Trek Farley 5 Review – Is This Bike Worth Buying?

Fat bikes are here for the long haul. From a niche market among riders who wanted to explore the limits of biking snow, ice, and sand, they’ve expanded into the mainstream, taking over a significant share of the mountain bike market. Fat bikes don’t just offer the ability to ride with security on loose or slick surfaces. Fat bikes can be ridden anywhere that a traditional mountain bike can. The huge tires absorb bumps and don’t require expensive suspension. Many people love the look and the stability.

Image: Trek Farley 5

The Farley is Trek’s entry in the fat bike market, and the bikes in the Farley series show all of the experience and sophistication of the Trek brand. Farley 5 fat bikes are affordable and bring real value.

Let’s see how Trek’s entry in the sub-$2000 fat bike market stacks up.

Quick Overview: What I Think About the Trek Farley 5

Simple answer: it’s a great bike. It’s all you’d expect from Trek. It is beautifully designed and built. The components offer high performance at an affordable price. It is an excellent combination of affordability and performance that will please anyone who purchases it.

Farley 5 is a great value for money, but it is in a very saturated market with excellent bikes. There are many options for fat bikes in the $1500-$2100 range, including several contenders from well-respected manufacturers. The Farley 5 is a fine bike for the price, but whether it’s the best bike for the price is less certain.

Let’s take a closer look.

What You Get

The Farley 5 is like every bike. It’s a collection of components. Let’s see what this $1799 fat bike brings to the table.

Frame

Trek’s aluminum frames are of the highest quality, and the Farley frame is no exception. It is sleek and simple: there are no hydroformed tubes swirling around, but a well-built, business-like frame.

The Farley’s geometry is designed for versatility and all-around use. The paint job is flawless and the welds are perfect. Internal routing is used for the dropper post hydraulics and shift cables. Horizontal dropouts are ready for single-speed or geared use. You can also adjust the wheelbase. You can lengthen the distance between the wheels for greater stability or shorten it if you’re after quick handling. The small size will fit riders down to 5 feet tall and the XXL will accommodate riders up to 6’8”.

Fork

Farley 5’s front wheel is mounted on a rigid fork. The monster tires absorb bumps and are similar to other fat bikes in this price range. Bontrager carbon forks are used in the Farley 5. They are strong and last long and can be trimmed a little weight relative to aluminum-forked counterparts.

Drivetrain

The drivetrain is made from mid-range products of top manufacturers. The Race Face Ride crankset and KMC chain are used. For the critical shifter, derailleur, and cassette, Trek turns to Shimano’s Deore series components.

SRAM and Shimano, premium drivetrain manufacturers, have used a trickle-down technology approach: the latest innovations go into the most expensive products and the technology that replaces them is passed down the chain. Many riders are now questioning why they have to pay the substantial premium for high-end components. These components don’t have the highest-end bling, but they are reliable and effective. They also make it easy to use.

Some riders might question the use of a 1×10-speed drivetrain when 1×11 or 1×12 are preferred by many competitors. In practice, the choice of gears is more important than the number of options within that range. The 1×10 drivetrain on the Farley 5 has a range from 11 teeth on the smallest rear ring to 46 teeth on the largest ring. This is only slightly different from the 11-50 range of the 12-speed Farley 7’s 12-speed drivetrain. These extra teeth might be useful if you are planning to climb steep hills. However, most riders won’t notice the difference.

Brakes

While the Farley 5’s SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes aren’t the most expensive, the 160mm Avid CleanSweep and Farley 5’s Farley 5 rotors are. However, they do have some distinct features that would be difficult for even the most experienced riders to notice. You’ll have no trouble controlling your speed.

For those who are more adventurous or ride on steep terrain, it might be worth upgrading the 160mm rotors to larger models, especially in the front. It’s an easy upgrade, but for most riders it won’t be necessary. You have more control with braking than just stopping power.

Wheels

The Farley 5 carries 27.5” wheels. Add the extra diameter of the oversized tires and the total functioning diameter will be close to that of a conventional 29” wheel. This allows you to maintain momentum and roll over obstacles but can compromise your handling. That won’t bother most riders: fat bikes are designed to plow over obstacles, not to dodge around them.

The wheels are built around Bontrager hubs, which carry Bontrager’s Switch through axle system for extra rigidity, and SunRingle Mulefut rims. Bontrager Gnarwhal 4 tires are very durable and stable, even by fat bike standards. These tires are very aggressive and designed for trail riding or soft-surface riding. You may notice tire drag if you plan on using them on cement.

Other Components

Trek continues to work with Bontrager on the parts catalogue, and sourced the saddle, handlebar, grips, and stem from the exact same manufacturer.

Two components are notable in the cockpit. The TranzX dropper posts allow you to raise or lower your saddle as needed. This is a useful feature for rolling terrain that has frequent transitions between climbing/descending. Bontrager Blendr stems make it easy to mount accessories such as lights, GPS, bikes computers or a GoPro or similar camera.

