Bike Test: Fat City Slim Chance

Retro revival for the culturally challenged

Founded long ago (1982) in Somerville, Massachusetts, by Chris Chance, Fat City Cycles began on the premise of designing and building quality road and mountain bike frames for riders who were dedicated to their trade. During this process Chris Chance released the Yo Eddy, which has become one of the most iconic mountain bikes ever welded together.

Not to be overlooked was Chance’s line of road bikes (originally built to supply Mavic with neutral support bikes) known as the Slim Chance. What seemed like a flash in the pan, Chris Chance sold Fat City in 1994 and left the bike industry. Fast-forward to the 2016 Sea Otter and Chris Chance was ready to make his return and bring some added flavor to an industry focused on race-inspired carbon superbikes.

THE FRAME

It didn’t take long for Chris Chance to become renowned for his attention to detail and quality steel frames. The new Slim Chance uses size-specific True Temper OX Platinum steel that is welded in the United States. When riders order a frame, they will have a variety of paint schemes to choose from, including some retro-fade options. Lead time on a frame is about three to four weeks.

The Slim comes with a classic 36mm machined head tube and features an old-school-style pump peg (as in a frame pump—ask your dad) on its backside. Another touch long forgotten by the big brands is the polished, stainless steel head badge that brings a definite sense of class.

 

Slim-1

However, there are still some modern touches on the frame, including the ability to run either electronic or mechanical drivetrain cabling. For mechanical drivetrains, all of the cables are routed externally for a classic finish.

Adding to the simplicity of the frame is a 68mm threaded bottom bracket shell, making this a no-nonsense frame. Chris built in some extra clearance with room to fit up to 28mm tires in case riders are looking to venture on rougher roads or want a little extra compliance.

THE PARTS

Each frame comes with a top-flight Chris King headset, and riders have the choice of an Enve carbon or Chris’ own steel segmented fork for that full retro look. Riders will be able to choose from a variety of drivetrains and wheels, but our test bike came spec’d with the new Dura-Ace 9100 shifters and derailleurs and C24 wheels. As is typical of the Dura-Ace, during our testing, the drivetrain delivered flawless performance with consistent and linear shifting. Tying in the drivetrain and build kit was a Pro cockpit, 27.2mm seatpost and saddle.

Slim-2
The unique, segmented steel fork is definitely worth the $150 upcharge.

 

THE RIDE

The Slim’s fit and geometry are comfortable, and even with the stem’s stack height at its lowest, it’s not overly aggressive. The size medium we tested has a 54.4cm top tube length that is a touch shorter than other mediums we have ridden. Up close the finish and look of the frame boasted a seriously high level of quality and turned plenty of heads on the road. The welds were clean and minimal, and the retro-faded paint scheme made the Slim feel more like a piece of art we wanted to hang over a brick fireplace and drool over.

Once on the road, we were surprised at the balanced ride quality and the Slim’s ability to smooth out rough sections of pavement but still accelerate without compromising on stiffness. Out of the saddle under hard efforts the Slim was as responsive as any carbon fiber machine we have ridden in recent memory, rolling quickly and efficiently up any steep grade or mountain we could find.

The combination of the True Temper steel tubing and 27.2mm seatpost delivered an incredibly smooth and compliant ride. During our testing we stuck with a pair of 25mm tires, but would be inclined to go up to 28s for more adventure riding on roads less traveled.

THE VERDICT

The Slim Chance reminded us that steel is real and just as relevant in today’s world of performance bikes as any carbon fiber superbike. But, it’s not just the material itself that makes that case. Just as it is true with carbon and aluminum frames, it’s the thought and process that goes into the tube selection of each frame that makes the difference. With decades’ worth of knowledge, Chris spends hours considering every tube’s wall thickness and taper before committing it to a build. It’s that attention to detail that distinguishes the Slim Chance (and really any other high-end steel frame) from any random, entry-level steel bike. While many frame designers are pushing for higher-performing, race-inspired products, the Slim delivers an elegant package with plenty of personality to keep riders of all personalities interested.

The price of the Slim is competitively priced considering the craftsmanship, but it will weed out the dreamers from the committed. Given the prevailing hype (and true performance) of carbon, there are still plenty of cyclists who will be reluctant to make a move to steel. However, one ride on a bike as sweet as the Slim Chance should quickly convince anyone that there is indeed life beyond carbon fiber. This is a classic bike that is ready for just about anything the modern world has to offer.

PUNCH LINES

  • Yes, steel is still real
  • American roots
  • Super-cool paint schemes

STATS

Price: $2480 (frame and fork)

Weight: 17 pounds, 3 ounces

Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL

www.fatchance.bike

THE GEAR

  • Helmet: Specialized Airnet
  • Jersey: Rosti
  • Bibs: Rosti
  • Shoes: Giro
  • Glasses: SHPLUS

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