The biggest difference is the new handlebar. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Soma Clarence alt bar was not as versatile as I thought it would be. So I went the classic route, with a used basic aluminum flat bar. It happens to be a Giant Connect bar 690mm wide, if you're interested. This exercise reminded me once again of how versatile this bike is. This is now the 3rd very different handle bar setup, and the bike rode great in all cases. I all comes down to your preference for hand position and steering style. With the flat bar on board, this is the best handling Fargo setup so far. I can see why some people love the flat bars. They provide a solid and direct connection between the rider and the front wheel. The steering was very quick for a big slack 29er. My only issue is the bars feel a little short for me. I'm 6'4" and can't find sleeves long enough, so this might just be my issue. But I would like to have my hands further apart for stability, especially for riding singletrack. I ride a Transition T-bar 30" (excellent bar by the way) on my full suspension and it's really comfortable. So I think I will try something like that next.
The other big change to the bike is the tires. I liked the fast ride of the stock WTB Vulpines, but I rode them through some goatheads. Both tires picked up thorns and flatted. So I took the opportunity to try something more trail worthy. But I still wanted a tire that rolled fast down the center since I ride this bike on road and gravel alot. My LBS suggested the Maxxis Crossmark 29ers. I have always been happy with Maxxis tires' grip and durability. Maxxis build a beefier sidewall into most of their mountain tires, a feature I think is really useful since most trails out here have rocks that stick out sideways. I run the High Roller 2.3 tubeless on my full suspension and I had the ReFuse's on my road bike. So I got a couple of Crossmarks for the Fargo.
The tread says it all I think. The knobs on the center line roll really fast and quiet on road and hardpack. The corner knobs grip really well through the turns. I have ridden them through a few chunky rock gardens without issues. Excellent choice for an all purpose SUV of a bike like the Fargo.
Lastly, the fenders came off. I would have left them on if this was strictly a commuter or gravel grinder. But on trails the fender banged around and rub against the tires non stop, so they're hanging in the garage for future use on a tour or something.
I leave you for now with this picture of the Fargo overlooking Boulder CO. This was taken part way up Flagstaff Mountain, at the first observation point. The road up Flagstaff is one of the steepest climbs in Boulder, which is to say it's one of the steepest climbs in a lot of places. It's a regular test piece for for bikers. I recently decided I would pedal the Fargo to the top, even though it's "too heavy" and has "too much stuff on it" to climb well. I say set up your bike the way you want, ride it up or down whatever you want, and have fun with the whole process.