Over the past few years we have seen the popularity of fat bikes grow exponentially. With the mainstream availability of affordable complete builds from the likes of Salsa and Surly, we are now starting to see a rapid evolution in gear. Titanium frames, carbon forks, more tire selection than ever, and even rumors of a full suspension frame. But the one thing we don’t have yet is a decent front suspension fork.
Some scoff at the idea of suspension on the fatty and say that you don’t need it. Some people also say that you don’t need booze in your life either. Maybe so, but like booze, suspension sure does make a lot of things more fun. When I got a package in the mail from my old friend Craig at Mendon Cyclesmith, I was pretty excited. The box contained an old Cannondale Lefty fork, some non-stock clamps, and a Rolling Darryl wheel with a bright pink rim strip.
Although I have to admit, I have a thing against Lefty’s. I have just never liked them and I have no idea why. But I have also known Craig since I was 19 years old. He was sort of my bike shop mentor when I was a shithead kid. He introduced me to a lot of cool shit like wool jerseys, handmade steel frames, how to build wheels, and strong IPA’s just to name a few. So I tend to trust his judgement. So if he sends me a fork with only one leg, I will ride it.
It seems my friend has spent these winter months refining some new clamps for a Lefty that offset the wheel enough to run a Surly Larry tire. It’s amazing what you can think of when you have enough beer and a cold upstate New York winter.
I have only been riding this setup for about a week now and I must say, it’s been fun. I just felt it was too unique of an idea not to share with you all. Riding the thing, you get the obvious advantages of a little suspension squish on the downhills like you would expect. But the biggest advantage I noticed is during seated climbing. It just smooths out the ride enough to keep the front wheel from bouncing off-line while I’m gasping for breath with my tongue is hanging out of my mouth. This was quite a surprise on a bike that I have only, up until now, ridden rigid.
I am going to long term test this thing and report back to you guys if you are interested. I am even thinking about bolting this front end on to my singlespeed 29er and see what that will feel like. Craig said he is going to send along a newer model that will rock my socks off since this is just a prototype with an older fork body. We shall see…
I am pretty greatful to have the opportunity to test out this little piece of retro meets innovation. A little squish can go a long way. I also find it pretty cool to be re-purposing some old stuff in the process. So if you have an old lefty sitting in the garage (one with removable clamps) and want a fun little project, contact Craig. He can get you some clamps and guide you in the process. Heck, he even has whole front ends available if you want to go that route.by