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Trek Farley 5 2021 Review | Best Value Fat Bike

Trek Farley 5 2021 Review | Best Value Fat Bike

It is my firm belief the 2021 Trek Farley 5 is the best value fat bike you can buy, one of the best fat bike series overall, and the best beginner fat bike.

This is my second fat bike and my second Farley. My first was a 2017 Trek Farley 7. It was a great build and I’d probably still have it if not for its terrible rear hub, which I managed to break on more than one occasion.

Highlights of the Trek Farley 5 are a dropper post, carbon fork, solid rear hub, and Deore drivetrain. For just over $2000, this is a killer deal. If you’re looking for a fat bike you will not be disappointed by the 2021 Trek Farley 

Trek Farley 5 2021 Review

My Build

farley 5
The Trek Farley 5 is a great build that doesn't need much extra.

My build is mostly stock. I had a Race Face Affect R 780mm bar kicking around and threw it on with a Race Face Turbine 35 100mm stem. The stock 750mm bar was too narrow for my liking.

I use flat pedals with my winter ride. I put Chromag Scarabs on this build. These pedals have been with me a few seasons: solid, grippy, wide, and the slight concave shape really holds your foot, even with thick winter boots.

I ordered an extra set of Rapid Drive freehub pawls, springs, and grease. Blown freehubs have always been my biggest recurring bike issue, especially on fat bikes. Although I hear nothing but great things about Rapid Drive, I opted to have spares just in case. (A quick note: the Trek Farley 5 comes stock with 6 pawls).

Now I’m just waiting for the sealant so I can do a tubeless conversion. I’ll produce an article on the process, as fat bike tubeless conversions are tricky. Safely running less than 5 PSI makes a big difference, especially when you don’t have studs.

2021 Trek Farley 5 Ride Quality

trek fat bike
The Trek Farley 5 is a nimble fat bike.

The Trek Farley 5 has great cross-country (XC) geo which is perfect for snowy fat biking. Steep head tube angle, short rake, long stem. This bike puts more of your weight over the front wheel. Traction is hard to come by on snow. Even if you’re used to slack enduro geometry (which I am) the Farley feels perfect in winter.

Although it has XC geo, the bike is still great on descents. You rarely tackle anything technical while fat biking, so the more forward position is not a detriment. In fact, it’s a benefit as most of your turns and descents are slower and more slick, which means you spend more time weaving at slower speeds. This riding position makes the Trek Farley 5 a great beginner fat bike too.

The carbon fork is light and nimble. An asset when you have to make that last second correction to save a corner.

Many of my friends have studded tires. I never have. And I don’t plan on it. With a tubeless conversion you can really drop your PSI, and with weight centred over your wheels the Farley is a naturally grippier bike The extra traction from the 27.5 wheels, as opposed to 26, is obvious. Exactly what you want from a fat bike. 

There is one caveat: if you plan on riding your fat bike year round you might want to consider a build with more aggressive geo, like the Rocky Mountain Blizzard. This will be more fun in summer, when you have better grip and higher speeds.

Shimano Deore 10 Speed Drivetrain

shimano doer 10 speed drivetrain
Shimano Deore 10 Speed Drivetrain: gets the job done.

The Deore drivetrain is light and crisp: exactly what you’d expect from Shimano.

If you’re concerned about “only” 10 speeds now that 11 and 12 speeds are the norm–don’t be. Fat biking doesn’t need a wide, smooth gear range. You spend most of your time chugging along in first. You’ll shift to the mid range for most of the descents. Only the straightest, flattest, and most groomed of sections will get you into higher gears.

The Shimano Deore 10 speed drivetrain performs well.

If you are used to higher spec drivetrains, the light and plasticky feel of the shifter is noticeable.

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Sram Level Brakes

sram level brake
Sram Level brakes are weak, but they're still OK for fat biking.

These are Sram’s entry hydraulic brakes–they’re weak.

And the rotors are small: 160mm front and back.

However, since fat biking requires less braking force, they are alright for winter cruising.

They have the classic Sram feel: gradual modulation instead of instant bite. This is a good thing, as a smoother power delivery helps maintain traction.

Even as a Sasquatch Mountain Biker I only really notice the lack of power in the rare moment I have a straightaway and don’t have to worry about turning.

The brakes will gradually squeeze to a point, and then lock up.

If you are thinking about using the Trek Farley 5 year round, and on dry dirt, I’d consider upgrading the Sram Levels. The rear brakes aren’t internally routed, so it’s easy to swap them out for a different set.

The same can be said if you plan to use this as a commuter in winter.

But the Sram Levels are OK for snow. I plan on upgrading the front rotor to 180mm for extra braking control on descents.

Bontrager Gnarwhal Tires and Rapid Drive Hub

bontrager gnarwhal tire
The Bontrager Gnarwhal fat bike tires are grippy, and faster than expected.

These two components are another highlight of the 2021 Trek Farley 5 build.

When I first saw the Gnarwhals’ big lugs I was concerned they wouldn’t do as well on smoother snow and would slow me down on the descents.

My former fat tires were Bontrager Barbegazis: they had a lighter tread, plenty of grip on smoother surfaces, and were fast.

I’m happy to say the Bontrager Gnarwhals have been a pleasant surprise: they have enough contact for smoother snow, bite hard on steep ascents and loose conditions, and cruise. And they’re studdable.

I’m looking forward to the tubeless conversion, lower PSI, and squeezing even more grip out of them.

The 27.5 wheels, compared to the 26 on my old bike, are noticeable as well. There’s plenty more grip with the longer contact patch. I’m convinced 27.5 is the way to go with fat bikes.

The Rapid Drive Hub is also fantastic. It is the best hub you will find on an entry level fat bike. Most fat bike hubs are extremely cheap and fail quickly, especially if you are a Sasquatch Mountain Biker. You typically don’t see good rear hubs on fat bikes unless you spend over $3000.

Fat bike freehubs experience more torque due to wider axles and are a major weak point.

It is nice knowing the 2021 Trek Farley 5, which is Trek’s lowest spec fat bike, comes with a hub found on many of their higher end mountain bikes.

I ordered an extra set of pawls and springs, just in case. From what I’ve heard, I won’t need them.

TranzX Dropper Post

tranzX dropper post
For a entry level dropper the TranzX works great.

An economical, basic dropper that performs. For an entry level fat bike that doesn’t break the bank, what else do you need?

Cable actuated with an under-the-bar lever and performs as expected. Nothing flashy.

Considering many entry fat bikes come with a rigid seat post, having a dropper on the Trek Farley 5 is another huge boost showing why it is such a great choice for an affordable fat bike.

Cockpit

race face handlebar
The stock bar was too narrow for my liking. Other than that, the body positioning and reach keep the bike under you.

The saddle is comfortable. I switched the handlebars out for wider ones. The stock 750mm bars were too narrow for me, especially since my summer bike has 800mm bars.

I debated getting a shorter stem than the spec, but decided to stick to 100mm.

I’m glad I did: the 100mm stem with 780mm bar feels fantastic and really gets your weight over that front tire, which is key when fat biking.

Another surprise highlight is the headset, which uses sealed cartridge bearings.

Race Face cranks and BB finish off this build.

2021 Trek Farley 5 Review Summary

I am a huge fan of the Farley, as are many of my friends, including former pros. The entry level build of the 2021 Trek Farley 5 is simply without rival. The geo is perfect for winter fat biking.

Probably why it hasn’t changed much since the last one I bought in 2016!

The Trek Farley 5 is a great beginner fat bike, a great starter, and a great fat bike overall. If you prefer higher spec components, or want a front suspension, checkout the Trek Farley 7 or the carbon Trek Farley 9.6.

If you want bang for your buck, the 2021 Trek Farley 5 has no competition.

Thanks for reading!

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