Now that I’ve been riding around on the Singular Puffin for a couple of months, I thought it was high time for a review. I have been blessed with an amazing playground upon which to give the bike a really good test – from high level rocky routes and wet moorland tracks to man-made rock-strewn built trails in the South Wales valleys. It’s fair to say that the Puffin has stood up easily to everything I’ve thrown it at and any limitations in ability have usually been with the rider.
Build Spec, Sizing & Fit
I’m 5′ 9″ and would normally ride a medium Singular, but seeing as the prototypes are only in large, I had to do with that. I run a Hope seat post which has a little layback, but not much. Up front I initially had a 100mm stem with a flipped Ragley Carnegie. I’ve since swapped the stem out for a 70mm Thomson, and it’s quickened the front end up very nicely. The reach is about ok, at my limit really, so I’d choose a medium if I were buying. Jon Webb at Just Riding Along built a superb pair of wheels with Rolling Daryl’s laced to Hope Fatsno hubs, which I shod with Hüsker Dü’s. Surly Mr Whirly cranks provide 33:20 gearing. Hope Mono M4 brakes bring it all to a stop when required. That’s it. It didn’t take long to build.
About the same as any other steel fat bike. It isn’t going to win any prizes for lightweight, and if you’re worried about weight, then fat bikes probably aren’t for you. Mine tipped the scales at around 34 lbs, but the prototype frame is alleged to be about 2 lbs heavier than the production version. But the weight is not the whole story. Far from it.
The initial feeling was it was very flickable and manoeuvrable around obstacles. It was surprisingly easy to manual off steps and drops once I’d adjusted to the extra weight towards the front of the bike. With the excess weight of the whole bike, and extra rotating weight as well, I was pleasantly surprised of its climbing abilities. The riding position and geometry is good, with the rear end being short. The increased traction afforded by the larger tyre footprint is a bonus, but the bike is nonetheless adept to take full advantage of this. I’ve made it up a good few two climbs in the Beacons that I’d struggle on my normal SS (one of which is in the Puffin video), and took it around a few built trails where it showed up a good few folk on geared bikes.
Descents were a blast. I deliberately choose some of the rockiest trails I could find (and would normally avoid, riding rigid most of the time). Even on the largest rocks, it was easy to stick to a line and not get deflected off one rock and the next. The faster descents were confidence inspiring with the bike feeling very stable at high speed, albeit difficult to slow down 4kg of rapidly rotating weight at the end. I’m glad I fitted beefy brakes for this reason.
Flat or rolling sections were handled easily; the “fat” (read as: heavier) wheels carried the momentum well once up to speed. The bike was agile enough that I was able to choose whichever line I wanted confidently. In fact, the handling ability seems to defy its weight to a large extent. However, when the speed really gets up, tighter singletrack became a bit more of a handful, due to the gyroscopic effect of the front wheel, but Sam has put enough thought into the geometry to ensure this isn’t a big issue.
I like it a lot so far, and am looking forward to riding in the snow, where I would hope to be able to get up into the high Beacons for some proper winter riding. I expect the Puffin to become my “go to” bike for the rest of the winter to aid with my training for races next year.
Fatbikes seem to get more and more popular around here as well. I recently said to a friend, that just as soon as the Swiss have accepted the 29″ wheels, there’s the next size waiting to confuse those few poor bikers, who think they’re being betrayed, instead of realising that we’re in paradise, as we can have the weapon of choice. So, what’s it for you concerning longer trips? Fancy a HT400 (HT550 respectively) in winter? Or 4-5 days bike pack in the Engadin? This is also really nice: http://pavelrichtr.cz/2011/04/laponsko-2011-video/
I’ve yet to put in any really long rides on it, but have a short bikepacking trip planned next month. My expectation is that it’ll be a good bike for this type of riding too. I expect a winter HT400/550 would be a real expedition, though!
Fat bikes seem to shout “get me loaded”… And “take me on an expedition”. We only have to follow our hearts, the call of mother nature and the call of our fat bikes. Having some experience of Scottish winter weather, I’m sure a winter HT would give some good character building.
Inspirational words there, Gian. Worthy of a dedicated post 🙂
Cheers mate. This is what winter does to me…