Its no secret by now that my fatbike frame is cracked and I sold my trusty Norco. I enjoyed my time on the Norco Torrent (review here) but needed less of a "go fast" bike and something more along the lines of a quiver killer. I set my sights on the RSD Sergeant from a relatively new company based right here in Ontario. These guys are big into the fat and plus bike scene and have incredible value for the dollar, not to mention well spec'd bikes with no corners cut. Customer service at Rubber Side Down is top notch. I placed my order late on a Sunday night and I had an email Monday morning from Alex, the head honcho at RSD, thanking me and providing my tracking number. Wow.
So, here it is, the RSD Sergeant.
The bike has what I'm calling a "super spec". I can only find one part I don't like, but more on that later. It comes with 27.5" x 3" tires, but do some nosing around the interwebs and you'll find that it can swallow 27.5" x 3.8" tires from Maxxis and Bontrager. A true two bikes in one, or a fatty with a narrow Q factor (73mm bb shell). I'll be rocking the 3" tires for everything but snow, whereas I'll toss on some 3.8" tires. I can't wait to put some miles on this bike and will do a full review after putting it through its paces.
The only part I don't like right off the hop is the cassette. Nothing wrong with the cassette but its a cheaper Sram model with no carrier body and mounted to an aluminum freehub. Tisk Tisk! This is a recipe for a completely fucked freehub body and I'm changing out the cassette before I even ride it. Would have been a non-issue with a steel freehub body.
The rest of the build is tough looking with a 34mm stanchion fork, 4 piston Avid brakes, and Race Face Turbine cranks. There are a few nice touches too, like Race Face grips, Avid matchmaker clamps, and genuine brand name handlebars / stem / post that you don't see alot of for OEM. My completely stock large weighs in at 31 lbs.
Well, I've put a few rides on the Norco now. I'm running 25% sag in the fork and 14psi rear, 11 psi front in the tires (I'm 260lbs). The bike is 100% stock at this point. It weighs 29 lbs.
When I got the bike home I had to do a few little fixes right from the factory. The left crank arm would rub the frame under load, I had to remove the cranks and bb and place the spacer from the right side to the left, no rubbing issue and better chain line now. The levers needed to be repositioned, and the lever reach shortened, but this is all personal preference.
I had my sights set on a few other 650b+ bikes (Spec and Cannondale) and even a couple of trail 29ers but the Norco beat them out because of a few key features. The Spec has only 28/24 spoke count wheels, for a guy my size I don't trust them, the Norco is reliable 32 spoke wheels. Both the Specialized and the C'Dale have pressfit bottom brackets, whereas the Norco is good old BSA threaded.... its no secret that I fucking hate pressfit bb's. The Norco has more aggressive geometry compared to the Spec and Dale, which is what I was looking for in a bike like this. The Norco has a kick ass Race Face Affect crankset.
I decided to move away from riding fat bikes exclusively. While they are more than capable of handling any terrain / situation that I could throw them at, I have to admit that they did have their drawbacks as well. The biggest drawback for me was the Q factor put my hips in an odd spot and caused me lower back / hip pain over long rides (as in 6+ hours). I'm not leaving fat bikes all together though as I still own the Nashbar and plan to use it for many miles on both dirt and snow, and the 'plus' size tires don't offer near the float that the fat bikes do, the big advantage to 'plus' bikes is traction. That and variety is the spice of life. Whats better than having a nice variety of bikes?
My thoughts in no particular order:
-Fork works surprisingly well, have not even been close to the limit of its travel
-The Nobby Nic tires grip it and rip it. A very aggressive tread that hooks up everywhere. I might run a 3.0 Rocket Ron in the rear for summer conditions, that combo (in a 2.25) works good on my 29er.
-You can't ride this bike lazy, you need to be on the gas to get the most out of the massive amount of grip and aggressive geo.
-The grey/black paintjob with safety orange/ yellow decals looks awesome in person, the photos don't do it justice.
-The 1x gearing is spot on, a 36-11 cassette with a 28t chainring works great, no cassette adaptors or diner plates needed out back and improved ground clearance at the chainring.
The Shimano shifter and derailleur work superbly, Shimano quality as per usual.
