A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: Dylan’s Obsidian Fatboy

The most straightforward definition of Obsidian comes from Wikipedia: “Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth.” In parts Owens Valley and Death Valley, Obsidian is just another ground substrate. As lava fields collide with alluvial fans, causing the land to spill out over and through roads, this mineral litters the landscape, capturing sunlight and distracting even the most focused eye.

During numerous points on our trip, Obsidian fields distracted us from our pains, our cold hands, and hungry stomachs. We scoured the grounds, finding unique pieces, to hold up to the light and gaze in awe, only to place them back where they had decided to fall in the first place. Dylan took this practice very seriously, and in return, often wandering out into the depths of a shrub field only to shout out “check this piece out!” I felt it the perfect mineral to represent his murdered out S-Works Fatboy.

So, what’s so special about this bike? Honestly, not much. It’s bone stock, features a manual-shifting “bail out” chainring and was the lightest “fully-loaded” bike on the trip. Dylan borrowed the bike from a friend, upon realizing that fatter was just simply better for the terrain. He packed it out with the essentials, along with a few choice creature comforts – like walkie-talkies – and the entire time, rode it like it had an e-battery…

  • AdamBike99

    We used to be a black-metal band but now we classify ourselves as “black-rock.”

  • Andrew Nepsund

    It’s really fun being here in MPLS, where it’s “Fat Bike season”, to see these bikes being used in quite an opposite realm! Rad.

  • Medium Rick

    Manual? Old, old school meets new. Cool.

    • I was stoked to see that. Saves the weight of a front der. and with the SRAM clutch, it’s actually pretty quick.

      • Zian

        Yea I was wondering, manual as in use your hands?

      • boomforeal

        how does the clutch speed up manual front chain ring shifting?

        • Sorry, clutch lockout.

          • boomforeal

            ah. the cage lock doesn’t actually have anything to do with the clutch. it’s a nifty feature, though i’d never thought of that application; thanks!

          • For sure, my bad for the nomenclature slip. I’ll edit it out.

      • Bas Rotgans

        I’ve been thinking about doing something like this. What difference in teeth count does Dylan have on those rings? Can the mech take up the extra chain?

        • I’m not sure. If I recall, it was a 26t direct mount ring.

  • Looks like carbon bars. Any thoughts on hanging bikepacking gear off carbon bars? Am I being too skittish worrying about that?

    • Totally fine. I do it all the time. My Jones Bars are carbon.

    • Dylan Buffington

      There was only a few lbs of sleep gear up front, I didn’t even think twice about it. I think people underestimate carbon a lot of the time.

  • what walkie talkie is that?
    also super into the manual 2x

    • Dylan Buffington

      Bao Fang UV-5R with some upgrades! I love these things.

      • I was kind of making the bar tape joke, but Also I’ve kind of been obsessed with those things since I was a kid and often considered grabbing one of those off ebay. Whaddaya use it for?

        • Dylan Buffington

          Everything and anything. Nohlin and I sit 20 ft away. Every so often we have a meeting from our desks.

  • guy davis

    I’m sure somebody will be offended by this, but the old West nickname for rounded obsidian pebbles is ‘Apache tears.’

    • yep. and “dragon glass” from GOT. ;-)

  • ian whitton

    What brand of bags are they on the forks.

    • Dylan Buffington

      Specialized Burra Burra

  • dano

    How did he get the King Cage Clamps to work on the tapered fork? My understanding was that the clamps would not work on the tapered forks.

    • Dylan Buffington

      Some tube underneath the pipeclamps and you’re good to go.

      • recurrecur

        Pretty brave putting those pipe clamps on a CF fork.

        • Plenty of people do it. CF forks are strong enough to take it.

          • recurrecur

            Really? Wow.
            I guess CF forks have come a long way since the failure I experienced. That was some years ago.

          • Dylan Buffington

            The tube sleeve helps it. Obviously there isn’t a recommended torque spec on these things but its surprisingly strong. It was solid for the entire ride, descents and all. It slipped when we were taking a photo of a wheelie, but only cause I lost balance and came down with a ton of force. I slipped it back up, a little tighten and we were good to go. Carbon itself is stronger than ever. Where you see failures is when the manufacturer might not have things dialed, or haven’t done proper testing (not that they test with pipe clamps).

  • Jesse

    What shirt is that? Cotton…something technical?

    • Dylan Buffington

      It’s one of my oldest and favorite flannels. It just keeps some sun off me. Not so technical.

  • Tim Noyce

    Anyone shed any light on the chainstay protection? Looks kinda neat. What’s it made from?