“This has to be a bike that we want to ride. If I’m out in the middle of nowhere, is this (bike) going to help me at all? That is what really drives the design process.” – Bill Fleming, Owner
As many of you know, fat bikes have vastly evolved since Surly released the first production fat bike, the Pugsley, 10 years ago. Before they even threw a leg over the Pugsley, Bill Fleming and James Stull had a vision after they found themselves walking their bikes on the Sustina 100 in 2004. A vision that started with a bike shop and quickly transitioned to purchasing 100 fat bikes, starting fatbikes.com, and surviving the number of industry standards. Bill and Jamie are racers at heart, so developing a bike that was race friendly yet comfortable for long races like the Iditabike was their original plan. They soon realized the majority of people just wanted to continue to ride bikes in the winter, not necessarily race. So a few tweaks were made to their bikes, some were industry driven others were consumer driven. As a whole, a few things have held true with 9:Zero:7 rigs, they have continued to develop their bikes with longer chain stays for stability in snow, as well as the ability to accommodate the largest rim and tire combination available. These two factors alone are why I was a fan before I even hopped on the Whiteout last year.The Whiteout is 9:Zero:7’s ultralight carbon race rig. The Whiteout frame geometry was taken from their popular aluminum version that comes with their bent top tube, 197mm rear spacing, and a 135mm spaced carbon Whiteout fork. With sleek black paint and lime green accents that catch the eye, the frame and fork alone are a thing of beauty. They weigh in at a collective 4.35 pounds. We tested the closest thing to their AK-15, which is sold on their sister site, FatBikes.com. The bike is stocked with 45NRTH Dillinger 5’s and Sunringle MULEFÜT 80SL rims that are laced to their own 197mm and 135mm fat bike hubs. The bike came stocked with a Sram X1 rear derailleur, cassette and shifters along with a Race Face Turbine crankset and Race Face 32 tooth chain ring. The stopping power is produced by Avid BB7 mechanical brakes and 160mm Avid rotors. Truvativ stem, bars, post and a 9:Zero:7 saddle round out the parts. Performance: As far as size is concerned, I typically fall right between the medium and large range, and I did again with 9:Zero:7’s size chart. When this is the case I typically go up a size. However, for fat bikes, I have realized that going down a size is usually best. After consider stand-over height in snow, and maneuverability when descending a hill that is slick, icy and unpredictable – at 5’10” I feel more in control on a medium, rather than the bike constricting my movements. While I do believe 9:Zero:7 had good intentions on the bend of the frame for stand-over height and hop on clearance, I found myself standing beyond the bend due to saddle interference. Whether their decision to place the bend there had a direct implication on performance or ride, I do not know, but I do think the bend could be in more of an appropriate position if not. So does it ride as well as it looks? Absolutely. After riding a titanium and steel fat bike the first half of winter last year, I got on the carbon Whiteout and was quickly impressed by it’s acceleration, and stability on local groomed trails and overall maneuverability. I didn’t have the drag like I always do on my Moonlander, the Whiteout responded as soon as my foot pushed on the pedal. But where it exceeded my expectations was the crud – the soft and dry snow conditions that we have in Colorado are demoralizing. Because of the longer wheel base, the bike traveled through the crud with ease, especially with those amazing 45Nrth Dillinger 5’s mounted to the 80mm rim. The carbon frame, thru axles and carbon fork all combined to give a stiff and efficient ride, one that is near perfection on the white stuff. The Sunringle rims were a nice complement especially when the bike took to more dirt and the tire pressure was a bit higher. I did swap between 90mm Nextie Carbon rims and the 80mm Sunringle, The carbon rims added so much more to the bike as far as stiffness and pedal efficiency, and I think it is the way to go for riding on snow – but man did they make for a harsh ride on pavement and dirt. There are many people that dislike 1x drivers on fat bikes, but in this circumstance, it made sense for 9:Zero:7. As a race driven manufacturer, it eliminates the extra weight from the front derailleur and extra chain ring, all while keeping nearly the same gear ratio. It also looks fresh and clean with internal routing for front and rear shifter cables. I personally found the 32 tooth chain ring to be a bit too much for the steep terrain in Colorado, so I swapped it out for a 28 and it was perfect. On dirt and flats the 32 tooth seemed a bit more reasonable. Along with a 100mm BB shell which helps create the spacing for wider rims and tires, I never found my heal hitting the chainstays. Bikepacking Performance: There is no doubt the Whiteout was designed for the snow. As an Alaskan bike manufacture, 9:Zero:7 has seen first hand how popular winter ultras have become, even the fat bike race scene as a whole. Because of their race ready design, the bike and their race team has seen success over the course of last winter. I found the whiteout to be a great desert fatpacking rig. The bike holds weight very well, an inherent benefit for not only winter but summer bikepacking. The efficient pedaling didn’t stop on the snow, even when it was weighted down, it sped when I asked it to. While the bend in the frame does take away from frame bag space, my Bar Fly Bag still held plenty of items, and a large frame would allow for even more space. If you decide not to rock a frame bag, the bike does have capacity to hold two bottles in the frame. 9:Zero:7 opted to design the carbon Whiteout without eyelets for racks, as apposed to the aluminum version. I’m not complaining as I am not a fan of racks. Another bikepacker friendly component is the Avid BB7 mechanical brakes. While the mechanical brakes are great, I do think there are mechanical brakes that preform better and are easier to adjust than the BB7’s. The stock stem 100mm and bars 700mm, were a little odd feeling, especially after being used to a 75mm stem and a 750mm bar. Thus, I put on an 80mm stem and some Jones H-Loop bars, and it let me hold a more upright and comfortable position for the long haul. I would recommend doing this, especially if you are heading out on a bikepacking trip with your whiteout. If you are in the market for a fast, efficient, and light race rig the 9zero7 Whiteout is certainly for you. If you are looking for a long distance bikepacking rig for summer or winter, just buy a frame and build it up with the components you have in mind. The frame alone produces a ride that translates all of its power to forward motion, and I think that is the idea Bill and James had. The vision they had back in 2004 has certainly come to fruition, becoming one of the industry leaders in fat bikes and the Whiteout has a lot to do with that.