Although the moniker of this webpage indicates that it is all about fat bikes, the idea really encompasses all two wheeled “fat” machines that are intended for off-road riding. Everything from enduro rockets to plus sized hard tails will get attention here. With that said, my first review has got to be about my personal fat bike! My Trek Farley EX. It used to be the EX8 (the aluminum version) but we will delve into the history of how that has changed. In sharing my experience with the Farley I want to cover the general pros and cons of the model as it has served me riding over the past couple of years. This post is more of my history with the machine vs.
THE BEGGINING OF IT ALL
The Farley EX is a fast, functional, full-suspension FAT machine that adorned it’s namesake from the late SNL actor Chris Farley (His family sued Trek over the name which you can read about here …). The bike itself came equipped with the whole gamut of Bontrager parts from stem and bar to seat collar. The drivetrain was a Sram GX 11 speed with an XD driver. Like the comedian, the name described a heavy set of wheels that bring a smile to one’s face; whether that be rolling in snow, sand, or charging over technical singletrack and jump lines. This bike can truly do it all. Despite the lawsuits from Chris’s family, Trek paid the price and the name is a true descriptor of the machine. The Farley leaves you with a grin that will last for days.
HOW I BECAME ACQUIANTED WITH THE FARLEY EX
I bought my first rendition of the Farley EX8 in July of 2017. I had just built my first fat bike the summer before and it was stolen from my backyard in broad daylight by some nefarious characters claiming to be from Century Link. My family and I were currently moving our possessions out of the house with plans to rent the casa and forge out on a year-long mountain bike road trip. I was literally taking my last load of stuff to our storage unit when these guys showed up. Long story short, the bike I had planned on taking was stolen and I needed a new bike for our year of MTB! I had been salivating over all of these full-suspension fatties coming onto the market and the Trek looked perfect. (Turner, if you decide to bring the King Kahn back to market I will be first in line!)
With a lifetime warranty on the frame and an aluminum option that I could beat up, what could go wrong? Well, a lot could go wrong, but I didn’t know that at the time. We set out on our road trip to our first few destinations with some chunky, fun-filled weeks of riding to tackle. With two bikes each for my wife, son and myself I thought I would be OK. My poor Pivot Mach 5.7 just sat for the first month or so wishing it wasn’t being neglected, but I just had so much fun on that blue beast. The 27.5 x 3.8 Hodag tires were an amazing mix of roll-ability and traction. It felt light and nimble. We were just getting acquainted! I couldn’t stop now!
A TIME WHEN WE WERE NEVER APART
With destinations like Flaming Gorge, Curt Gowdy State Park, the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Mah-Dah Hey trail under our belts there had not been any issues to that point. We ventured further east to Duluth, MN from the Crosby and Ironton area. A week at Cuyuna Lakes and few exploratory rides on the Traverse trail let me know that rock slabs and hero dirt were favorites of the Farley EX. We decided to have a downhill day at Spirit Mountain. It was one of the most exhilirating days I have ever had riding a bike. Watching my then 5 year old ride his 16”, rigid Woom down rock slabs and DH tracks was amazing. Even better was my confidence! The Farley EX8 was so inspiring that I took a few drops bigger than I ever had before. The Farley felt like a bike park monster truck! I had ridden a few bike parks previously, built some jump skill, and was one of the only riders that day hitting the large table top the resort crew had built at the bottom of the park. This bike seemed like it could handle anything.
That confidence was maybe a little too enticing. My tires were slim enough to just fit in the chairlift rack. They were wide enough that I didn’t notice the added suspension cushioning my bottom-outs on those drops and jumps. Hammering down the rocks of Calculated Risk maybe didn’t help as well. Either way, I had sheared the bottom shock-mount bolt clean off the mount. I was able to find a replacement at a local Trek dealer, but little did I know that this would be the beginning to a myriad of mechanical failures on the bike.
The trip continued on and I proceeded to fix and break the Farley over 14 separate warranty repairs, throughout the course of a year. I visited Trek dealers all over the country employing bike shop workers who helped me process warranty claims with Trek and get the repairs that I needed done. This did derail our plans a bit. I never thought that I would be camping in Poughkeepsie, NY. It was the closest Trek dealer I could find to our original plans for Windham Bike Park. That was the worst of it. We missed out on one destination because of my broken bike.
A CHANGE IN PARTS
Even though I had issues, the day-to-day riding was amazing. Asheville, NC wouldn’t have been the same without my Farley EX8 soaking the rocks and huge hits as I maneuvered down Black Mountain. Near the end of our stay in the Asheville/Brevard area my son and I visited the Reeb Ranch (owned by the Reeb MTB/Oskar Blues Brewery crew). I jumped off the teeter-totter like it was a boner log and sheared the lower shock bolt for a third time when I landed.
It was at this point that I realized the aluminum bolts that Trek had spec’d on the Farley (and many of their other frames) were not able to carry the loads that riding a full suspension bike requires. I ordered a titanium replacement and 4 years later that has not given me problems since. The rear shock rests on a floating lower link pivoting on the seat tube with the chainstays and is mounted at the top via a typical rocker link and is defined as an ABP suspension design. The vertical Fox Float ReAktiv shock (proprietary to Trek and evolved from the DRCV) and Rockshox Bluto both sporting 120mm of travel provided suspension duties and in conjunction with the fat tires made for a very plush ride. It felt like a 150mm travel bike and often rode very much like one too.
A short rear triangle meshed with more modern and slack geo angles meant a fun, playful fat bike that could be ridden year-round. The nimbleness of a trail bike and fat tires mixed with full suspension led me to ride bike parks, weekly trail rides, snow packed adventures and even a few sandy beaches. Within a few years of returning from our road trip I had finally toasted the frame.
A NEW LIFE
The Trek lifetime frame warranty came in very handy. I stripped the main rocker-link pivot bolts and rendered the aluminum frame useless. Trek had already stopped producing the alu frames so I found myself riding a new carbon frame. By this point I had replaced the shock a few times and also broken and replaced the rear wheel with a newer Bontrager rim laced to a DT Swiss 350 Fat hub. The star ratchet was the fix I needed to keep the wheel going and now I thought the carbon frame might be more compliant too. I had all new suspension linkages and automatically installed my titanium shock bolt. Then it was the rear end’s turn to break. I warrantied the bike once more and received a new rear triangle.
After a rowdy day riding Deer Valley with my local dudes, I ended with my Bluto fork separating the crown from the stanchion. That was a first for me. Hopefully a last too. I ended up “upgrading” my fork to the Manitou Mastadon. The Mastadon has been an amazing fork. I extended the travel to 140mm with the option to add another 10mm as well. The handling of the bike remained the same and everything held together.
A LASTING FRIENDSHIP OF FATTIES
Everything held together until October of 2020. With a move from Utah back to Idaho my family and I were getting used to the local bike park. I had finally enjoyed over a year’s worth of use without any major repairs. Rolling the blue Flow Trail with my family I blew my shock.
I know I am a heavy rider. The name of the website says it all. That said, the bike should be able to handle a 2 foot jump off a table top…even a cased jump or two. I have my suspension serviced regularly too! What I didn’t realize until later is that when I blew my shock I had also cracked the carbon frame around the primary, rocker-link pivot bolts. It didn’t look like much except a hairline crack in a circle around the bolts. I took the bike into the shop and sure enough, a cracked frame. Because of the pandemic it took Trek 5 months to get a new frame out.
It doesn’t appear that the Farley EX is sold anymore. Trek doesn’t seem to be selling the Stache EX either. I dig both of those bikes! I have my new fat frame built back up and have enjoyed a few rides on it. Within the last few years, I started running Maxxis Minion FBF’s and FBR’s which I like a bit better than the Hodags, but in the end the tires have felt quite similar to me. I just run Minions on all of my bikes. I like the familiarity. I have purchased a new all-mountain/enduro machine (GG Megatrail!!) so I won’t be riding the Farley EX at the bike parks anymore. I am not going to stop trail riding on it though. Hopefully I can lose some weight and we can find a harmonious point of lasting friendship without breaking….or braking much. Ha!
WHERE WE ARE TODAY
I don’t want a fully rigid…or even just a front suspended fat bike. Even if just dedicated to riding in snow, the Farley EX is far more plush and fun to ride than any other fat bike I have ever ridden. That’s not to say I won’t try others, I just enjoy suspension overall. I know the majority of fat bikers just want simple, rigid snow rigs. I truly enjoy the fat bike as an all season trail machine. In the end, the Farley EX is a monster of a bike! This review and experience is the catalyst for this Website and hopefully I can help others like myself find products that will last and bring smiles for miles.
My current fatbike setup below;
Bike: Trek Farley EX (Frame 2021 no change from 2019), Size Large, Internal Routing – No longer sold by Trek
Bottom Bracket: PF121
Rims: Sunringle Mulefut 80mm with 32 spokes – Tubeless
Tires: Maxxis Minion F-FBF, R-FBR 27.5x 3.8
Hubs: F- Bontrager 15x150mm
R- DT Swiss 12x197mm, Shimano HG Freehub
Stem: Bontrager Line 50mm
Headset: FSA IS-2 – tapered headtube
Handlebar: Bontrager Line 760mm
Grips: Ergon GE1
Brakes: Sram Level TL
Saddle: Diety Speedtrap
DriveTrain: SRAM GX Shifter and Derailleur
Cranks: Raceface Aeffect
Cassette: Shimano XT 11 spd
Seat Post: PNW Components Rainier IR 170mm, 31.6
Rear Shock: FOX Performance Float EVOL, RE:aktiv, 7.25″ x 1.875˝, 120mm travel – 1 volume spacer
Fork: Manitou Mastadon Pro – setup as 140mm of travel, 2 tokens
Weight: 37 lbs