If you’re looking at a new fat bike this winter, you’ve got plenty of options. After waiting more than a year for the bike to come back into stock, and agonizing between the Trek Farley 9.6, I finally got my new Farley 5 in October. After a few months of riding and its first ride on snow, we’ve finally got a Farley 5 review for you.
The Best Laid Plans…
The idea was simple; get my new Farley 5 and race it for Iceman. Two small hiccups. The bike was incredibly tough to get over the past two years due to supply chain shortages. Fat bikes make up a very small percentage of Trek’s overall sales, so they naturally prioritized getting other models built and into stores first. That meant the Farley’s expected delivery date slid from March to August to October, perilously close to the Iceman Cometh Challenge in November.
The second hiccup was that I broke my collarbone.
The bike showed up two weeks before race day and, thanks to the guys at Brick Wheels, was built up with plenty of time to spare. My collarbone, despite the best efforts of Dr. Tom O’Hagan and his cordless drill, was packaged in metal but not quite up to the task less than 2 months after breaking it.
Still, I’ve been able to put in a decent amount of miles on the Trek Farley 5 since then, including 2 nice spins on snow. So, how does it stack up?
First, the build. The Trek Farley 5 is one of two aluminum frames in the Farley line-up. The 5 is the entry-level, fun-first fat bike with a nice mix of Shimano components. Here are the highlights:
- Frame: Alpha Platinum Aluminum
- Rear spacing: 197×12
- Fork: Bontrager Haru, carbon
- Drivetrain: Shimano Deore M5120, long cage
- Crankset: RaceFace Ride
- Tires: Gnarwharl Team Issue, 27.5×4.50”
- Trek Farley 5 Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
One big note here is that the Farley 5 does come with a TranzX dropper post. I’ve never done a rad thing in my life, so I asked the shop to yank that thing out and put in something they had laying around. Brick being Brick, that “thing” laying around happened to be an ENVE carbon seat post, which is likely the first and only piece of ENVE equipment I’ll ever own.
Since the guys knew a big reason for the bike is taking on the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series, they also put on a set of Bontrager Barbeghazis. The bike comes stock with Gnarwhals which many think are superior snow tires. They’re heavier by roughly 300 grams per tire, however, so I’m sticking with Barbs year-round.
Trek Farley 5 Chainring Size
This is another big one. Until recently, Trek claimed the largest chainring size for the Farley frame was 30t. The bike comes stock with a 28t, which might be fine for rolling around and having fun. But this was an Iceman bike, so we naturally endeavored to put the biggest ring we could on.
Flipping a 32t ring might have tweaked the chain line a bit, but it fit. Now, Trek does say the bike will clear a 32t; coincidence? Probably, but Brick Wheels should probably take the credit for simply trying it.
How Fat is This Fat Bike?
The official Trek Farley 5 weight is listed at 32 pounds, which puts it on par with most aluminum fat bikes in this price range. However, it’s easy to shave weight. I changed out the tires and seatpost, plus tossed on a -30 degree stem (I’m too old for that much drop but too young to stop doing it) and my bike is 29.5 pounds.
It feels fast. Trek Farley geometry is less slack than many other fat bikes, including Salsa’s Mukluk. That might make it feel twitchy to some riders in the snow, but I think it’s a good tradeoff if you’re planning to ride this bike all year. That quick handling is nice on dirt and in singletrack, and I do appreciate its precision on snow, where line choice is often the difference between riding and walking.
27.5” vs. 26” Fat Bike Wheels
Another big difference for me was coming over from a 26” wheel. I loved my Salsa Beargrease but was always curious about 27.5” wheels, which have become the standard for most manufacturers over the past 3 years.
Personally, I found the wheel size difference more noticeable in the snow than in the dirt. On snow, momentum is the whole game and having the bigger wheel and slightly wider contact patch made a noticeable difference. I don’t think it’s a big enough difference to rush out the door and buy a new bike, but it’s a small plus if you’re already in the market.
The Farley 5 comes stock with a 10-speed drive train. One of my maxims since leaving work at a bike shop (and losing my employee discount) as been to only ride what you can afford to fix. 10-speed components are usually less expensive than 11 or 12-speed alternatives, but there’s a catch. I’ve run into more trouble in the past few months finding 10-speed parts than I used. All of our local bike shops have been RAD about helping me source stuff when I need it, but 10-speed stuff might continue to dwindle.
What Else Should I Look At?
I debated between a Farley 5 and a carbon Farley 9.6 for weeks, but I couldn’t justify it. If was able to ride outside more often and if I was going to race the fat bike class at all the local races, I would have made the jump, but those aren’t realistic in the next few years. I also really like the Otso Voytek, but I definitely wanted to be on the same bike you could win by registering for the Short’s Brewing Fat Bike Series.
There’s no beating the Farley 5 for value. It rides like a carbon bike without the price tag and it’s easy to shave a few pounds if you’re looking to get under 30. Diehard racers and fat bikers might opt for the carbon build, but it’s a big leap price-wise. You’re going to be a Farley fan if you:
- Already have a bike (or two) for spring, summer and fall
- Don’t ride multiple days per week outside
- Commute on your fat bike (all that salt is terrible for expensive drivetrains)
- Just want a bike that feels solid
Make sure you take a Farley for a spin!