The Cycle Life

First Look: Otso Voytek

At last, buying a fat bike doesn't have to be an investment for just a few snowy months per year

First Look: Otso Voytek

The versatile carbon Osto Voytek as tested. Photo: JJAG Media

If you’ve ever relished the squeak of fresh snow under huge tires or sent up a rooster tail of powder, you know that a fat bike in winter is a hoot. But buying a bike that’s optimal for only a couple of months in the year is a big investment that might exclude many from the fun. (Fat bikes can be ridden on dirt, of course, but they aren’t my first choice because of how ponderous they typically feel.)

Now, however, there’s the carbon Otso Voytek, which is hands down the most versatile fat bike I’ve ever tried. Not only can it run as a full fatty, with the widest fat tires on the market on 26-inch rims, but it also works just fine with both 27.5+ and 29+ setups. And while it’s available with a top-notch rigid carbon fork, the bike is suspension corrected for a 120-millimeter fork. That means this one bike is an awesome snow machine that can run as a plus-size hardtail to boot, without any of the other fat bike compromises.

What do I mean by compromises? Most fat bikes, due to the chain line issues and extra-wide bottom brackets, have an unusually wide stance or Q-factor (the distance between the outside of one crank arm to the outside of the opposite crank arm) relative to a standard mountain bike. This might sound like a wonky detail, but if you’re riding a bike a lot, a wide Q-factor can be a nuisance because it’s uncomfortable on the knees for riders used to narrower pedaling positions and the farther-out pedals are easier to bang on rocks and obstacles. Launched last September, Otso is a new brand from the folks at Wolf Tooth Components, which specializes in excellent small bike parts and component hacks—especially killer chainrings and 1x conversions. No surprise, then, that the company figured out a way to build the Voytek with the narrowest Q-factor of any fat bike on the market thanks to a slimmer bottom bracket and special chainring setup. The result: this bike pedals just like any standard MTB.

The other thing setting the Voytek apart is a rear tuning chip that allows you to adjust the chainstay length from 450 millimeters down to 430 millimeters. First off, 430 millimeters is an incredibly short rear end for a fat bike, probably the tightest on the market, which makes this bike feel as chipper as a standard hardtail. The adjustability is partly what allows for the trio of wheel sizes, but it’s mostly about ride quality: short is quick for trail shredding, while long is stable for sand, snow, and cruising.

The rest of the details are dialed, and the Voytek is a good value at $3,899 for a complete bike, no matter what setup you select. The drivetrain is a 1x11 Shimano XT, which is the most performance bang for the buck you can get. The brakes are also XT. The wheels vary depending on size: the fat bike comes with 26-inch Lithic Rhyolite rims laced to DT Swiss 350 hubs with 4.0-inch Terrene Wazia tires, while the 27.5+ and 29+ setups come with Race Face Arc 40 rims and three-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nics.

During the Outside bike test in Sedona, Arizona, we rode the Voytek in both 27.5+ and 26-inch setups and found it to be just as good as we had hoped. It’s nimble and compliant (thanks to the carbon) and an all-around good time. Climbing was a snap thanks to the super-short rear end, while descending felt rowdier and more confidence inspiring than you’d expect from a hardtail, courtesy of the 69-degree head angle and killer 120-millimeter RockShox Reba fork. In plus mode, the bike wasn’t as boisterous as, say, the Trek Stache, but it was close.

One niggle: Sizing is definitely on the small side. I’m on the fence between medium and large in most bikes but generally always ride a medium. In the Voytek, the medium was too tight—I’d definitely opt for the large. Look at the measurements carefully if you plan to buy, and consider sizing up.

If I bought this bike—and I’d very seriously consider it for the versatility—I’d run it as both a rigid fat bike and a hardtail 29+. The bigger wheel size would be the bike’s most raucous configuration, and I’m sad we didn’t get to try it. Otso offers an ace add-on feature for spare forks and wheels, with a 120-millimeter Fox Factory fork and 29+ Easton wheels coming in at $1,360. The complete package might start to sound spendy—unless you think of it as $2,630 each for two XT-equipped carbon shredders.

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