Banting Fatbike or Obese Mountain Bike?

I recently rode the Silverback Sphere 1, on the beach, in the bush and on a MTB trial. (Thanks to the guys from Ceres cycles for letting me test it.)

During the last 54Km MTB trail one guy joking said to me: “Is your fat bike on diet?” to which I replied, “No, my mountain bike is just a little obese”.

The Silverback Sphere 1 is both Mountain bike and Fat bike, but also neither. But if I knew then what I know now, I would not buy either, I would get the Sphere. This bike rides where “traditional” 4inch fat bike tyres goes, and it is a great mountain bike for the times in between.

Don’t be fooled by the thick tyres thinking its a heavy bike.

Silverback Sphere 1

Compare the looks of the Silverback to the Titan Whopper who has the 4inch tyres, and a more “traditional” fat bike look. You would think the Silverback won’t go where the Whopper goes, but you would be wrong.

Titan Whopper

It was really surprising how easily the Silverback rides the same sandy roads that I do on a regular basis.

Silverback vs Titan Whopper Tyres

When comparing the tyres like this it makes you wonder where the differences are:

Top: is the Titan’s 4inch.

Bottom: Silverback 3inch. (I think)

Diameter

Of course the Silverback 29inch vs Titan’s 26inch has something to do with it. If I had a science lab, I would have like to measure the actual surface footprint each of these tyres produces on the ground. I bet they are very similar in total square inch or cm.

Silverback vs Titan Whopper Tyres

There is a great review of the Silverback here on bikehub.co.za that tells you all you need to know about the bike.

Mountain bike yes, no, maybe?

The true revelation came when I rode a Thys Du Toit memorial 54km MTB race, which included 10Km of technical riding and about 44Km of farm roads.

This is how the technical turned out for me…nothing to do with the bike, it was just a timing issue with guy disappearing in the distance.

But the 3inch tyres of the Silverback where real easy on straighter, and sometimes sandy, roads. The 4inch does NOT ride easy on flat road. It’s just not designed for it.

Is weight a problem?

Therein lies the question, doesn’t it? Silverback advertises 13.87Kg. I measured 14.9Kg with tubes and probably double sludge in the tyres, and probably some dust and dirt in the tyres. When it comes to tyres and weight, I really believe a few extra grams from tubes are worth the effort that dealing with punctures.

The Titan Whopper, surprisingly is on 17,6Kg, (2.7Kg more) which, considering the bigger tyres and rims, make sense. (Given that my pilates teacher insist on me using 3Kg dumbbells when we do weight resistance, I take that as good for the health)

It’s certainly longer

From axis to axis, the Silverback measures 1200mm, which is 80mm (3.5inches) longer than the 1120mm Titan. But given the 29 inch wheels, the Silverback appears a little longer. I am not sure if that also affects the “floating on sand” ability of the Silverback, but I quite liked that.

Gearing Up

The Silverback has “ONLY” 11 gears. But you will be surprise how that is enough. Not having the front gears to deal with, is great. Who really uses all 27 gears in a 3x9 configuration? I see many bikes with the single front gear these days. With a proper cassette in the back, (a SRAM XG-1150 11 Speed, 10–42T, Black to be precise), the gear changing is certainly approving all the time.

Silverback Front Gear

On sandy roads, I really enjoyed the one choice to make. I could change my music, text a friend and even do a bit of video editing with the other hand.

Silverback 11 speed. Simple

Technical things

Since I am rookie rider, (I started riding more seriously in 2015 at age 48 after partially tearing an achilles on the tennis court) and my aim is to keep fit and explore, all the technical specs on brakes and gears is a little lost on me. I have learned that all the best gadgets and equipment can add up quickly and before you know it, your bank manager invites you to get up from your knees when they walk into the waiting / begging room.

There was a time as a kid when I stripped, analysed and understood my bike to the last ball bearing. But now I do that with systems and software, so the bike stuff must just work. I want to get on, ride and enjoy and get off.

And does it rust?

Strange question you might say, but living on the West Coast of South Africa, only gold, platinum and the highest grade of stainless steel does NOT rust.

We have a saying here that even the plastic gutters rust.

If there is anything remotely mild steel anywhere on my bikes, they start to show after 3 months. I spend a lot on de-rusting stuff and silicon spray. (Did I mention my neighbours compressor to air blow it clean?)

So, the answer to rust question I don’t know, because I didn’t have the Silverback for that long. But the Titan Whopper is showing signs under the saddle (yes, when I wash it after a beach ride, I can see that) and a few other small places. Pass the silicon spray please..

Financial Meltdown?

In Sep 2016 the Silverback advertised around R26,000 ($2000), where as I only paid R9000 ($692) for the Titan, in Dec 2015.

The difference? Its steep, but if I had the Silverback first, I might not have bought my mountain bike. And yes, it is a class up.

Would I buy it?

Only if it had rear suspension. I ride a lot of bumpy gravel roads, where not many others go, so it get’s tough on the bum. The Titan’s 4inch tyres seems to make up a little for it, but the same rule would apply. Next time, when I buy any fat bike, it will have rear suspension.

Read the review on bikehub.co.za and see what you get for your money.

This balance of neither/nor fatbike/mtb is in my view a great option for the having only ONE bike. If I could draw a Gartner Magic Quadrant for bikes, this would be in the middle somewhere.

So I have to go now, I have an appointment with my bank manager, and my knee pads need some cleaning.

In the mean time, the guys at Ceres Cycles will certainly help you out to get your hands/(bum) on one of them.