It was not long ago that I was a young hard core mountain biker that wanted the best performance possible from a bike. At that time I bought a stiff aluminum frame bike with all the high chi equipment. This bike was great! Fast turning, quick acceleration and precise in thigh singletrack. Three year of hard riding, racing and the compression of my lower vertebra, my opinion changed. I was still a hard core mountain biker, but I was in search of a bike that would handle just as well as the aluminum bike, but would allow me to stand up straight after a hard ride. I had owned a full suspension bike from the early '90s that was a pogo stick with tires that weighed as much as my Honda 750, and did not want to go the full suspension route again. I know that changes had been made in full suspension bikes but was just not ready for another lounge chair with wheels. The search was on.
Enter the Merlin Fat Beat
At first look the bike looks like the other bikes in their line, shiny titanium, good lines, great weld, yada, yada, yada. But at closer inspection you notice the big change,
a little Moots rear suspension thing-a-ma-bob. This suspension unit is tucked in the rear triangle and is so small you don't notice it at first glance, probably because unlike other suspension systems, there are no pivot points. The rear suspension works off the natural flex of the titanium chain stays. This is matched up with the perfect marriage of front of the Cannondale Head Shock. The rest of the components on the bike were made up from the typical Shimano XTR component gruppo. Together this bike tipped the scales at less that 23 lbs., not bad for a full boinger!
On the trail.
I have been riding the Fat Beat now for the majority of the summer and just have one thing to say, WOW! The bike is just what a 40 going on 16 year old hard riding mountain biker needs. The bike handles the New England singletrack with ease; one adjustment I had to make was to use more steering and less bike angulation when cornering at speed. This is a common difference between aluminum and more compliant frame materials. I'm pleased with the precise steering that came from the front Head Shock. This seemed much more precise than the independent leg action that traditional shocks have. Climbing was a pleasant surprise; I envisioned a bobbing rear end while pushing the middle ring up the hills, but not so with the Moots rear end. While there was some movement, it was unnoticeable to me, the rear wheel just bit and up I went. Down hills were fantastic, while it was not the downhill ride of a full-blown suspension bike with 4" of travel, the 1.5 inches of travel took the edge off and unlike the aluminum rocket my fillings were still intact in my mouth. The most pleasant surprise was after my first race on the Fat Beat, a two and a half-hour monster, my posture was upright not hunched over like Cro-Magnon Man.
The Merlin Fat Beat is one hell of a great ridesmooth, great handling and just enough rear suspension to take the edge off. I would recommend this bike to anyone who rides cross-country, wants a responsive ride but still wants to be able to walk the next morning.