Meat and Potatoes: Borealis Yampa Review, part II

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So, I ran my mouth about how stupid carbon fat bikes are, and as a result, Borealis sent me the Yampa and said, “We’d like to change your mind.” I’ve been riding the Yampa since December, and here’s my honest review of it.

Let me start off by saying I thought of all of you first and foremost. So shortly after I received the bike, I found a hot cyclist and took some photos of her riding around on the Borealis. I have my priorities in order.
IMG_8477-EditThanks to Cole and KJ for coming out to model for DC. It was particularly rough on Cole, who had to sit there on the trail with a beer in his hand and watch KJ roll by on the fat bike several times.

Let’s get down to it.


—The Yampa is light and the geometry is spot-on. Borealis really nailed it here. It rides like an XC bike, not like other fatties I’ve ridden, and I’ve ridden a bunch.

Borealis is a cool local company here in Colorado. They’re involved in the local riding scene and they have embraced fat tire culture around here. I dig them as a company.

—The Yampa descends like a champ. I felt comfortable diving into technical stuff and didn’t feel like I was on a fat bike. It was quick, it was nimble. I could ride this thing drunk (and did).

—The Surly Bud and Lou tires are awesome once you figure out the best tire pressure for them. Early on I got a lot of snow build-up in them, but I was running too much pressure. I dropped it down to about 5psi and problem was solved.

—The SRAM XX1 drivetrain. Goddamn what a dream. I want this on all my bikes.



—Not the best at cornering, but I didn’t expect it to be with nearly 5-inch tires. You really have to lean it over. This is less a problem with the Yampa and more an issue with any bike using 5-inch tires. You just have to pay attention. The tall tire profile was a bitch in the wind, too. If you’ve ever ridden at Green Mountain just outside of Denver, you know what kind of wind I’m talking about. I was getting blown off the trail, and not in the good way.

—The XX1 brakes. Now, before we all start ragging on Avid/SRAM brakes, I’ll say this: they performed a lot better than I expected, and a lot better than older models. That said, they’re still not there. Not nearly on par with a pair of XT brakes. There were a few Oh SHIT moments when I hit the brakes in the cold and nothing happened. I also got some brake fade, particularly on cold days.

—The price of the XX1 cassette. Are you freaking kidding me, SRAM?

—The overall price of the bike. More on that later.


So, here’s my best assessment of this bike:

It’s rad. I loved it. It’s light (somewhere around 24 pounds with the carbon wheels on it), it’s quick, it’s fun as hell, and the geometry is dialed.

You need to understand, though, that this is exactly what I expected, and Borealis met the challenge.

So am I going to rush out and buy one?

Not so fast.

First, let’s talk about the wheels. These are what got me in trouble in the first place, remember? Because dentists blah blah go fuck yourself?

2014-02-12 12.52.06

Adam from Borealis was particularly proud of their carbon hoops because he had an active hand in developing them. When I got them from Brown Santa (aka UPS), the box weighed nothing. Out of the box, they looked sexy as hell. Up to this point, everything I expected.

I set them up tubeless as instructed and went out for a ride. They’re significantly lighter than the Turnagain aluminum wheels the bike came with (which, coincidentally, I really liked).

That’s about where my like for these wheels ended.

Why? Because Fuck Specialized.

The wheels were, unfortunately, flexy as hell. For $2000 a pair, I expect stout wheels that dive into corners and sweet-talk my pants off in the back seat of a VW bus. But these just didn’t cut it. I could actually hear the spokes moving when I cranked up climbs and could feel the flexiness in corners.

Chalk it up to a bad build? Probably. The rims themselves look stout and they were true after a few days of riding, but for $2000 I expect perfection from these wheels. I expect them to hand me a beer at the top of every climb. These wheels wheezed like grampa watching a porno. Sorry guys, just not buying it. Carbon fat bike wheels are still for rich dentists, as far as I’m concerned, though I have faith that Borealis will sort these out before too long. Maybe already have.

She’s smiling because fat bikes are fucking fun. Write that down.

Okay, so let’s hit the bottom line about the review, then talk a bout a few other things.

I loved the bike and I think if you’ve got a shit ton of money lying around, you should buy one, especially if your other option is a Specialized Fatdouche. Borealis is a cool company that I can get behind supporting, and you certainly won’t be disappointed with this ride. It climbs better than most fatties I’ve ridden, corners fine for a beast with 5 inch tires, and descends like a champ.

