Tuesday, September 4, 2018

1989 Fat Chance Wicked

I figured I'd kick off the #Thinningtheherd series with a bike that while vintage, and a mountain bike resides outside of the group of collectable bikes I'm working to reduce to a manageable level. As such I'm considering giving it a coveted 11th spot on the list of keepers. That remains to be seen though.

Upon moving to Maryland I noticed that there were very few mountains nearby and that in order to rack up any serious miles I'd need to work commuting into my repertoire of weekly biking. None of this was in the brochure... Naturally I parlayed this into a new requirement for a commuter bike, because bikes right? I knew I didn't want anything super roadie or high end mountain but did want something cool and vintage inspired. I remembered reading a bunch of reviews on the Wicked and everyone always described its ride as much more compliant than that of a Yo Eddy. While this doesn't really fit my MO for a mountain bike I thought it might make a nice commuter. So, as usual when the chance came to snag a nice 19" Wicked with a custom Igleheart segmented fork I plopped down the green and had myself the makings of a street sled. This particular Wicked is a somewhat hard to find 21" frame was welded by none other than Fat Chance's head welder Scott Bangston in June of 1989.

A quick rummage around the ole storage shed turned up a nice set of Mavic hoops, a salsa P7 high rise stem, some WTB dirt drops and Dura Ace bar cons. Aside from a hunt for some Shimano 105 Aero brake levers the rest came together quite easily and I was able to pull the bike together relatively easily.

Knowing that the commute didn't hold any significant elevation gain I decided to ditch the granny gear off the Shimano M730 cranks and keep the 34/48 middle and outer and toss on a 12-21 corncob freewheel with a Dura Ace 7410 rear derailleur for a semi sporty 2x7 combo. All in all the setup is pretty decent and unless I'm feeling tired I tend to stay in the big ring and row the rear to accommodate the occasional increase in grade or headwind as I round the airport.

The drivetrain looks clean and uncluttered and is quite functional for its intended purpose. I could probably tweak it a bit, but overall I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

This is my first bike in a long long time with anything other than a flat bar and I have to say I really like it. I suppose that a wider bar might be better suited, but hanging in the drops is pretty comfortable. I like to change up hand position from time to time and find that riding on the hoods feels a bit cramped. I suppose I could go for non period correct drops like Salsa Woodchippers and improve the overall ride position. Something I'm willing to consider.

While I might not choose the barcon shifters for an off road application they work quite well here and I like the feel and action of the levers. All in all getting to spend some time with this cockpit convinced me to try it on my upcoming steel WTB Phoenix built, albeit with non Aero levers and WTB shifter perches, so somewhat different. In terms of a commuter this setup is pretty dialed in and over an hour long commute I find versatile and comfortable. Not sure how I'd feel about any long distance treks, but luckily it's not something I have to worry about for now.

One of the big surprises of this build were the absolutely amazingly smooth Mavic hubs. These things are so underrated that you practically never see them used on older bikes. These hubs here are actually the road version rather than the MTB oriented Dakar models that can be found on older bikes from time to time. What they are is nothing short of phenomenal though. The bearings are some of the smoothest I have felt in a long time and the build quality and fit and finish are also second to none. I almost want to find another bike to build around these wheels... Maybe in keeping with the theme here I'll do a Mavic bearing build on the Team Comp...

One of the highlights of this build is the Igleheart segmented fork with a rifled steerer tube. The fork alone made buying this bike a no brainer and has proven to complement the frame superbly. The domed dropouts are a very cool custom touch and while they make removing the front wheel slightly cumbersome they give the bike an aggressive and yet still classic look.

While the Wicked could have been purchased with a segmented crown fork originally as a custom option it wasn't very common choice. The stiff quality of the fork would have counteracted the compliant nature of the frame which would be better complemented by a curved blade unicrown.

Chris Igleheart is largely credited with the design and manufacture of the original segmented Yo Eddy fork and is currently building the forks for brand new Fats built by Chris Chance and company. The quality of the craftsmanship on his fork is amazing and the fork is as beautiful to behold as it is to ride.

I always loved that little piece of web between the seat stays. It's a nice touch and in my opinion an easy to way to tell a Fat apart from other bikes, that and the bullet stay caps.

In terms of some storage and cargo capacity I mostly rely on the Oveja Negra frame and saddle packs with the Bruce Gordon rack only filling in on days where I need to take my laptop home. I really love the Oveja Negra products and would love to build a bikepacking bike someday with some of their larger capacity bags. Someday...

I had the Brooks saddle sitting around from another build and never really had a good use for it, but it really works here. Like I said earlier, aside from a few specific components and the bags I mostly built this bike out of things I had lying around and somehow it all came together to make a pretty rad machine. The tires are Compass Rat Traps and so far, aside from a couple snow days they've been amazing. Quiet, smooth, fast and light... just not cheap. I'd recommend these to anyone looking to cover some ground and do so in relative comfort. I'm running them at around 65-70 psi and the ride is nothing short of supple.

This bike was a surprise find, a fast and effortless build and a total thrill on the trail. I have made a couple small tweaks along the way, mostly to improve the cargo capacity and safety but mostly it has remained in the same configuration since day one. I was going to swap in some gucci brakes but decided that the M732s are fine for my purposes and left good enough alone.

So where does it rack and stack on the list?? Well, it doesn't hold a candle to most of my off road bikes on any aspect, but then again that's not why I built it. Prior to getting this bike I commuted on the Merlin and surprisingly I hated it. While I love that bike off road it was just terrible as a day in day out rider. Maybe it's like driving a Porsche in traffic, it's fine but all along it years to be out on the open road pushing the rec counter deep into the red. This Wicked however has no such problems. It and by extension I am fine ambling along through a crowded bike path, doding oblivious runners or in an all out sprint through a winding section of the trail. It's fun in the dry and poised in the wet and dare I say it looks freaking hawt! So, the final verdict is...


  1. Awesome build! Have you tried lower pressures in the tires? 65 psi seems too high to take advantage of them properly. They work really well at 35-40 for me, smooth and fast.

    1. Thanks. I might be off and will double check. Too many bikes, too much to remember. I didn't think I was running them that low though. Feels like they'd feel flat with my 220lbs weight???

  2. I'm 215 and they are pretty good at those pressures for me. They have so much volume that the lower pressure work pretty well and really smooth out rough roads. You might have to do 40 in the back. Play around with it...