’t a bad thing when the trail climbs and you’ve packed the kitchen sink. For versatility we’d add a 40-tooth extender, or run a SRAM 11-speed setup.
While those big tyres add flotation, they lead to a number of compromises. What suspension they do provide is entirely un-dampened, making for a bouncy ride. They’re also heavy, meaning they resist getting up to speed or changing direction. Oh, and good luck if you puncture and only have a trail pump. At least if you’re stuck in the Arctic pumping tyres up will help you stay warm.
Super wide rims are drilled to drop weight
With a fat tyre behaving wildly different at different pressures on different terrain, unless you do want to spend 10 minutes pumping a tyre back up to pressure when you hit firmer ground, your ride is almost guaranteed to be compromised at some point, more so we feel than with a regular trail bike setup.
Summary: enjoyable, in its intended environment
With its massively wide tyres and rims, and rigid forks, the Caribou is never going to be the fastest uphill or down but that’s not really what it’s designed to do. If you just want to go flat out 100% of the time, you’ll already know the Caribou isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to get out to the wilds and explore, and aren’t too bothered about beating your mates up the hills, you might want to look a little closer. Despite our concerns over spec and the compromises inherent in the fat tyres, it has an infectious quality that does result in a post-ride grin.
Once you get used to it, the Caribou can be a grin-inducing ride
So the kilpatrick hills are just outside glasgow and I have never been there to walk or ride but the Facebook meetup group were going there today although later so I decided to stop there this morning to have an early ride.
Road was pretty icy but once on the bike it was great and then I started to climb
And climb right to top of ridge. The genesis caribou has a 1×10 setup but up top it hits 13% ave gradient (makes note to check on gps track) I was having to sit back and pedal as standing or leaning forward meant the tyres were starting to slip. But sitting down meant the front wheel lifted on every pedal stroke …. I confess to 2 brief halts. Then the top ….
Nice pretty untouched snow – luckily someone had passed yesterday so I had an indication of where to go – it was all new to me. Fat tyres only sunk in 2-4 inches but when I stepped off it was 6-10 deep ….. Ooooft
OK the niggle i will get out the way first – and this is it. Riding a fat bike on Pavement or tarmac is crap. Granted I only have to do 20min at the start and end of the ride to get into the trail but it isn’t great.
But the good things
Amazing traction – anywhere loose ridged sandy Muddy and Icy you will have great grip. I stood up on an icy fire-road ascent and when the weight moves forward the rear started to loosen and slip but keep seated or your weight back and there is no issue
That wider rubber does need firmer input on the arms – but just think of it as a work out for the upper body.
Mud – Got the joining up with the path wrong and slammed into a wedge of mud about 20cm deep at 30kmh …. the bike slowed jolting me but then popped up and over where my other bike would have flipped me over the bars … ‘great i though saved by my Fat’ I thought.
Anywhere that is more technical is where the bike really shines. I was doing rocky single track without the normal worries about picking a line that i do on the Lynskey 29er.
Here is a short video (using GoPro template) that i edited (in 3 min) so not detailed but gives a flavour of the bike.