Editor’s Note: With these Ride Impressions Twenty Nine Inches riders do not imply that these bicycles are ultimately good, bad, or indifferent for you. We do mean to convey through our many hours of riding lots of different 29 inch wheeled bicycles over a period of years to give you, the reader, an indication of what you might expect from these new rigs. In other words, this ain’t no review, but hopefully it points you in the right direction.
In our Outdoor Demo Day Report 1, we let you in on a new fat bike from Origin 8. Well, I couldn’t resist the offer to check it out, and here is the full Ride Impression for you now.
At the time of our first report on the Crawler, there were few details other than that it was a sure thing it would be put into production. Details are still somewhat scarce, but we’ll try to break it down for you as much as we can here.
There are several things that are unique about the Crawler. First thing you may notice is the fat rear hub, which is a Nuvinci variable rate transmission. (It really doesn’t have “gears”, so it technically is not an Internally Geared Hub) The next thing I noticed was the single speed specific set up on the Crawler. There is no provision for a dérailleur hangar here. Final drive ratio is entirely provided by the Nuvinci hub, and the initial drive gears, of course.
The rear end of the Crawler is a 135mm OD which is typical mountain bike spacing. The bottom bracket appears to be an 83mm wide version, but I did not get this verified when I was at Interbike. With the use of a single speed drive line, the chain clears the Vee Rubber “Crawler” tire with ease, but it isn’t perfectly straight either. This didn’t seem to be an issue for me or anyone else that demoed the Crawler at Interbike. The front fork appeared to be 135mm wide at the drop outs as well, made of steel, and had some nice rack mounts brazed on it. Nothing was offset, as far as the frame was concerned, but the front hub appeared to be a case where the non-disc side was simply extended to fit the fork.
The Crawlers frame is aluminum, with a bit of extra tubing running from under the top tube to the down tube near the head tube to give the illusion of a cruiser frame. This seemed to be somewhat of a stylistic afterthought, and in the world of fat-biking, would merely make fitting a frame bag more difficult. Regardless, the bike had a nice appearance and worked well enough. The rear drop outs were simply two horizontal slots that fit sliders. These were secured by two large hex head nuts. Nothing elegant here, but immanently functional.
Ride Impressions: Using the Nuvinci was…..well, new for me. At any rate, it is operated with a twist shifter, not unlike a Grip Shift, but there are no indexing points. The shifter had a band in a window that flattened out as you reached a ratio that yielded a higher gear inch, and got bent upwards to mimic a hill as you twisted toward the lower gear inch range of the transmission. The shifter is infinite in that you can set the final drive ratio at any point you choose within the Nuvinci’s range. Want your cadence “just so”? Well, you can set it there and simply continue to “throttle” the shifter as the terrain dictates, that is until the terrain exceeds the range covered by the hub. More on that in a minute.
The Crawler was maybe a tad small-ish for me, but certainly close enough to make it fit with seat post extension. We have learned that the size I rode was an 18″ and that there will be a 20″ size offered. No other word on more sizes. The geometry was fairly neutral, and the wheel base seemed shorter than a similar sized Mukluk fat bike. This resulted in a bit quicker handling than the Mukluk I own, and more akin to a Surly Pugsley, in my opinion.
The Crawler is aptly named in that you can crawl over rough, loose terrain, and also from the standpoint of speed and climbing. The Crawler weighs well north of 40lbs, (estimated), and that weight is definitely felt off road whenever the ground tilts upward. The Nuvinci was adept at most of the terrain, but ran out of low range going up longer, steeper climbs. This might be rectified by using a smaller front chain wheel, but at the expense of the higher range, which admittedly you may never need on this bike.
The Vee Rubber tires gripped well on the loose terrain of Bootleg Canyon, and I actually rode it up a small rock wash with ease. Geared a bit lower, the Crawler would do snow, or loose off road terrain, no problem. The tires were branded as “Origin 8 Devist8ers”, so this would lead me to believe these will also become available as aftermarket tires. The tread pattern was adept in the desert terrain at getting grip. I felt that the tires were not set at a really low pressure, but because the casing profile was flattish, I still was getting full ground contact across the tread pattern, which I felt was the reason why they seemed to grip so well.
Origin 8 has created an interesting rig here. Since the frame is 135mm and symmetrical in the rear, it seems that a 29″er single speed wheel would be a shoe-in, and that would make the frame even more versatile. Undoubtedly, it would become a lot lighter! As a fat bike, it is adept at “crawling” up and over rocks and loose stuff that would frustrate, or stop a normal 29″er. With no derailleurs, it has nothing to get tweaked either. It may make a lot of sense as a bike for the right person, The thing is, I don’t see many places to cut back on the mass here, and the Nuvinci weighs a lot! That’s the downside to the Crawler.
No timeline for availability was given at Interbike, but Origin 8 has indicated these will sell for about $1400.00 USD