Trek Farley 9.8 fat bike review

Versatile snow tamer that plays nice with two wheel sizes

Fat Bike Winter Guide
Our size medium/17.5 test bike tipped the scale at a wispy 23.9 pounds out of the box.

Our size medium/17.5 test bike tipped the scale at a wispy 23.9 pounds out of the box (click to enlarge).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Ultimate Guide to winter mountain biking, fat bikes, gear, apparel, lights and trainers. We are taking a deep dive into all manner of cold weather mountain bike gear, with round-ups and reviews of fat bikes, tires, wheels, apparel, trainers and more. To see all the articles, head over to our Winter Guide Hub Page.

Lowdown: Trek Farley 9.8 Fat Bike

With an actual weight of 23.9 pounds (size medium) and a $4700 price tag, it’s clear Trek’s top-of-the-line Farley 9.8 fat bike is no lumbering giant like its namesake, deceased comedian Chris Farley. Indeed, this carbon fiber snow tamer is race ready right out of the box. But is that thoroughbred pedigree enough to justify the price? Read our full review below to find out.

Stat Box
Frame: OCLV Carbon Brakes: SRAM Guide RS hydraulic disc
Fork: Rigid Carbon Cockpit: Carbon Bontrager Race X Lite
Weight: 23.9 pounds, size medium/17.5” Chainstay length: 440mm
Wheels: Trek Wampa Carbon (80mm rim) Headtube angle: 69 degrees
Axle spacing: 150×15 front, 197×12 rear Available sizes: 15.5, 17.5, 19.5, 21.5
Tires: Bontrager Hodag tubeless ready 27.5×3.8” Price: $4700
Wheel/tire compatibility: Up to 26×5″ or 27.5×4″ Rating: 4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4.5 Chilis-out-of-5
Drivetrain: SRAM X1/XO1

Pluses
Minuses
  • Light weight
  • Expensive
  • Fast rolling carbon wheels
  • Rough ride on technical terrain
  • Reliable and simple SRAM drivetrain
  • Minimal frame bag space
  • Horizontal sliding dropout
  • Narrow stock tires for soft snow
  • Expanded tire/wheel choice
  • Great brakes
  • Low standover height
  • Ample 1x gearing spread

Review: Trek Farley 9.8 Fat Bike

The first thing that jumps out about Trek’s top-shelf fat bike is the wheel-tire combination. While 26×4.0”, 4.8” or even 5.0” are the norm for these big wheeled beasts, the Wisconsin-based bike maker has taken a different tact, spec’ing the Farley 9.8 with 80mm wide 27.5 Trek Wampa Carbon wheels and 3.8” Bontrager Hodag tubeless ready tires.

For pure snow use, we love the light weight and efficiency of the fully rigid carbon fork. But if you're coming from a summer season aboard a 150mm trail bike it may be a rude awakening at times.

For pure snow use, we love the light weight and efficiency of the fully rigid carbon fork. But if you’re coming from a summer season aboard a 150mm trail bike it may be a rude awakening at times (click to enlarge).

The rationale, says Trek R&D guru and former Olympic XC racer Travis Brown, is that in their research in other industries such as agriculture and defense, they found quite a bit of field science and physics modeling that supported larger diameter wheels being superior to just wider wheels in rolling efficiency on soft terrain.

“This was supported by our own field tests and R&D that informed our decision to go with the 650b wheel platform for the 9.8,” added Brown.

Bontrager 27.5x3.8" tubeless ready Hodag tires fair well on hardpack or Nordic trails, but can get a little lost in deeper conditions.

Bontrager 27.5×3.8″ tubeless ready Hodag tires fair well on hardpack or Nordic trails, but can get a little lost in deeper conditions (click to enlarge).

But the Farley also hedges its proverbial 650b bet by making sure the bike could also accept 26” wheels and more traditional 4.0”-5.0” fat bike tires on 100mm rims. That means if you have the wherewithal to put together a fat bike wheel quiver, you can cover almost all the snow conditions bases. This was all achieved by a combination of widened bottom bracket width, ultra-thin chainstays, and an offset chainring that conspire to keep Q-factor in line with previous Farley iterations, but still maintain proper chainline.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Trek Farley 9.8 fat bike review »

About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.


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