Winter was coming. So we got two sexy fatties from our friends at Drag Bicycles. We needed to continue doing our “where-no-bike-has-ever-been-before” thing. And sure we did. Boy was it fun!
First of all, we are based in the Balkans — that somewhat dodgy part of Southeast Europe, where semi-naked men drink heavy-spirited made-of-grapes Rakia drink since early noon (you gotta love them stereotypes). Having said that you have to know that it snows here. And I don’t mean the 10cm panic you get in London once every 7 years. I am talking proper heavy snow falls (3+ meters in the mountains) with temperatures dropping to -20 C. When winter comes you truly need to brace yourself. We braced hard and continued biking with what we expected to be the most convenient vehicle for the season.
To be honest, there is nothing more enduring, yet physically and mentally rewarding, than a proper biketour in those harsh white conditions. When I say harsh — I mean 1.5 meters of snow in a -15 C environment (we didn’t get the worse winter this year). The Drag Tundra was pretty reliable. Hard-forked, light aluminium frame (not big fans of aluminium for proper touring, but we had no issues here) with a total weight (bags-off) of 16.2 kgs — everything you need for the slopes.
Our fist trip was a 3-day tour around Pirin mountain. Despite the fact that we had some initial struggle with powder snow, reducing tire pressure to 0.9 bar really helped. However, we still had a lot of pushing around. Powder is just too hard to handle, even for the Drag Tundra. Hitting the trails however… this bike is floating like the USS Enterprise in-between asteroids (if you don’t get the comparison — it means I am too old).
Here is the biggest secret about the Drag Tundra — the tires (call me captain obvious). The Vee Rubber H-Billie 26x4.25 are …well…big! And it’s not only the size — the tread of the tyres is pretty unique — the button bevel reducing the resistance, is placed behind the buttons themselves, au contraire to the breaking edge (on the opposite side). It’s pretty crazy but it goddamn works. I can also point out the custom hand-build caps — 32 spokes for maximum endurance. Definitely do the job.
I am not a great expert on bike components but some of them were produced by Drag Bicycles themselves. The saddle, seatpost and saddlebar, the stems and the grips are all Cox (not what you think) — a company fully subsidised by Drag Bicycles. To be honest we are not looking at the greatest quality out there, but definitely does the job. In a combination with a Shimano Deore rear and front derailleurs, Shimano chain, cassette and shifters (all mid-level game) you get a decent bike. A decent and cheap fatbike — costing around 800 EUR retail price. For our touring purporses it did just fine. Even in Romania :)
We were very optimistic to try and ride out the Transfagarasan highway (not a highway at all) named “the world’s best road trip” by BBC Top Gear. Well, it turned out there is A LOT OF SNOW there. A lot even for our standards.
I guess we did approximately 1/3 out of the whole road — amazing, pure joy. Managed to test the fatties in very, very icy conditions. I mean if the bikes were good on snow, they were outstanding on ice. We have never felt so secure on a downhill ride — the pure fatness of the tyres gives you so much confidence (Ned slipped only two times — we have them on video but there is too much swearing, maybe next time)
Romаina turned out to be a real beauty and I can see how the Тransfagarasan can be the best road ever. We are hitting it again during the summer (no fatbikes this time).
Bottom line: The Drag Tundra gets flying aces on a snowy biketour trip. However, this is not your everyday ride as it could be very daunting on the uphills, especially with tires flattened out.