Silverback Double Scoop

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Fatbikes are fast moving from eccentricity to must-have in any N+1 collection. We took one to Botswana (and Zimbabwe) to see how it stacks up in the wilds of Africa.

If we can offer one piece of advice, ever, in Ride magazine, let it be this: never, ever take up an offer to ride a fatbike. Ever. You will find yourself un-buying your daughter’s 14th-birthday 29er, and getting her a chunky, instead, in your size. True story.

Of course, this is all relative to where you ride it. I took the Double Scoop to the Tuli Block, and for four days dealt with the ever-receding scorn of my peers, as I rolled through sand drift after riverbed, panting not one bit. Off the beaten track, the 4.7-inch fat tackies turn the soft stuff into a freewheeling, gloating paradise – we even rode the mighty Shashe and Limpopo rivers, each heading for a kilometre of super-soft sand – without stopping. Oom Hannes, aged 73, included.

If there is a word to describe a fattie, it is ‘able’. Think of your 100mm race bike as a World Rally Championship racer, and this as a Land Rover, in low-range. But moving. There is very little you can’t ride, just bring a slowly-slowly mindset, and keep pedalling. The footprint is so big, you have virtually unlimited grip on all surfaces. Sure, you struggle to keep up with the supermodels on the open district roads, but that is not what a fatty is for: it is for discovering, exploring and playing.

double-scoop

The Silverback comes in at a price where it was seriously outclassed at the Tour de Tuli. I would guess that half of the other 299 bikes there had wheels that cost more. But without a hill to speak of, bar the concrete stinker on Day 4 (second to the summit in group 19, nonetheless, in the company of some serious race snakes [not]), the near-16kg heft was never going to be a problem.

Reliability was more important, and we nearly fell short with a tubeless-conversion attempt that simply didn’t work. Slime tubes fared well, but we would wait for the 2016 model, which comes with tubeless wheels, if we were in the market for a fatty to take to the farm or the bush.

Other than the tubeless issue, the Deore/X5/SLX 2×10 drivetrain was faultless, and the Deore brakes provided more than enough stopping power. The tread on the Vee Rubber Bulldozers is aggressive, offering plenty of bite on climbing and braking, but we did struggle a little on the few open-road stretches. Remember you are riding for fun, not speed, and that isn’t even an issue, though.

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The rest of the kit is, understandably, cheerful and chunky, to make this price point. The saddle was a surprise, my derrière went home in far better condition than I had expected. The alloy bars, stem and seatpost – the former with a pleasing sweep and rise that keep your wrists comfy for the inevitable bashing the rigid front fork doles out – all offer superb weight-loss upgrades if you decide to enter the fatty market here and see what it is all about.

While we talk about the fork: again, the right mindset; we were riding six to seven hours a day, which is not what this bike is for. I ran 0.8 bar on the back, 0.7 on the front, because I didn’t want to snake bite the tubes. Attie and Hannes ran 0.6/0.4, and finished with hands, shoulders and teeth all present and accounted for. The volume of the tyres deadens a whole lot of impact.

So, who is this bike for? Everyone, really. You will adjust your riding on one – exploring and riding technical things for the hell of it become fun again, and you will be more than happy to forget your average speed and just enjoy the ride. And, you can take it with you on the family holidays to Ballito/Yzerfontein/Mozambique, and escape the lunacy for a few hours each day, without having to push your bike for half of your ride.

Price R14 900
www.silverbacklab.com

fat-bike

  • Andre Bezuidenhout

    You will need to carry an ammo belt full of bombs to re inflate those tyres if you get a flat on the trail. Hand pump out of the question.