Some users have complained that the saddle is too uncomfortable. However, saddles are individual and not for everyone. If you have a favored model of saddle it’s always worth fitting it on a new bike, especially if the stock saddle doesn’t agree with your backside!

Component Roundup

The components on the Farley 5 are what you’d expect from a mid-range bike from a premium manufacturer. They are high-quality and will perform their job well. The top models are worth considering if you have the chance.

Let’s rate the Farley 5 component mix relative to other fat bikes in the $1500-2000 range.

Component
Rating out of 5
Frame
4.5
Suspension
4.5
Drivetrain
3.5
Brakes
4
Wheels
4
Other
4.5

Performance

The trail is where it all comes together, and specifications don’t matter if performance doesn’t match up. Farley 5 lives up its specifications. It’s comfortable right out of the box and is open to being pushed. It won’t accelerate like a greyhound – no fat bike will – but the 27.5” wheels hold momentum and if the big wheels carry an agility penalty it’s barely noticeable.

One of the highest praises you can give a bike is to say you hardly notice that it’s there. When you’re riding, you don’t want to think about your components. When everything is right, you forget the bike and focus on the trail because you trust the bike to do what it’s meant to do. This is how the Farley 5 fits in. Take it for a trail spin and you’ll probably come back without much to say about the bike, because the bike lets you focus on the trail. That’s what you want it to do.

The drivetrain and brakes on the Farley 5 will come as a pleasant surprise, and you might find it hard to believe that you’re riding a bike with mid-range components. Smooth and precise shifting is possible, and the gear range is adequate. Having 10 gears rather than 11 or 12 isn’t a problem.

There are some limitations you should be aware of. Gnarwhal’s 4.5 tires are very beefy. You’ll appreciate them on rough, loose, or slick surfaces, but they may feel like tank treads on cement. If you’re looking for a trail/town combo bike you might want to use some less aggressive rubber. If you ride a lot of steep climbs, the gear range may be limited.

The Competition

Farley 5 is an excellent fat bike. However, it comes at a cost that covers quite a few other fat bikes. Let’s look at some of the other players and how they stack up compared to the Farley 5.

The 2021 Norco Bigfoot 2. is hitting retailers at $1600 and carries specifications very similar to those of the Farley 5: 27.5” wheels, aggressive tires, SRAM Level brakes (with a 180mm front rotor), a Shimano Deore 1×12 drivetrain, and the same TranzX dropper post. You won’t get a carbon fork, though.

The Kona Wo The Farley 5 will see a price increase for 2021, and it is priced at the same level as the Farley 5. It comes with an 11-speed Shimano Deore transmission, an aluminum fork, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and an 11-speed Shimano Deore motor. It carries 26” wheels, which could be an advantage to some riders and a disadvantage to others.

The KHS Season 1000 A carbon-fork model is available for $1599, and a model with a Manitou Mastodon suspension handle for $1899. The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are Shimano’s 11-speed Shimano SLX. This is a significant step up from the Deore. There’s a KS dropper post, but some other components, notably the crank, are a step down. Wheel size is 26”.

Salsa Mukluk The entry-level model’s price has been reduced to $1699 The bike comes with an aluminum fork, 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, Tektro hydraulic brakes, and 26” wheels with the highly regarded 45NRTH Dillinger 4.6” tires.

The Giant Yukon 1 pushes the price envelope slightly at $2100, but carries an upscale component package that includes a SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, SRAM Level T brakes, carbon fork, dropper post, and 27.5” wheels with Maxxis Colossus 4.5” wheels.

These bikes are all excellent. Trek’s Farley 5 is a strong contender in this niche, but you’ll have to decide whether it’s the best choice for you. It’s a fun choice because you really can’t go wrong: any of these bikes will serve you well!

The bottom line

If you’re shopping for a fat bike and you have $1799 in your pocket you can buy a Farley 5 and ride away happy. If you’re shopping, though, you’ll still have to decide whether you could get a better deal elsewhere.

The Farley 5 has plus points: a carbon fork, 27.5” wheels, a dropper post, solid components, and an outstanding level of design and build quality. These features could also push you to the side of the competition. If you’re looking for 26” wheels, a wider range of gearing options, a bigger brake rotor in front, or even a suspension fork, you can find all of them on a bike in the same price range.

Your priorities will determine which features are most important. It is a good idea to narrow down your choices and, if possible, test-ride the contenders. Your final decision is likely to come down to personal feelings about each bike’s handling and looks.

If you’re not a selective shopper and you want a good fat bike fast, you could just grab a Farley 5 in your size. You’re not likely to regret the choice!

Let’s evaluate the Farley 5’s overall quality relative to other fat bikes in its price range.

Review Category
Rating out of 5
Components
4
Qualitative Construction
4.5
Ride Quality
4.5
Overall Value for Money
3.5

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