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Hot on the heels of my long-term Fatback review, I had a chance to demo the new Borealis Yampa carbon fiber fat bike at Outerbike.

I … like … big bikes and I cannot lie …

Borealis is fairly new to the fat bike scene and is the brainchild of Adam Miller and Steve Kaczmarek, with design input from seven-time Iditarod Trail Invitational race winner Pete Basinger. Adam comes to the fat bike biz by way of Fatbikes.com and 9:Zero:7, both based in Alaska, and Steve brings his business acumen and investment weight to the mix. Pete has been riding, designing, and working on fat bikes since before they were cool.

Anyway, enough marketing crap… how was the bike?

Glad you asked!

So the Yampa is the first product offering from Colorado Springs-based Borealis, and features a full carbon frame that can be built as light as 21 pounds with top of the line component choices. You read that correctly: a 21 pound fat bike.

The model available for demo at Outerbike was the $3,599 X0/X9 build level and sported a pair of 4.8″ tires. There is also an XX1 build option for the opulently wealthy, single chainring crowd.

Throwing a leg over the Yampa, the first thing I noticed was the fairly high top tube. Standover is always an issue for me as I have a pretty short inseam, and the size medium test model was roughly equal to my Anthem X 29er. However, with the boys off the top tube and my feet clipped in, it was immediately apparent that this is a very, very light setup and is way more nimble than a fat bike has any right to be. The rolling mass of the fat wheels is what it is, but Borealis has seriously lightened up the frame by going to carbon, which is also as stiff as you’d expect.

Since I’ve ridden another fat bike extensively, heading out to the Moab Brand Trails demo loops I had some expectations concerning handling over rocks and ledges, as well as flotation over sand. The Yampa performed as expected, with the added bonus of the cush provided by the extra-fat 4.8in tires combined with the muting properties of the carbon frame. Overall, the Yampa is a playful and responsive bike. You’d be forgiven if you temporarily forgot you were actually on the bike equivalent of a monster truck.

Handling and trail manners aside, the bike had a couple of annoyances that would be very aggravating on a long ride. First, the brake caliper is mounted inside the rear triangle, forcing the chain and seat stays to flare outward quite sharply in order to maintain alignment with the rotor. I have size 9 feet and my heels brushed the chainstays a bit, and I assume anyone size 10 or larger will notice this even more. Secondly, the first time I got out of the saddle to pedal up a hill the seatstays drove into my calves HARD. I mean OUCH! hard. Now, I know I have some particularly manly calves, which is also an issue with my ski boots and some other bikes, but this was surprisingly severe. Unfortunately, these two issues make the Yampa a no-go for me, but of course your mileage may very, especially if you are of a lankier build than I. (I’m looking at you, Jeff B.) 😀

Bottom Line

With the Yampa, Borealis has come out of the gate swinging. The weight, feel, and aesthetics are awesome, but for it to be a workable fat bike solution for us stockier riders, I think the top tube will need to drop and the rear triangle will definitely need to get narrower. This bike is a solid first effort from my home state of Colorado, and I am stoked to see what subsequent models bring to the table!

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# Comments

  • skibum

    Madd,
    Were you riding clipless? Like you, I’ve got meaty calves . . . and size 13 feet to boot (pun intended). My demo ride here in the springs did not give me the same annoyances you suffered. However, I was riding flats and had my feet positioned pretty far out on the pedals (something I just naturally seem to do when riding flats). Of course, being 6′ and more leg than torso at that, I didn’t notice any standover issue either.

    • maddslacker

      Clipless: of course!

      On every bike I ride with a pretty tight stance, and Crank Bros pedal also don’t have very long spindles.

      I’m pretty sure height and leg length probably help, however, I’m the same height on my other fat bike, and I don’t have the calf problem. 😉 Neither does my 5’5″ daughter for that matter.

  • maddslacker

    Also, before all the Borealis fanbois grab their pitchforks, let me reiterate .. this bike geometry doesn’t work for me, but it may work for you. This is why we try all.the.bikes before we buy one.

    • skibum

      Always sound advice. Making a four-digit purchase blindly is not wise. Reviews should be just a starting point, not a final answer.

  • pbasinger

    Reading your 2 reviews it’s pretty clear that the only fan boy here is you. I’m glad you like the Fatback, they are great bikes, but your comments on the Borealis are misleading. Calf and heel interference is not an issue with this bike. It’s not an issue of preference or opinion it’s just not true. Period. You don’t have to put down other products in order to promote your buddies.

    • maddslacker

      Hi Pete,

      I feel like I pointed out the strong points of this bike, and I was careful to identify what was my opinion and specific to my fit experience.

      The chainstay to heel issue was probably exacerbated by my pedals, as pointed out by skibum, but the unfortunate fact is that the seatstays dug into my calves, very hard, which was as surprising as it was annoying.

      However, here at Singletracks we like to be thorough, so I’m sure mtbgreg1 would be willing to do a long term review of the Yampa, or at least take it for a day ride the next time the Borealis crew is in Salida.

  • arorts

    Now they go out and bash this guy because he complained about his calves hitting the seatstay?? How dare they??
    That’s the problem when you have Borealis build bikes with cheap Chinese carbon fiber and in only 6 months “test” them plus poorly designed ergonomics??

    Will you trust Chinese carbon fiber and rushed QA “tests” take care of you hipbones and not getting them smashed???? I won’t either.

    Go and checkout Santa Cruz bikes, now we are talking about real-life quality tests.
    Borealis website also looks like it was designed by an intern back in the 90’s!! They might even win the worst bike website ever!

    • maddslacker

      For the record, I have no idea where the Borealis frames are made. Also, Santa Cruz frames are made in Taiwan (by Giant) and they don’t make a fat bike at all, so it’s not really a fair comparison.

  • Upinflames7

    How does it stack up to the salsa beargrease? I am very fond of my beargrease but have not had a chance to ride any fatbikes beside salsa mukluk beargrease surly ice cream truck trek farley specialized fatboy framed minnesota charge maxi. I have the framed MN as well and the beargrease is head and shoulders the best fatty I have ever ridden, but I have heard that salsa has terrible dead feeling geometry, so I might like something else and I don’t even know it though I am partial to my homestate companies.

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