Oh man, but that price tag.

Specialized is the victim here.

I talked to Adam about the price tag and he said he knew it was high, but when you consider the cost of materials and manpower to make this bike a reality, it’s pretty damn fair. I can see his point, but I think that begs the question:

Should this bike be a reality?

I could go on and on about whether carbon’s the right choice of material for a fat bike, but who the fuck am I? The real answer to this question is: the wrong person for this bike.

Look, this bike is made for guys who are going to ride it year-round, and that’s what Borealis was trying to convince me, that this was a year-round bike. It never will be, not for me anyway. A fat bike will always be a winter bike, and I am more sure of this now after riding this on dry trails and snowy ones. It was fun on the dry trails, but not as fun as my 29er. The fat penalty on climbs was more than I want to deal with, but I can envision my self riding this beast all winter. It was an awesome motivator to get out there in the cold, and I rode the last couple months plenty more than I would have without this bike.

I would recommend this to you if you intend to ride a fat bike all year, if you’ve got money to burn, and if you want to support an awesome company. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re on a tighter budget and only have money for one bike, or for an inexpensive fat bike to get you through the winter. I fall into the latter category. I’d never get to lay my testicles on this top tube had I not drunkenly rambled about fat bike wheels. IMG_8526-Edit

She’s hot. I know. I keep throwing those photos in there and none of you are actually reading this review.

Thanks, KJ, for being a rad model!

I’m heading down to Borealis headquarters in Colorado Springs next week to do a video interview with Adam and to get a peek into the carbon fat bike capital of Colorado. In the interview, we’ll talk more about the price of the bike and the price of bikes in general, what makes Borealis awesome, what Adam thinks about this particular review, what his response to the wheel issue is, and lots more.

I’ll probably be drinking a lot, so don’t expect it to be a coherent interview. Then again, when am I ever really coherent?


Oh, it’s sexy. I don’t deny that.

IMG_8432The Turnagain wheels were great. Definitely heavier than the carbon, but stiff when the carbon wheels weren’t.

Fuckin’ Lou. Gotta love Lou. Like your college landlord who loved to sit on the park bench and watch the freshmen girls run by in their running shorts.
2014-02-24 13.32.04

She looks nice dressed in the carbon kicks, but the climb up to this particular vista was not so great. Flex, squeak, flex, squeak.






Oh Avid XX. You’re so close to being part of the cool brakes club. But you ain’t there yet. Be more like your  cousin, the XX1 drivetrain, and maybe I’ll stop making fun of you.

KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED for our next fat bike review, a thorough investigation of the 9Zero7 fattie that 40 Hands has been molesting for a month or two.

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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

13 Replies to “Meat and Potatoes: Borealis Yampa Review, part II”

  1. Thanks for the DC quality review, while I dismiss carbon fat trinkets in general pretty easily, this made me think for a moment or two.

    For me? Far better than peeing in a good friends sink, any day…..

  2. vaguely qualified is a stretch. borealis would never give you the time of day to write a review unless you talked some shit and goaded them and made them feel as though some injustice had been perpetrated. you’re like an ugly girl at the bar.

  3. I just heard where Mongoose is making another fat bike for Wally World to sell. Disc brakes, 1×7 and 1 1/8 threadless headset. Probably all the bike one would need for a snow-covered towpath.

    Hey, I’ll still spend the winter on the couch with my DVR and my cheap booze, but at least I’ll be able to ride.

  4. loved the fotos “Like your college landlord who loved to sit on the park bench and watch the freshmen girls run by in their running shorts.”

  5. $5549 for this fattie. Trust fund kids, wealthy hipsters and dentists will line up.
    That’s 427 twelve packs of Sierra Nevada. Enough to keep me drunk for 5 years. I could afford the Yampa if I sold my car, my motorcycle, my fishing rods and all my blowup dolls.

  6. Dave, was good to meet you too! I’ll be down there again before too long. We should ride and share a beverage or two on the trails…

  7. I use my Yampa in the beach, ohh boy, you need strong leg to ride a couple of miles on it, thing became better if you ride where the sand is a littler bit moisture, in grave and dirt road, the Yampa is a really good bike, and for a downhill in gravel road is excellent.

  8. Pingback: The Sunday Spore with D2: The Last Word on Fatties -