Old Becomes New Becomes Fat

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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.

metal bits

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…

keeping it fat at sunset

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.

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About dirty biker

I am a fan of singletrack, singlespeeds, single women and single malt. Currently in Carbondale, CO Follow on Instagram @dirty_biker

24 Replies to “Old Becomes New Becomes Fat”

  1. Hey Ray, yes, I’m running a Speedway Uma 90 tubeless, with a Big Fat Larry, room to spare. The CS BFL is a few mm’s wider at most, and the beauty of this system is that you can dish the wheel progressively farther to the drive side, then rotate clamps over more to the non drive to compensate, the straighten the wheel by rotating the fork back to straight.

    Future proof for the next few years at least I’m thinking….

  2. Pingback: Cannondale Lefty Fat Bike Conversion « Urban Velo

  3. The future is FAT indeed. Screw the whole argument of 650, 26 or 29. Gimme FAT and I’ll be happy as a drunk in Jalisco.

  4. …never ridden a way-FAT but i gotta say total props to yer pal craig at mendon cyclesmith for the adaption…

    …of course, if he can fab up that cool kinda shit, he could build the triple clamps to ‘wide stance’ pretty much any fork, ya ???…

    …looks awesome…

  5. Thanks BGW, but no, I cannot claim fab skills that sweet. That’s Kevin Smith of SS Precision in Merced CA.

    I’m simply the idea guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer cause I knew I was on to something. This whole thing is a giant communal effort, with most giving a lot of time and effort for free. Jake at Project 321 got sick of me asking him to do it, gave me his files for standard lefty clamps and said do it yourself, while agreeing to supply me with steerers for the project. My buddy Gary Denton, enginerd extraordinaire did the Solidworks crunching, Nathan Whitmire is a guy I met through MTBR who works for a machine shop, he and Tim Krueger from Salsa stepped up to help me with the first protos, I was getting proto pricing of $500+ per piece, WTF?

    I paid those guys what they asked, but I know they hooked me up, thanks guys.

    Then I met Kevin through Jake at P321.

    Circles of friends man, it’s what it’s all about.

    The complete package for those who care, can consiste of the clamps, bolted to a NOS Lefty Max structure, with 2012 PBR dampers plugged in. Travel of 110 with an a to c of 520 is possible. It can be dropped from there.

    Thanks to all for the interest and kind words, I’m a little one an shop in upstate NY, never foresaw myself doing anything this “big”.

  6. Pingback: Furries Fatbike - Page 2 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

  7. …well then…how unlike steve jobs you are, craig…& props to the whole ‘scattered over the countryside’ crew…

    …but, nonetheless, idea man, i would think that other regular 2 stanchion forks might ultimately be mo’ better…

    …the only compromise, & i say this with no real insight or research into tire options &/or any other equipment specifically designed for F A T bikes, might be the need for custom axles & disc brake caliper braces to go along with the triple clamps…

  8. @BGW The big challenge to doing this with a double leg fork is going to be widening the arch between the lowers, and that’s going to be a bitch. I can’t think of any clean way to do it that would be safe. The Lefty is really the only way to do this, even if it means giving up the ability to interchange front and rear wheels.

  9. Art has it right BGW, not a clean way to do it. Folks are already hogging out portions of the crown on Fox 36’s to run them on long travel 29ers, but you’d have to remake the lowers altogether to do what you suggest…

    Art: true, but with the advent of so many non offset forks becoming the norm, most aren’t like the Pug where you’re running interchangeable rear wheels anyway.

    Besides, if you need that, you’re likely doing Iditabike or something similar, and a squishy fork isn’t too back country friendly anyhoo, at least not in the minds of most folks those doing that sort of thing.

    Keep ’em coming, great ideas spring from conversations like this…

  10. I see that rig as a screedozer for high alitude climbs where the sand and rock just bogs everything. Wondering how much ‘bounce’ that would have with those fatty tires tho…control might be a bitch on a steep drop..maybe the lockout on the handlebar for quick set?

  11. Obie, if you’re approaching this from the point of never having ridden a fatty? Yes, they do act a bit like basketballs, particularly when run over say, 15 psi.

    That being said, you very quickly adapt, and learn to work with said bounce. Run the tires closer to 8 or 9, and a good bit goes away.

    Now, speaking of fat suspension, that’s where the rubber hits the road. Like DB said, he found he wasn’t getting as much push back on climbs, and could stay seated with less effort. I find the same thing, in that the fork dampens the bounce, making it more controllable.

    Once Salsa and others start to roll out FS rigs, I think we’ll see a big change in what’s possible too.

    But yeah, take a Fat newb, give ’em a fat bike, and have them huck something like they would normally, you’ll see a lot more of their eye whites than you’d normally see!!

  12. “…never having ridden a fatty…”? At one point I had never ridden a fixed gear. I think we all are excruciatingly aware of how things worked out for me in that regard. Just sayin’…

  13. Hell’s turnips, that’s an interesting piece of kit… :-)

    Never ridden on fattys, never ridden a Lefty, would this be a good introduction to them both…?

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