The Watchman in a 26” full fat hardtail. No messing around with this plus size tire nonsense, I wanted to really try a full fat bike on the Mars and Baja like surfaces that Bootleg Canyon resembles. I headed out to the XC loop in a giddy “Hehe I’m riding a fat bike” manner and looked for things to roll over. I immediately thought the Rockshox Bluto fork was pretty great and it really was compared to the rigid bikes I had been riding that day. I charged the flowing XC course, giggled, and made motorcycle noises. I leaned the bike over further and further through the corners and it just stuck to the ground. The bike is no featherweight with a steel frame and alloy wheels, but it can still pop off rollers pretty well. It felt solid and planted, but hitting brake bumps was still a little jarring. I could hear the tread of the tires gripping the ground and I ripped around corners faster than I had before that day. The bike held its speed well so once I got rolling, it would keep rolling unless I touched the brakes. I slowly learned that the Watchman had not a care in the world about line choice. It rolled right over chunky gnar biscuits and just went wherever you pointed it. However, it was still a hardtail and it wasn’t as forgiving as I was expecting it to be.
All fat bikes have a wider than usual bottom bracket but during my relatively short ride, I didn’t really notice a difference in the larger Q factor. Pedaling felt pretty normal. This bike also has some nifty features like adjustable rear dropouts and the option to run an internally routed dropper post.
The Advocate Watchman is a brute; a strong, heavy, reliable, brute. I made full use of the pie plate cassette the bike was outfitted with. When I got up to dance on the pedals on climbs I was surprised how much the rear was spinning without holding traction. That could have been horrible technique, or just the super loose dirt as the trails were getting sort of blown out. Climbing up rocky sections was pretty fun because I had tons of grip and it would roll over anything I pointed it at within reason. I was really curious how it would handle on the sandy pits of the road heading up Bootleg Canyon. I was definitely slow pedaling uphill, but I didn’t sink into the sand. There was no worry of the front wheel cutting into the sand, and I never had to put a foot down because I never got stuck. I did use the granny gear which was something like a 34-42 when it got steeper. I can easily imagine that loaded down with bikepacking bags, I would need a lower granny gear. I’d probably go about achieving that by having a smaller chainring because I never used the top end of the cassette.
Once at the top of Bootleg Canyon, even higher than the saddle I had ridden to before, I dropped the saddle and proceeded to let the fun flow. I went down the Boy Scout trail and really learned that line choice doesn’t matter much on this bike. Chalk it up to poor bike handling skills, but I got off the line I wanted to take and went straight for a rough rocky section so I leaned back and hoped for the best. I got the best. The Watchman rolled right over the sharp rocks that I was sure would slice a tire and kept rolling. I was impressed. This lead me to take bolder and bolder lines just to see what I felt comfortable with. The trail was fairly pedally so I kept the seat medium high but low enough to move around over. I admit, I did get off to walk a few sections but I think I was the limiting factor in many of those scenarios.
Things I didn’t like.
The steel frame was definitely harsher than I expected despite such large tires. I guess I felt more of the trail than I was expecting to. I wouldn’t describe myself as a stocky person and my legs are pretty lean. On a few occasions I encountered what I’ve heard to be a common problem with fat tire bicycles and that is the seatstays. In order to accommodate such large tires, you need to have wide chainstays. My calves rubbed against the seat stays a couple times but it wasn’t enough to really bug me. I can see on a longer ride, It might bug me.
The fat bottom line, this bike was tons of fun. As I got tired and sloppy, it didn’t care and would just roll over whatever poor line choice I took. Despite the weight, and the harsh steel frame, I giggled for most of the test ride. I can see how this would be tons of fun if you lived in a sandy or snowy environment. Might be great for South Lake Tahoe, the beach, or the winter slopes. I wouldn’t chose it for the Tour Divide, Colorado Trail Race, or Arizona trail race, because that’s not what it was made for. I would chose it for a weekend trip of riding through the backcountry and taking in the views. If you’re comfortable riding at your own pace, enjoying your ride, crawling up and down everything, this bike is for you.
MSRP $2,799, sold as complete or frame only for $750. Head to their website for more details.
Click here for our review of the Advocate Hayduke.