Posted by Editor on 02/2/15
This is the third of five reviews of the newest style of mountain bikes to hit the mainstream market - fat bikes. Read our Overview of Fat Bikes for some background on this category.
Trek is one of the largest bicycle companies in the world and they are certainly not going to be left behind in the Fat Bike world. They are, however, being a bit cautious with only two models of fat bike to start, both under the name of "Farley". The Farley 8 ($3,599.99 SRP) is the deluxe model with a SRAM 1x11 and RockShox Bluto RL suspension fork. Our test bike is the Farley 6 with a SRP of $2,099.99.
The Farley 6 is no slouch though when it comes to the heart of the bike. Trek has used their Alpha Platinum Aluminum tube set, and finished all of the welds immaculately. There are extra touches such as gussets and other re-enforcers to provide a durable frame and fork. The Farley 6 comes with a tapered head tube, internal derailleur routing and dropper post routing. A nice feature on the frame is what Trek calls the "Closed Convert dropouts". The rear axle has a quick release but it threads into the frame on the drive side to provide maximum contact between the hub and the frame. It works well.
Deore XT Shadow Plus rear derailleur and an 11-36 cassette
Bontrager Hodag tire
Drive train components are mostly Shimano, with Deore 10 speed shifters, Deore XT Shadow Plus rear derailleur and an 11-36 cassette. The front derailleur is a low/direct mount SRAM X5. A very attractive Race Face Ride 36/22 T crank completes the drive train. Brakes are Avid DB 1 hydraulic discs. The majority of the remaining components are Bontrager, which is no issue as far as I am concerned. The rims are SUNRinglé Mulefüt. They are 80mm wide and come 32-hole with ample cutouts to save weight. The tires are a Kevlar bead Bontrager Hodag in a 26x3.8" width. They are very aggressive tires with sizeable square knobs all over the place. The overall weight of our XL test bike was 13.8kg (30.5lbs) without pedals.
As long as you can keep the pedals turning the Farley 6 will pull you through. Most rides were in a few inches of snow and the traction was excellent. I shifted a lot and I was happy to have the granny on the uphills. No issues with the shifting were noted despite snow and slush. The frame and crank were very stiff and helped to keep the power into the back wheel. The positioning was good for me and the wide bar (740 mm) suited this bike well. The Avid brakes performed without issue although I must admit the conditions were too slippery for aggressive downhilling. As our test Farley 6 is an XL I would have like to see a 180mm rotor in the front for a bit more braking power.
There are few issues I encountered. I had troubles with a slipping seatpost. I really had to crank the seat QR down. A contributing factor is the frozen footsteps on the local trails which makes for lots of pounding. To the same theme, the grips weren't that helpful for taking the sting out of the trail. They have some cushioning when the temp is above freezing, but below 0C they are hard. Without suspension you feel it through the hands and arms. Better grips, or at the least really good gloves, are in order. I ended up wearing short finger cycling gloves inside winter gloves to make it tolerable.
SUNRinglé Mulefüt rims and Bontrager Hodag tires
The Bontrager Hodag tire is also really strange. Off road and in the snow it is great and without issue. Take them on pavement though and its really rounded profile causes the front tire to pull to whatever side you happen to lean to. After a few rides I still didn't get used to it. On the other hand I wouldn't be doing a lot of road riding on the Farley 6. It's just where I live the trail stops and starts with short sections of urban street in between.
The Farley 6 works well and more than anything is a heck of a lot of fun. At a SRP of $2,099.99 it is good value in my estimation. The fit and finish is excellent and the components will give you many enjoyable rides.
Author's Note: Just because you feel invincible on a fat bike on snow, you are not invincible on ice. Just sayin'...
Review by Mike Badyk
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