Here are my final thoughts on Salsa Cycles Mukluk fat-bike. This has been a long term test I began last winter. The bike has been ridden over the course of the late summer and all throughout the fall extensively and in many conditions- not just snow! You can catch my Mid-Term report on this bike here if you missed that or need to catch up with this review.
After I swapped over to Salsa branded hubs on this test, I had no further wheel issues. So, I felt obliged to push the limits of where I could go on the bike now that hub failure was banished from my mind. Good thing, since this was the defining facet to the bike that I was missing out on when I was dealing with the originally spec’ed (by myself) hub set.
Essentially, the myth that these bicycles with the “monster truck sized tires” are “snow bikes” is selling this platform short. Waaaaay short! Through my own testing and some research I have become convinced that these types of bikes are truly deserving of the moniker “all terrain bike”. An outing with some friends early in the fall showed me that urban stunts, single track, gravel road riding, and general off the beaten path exploration are all well within the realm of possibilities with the Salsa Cycles Mukluk, or any fat bike, for that matter.
The Mukluk specifically is a great platform for exploratory outings which may be uncharted areas, or otherwise may take you through bits of trail that are difficult to impossible to ride on a “normal” 29″er. It is a stable handling rig and those tires eat up terrain that would stop a typical 29″er in its tracks. Deeper grounds, sand, mud, forest floor debris, and deep rock are easy to traverse on the Mukluk and bring rides into focus that you may never have considered before.
Add to this all the mounts for water bottles, (five water bottle mounts on the size Large reviewed), or the mounts for Salsa Cycles’ own “Anything Cage”, (Which holds dry bags or larger canisters), and rack mounts, and you have a bike that can also take you far away and bring along all the necessary things to self-support your adventure.
I have done a fair share of single track on this bike, and it isn’t a bad rig, but be prepared to work harder. The wheels are heavy, the steering will require a different technique, with counter-steering and some extra muscle, that your current rig doesn’t require of you. You will work harder on climbs, and you may need to check up that speed on rougher descents.
So, why even bother? Two things: “Fun”, and the ability to ride the “unrideable” terrain which makes the Mukluk “more fun”. If you are thinking this will be a fast, nimble, light weight, look elsewhere. (Likely you have not even read this far anyway, if that describes you. ) However; if you are looking for something to spark your riding, inspire you to look at alternative choices in terrain, and something that can keep you riding all winter, look no further than the Mukluk.
Since this review kicked off, Salsa Cycles has released new 2012 models which include a titanium frame choice. Surly Bikes has also released a couple of new models as well as three new choices in tires, bringing the total of tire choices up to five models from the two that existed when I started this test. So, you have options now as well, making the Mukluk, or fat-bikes in general, more appealing. Look for even more companies to jump on this niche in the future.
Conclusions: After several months of riding this bike in conditions ranging from deep snow and negative 10 below zero Fahrenheit to dry single track in 80 degree weather, I can say with authority that this is a bike one could ride exclusively all year around. Would that make sense for you? I can’t say it would. Obviously, there are better choices for single track, racing, or AM/Trail riding than a Mukluk. However; if you have seen some places that you can’t ride and wished you could- sandy beaches, snowy trails, bogs, muddy areas, (within reason!), or if you just want that option, a Mukluk would be an excellent addition to your stable of rigs.
I suppose it could be your “stable killer” if you built up a second 29″er wheel set and swapped in a suspension fork for the summer months. That’s a possibility that I have not (yet) explored, but may make a Mukluk even more appealing. As it stands though, I think this is a bike that is a second, third, or fourth bike for most riders.
If you start getting into the nitty-gritty of fat-bikes, you may run into some limitations, such as drive train/tire interference issues, “Q factor” issues, or parts that are scarce due to the proprietary nature of fat-bike platforms. (My hub issues illustrate this to a small degree.) However; the Mukluk is a pretty well thought out machine that allows for the best combination of parts to be used for most riders. It isn’t perfectly free from compromises- no fat-bike truly is- but Salsa Cycles did their homework here, and it shows.
It is awfully fun to ride though, and if you have a notion to try a Mukluk, I can say it may be the most fun you’ve had on a bike in a long time. They are very capable machines with abilities unlike most mountain bikes, and with limitations that many bikes do not have. However; they are also bikes with a “fun-factor” that is unmatched by almost any bike you can think of in the mountain bike/all terrain category. From a fat-bike perspective, Salsa Cycles has put together a winner.
Note: The Salsa Cycles Mukluk is my personal bike. This bike was not submitted to Twenty Nine Inches by Salsa Cycles for test/review. I will strive to give my honest opinions and thoughts throughout.