I’m not going to spend this introduction trying to convince you to love fat biking. Either you’re a fat fan already, you’re a fat hater, or you haven’t been paying attention for the past five years. The problem, however, is that even if you’re a fat fan, there are a lot of crappy fat bikes out there on the market. Some of them are absurdly heavy and slow. Some of them have horrific geometry. Some of them have wacky components and non-standard parts. Some of them are crazy-expensive.
Thankfully, the Big Jon has none of those bad traits. I discovered the lack of negative factors, and all of the fantastic good that the Big Jon has to offer over a couple of months of testing in Colorado’s High Rockies.
The Big Jon is a rigid aluminum fat bike that comes stock with a bladed alloy fork. While the aluminum frame and affordable components help keep the price low at $1,600 MSRP, the frame is loaded with modern features like thru axles front and back, 197mm rear hub spacing, tapered headtube, and plenty of bolt points for racks and fenders.
The geometry is spot-on for a full-blown 5″ fat bike, with a 69-degree headtube angle and 465mm chainstays.
Again, the parts build trends towards the affordable, with a mixed Shimano SLX/Deore 2×10 drivetrain, Shimano M396 hydraulic disk brakes, a color-matched Syncros cockpit, drilled out Syncros rims, Syncros hubs, and Schwalbe Jumbo Jim EVO 4.8″ tires.
Claimed weight (32.63lbs.) for the complete bike is a very-respectable for this price point.
Out on the Trail
Perhaps launching into a 22-mile snow ride on a bike you’ve never ridden before isn’t the best idea, but that’s exactly what I did for my shakedown ride on the Big Jon. And from day 1, I was in love with this bike.
When you swing a leg over a bike and it just feels natural, when everything instantaneously clicks and just works, you know you’ve found a keeper. While you might think that this should be easy to achieve, this natural feeling can sometimes be very elusive–especially with today’s fat bikes, for me personally. If you’ve read any of my diatribes about the calf-bang factor, you know that I have zero tolerance for poorly-designed fat bikes that painfully hit the body when pedaling. Thankfully, the Big Jon is currently one of the best 5-inch fat bikes that I’ve rated in regards to calf-bang, with an almost nonexistent rating of “1.” This is more than merely liveable, and is, in fact, almost unnoticeable for me most of the time. The rear end on the Big Jon is about as close to perfect as any fat bike that I’ve seen.
Not having any negative attributes such as calf-bang is one factor, but other positive attributes began to make themselves known as the test progressed. The Big Jon pedals well, with plenty of range in the 2×10 drivetrain. I found the 410mm reach (size medium), 619mm stack height, 60mm stem, and 740mm handlebar to create an exceptional stock cockpit that provided a roomy feel for powerful pedaling, yet a modern but moderate short stem/wide bar setup that made for confident handling when carving through twisty fattrack and bombing down snowy mountain roads.
Granted, the Big Jon doesn’t have a monopoly on excellent handling, but I have to mention how fantastic modern fat bike handling is getting… at least, overall. Tire designs and geometry errors from the first gen fat bikes are–more or less–being corrected, leading to better-riding fat bikes than ever before. The old fat bikes were slow to get moving, difficult to steer, and resistant to changing their direction of travel. Old school fat bikes preferred to move in straight lines: they didn’t want to turn. On the flip side, new school fatties handle like you’d expect any trail bike to ride: flowy, sinuous, carving through turns and flipping from one direction to another without a second thought.
After demoing the new crop of fatties at Interbike and Outerbike this year and then going home and riding my first-gen fatty, I knew that I had to get a new rig. After starting off my winter riding season on my old fat bike and then switching to the Big Jon after a couple of weeks, switching from my old fatty’s awkward, laborious handling to the Big Jon’s intuitive handling, reminiscent of a quality trail bike, was such a breath of fresh air, and a weight lifted from my back while riding.
I’ve had no issues with the drivetrain, brakes, wheels, or tires on the Big Jon. The Jumbo Jims have, thus far, performed admirably in the variety of snowy conditions I’ve used them in. Long story short: the Big Jon is an extremely well-though-out fat bike that checks all the right boxes.
So what could be improved? At $1,600 there’s no shortage of ways to improve the component spec with more expensive parts, but honestly I only had two relatively-minor gripes with the stock spec. I found that the rear hub engagement was very poor, but undoubtedly that’s a result of the affordable component spec to keep the price down. Personally, I may be looking at a hub upgrade in the near future.
Finally, I’m a little disappointed any time a bike is spec’ed with a non-clutch style derailleur these days. However, if you’re only riding in the snow and aren’t hitting any chunky trails, you honestly don’t need a clutch: riding groomed snow is a pretty smooth experience, and during my winter testing I didn’t miss the clutch at all. But when summer rolls around, a clutch would be a nice touch–although again, that would add to the price.
The Big Jon is an extremely well-designed and smartly-spec’ed fat bike for any price point–and especially when you consider the very reasonable $1,600 price tag! While obviously the components are on the affordable end, the engineer’s choice to bite the bullet and put the most modern, and slightly more expensive, standards into the frame mean that if you purchase this bike and want to upgrade some of the components as you go along, you won’t be limited in any way that can–at this time–be foreseen.
It’s rare for me to ride a fat bike that checks all my boxes and doesn’t irritate me in other categories. The Big Jon is so on-point and is so affordable considering the quality that it offers that I couldn’t resist: I plunked down my own cash and paid to add the Big Jon to my mountain bike stable. I’ve thought back, and this is actually the first mountain bike that I’ve ever purchased for myself. (I’ve bought other bikes, but never a mountain bike, actually.) If that’s not a vote of confidence in the Big Jon, I don’t know what is.
More Photos of the Big Jon: