Words and photos by Eli Santos (@lobodelnorte)
Howdy! My name is Eli and I’m a mountain guide from Vermont. I guide rock and ice climbing, and—after discovering BIKEPACKING.com—decided to mix my two biggest passions: climbing and mountain biking. The combination of the two came naturally, as they are both centered around human-powered movement. And both offer the opportunity to experience new and old places, but from vastly different perspectives. Having grown up in Vermont, I found myself feeling somewhat desensitized to the outdoor recreation opportunities the Green Mountain State affords. However, bikepacking changed that. Before long, class 4 roads, long-forgotten logging areas, and dense hardwood forests regained my interest as places for potential trips. I quickly became monomaniacal about riding my bike, and it became more than just a mode of transportation for me. I’ve always loved riding bikes, but after discovering the world of bikepacking and adventure riding, I was all in!
I bought my Why Cycles Big Iron this past winter, specifically for an ice climbing and fatbiking trip that my climbing partner and I had been planning for a long time. Though that trip was ultimately scrapped due to poor conditions, I had zero regrets about buying the Big Iron. I only ride metal bikes, and when looking for a fat bike I kept finding that they were either super shreddy or focused primarily on touring. I was looking for a Goldilocks bike that balanced the two disciplines, while still being light, since I would be carrying a lot of climbing gear. After looking at, comparing, and test riding dozens of fat bikes, I stumbled upon the Big Iron. I was hearing the praise sung for the Big Iron, as well as Why’s other bikes, so after agonizing over it for a couple months, I decided to make the jump. I was not disappointed.
As far as versatility goes, I have yet to find a bike that packs more into a single package. I’ve ridden my Big Iron unloaded on rocky, rooty Northeast enduro trails, and—though it might not be the optimum choice—it handled the task with aplomb. On the other hand, I’ve loaded it up, and ridden high-mileage days in total comfort. This is no doubt due in part to the geometry, but I also think the titanium frame construction prevents fatigue in different types of terrain. I just have to be careful, because I find myself hunting for harder lines than I might want to take on a fully loaded fat bike…
I usually have my Big Iron set up with a full frame bag and a couple of accessory bags for general commuting, local riding, and riding to go climb. However, for longer trips, or days when I’m carrying a full climbing rack, rope, ice gear, etc., I throw my Bags x Bird Goldback on the bars. It’s incredible to me how capable this setup is. The fact that I can take the weight of my climbing gear off of my back and put it onto my bike has completely changed how I access climbing areas. I’m lucky to live within 30 miles of some of the best climbing in the Northeast, as well as some of the best gravel riding and MTB trails in the country, and the Big Iron has totally changed my relationship with these areas. I’m going to throw some 29+ wheels and tires on this rig for the summer and see how it does. I love this bike, and I can’t wait for the future adventures that it’s going to carry me on!
- Frame Why Cycles Big Iron (Large)
- Fork Enve Fat Fork
- Rims 27.5 Sun Ringle Mulefüt 80mm
- Hubs Sun Ringle
- Tires Terrene Cake Eater Light 27.5 x 4.5 (120 TPI)
- Handlebars Enve M7 (780mm width, 10mm rise)
- Headset Cane Creek 15 Series
- Crankset SRAM GX 30t
- Pedals Crank Brothers Stamp 7
- Cassette SRAM XG-1275
- Derailleur SRAM GX
- Brakes SRAM Guide R
- Shifter(s) SRAM GX Eagle
- Saddle Brooks C17
- Seatpost ENVE
- Stem SRAM/Truvativ Descendant Stem (50mm)
- Front bags BXB Goldback (Small)
- Frame bags Custom Bedrock Full Frame Bag
- Accessory bags Revelate Mountain Feed Bag, Rogue Panda Alamo Gordo TT Bag
You can follow Eli on Instagram @lobodelnorte.
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