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44 Bikes XXX Project Heavy : Radius Seat Posts of the 30.9mm Kind

So it all started with this bike:

Hamilton's Long Travel 650b

This was a request from a client in England. Long travel. 650b. 12mm TA rear. Long front center. Short stem. Short Stays. 30.9mm Dropper Post. Those last 2 things required a 1.375″ O.D. radius seat tube. That’s a significant hurdle to overcome. The nice part, was this frame was commissioned for a delivery date 1 year out to be picked up on a trip across the pond. No problem? Maybe… So I set about between builds slowly going about figuring out how to formalize the process by which I radius seat tubes, make it repeatable and accurate AND make them so they do not have kinks or ripples or take on a “D” Shape. That’s a HUGE ante to up. But I’m up for a challenge and a long time ago, I figured it out with 1.25″ O.D. tubes (and was one of the only ones with the ability to do it smoothly I may add). That method has been kept secret. TOP SECRET in some circles it would be labeled. This is Apollo Missile plans kind of stuff in the custom mountain bike world perhaps. So I employed Drew from Drew machined the pair of dies I designed for part of my bender I dubbed “Project Heavy”. One 1.25″ die and one 1.375″ die. After a few weeks of machine time on my end I was ready to attempt my first bend. No go. The original plan was creating a bulge/ripple as the dies moved across one another. So it was time to make some modifications. On I plodded. Try after try. Still a No-Go. This was months of work just not going anywhere between builds. Slow and steady though. Keep on keeping on. Make a mistake, learn something, make modifications, try again. Well… the window to make my clients bike was starting to get close. We spoke and he was a bit disappointed, but knew I put forth a maximum effort. Honestly, I was running out of time and I had to shelve the project to let things stew for a while.

So a few weeks ago, I was doing some thinking one evening and a light came on. Project Heavy was back on kids. So after this last build (a 29″ Rohloff headed down to Circle A for some paint actually… I’ll get to that one in a few days!), I fired up the mill and went at it tooth and nail. We were making chips. Lots of them. An initial test late last week gave me some light at the end of the tunnel (it wasn’t all the way done, but done enough to make the parts move a few inches). Literally I was in outer space on a mission to the moon and now it was time to turn around, and head home for re-entry. This evening, after a day in the shop: SHIT. GOT. DONE. I was ready. A little bit of prep and this was the result:

Nice and Smooth

If you look closely, about 1″ from the far end you can see a slight indent where the tube was held. The good news is that is a cut off and is the bottom bracket shell end of the seat tube. I have a modification I will make to the tube holder part of my bender I made that will solve this I think – that will get done when I return from Thanksgiving travel. But the good news: The entire beginning, and end and everything in between is wrinkle free, no bulges, no dents, no distortions, no “D” Shapes. Just a nice smooth continuous radius. I’ll note also that these are repeatable. Check that out:

1.375" Radius Seat Tubes...

Another angle. You can see where they were held in the shot below:

1.375" Radius Seat Tubes AND they're repeatable...

What’s nice about a 1.375″ O.D. Tube? Well, 30.9mm seat posts AND 30.9mm Dropper Posts in a radius seat tube so no compromises in handling have to be made if a client specifically requests dropper posts or the application requires a larger post for more aggressive riders (I have one now actually…). That’s huge. Not only can I achieve all these goals, I can do it in house right here at 44HQ. I don’t know of many others with the ability to do this. Here’s a shot with a 1.375″ O.D. seat tube using Paragon Machine Works 30.9mm I.D. seat post collar (Part No. MS2019):

1.375" Radius Seat Tube + 30.9mm Seat Collar

It would be fully pressed in place and welded along that seam which is exposed. I will end up making my own which are 4″ in length (I will also speak with Mark at Paragon to see if he has any plans on making a 4″ long part). The other thing is I wondered about Titanium. I’ve been long at it practicing now and again. But one of my goals if/when I do offer titanium is to make my bikes like I make them now. Again: No compromises. That means making radius seat tubes in Titanium. That’s another hurdle. When I finished the above I was beyond stoked. Hootin’ and Hollerin’. Did you hear me? Maybe you didn’t because I had the Ramones way up past 11. But I digress: I have a few samples of titanium on hand, but I didn’t recall that anything I had was 1.375″ O.D. Went up for dinner… then it hit me: YES, I do have a 1.375″ O.D. piece kicking around. Back down to the shop stating to my wife Lynn “I’ll only be a few minutes.” to which she replied “Yeah right, you’re never down there for just a few minutes”, laughed and wished me well on my way. Back down in the shop I went. Set everything back up again and BLAM: That ain’t steel on the far right kids…

That one on the right is different...

But before you get all in a twist about 44 Bikes XXX Titanium, let’s take a deep breath here. Titanium’s still a ways out. But, and there is a huge BUT: This little radius tube of titanium gets us that much closer to making something possible.

That ain't steel...

I’ll leave you with that one up above. I’m pretty damned stoked right now. Actually well beyond stoked. I don’t think I’ll be sleeping much tonight actually. It’s taken close to a year to get here and make this possible. Stay tuned. I have a few more tricks up my sleeve…

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44 Bikes XXX FAT : My Ride · Part 2

Fat XXX 44 : 40

So by now you’ve hopefully read through PART 1 of this Fat Bike Saga. Welcome back – if you haven’t though, you really should read that first as it gives you some back story with where I have been, and how I came to arrive where I am now. Up above is where I am now and as noted in the previous post, below in the next 4 images is my Fat Bike Prototype #3. I rode this throughout the entire season of 2013. I built it using Paragon Machine Works Sliders to really hone in on chain stay length and wheelbase as it related to two different wheel sizes (5″ fat and 29+) as well as what happens when conditions change throughout the season of winter and snowfall, is there an “ideal” chain stay length coupled with head angle, bottom bracket height and tire size? What’s interesting is I started long, went short and then kind of fell somewhere in the middle. What I really found was that when the wheelbase got shorter, the ride naturally got a little more choppy, traction was good, but handling wise, it felt as though a little more length would help to stabilize the handling characteristics in snow. Shortness didn’t really equate to the quickness that is related when out on dirt like it does on a 29er for example. The biggest factor was really dialing in where the riders center of gravity needs to be. Lowering the bottom bracket even more in the above build made a huge difference getting myself physically even MORE into the bike. I found by lowering the saddle height, I was figuring out where the saddle really needed to be in relation to the bars for me, and with this build, I could get it where it needed to be and still get proper leg extension. But again, more set up refinement from brakes, to cranks, chainring choices and tire choice and air pressure.


You can see how things really started to get dialed below:

44 Bikes XXX FAT : 5" Fat Mode

44 Bikes XXX : Details

44 Bikes XXX : FAT

The big thing with this one above when compared to the next beast I’m about to show you is rear end spacing, fork setup and head angle (I think I’ve got the bottom bracket drop nailed). You’ll note that I’ve swapped over to flat bars from risers too. Still sporting mechanical actuated disc brakes. Why? Hydro’s have been known to stick or become slug gist in really cold weather and yes, I’m out there when temps dip well below 0. I want my brakes to work when I need them. A big part of riding in cold weather and snow is also your gear setup on your person. (I’ll get into this one sometime this winter btw.) With setting up all the tooling for fork production, I am now not beholden to what is on the market – now I can create exactly what I need to deliver the ride characteristics I want given the terrain and usage. So here goes nothing:
FAT XXX 44 to 40
FAT XXX 44 to 40
Right out of the gates we’ve moved from 170mm rear axle spacing to a 190mm rear axle spacing powered by Industry Nine Torch Hubs mated to HED’s Big Deal rims (Tubeless…). This is an 85mm rim and really opens up the tire profile. That 5″ tire now is a monster – if it wasn’t already! Race Face’s Turbine Cinch cranks sport a spider less 30t chainring (will be ridden with both a 30t and 28t setup as I want to see what the best balance is for this new to me XX1 1×11 drivetrain). Race Face’s cinch platform actually has two spindle options for both 170 and 190mm rear end spacing. Out of the box, these suckers mount up smoothly, an offer GOBS of clearance between chainring to chain stay, and crank arm tips to chain stay. The spindle on the 190mm version is massively long. So much so, I could have honestly given myself more clearance at the chain stay / tire area (next time right?). The I9 sports an XD driver to accept Sram’s XX1 cassette. Top end is a 42t cog and mated to a narrow wide chainring and appropriate X1 rear derailleur which has the same tooth profile… AND has the correct chain line, any chance of tire rub to chain is absolutely gone. Chain crossover from the previous version is just not present like it was (another thing to note with shorter chain stays…). Bottom bracket is low. With sag in tires compensated, it sits around 11.25″. Parking lot we’re looking more like 11.5″ bb height. Yeah. That’s low for this neck of the woods but it really sets the stage for technical trail riding IN THE SNOW. Head angle was slackened up, and I moved from a 450 axle to crown measurement up to a 460mm A2C. A little change brought the bars almost dead even with the saddle. Gone are the sliders. Hope does duty for keeping the wheels in place while Avid BB7’s do time with stopping power. Simple. Clean. They work in any temp’s and they’re black…
Fat XXX 44 : 40
Fork is sports a tapered steerer. Chainstays are flattened for added lateral stiffness and both are formed appropriately to add heal and tire clearances. Internal cable routing keeps the top tube running clean. Head tube is matching 44mm. And what’s this? A Cane Creek 40 Series head set? Actually, I have a Cane Creek 110 sitting here as it’s replacement. But here’s the story on that: I had a King I7 in there before. Swapping parts from the previous guid it seems that the top cap cover assembly just would not want to let go. A mallet was involved to get it to break it’s death grip… Everything went back together easily enough but when it came to putting that top cap cover assembly onto the new set up, the green rubber o-ring JUST WOULD NOT COOPERATE with me. I think I was at it for over an hour even making a special shim out of composite material to help compress the o-ring back into it’s position and maybe JUST maybe, get the heck out of the way and let me slide everything back together. Well… that just did not happen. So out came the King (almost threw it out my back door as far as the eye could see) and in went the old trusty, beat to hell but still working smoothly Cane Creek 40. And you know what? That top cap cover which sports a slightly different o-ring compression assembly slipped on slicker than snot. So thank you Cane Creek. I am now officially a REALLY loyal customer (don’t get me wrong-I’ll put a King on for you if you must have it, but from here on out, I’m pushing Cane Creek…). So that clears up that debacle.

But here’s the funny news: I found that a chain stay length of 17″ both in snow as a 5″ fatty and 17″ as a 29+ trail bike kind of were the best of both world scenario. Wheelbase was long enough to maintain good stability in snow, but with 29+ wheels in place, I found that the choppy feel was gone and there was this incredible “smoothness” that appeared. Like buttery smooth and very unique in combination with that lower bottom bracket height. This really set the stage last season for how this bike above was forged. What I’ve been doing is slowly stretching out the wheel base, lowering the rider center of gravity, pushing myself down and into the bike and getting that front wheel out in front of me to promote that float. With all this the spec of components has really changed dramatically as technology AND options for fat bikes really has come to reality. Much lower tooth count chainrings are available with a really diverse cluster of cogs in the rear. 190mm spacing for 5″ tires gets the tire rub issues and chain crossover issues wiped clean (chain stay length also played a big role here too). Yes that tire is getting close to the seat tube, but again, there is still lots of clearances down there in every which direction (image is deceptive, but above the tire is more in line with how the clearances look all the way around the tire):


In summary: I can’t wait to ride this bike when the snow comes. The snow naturally can wait. But I’m feeling really ready and confident with this refined set up this season. Flat pedals (45 North Helva Pedals) will be employed – not the crank brothers you see in the pics. A left over from displaying this bike at the New England Builders’ Ball and naturally, forgot to swap them out when I took the pics! The real big things to consider when looking at all these fat bikes I’ve built is this: Bottom bracket height, wheelbase, chain stay length, saddle to bar height comparison, tire size and tire pressure, head tube angle, rim width, rear wheel axle spacing depending on tire size, and last but not least: TIRE PRESSURE. Out of all these, if I were to pick a top 3 in order it would be: Bottom Bracket height in relation to rider center of gravity, head tube angle in combination with fork rake/length and tire width in combination with pressure as per conditions. Those 3 in that order have the biggest impacts on how a fat bike handles. From a “stock” look, the rider has more control over the setup, wheel choice, tire choice and tire pressure as well as drivetrain gearing. You can really dial things in just with the component spec actually no matter what the actual geometry is.

My spec has been pretty nit-picked and dialed over the course of several seasons. I also was refining my approach too as new components and needs actually came into production, so in many ways, what I’ve been doing was sort of at the fore front of what was available at the time and what I had at the time. As things became available like true 1x setups, larger cassette cogs with more teeth, bigger, wider tires with more bite, wider hub spacing, etc. I was able to incorporate that with what I was building immediately. Build. Ride. Repeat. In that order. But what you see is years of selection, use, refinement and more use. I choose components that work for what I’m riding. Carbon takes the sting out of the contact points so it’s a must for me on all my builds when it comes to handlebars and seat posts (ENVE is the only choice IMO). ODI Yeti Lock-On grips offer a really aggressive and soft compound that is tacky enough to work in many conditions, but soft to keep my hands happy for long miles. They wear well and don’t twist. These are made in the USA. (Look closely, it’s printed on the grip). Thomson takes care of stem duties with their X4 mountain stem in a 90mm / 0 degree rise offering. Black. Simple. Beautiful. Made in the USA. Saddle was a bit of an experiment but I’ve come to like Selle San Marco’s Zoncolan. Salsa keeps my seat post from slipping and I typically swap this one out in the winter for a quick release type just in case I ever need to drop the saddle to gain a lot of traction when conditions change that much where tire pressure changes, and weight distribution changes are at their limits. Tread wise, Surly’s Bud/Lou combination is THE combination. I know Schwalbe has a tire out, but first glance the knobs look like they are very spaced out – is that a lot of dead space and traction issues? Don’t know. But maybe I’ll get a set and try them out. Maybe not. Drive train this one’s a Sram 1×11 (and a mix of X1 and XX1). I’ll test out different chainring sizes and tooth counts throughout the season. I’m really curious about the ability to go tubeless with this setup and what that means regarding losing an extra 2 pounds which puts me into the 27-28lb range… That’s a game changer right there with how this bike will ride and feel.

So yes, there’s more to come. For now, over the course of several seasons of riding straight through the winter and into the spring, I’ve tuned, refined and honed each build to perform better than the last and passed on what I’ve figured out to my clients. I’m just that much more informed when someone comes to me with a set of wants and needs, I can stand on my own experience and help steer them towards Fat Bike bliss and hopefully, to look for short cuts of their own…

Notice: First Tracks All Day Long

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44 Bikes XXX FAT : My Ride · Part 1

Big Wheels

This will be the last installment of my “Why I build What I Build” series. This one is on my personal fat bike. To understand where I am today, and where I am headed actually with the next iteration of this monster, we need to discuss where it is I came from. I grew up in Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia in a small town named East Greenville. My home was a half a double located on good ol’Jefferson Street, exactly 1/2 mile from my front steps to the front steps of my middle school (Upper Perkiomen). The town is composed of the roman block system. Alleys, streets, a main street and of course lot’s of short cuts. These short cuts were the spots where, for what ever reason, as kids my best buddy and I decided we’d cut down on time to and from some destination. Not really a short cut at all. More like here’s a spot where we can get off the sidewalk, and tear shit up for a grand total of 5 seconds.. maybe 10 seconds. But it was mayhem on a bicycle basically. These short cuts also of course meant curb hopping. Jumping anything and everything. It’s that notion of the “short cut” that reminds me why the heck I love riding bikes so much. It’s about bending and breaking rules. It’s about laying into turns and pedaling hard. “See that? Let’s see if I can clear it…” There’s spirit in all of that. A little on the reckless side, but just bordering “under control”. Maybe not – best to push hard and think about the consequences later. So these short cuts I speak of, well those translated into longer rides out of town. Getting off the beaten path, getting off that proverbial sidewalk perhaps. Again, no rules. Just make it up as you go in the pursuit of fun and adventure. Summer would pass. Fall would lead to winter and snow would put the bikes in hibernation until the following spring. Before long we were out bending and breaking rules again on a daily basis. Bikes were the conduit for that.

Fast forward to when I first threw a leg over a mountain bike and that spirit of the short cut bit hard yet again. Again it was about making it up as you go. Throw some caution to the wind, push hard through turns and spot something off down the trail thinking “I can clear that…” And so it went. Season after season. Bike after bike. Year after year. Always having to store things away once the snow fell. I’d be crawling out my skin by February wishing and hoping for the snow to melt. Then along came this sucker dubbed a fat bike. Right around this same time I was starting to build my own bicycles. Fat bikes just oozed that short cut feel. No rules. All seasons. Bikes and buds that end with cold suds. This opened up a chance to actually ride all year round, straight through the winter and into the spring until the snow melted.

I had to make one. I couldn’t NOT make one. Fat Bikes really break all the rules. There’s nothing conventional about them. Just like spotting that short cut, Fat Bikes beg you to “See that? Let’s see if I can clear it…” Below is that first iteration.


And then a crank swap after riding it up hill…

Big Boy

Not knowing where to start, I built it like a mountain bike. I wanted to see how that geometry worked on trail with big tires and then, on those same trails covered with snow. Why not? This one sported 70.5 Degree head tube angle, 2″ of bottom bracket drop, and 17.125″ chain stays (I had no idea where to start and did not know how far i could push these with that big of a tire). 3.5″ tires on about 70mm rims (more like 50mm rims). It was a great learning experience and just pure fun. As the season progressed and I was riding it in all conditions, I realized I needed to make some changes in the overall setup. Most important right out of the gates on that first ride in snow was the drivetrain setup and the tires. I was on a nate up front and an ENDOMORPH (Holy cow that tire was terrible). I swapped over to a pair of 45North Husker Du’s (just like the band!) and realized although they were much lighter, the tread just was not heavy enough. I just spun in place when the snow was piled high and deep. So below you can see the tweaks I made: No more clip less, flats only. Expanded from a 1×9 (terribly under gunned) to a 1×10 sporting a 36t in the back, but still the front being 32t, I felt as though a 30 or 28t up front would be better to utilize more of the cassette. Carbon White Bro’s Snowpack fork. TREAD was Nate out back and a BUD up front – that is serious meat. I also went wider to a pair of 70mm Rolling Darryl’s on set of Paul Component Rhub/Whub hubs (135mm / 170mm spaced).

White Brothers Snow Pack

Honestly, all this set up tweaking changed a lot of things and I started to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Geo wise, things were a off. The bottom bracket was just too high, the head tube was just not slack enough, but how high was it and how slack did it need to be? I did not know, but this is why you experiment and march to the drum beat of: Build, RIDE, Repeat.

Another view to compare with what I’ll show you next… You can SEE, really SEE just how big of a mother that front tire is. It’s huge. So big you have to twist the wheel to get it past the disk caliper. Excuse my french: BUT FUCKING-A I LOVE THIS SHIT.

Surly Bud up front

So with all this and a season under my belt, I built this sucker up:

New and improved FATNESS

Sparkle Red Fatty

So you’ll note that this still sports a guide. Right around this time, Wolf Tooth still did not exist and XX1 was just hitting the scene. But Wolf Tooth Components came to be and soon supplied me with one of their first production ready Drop Stop chainrings:


And a finalized build:


Again, yet ANOTHER game changer here. Really simplifies so much about the front end of the drivetrain and you know what? IT WORKS. But the big thing to change was a shorter chain stay length (16.5″ w/ a 3.8″ Nate mounted to a 70mm rim), slackened head tube angle, a little more length in the cockpit and a lower bottom bracket height taking the tires “sag” into account. Right around this time, of course also rolls out 29+. Well that meant this: The convertible concept of running Fat one season, and 29+ during another…

Trick or Treat? -  29+ Mode

Fat Mode

You’ll also note that I’ve made yet another crank swap and set up tweak. The elimination of the spider allows you to run a smaller than 32t chainring in a 30t chainring or even smaller like a 28t (pictured). Which coming from previous seasons, it seemed like this was really a restriction in a 1x setup for what was available on the market. I really needed access to a smaller tooth count chainring without having to resort to a crank which basically was a triple that you used the granny – which is a bit of a hack. Not to mention it throws the chain too close to the tire in some cases, which is yet another point of contention. So with this notion of “one bike to rule them all / IF I could only keep one”, I decided to build yet another pro to based around the 5″ fat platform and the whole wheel sharing idea (29+ and 5″ fat). The first ride out on the above, I immediately noticed the change in the higher bottom bracket height due to the different tire/wheel sizes. However, a 29+ wheel is a 30″ diameter and a 5″ fat tire is basically a 30″ diameter wheel. So building for 5″ would really make these two work together in harmony, in addition to float: 5″ is worlds apart in terms of float to 4″ of float. So on to the next iteration mid stream through the season but i built this one with sliders so I could really get a good handle on chain stay length, change in wheelbase AND tire size/wheel size when these things changed:

44 Bikes : Fistful of Fat

To bring you full circle, through the course of 3 prototypes and basically 3 seasons here is what I learned in a nutshell: When it comes to snow, fat bikes benefit from a lower rider center of gravity and thus a lower bottom bracket height. Head angle needs to be slack so that bubble of air is out in front of you promoting the tires to crawl up, over and then on top of the snow, wide bars help with an added layer of snow, gearing needs to be low (more teeth!) so you are pedaling, making adjustments as you go, mostly seated riding as too much power and you spin the tires. Tires need to be big, fat and heavy knobs. The deeper the bite the better. Wide rims spread the tires sidewall more vertically and open up the tire profile to add more stability. 5″ tires are a must with any sort of base. Flat pedals all the way.

This all leads us to PART 2…

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Those turned out A.O.K.

Seems I’ve been building a lot of forks as of late. Clients and requests all the same. Mostly fat forks of the tapered steel unicrown kind. Here’s a few that came together recently. All sport different Axle to crown measurements but all are 135 spaced with clearance for 5″ tires. Some are 15x142mm TA. We’ll see where the fat bike front hub standard ends up but for now, given the volume of 135mm QR hubs out there, I think we’ll be dealing with a few standards moving forward which include 9mm QR x 135mm, 15x142mm, 15x150mm. I think 4″ fat tires will settle into 170mm rear ends and 5″ fat tires will stay in the 190mm camp. Front will most likely be 9mm QR x 150mm rigid and suspension will be 15x150mm TA. (I’m sure there will be a 15x150mm TA rigid in there too then). But for now, I’ve got all the sizes and can build to what the rider would prefer. It’s just a dummy axle. Here’s some Fat Fork XXX for you all to enjoy…

Fork Fit Up

Forked Up

Fat Forked Up

15mm x 142mm TA FAT


Let's get in close...

Unicrown Welds

Patrick's 15x142 Fat Fork : 2.08 lbs As Pictured

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Next up : Huntsman

Ready for their final prep

Repeat customer coming back for a Huntsman to round out his stable. He had me build a 29er the previous season. So up above is pretty much everything you need to build a bike with the exception of the seat stays (I typically make those once the bike is all tacked together to get the bends exactly where I want them). Paint or powder is still up in the air with this one, but it will sport Sram Force 22, Stan’s new Grail wheel set, ENVE Cross Taper Disc Fork, Thomson Bars, stem and handlebars as well as seat collar and Cane Creek will pull head set duties. This ones classic Huntsman: Meant for gravel and longer group rides, a big nod to comfort and control with a mix of quick handling and relaxed feel. This isn’t a race bike but it would hold it’s own in the pack. Maybe even take the lead and show ‘em who’s boss… Few from the build as it comes together:

Bottom Bracket Assembly

Bottom Bracket Assembly

Let's get in close...

Paul's Huntsman All Tacked

Wheel Check

Seat Tube Junction Welds


Welding that Head Tube

Head Tube Welds

Bottom Bracket Welds

Parting Shot…

Getting her fill...

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Ray’s 29+ / Fat


Finished up Ray’s fat bike which will see most of it’s life in 29+ mode for now. Build is pretty strait forward with a set of custom wheels buit around I9’s 135/170mm Torch Classic Hubs and Velocity’s Dually Rims, Thomson Stem/Seat Post, Watson Ti Bars, Avid BB7 Disc Brakes, a mix of Shimano Drivetrain components with Zee and XT along with One Up’s 40t hop up kit, Race Face Next CF Cinch 170mm specific cranks all of which roll on a set of Surly Knards. 100mm bottom bracket makes room for 29+ easily and 5″ fatties are just another wheel set away. Ray’s got this one in hand and putting it through it’s paces. Custom fork to match with 15mm Thru Axle. First of it’s kind out the door here at 44HQ. I’ll let the pictures do the talking from here on out… Enjoy.

Let's get in close...

1x10 Drivetrain

ONE UP 40t Hop UP

Race Face Next Cinch


Fat / 29+

One last parting shot for good measure. One of my favorites…

Ray's FATTY in 29+ mode