-The chainstay yoke is a work of art
-The fake lock on grips are cheesy as shit, Norco should have spec'd a real lock on grip.
-The brake hoses and shifter cable housing need to be trimmed up alot, this should have been taken care of at the factory.
I can't wait to rack up a bunch of miles on this sweet rig, it seems like the near perfect trail bike for the loose / sandy trails in TP.
Ever since I sold my Fatboy SE, I've had people picking my brain about why I rid myself of it and if it was a good bike or not. I've decided that I'll put it all out in the open, right here where people can choose to read it or ignore. Did I like the bike? Sure did. Did it have problems? Oh fuck yeah. Here are some honest thoughts from a guy who paid his own hard earned cash on the bike.
The Good Stuff:
The Fatboy is a phenomenal handling bike. Specialized really knows how to tweak geometry and get a quick but stable ride out of this bike. It never felt slow or sluggish, it carved hard and got up to speed quickly. Fit was excellent too, the stock cockpit was well sorted and the OEM bar / stem / post held everything together nicely.
It is decently light weight for a fat bike. With my 1x conversion and lightweight tubes I got the bike down to 31lbs, which I feel is reasonable for this type of bike.
The Specialized Ground Control tires are fantastic. They might cost an arm and a leg to replace but they work wonderfully. They roll fast and bite everywhere, with supple sidewalls to soak up the trail chatter.
I really liked the Specialized Henge saddle. I had some doubts about it at first but it won me over in the end. I liked it so much that I'm thinking of having my local Specialized dealer hook me up with one for my new trail bike. The Body Geometry grips were great too, the shape and feel were excellent, no hands going numb after spending hours riding.
The Bad Stuff:
First off I'm going to say fuck off with the pressfit bottom bracket creak box. I hated pressfit before but this bike took it to another level of mind numbing creaking and groaning with every pedal rotation. Maybe it has something to do with the wider crank spindle or increased loads due to the fat tires, either way it was an annoying and loud bunch of shit that could have been solved with running a good old BSA threaded shell.
The cassette. In its own, the cassette isn't all that bad. Its a lower end offering from Sunrace that seemed to shift just fine..... BUT...... Specialized tossed on a cassette with no carrier body onto and aluminum freehub. What the fuck are you thinking Specialized? What a bonehead move on your part. Here is a photo of my freehub body after one easy ride around the block with mentioned shitty cassette. Over a few weeks it would have been total annihilation of the freehub body. What pea brained idiots decided on that cassette / hub?
Since we are already talking about the hub, I might as well mention how shitty the Specialized hubs are. The rear hub had a tendency to puke the freehub body bearings on a few occasions, and judging by numerous online threads, I'm not alone here. Thanks Specialized for spec'ing Swiss Cheese for a hub.
Still on the hub topic..... why not a thru axle setup? Would have stiffened the bike up, and added some much needed longevity to the rear hub. That along with the fact that all of Specialized's competition has moved to thru axles.
The brakes. One thing I know fer certain is that if you're going to spec a mechanical brake on your bike, skid all the shit out there and go right for the best (and very affordable) Avid BB7. No excuses here, the OEM Tektro brakes are total fucking garbage. Also, the levers and cables / housings can be tossed into the trash along with the brakes.
Specialized nearly hit a home run here with a super handling bike, but some of the parts spec really holds it back. They might want to go back to the drawing board with a few choices or be left in the dust by better offerings in the same price range. I ended up modding mine enough to overcome some of the drawbacks but the hub and bb issues were the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak.
Maybe Specialized can offer me a job to spec their bikes with more of a "working man's" build kit that would stand up to some decent abuse, but I won't hold my breath waiting for it. I would get fired after the first day for telling the engineers and designers that they are fucking idiots for moving away from a threaded bb shell.
Agree or disagree, like it or not, thats how The Bric sees the Fatboy SE. This isn't a review so I won't give it a rating. If I hadn't gotten such a deal on the Fatboy I most likely would have bought something else, like a Kona Wo or Norco Sasquatch, but I don't regret my time on the Fatboy either.
Oh, and while I'm in a bitching mood and before I forget, here is the obligatory "Get the Fuck off my Lawn!"
