Dirt Rag Magazine

Trail Tested: Fyxation Blackhawk


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Fyxation might not be the most familiar brand to mountain bike riders, having started life focusing on the urban riding scene. Which is why this carbon fat bike came as a surprise from a company whose bike line is otherwise a fully steel affair.

I asked Ben Ginster, Fyxation’s marketing guy, about the decision to go with carbon for a fat bike. “A big driver behind carbon for the Blackhawk was our goal of producing a true four-seasons bike,” he says. “While steel fat bikes are a great entry to the fat-biking world, a carbon build allows you to make a sub-30-pound winter rig that’s quick when the snow is flying, but can also be a capable trail bike year round. We’ve done builds down to 23 pounds, which is feathery even for bikes that never touch snow.” Seems legit to me.

The Bike

The Blackhawk isn’t a Fyxation-exclusive design, but it hits all the targets of a four-season bike: modern axle standards (197/150), clearance for five-inch tires, suspension-corrected and capable of running 29plus tires on a second wheelset in the summer. Shift cables are internally routed through the top tube, and the 31.6-inch seatpost diameter is ready for a dropper post, but you are on your own for cable routing.

After consulting the sizing recommendations, I went with a medium (17- inch) frame and was comfortable from the get-go, but riders with long legs might need something longer than the stock 375 mm seatpost, as I was almost maxed out with my 31-inch inseam. The rest of the bike fit very well and was supremely comfortable from the jump—a good thing, since my first real ride was more than six hours long.

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The build kit is a smart blend of affordable and sturdy. Some standouts are the aggressive Surly Nate 3.8 tires, Sun Mulefüt rims and Hayes Prime brakes. I rode quite often in single-digit temps, and the Primes seemed completely unaffected. My tester was one of the first off the boat and was set up 1×10 with a 28-tooth ring, but future complete bikes will have a Race Face Cinch 2x crank with 22/36 chainrings. I was happy to charge on the 1×10, but when fatigue set in I was wishing for a double ring or a wider-range cassette.

If you aren’t happy with the stock build, the frame and fork are $1,795. Since Fyxation assembles this bike in Milwaukee, it is able to offer a custom parts program through its dealer network. From mild to wild, you can get almost anything you can dream up; from racer-boy builds to super-fat trail bikes with a suspension fork, Fyxation can scratch your carbon itch.

The Ride

As is becoming my wont with review bikes, my first ride was a doozy. Frozen Fat is a fat bike festival in Central Pennsylvania in January, and this year they added a 70-mile race to the fun. So after a few spins around the block to get saddle and bar height dialed, I slapped on some platform pedals for my winter boots and headed out into the cold.

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The Blackhawk is one of those bikes that I clicked with immediately. Geometry is a happy medium between cross-country and trail, and it’s easy to set up with a riding position that’s efficient and all-day comfortable, yet still ready to rip. The 69.5-degree head angle can’t be classified as steep or slack, and combined with the 18.4-inch chainstays and 11.8-inch bottom-bracket height, it makes for a stable bike that retains a surprising level of playfulness for such a long rear end. Some of that might be attributed to the bouncy nature of the fat tires, which can be timed to spring off and over trail features.

Where that long rear end and low bottom bracket pays off is on ice. I spent hours on unmaintained Forest Service roads that were nothing but miles of icy ruts. I went down plenty of times, but overall the stable geometry of this bike was appreciated, more so as I fatigued and began to lose focus.

On warmer days and drier trails, the Blackhawk is easy to get along with. On high-traction surfaces, the typical fat bike tire-squirm issues are still present, but I’m happy enough ripping around in the woods. There is plenty of room to run 29 or 29plus tires in this frame. I was concerned the taller 29plus tires would raise the bottom bracket to an undesirable level, but even another inch taller wouldn’t drive things into the tippy range and may actually improve performance in tight, technical terrain.

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What complaints I could muster are few. A single bottle mount on the down tube isn’t ideal for a bike that could be made into a cross-country racer, but the huge standover clearance is not a bad thing. With this build kit, I was surprised its weight was around 30 pounds. Going tubeless and losing the 27 tpi tires can drop an easy two to three pounds, or throwing money at carbon components can drop even more weight. And finally, that 197 mm rear hub has to be paired with a wide bottom bracket. Add in some platform pedals, winter boots, a low bottom bracket and long chainstays, and rocky, narrow trails can become a frustrating series of pedal strikes.

Conclusion

The Blackhawk may be one of the least expensive ways to get a carbon fat bike these days, short of dealing directly with a Chinese frame manufacturer. Of course that doesn’t make this an inexpensive investment, but the market is full of cheaper fat bikes, all the way down to $200 fat-bike-shaped objects at Walmart. With clearance for the largest tires on the market, what seems to be the settled-upon hub and bottom-bracket standards and the option to run a suspension fork, I wouldn’t expect this frame to be outdated anytime soon.

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The stable geometry is well suited to icy conditions and long rides, making this a strong contender for wintertime endurance racers. Most riders will be happy with it as a trail bike, although those used to modern trail-bike geometry may find the long rear end cumbersome in technical terrain. All in all, I had a smashing good time on this bike and would have no problem recommending it to riders looking for a lighter-weight way to get fat.

 Vital Stats

  • Price: $2,795 (complete), $1,795 (frame and fork)
  • Sizes: 15″, 17″ (tested), 19″
  • Wheelbase: 44.7 inches
  • Top Tube: 23.8 inches
  • Head Angle: 69.5 degrees
  • Seat-Tube Angle: 73 degrees
  • Bottom Bracket: 11.8 inches
  • Rear Center: 18.4 inches
  • Weight: 29.8 pounds
  • specs based on size tested

 

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