Fat biking is quickly going from being that socially awkward kid who eats by himself at lunch to being the same socially awkward kid but now with a circle of friends to hang out with. It's no longer a fringe splinter of our sport that only those who own winter survival suits or live in the Sahara desert take part in, with more and more people discovering just how much fun it is to goon around on a bike with less than 10psi in its 4" wide tires. It was bound to happen - after all, people just want to have fun - and it was also only a matter of time until major companies devoted resources towards it. RockShox debuted their new Bluto fat bike fork at Sea Otter this year, and while it might not have the pizzazz of the recently released RS-1, it's important for a few different reasons.
The Bluto is built around a new and obviously much wider chassis that offers clearance for up to 4.8" wide tires, and RockShox has invested in an entirely new fork mould to make that a reality. The Bluto's ultra wide crown is also solid in order to provide enough torsional rigidity for the fork's wide stance, unlike the hollow crowns elsewhere in the RockShox lineup, and a massive 150mm wide hub is clamped in place with a 15mm thru-axle. A Motion Control DNA damper is used to control the 80, 100, or 120mm of travel, and you can fiddle with the external rebound speed and lockout functions. Control over the fork's air spring rate can be tuned by way of adding or removing Bottomless Tokens, much like in the Pike or new RS-1.
Completely unnecessary manuals and stupid faces are mandatory when on a fat bike.
Mountain biking is serious business and there is no room in your garage for a machine that looks silly, is less advanced, and goes slower than the latest and greatest wonder bike. At least that's what an outsider who's new to the sport might assume if he or she was to read the comment section of most fat bike-related articles that are online. Is that actually the case, though? I sure as hell hope not. I've had a chance to ride a few different fat bikes now, and while they are all guilty as charged on the above counts, they're also guilty of being ridiculously fun. Like, more fun than a rope swing into a swimming pool full of gummy bears.
|Do you want to be pretentious about these bikes, or do you want to have a go on the rope swing into the gummy bear pool? I love gummy bears, so I know my answer.|
Onto the Bluto, then. Does it offer the paradigm shifting performance of the Pike? What about the futuristic appearance and possible advantages of the new inverted RS-1? You're likely tempted to say no to both of those, I know I was, but the key point to keep in mind here is that, up until now, there wasn't really a viable off-the-shelf option when it came to a suspension fork that could fit a full sized fat bike tire. Sure, there are modified Leftys out there, and some riders have been running older Maverick forks, but there isn't anything to choose from when it comes to being able to fit a fork from the top three or four suspension manufacturers. Now there is, and it doesn't need to come equipped with a Charger damper or feature an inverted carbon chassis to make an impact because it's the first and only off-the-shelf fork for fat bikes. That means that fat bike frame manufacturers can now design bikes with a suspension fork in mind, with the new Rock Mountain Blizzard
, the Split-Pivot equipped Salsa Bucksaw
, and the carbon fiber Borealis that I rode here being some of the first examples.
The trails around Sea Otter are, to be honest, about as far from being ideal suspension testing terrain as one could imagine. Picture smooth singletrack with a few hints of braking bumps and a light dusting of kitty litter over top - in other words, about as exciting as watching Matlock reruns if you're aboard a modern full-suspension bike. Ride the same lap on a fat bike, though, and you'll want to ride that gummy bear rope swing all damn day. These bikes are
simply fun as hell, and the addition of a suspension fork from a major manufacturer transforms them from feeling far from from normal to a lot closer to normal (but still not entirely normal
), and will let a rider jump on their first fat bike are ride it like the closer to normal mountain bike that it really is. And that's what makes the Bluto an important fork despite it not being the most advanced thing out there.www.rockshox.comPhotos by Adrian Marcoux