Not being the kind of person who can leave well enough alone, I went ahead and swapped some parts on the Fatboy SE in favour of some nicer bits. I changed out the brakes with Avid BB7. If Specialized is listening - spec the best mechanical brake made if your going to spec mech brakes! I also took out the heavy Specialized tubes and used some Q tubes in place of them, saving over a pound in rotating mass! I'm not real big in the OEM 2x driveline either, so away in went and a OneUp 30T narrow wide chainring with a OneUp 42t cassette adaptor to give me a nice wide range of gears along with the change from the Sunrace cassette to an XT unit.
I also weighed the tires and found that they (the 60tpi wire bead) weigh the same as what I've seen reported for the pricier 120tpi folding tire. Also, a good call with the XT cassette. The OEM Sunrace cassette had already dug into the aluminum freehub body during the round the block trip that the bike had seen before me. The XT has aluminum carriers for the first 6 sprockets to keep this damage from happening again. Again, if you're listening Specialized - don't spec a cheap ass cassette on an aluminum freehub body you asses! Lucky, its very minor. I've seen much worse after a few hours of singletrack riding.
I previously used a Wolftooth GC40 cassette adaptor and a Race Face narrow wide chainring on my Nashbar (click here for review), but decided to go with the OneUp package this time (watch for a review in the future).
I ended up dropping nearly 2 pounds with this setup.
The rest of the build kit is a no frills get-it-done type of spec. The bars, post, stem are run of the mill but get it done. The wide 750mm bars will take a bit for me to get use to. I also decided to give the OEM Body Geometry seat and grips a chance.
I rode a nice loop at TP today, nearly all of the East Side trails with some West tossed in. The deer flies are bad right now on the West side. Mosquitoes are getting better on the East. I put the Fatboy through its paces on a nice 30+km ride. It did not disappoint, it handles great just like the demo bike I rode last month. It feels light and the traction is amazing from the Ground Control tires. I did a bit of dialling in the pressures and ended up at 10 psi rear, 8.5 psi front, according to my digital low pressure gauge. The seat and grips worked well and will stay on the bike for now. The 1x driveline works great, always the right gear at hand (bad pun, hahaha). With all the black on black and the huge tires the bikes has a bit of a "Batmobile" look to it, I always did want to be the caped crusader. Anyways, I'll do a more formal review once I've had the bike for the long term. In the meantime, here is a healthy dose of bike porn.........
The 2016 Specialized Fatboy SE
The Bric has been sick lately with the flu and bronchitis, no riding no building no reviews. Look for some new content soon though. Lots in the works including the 29er build part 3, review of the Velocity Dually 29er+ rims, will hopefully be riding again soon with some winter fat biking posts. Please stay tuned.
The aftermarket cassette cog. Its like XX1 but for people with a real-world income and can't afford to drop $425 on a cassette and $300 on a derailleur while keeping the lights on at home. I call them the Working Man's XX1.
I bought the Wolftooth GC (Giant Cog) 40 this summer to squeeze some more gear range out of my 1x10 setup. Wolftooth offers models in 40 and 42 tooth that are machined to match the shift ramps or either Shimano cassettes or Sram. It works by being placed onto your freehub body before your cassette, then remove the 17t cog when assembling the rest of your cassette. Easy peasy.
The GC40 shifts smoothly and looks to be wearing well, although it is a bail-out gear for me that only sees use a couple of times on a typical ride. Its top notch machining quality and looks like it should last longer than the cassette itself. Your mileage may vary though, especially if you use the 40 (or42) tooth gear regularly. In conjunction with my Race Face Narrow-Wide 30t chainring and Zee short cage rear derailleur its the near perfect driveline setup. It would be nice to remove not only the 17 tooth from the cassette but also the 15 and replace it with 16 to give a nicer spread (I see that One-Up components now has a 16t cog that ships with their product).
To me, its worth the $80 to have a bail out gear that will hopefully last a few cassettes. Climbing on the fatbike while tired can be a taxing ordeal, so its nice to know that the 40t is there..... IF I need it. And its made in the USA, so your supporting North American workers when you buy.
I'll give it 4.5/5 stars. It would get the full 5 if it shipped with the 16 tooth like its competitor One-Up.
As always, these product(s) where purchased with my own money. I have not been paid or bribed to review this product. Comments whether positive or negative are purely my opinion only.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.