Featured Rider – February 2018

Name? Shawn Chambers

Age? 49

Job? I’m originally an Automotive Engineer but, after 25 years of suspension design and vehicle durability testing, I’ve jacked it all in to move to the French Alps and run a B&B. We’re in the road bike mecca of the Oisans Valley right at the base of Alpe d’Huez, but you’d think we would see a fair few MTBers too, sadly not! In 2 years of being here only two groups of guests have brought MTBs and one of these never rode them.
Fortunately there’s a good crowd of locals here who do ride the trails and a few with fat bikes too. I’m flat out all Summer looking after guests so ride time is limited but from October to May it’s quiet, so plenty of time to have the trails to myself.
If I’m allowed a shameless plug then take a look at us – www.levelojaune.com (Editor: Truly shameless, Shawn)

Bike? Specialized Fatboy Expert 2015

Is it factory standard or have you upgraded? If so, why the upgrade? Specialized Command Post dropper. Brakes changed to Shimano XT.
It originally came with gripshifts which I can’t stand; at time it seems that everything did. If you were into fatbiking you liked gripshifts, craft ale and bourbon, and had a beard (at least some things don’t change). So they went in favour of a single X9 thumb shifter and I set it up 1 x 10 with an oval thick-thin 32t on the front. Big gearing but I had bought it for XC and trail centre rides with no plans to move to the Alps at that time.
All that was done at the shop before I even took delivery so I’ve no idea of the difference. Since then the chainring has gone down to 30t just in time for Fatbiking.eu Winter Camp last year and I’m playing with the idea of going back to the 2x set up.

What’s your tyre of choice and why? I’m still on the original Specialized Ground Control 4.6″ and happy with them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Tubes or tubeless? Tubes. I’ve got a 29er on tubeless and that’s a pain to seal so haven’t had the patience to try it on the fat bike.

If tubeless, do you have a top tip to share? Get an accumulator pump. A decent one too, I’ve got a home made effort for the 29er and it works as well as it looks.

How many other bikes do you have? Specialized Stumpjumper HT 29er 2010. Giant Reign 2 650b 2017. Trek Domane 4.5 disc 2015. Specialized Langster on 46/16 – not much use in the mountains! I can go about 5km up the road only so it’s the turbo bike.
An unbranded single speed that came with the B&B – fortunately the right size! Gets used for the pub/bread run. A 1930’s Terrot with chain stay derailleur and under crank tensioner, oil tank in the down tube and dripper onto the chain, tyre driven bell (like a dynamo) – random find in a shed when I moved into the B&B. BMW R1200 GS (does that count?!?)

How long have you been Fatbiking? Since getting my Fatboy in 2015

What got you into Fatbiking? I’d always liked the idea of it, I’m up for anything on two wheels from road to MTB, CX racing and touring. None of my mates had one and it was impossible to get a test ride as they kept selling out whenever a shop got stock. At that time my old Stumpjumper FSR was getting seriously dated so I needed something to ride with my regular XC evening groups, trail centres and even a bit of XC racing – I could only afford one decent new bike so this one was going to be used for everything.
I phoned the Specialized Store at Fort Dunlop with my credit card in hand and asked how soon they could get me one! I got on the waiting list and 6 weeks later I had one. In the meantime I went on a multi-brand demo day at Cannock Chase and got a test ride, fortunately it was everything I had expected and just made the 6 week wait seem longer!

What’s the worst thing you’ve heard said about Fatbiking? All the usual stuff! ‘Isn’t it heavy?’ ‘Isn’t it slow?’ ‘must take you ages to pump up those tyres!’ (oh, my sides are aching from laughing so much).

What do you like most about Fatbiking? The flexibility. I can ride pretty much any terrain with it. Pump the tyres up a bit and it’s an XC flyer, let them down a bit and it’s a wicked trail tool, and then there’s snow :-)

And the inevitable follow up; what do you like least? Fixing punctures! Because the tyres run such low pressure they leak so slow, and rarely go down out on the trail. If necessary I can usually top up and get away with it. Which means I often find my puncture the next time I want to go ride.

The best place you’ve ever ridden a Fatbike? And why? Anywhere in the snow! Fatbiking.eu Winter Camp last year was an awesome experience. Standing at the top of a snowy gully that I would normally ski down and thinking – “is this rideable? oh, what’s the worst that can happen!”

What advice would you give to someone wishing to buy their first fatbike? Just do it! Maybe get a test ride first though. Fortunately there’s places out here that have rental fleets of fat bikes now, so you can try it in the summer or winter, regular or e-bike.

If money and time were no object, where would your number one Fatbiking destination be? I’m already here! But Chamonix looked pretty awesome too.

Do you have any hobbies, outside Fatbiking? Skiing, snow boarding, XC skiing to keep up winter fitness. Road biking, XC/Enduro MTB, Via ferrata. Motorbiking. Drinking beer and talking nonsense in the pub.

Tell us some interesting facts about yourself.
I’ve run the 932 steps up Tower 42 in London in a furry panda outfit (for chariteeee, mate)
I’m a coffee snob, I can’t drink instant. I had no work at my B&B last winter so ended up working in the local craft brewery – happy days!
I’ve got a wood fired pizza oven and getting some decent results, current favourite is a creme fraiche base with goats cheese, honey and thyme.
I’ve got more pairs of shoes than my girlfriend but all of mine are for various sports, I think she sees this as a challenge!

Finally, and most importantly, toilet roll over or toilet roll under?
Over

Author: Damo

Bike rider. Ale drinker. Beard wearer.

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