This is one of those I’ve been staring at in my inbox for a bit. I’ve been questioning on how to best approach it, but without a doubt, it had to be seen. I keep an open mind so those that would be attracted to a product, can gain a useful perspective without too much bias. So I’m going to do my best here to do just that.
If you had the chance, how would you use this beast and what modifications you would make? Float past the break for the good, the bad and …. well, you know the rest…
No other sport or activity has as many variables and options as cycling. From families riding around the neighborhood to the gravity driven Rampage legends, to the local legend on the green-way down the street from me setting land-speed records on his road bike with various homemade, fully enclosed fiberglass shells, (the American Burt Munro?), there is just about something for everybody. Fat tire bikes, now well past being a trend, have been one of the most controversial topics the last few years. That is until E-bikes bolted onto the scene. So when a fat bike with an electric motor and a 10 inch wide ATV tire up front shows up on Indiegogo’s crowdfunding page, you can’t just turn away.
We can laugh all we want, (just like we once did at front suspension, wide bars, tubeless tires, and dropper posts), but when you consider the population of people that live close to or are visiting the beach, something like the XTerraine 500 could open up some possibilities. There is no really good way to get around in the soft, power robbing sand unless you are privy to the Hoff’s truck or ATV. Even fat bikes can be hard to pedal in anything worse than hard packed sand…. especially when you try to turn. The 10 inch wide tire has such a flat wide surface, that it “sits” on top of the sand rather than burrowing itself deeper like a rounded profile tire would.
XTerraine’s uber-fat tire bike is not a unique concept as Hanebrink has been around since the early 90’s with their “do anything” line of X Bikes that are now offered in various versions of both standard and electric assist models (if you have ever been fortunate enough to ride one, you know well and good that the experience made you grin). So while I don’t think for one second the XTerraine would compete directly with Hanebrink’s much higher quality “go anywhere” bikes, (that retail for between $3,500 and $9,250), it does come in at a reasonable price while offering the ability to easily float on sand.
The bike comes stock with a 26 x 4.5 inch tire on the rear and a 20 x 10 inch tire up front. It is available in both electric and non-electric versions, and you have the option to buy it with or without a 26 x 4.5 front wheel that can be installed for more conventional use. It comes with a 2 position triple crown fork, (available separately for $149), that sets the stanchions wide enough to accommodate the 20 x 10 inch wide ATV tire and wheel, with an additional inside position to accommodate a more standard 26 x 4.5 inch tire. The electric version has a 500 watt motor that is both pedal assist as well as 100 percent throttle activated so one can ride the bicycle without pedaling. (all together now….. *gasp*).
While I don’t see these being a big hit on the trail or a part of most enthusiasts’ collections, I can see beach goers making good use of this. By just adding a bar mounted koozie cup holder, bicycle rental companies along beaches might make a killing with them, (tourists love getting around and exploring, and the novelty of that front tire alone will attract many). Considering the features, IF this is their intent, then it looks to have strong potential.
So, putting my judgey bike nerd cap back on, I am seeing a situation where they’ve tried to pack as many ideas as possible into a product for at a low budget price. To do that, corners are going to be cut, which is fine so as long as the product is marketed within its limitations. When the bike is set up with a standard 26″ fat bike tire, it looks within spec, BUT, when the 20 x 10 inch wheel is installed, (or standard in most cases since the 26×4.5 wheel is a secondary option), the bike’s front end is lowered considerably putting the head angle in dangerous territory. The fork dropouts appear to be very fragile and the width of that axle being put under torsional loads when going through sand with an electric motor pushing it, (A lot of “hold my beer” moments come to mind) I question its dependability and safety.
The bike does NOT come with a front brake rotor when it is in ATV tire mode, but they mention on their site to ” just move fork tubes closer together, install provided Kenda Sport 26×4.5″ fat tire, and you are ready to go on any trails”. Considering the non-enthusiasts that might give this bike a shot, not having the necessary front brake along with the now protruding fork crowns spells disaster. Bike paths, the beach, and the like would be fine, but the over-enthusiastic marketing to ride “any trails” is a little too optimistic in my opinion.
With the standard, non-electric model starting at $699, the price is just right for lite recreational use. The electric model starts at $1,250, and for $1,499 you get the secondary front 26 x 4.5 inch wheel with the bike.
So what are your thoughts? Could this be a beach combers dream? Or a big fat disaster?