The frame is cushy, but rigid enough for loaded touring. Equipped with a Salsa Downunder front rack and a Wanderlust rear rack, I can easily carry about 70 pounds of gear in Ortlieb panniers. There is noticeable lateral flex under full load, but nothing drastic. I had a Burley Vagabond that flexed just as much under similar loads. Even with 25mm Continental Gatorskins inflated to 110 PSI, the ride is smooth and comfortable even over the worst pavement.
I had to change out the handlebars and stem. The stock Woodchippers were too narrow for me, so much so that I was getting serious cramps between the shoulder blades. This was a drastic pain that I had never experienced heretofore on any bicycle. If I could have stayed on the flared drops, I would have been fine. I changed to a Salsa Bell Lap; I wanted a Salsa Cow Bell, but I found a really killer price on the Bell Lap. I have a Bell Lap on my SU200 and I am satisfied with these bars. Despite a 550mm effective top tube, the Fargo felt short in reach to me. I switched to a 110mm road stem. The combo gives me a decent reach, with options of sitting up or kinda stretching out. With the deep drops of the Bell Lap, I can duck out of head winds to a reasonable degree.
I also changed out the Thudbuster seatpost for a rigid Kona post. The Thudbuster allowed for remaining seated over the worst that Portland has to offer, but the flex really interfered with getting a good spin. Above 120 RPM, the elastomer would allow my hips to bounce. Yes, I know that is because of my bad form.
The drastic slope on the downtube makes for easy starts and dismounts when fully loaded, but presents other issues. The frame is too small to fit two water bottles. I can barely fit a 27 ounce bottle on the downtube, but can’t fit any bottle on the seat tube mounts.
I put on 42mm Continental Tour tires. These tires suck. They feel like a brake is dragging. At first I thought it might have been the bike. I was averaging 15.5 MPH on my commute on my usual commuter. I average 12.5 on the Fargo. Putting 25mm Gatorskins on the wheels gets my average commute speed back up to 15.5. That’s a pretty drastic difference just because of tires.
If you want to run fenders, Planet Bike Cascadia 29ers are the only fenders to use. I tried Planet Bike Hardcore, and those were wholly inadequate. The 29er model is excellent. The front standoff interferes with using a front pannier, but some finagling can take care of that.
The FSA mountain double crankset leaves a lot to be desired. It isn’t low enough and it isn’t high enough. The 10-speed drivetrain is annoying because it hard to match a crankset to the rest of the mechs. It’s enough to make me go back to 8-speed triple. And I just might with this bike. If I did it again, I would have built my Fargo from scratch. When road hydraulic levers come out, I will be rejiggering the drivetrain with 8- or 9-speed triple, a 165mm crankarm, and aiming for an 18 gear-inch low.
I have descended fully loaded on some serious grades and the bike is sure-footed without any signs of shimmy. The handling is impeccable, faultless, and balanced: hands-on, hands-off, pleasantly nimble for urban commuting, and stable under load and speed. The stays are long enough to fit my enormous clodhoppers with my Ortlieb Backroller Classic panniers. I did install a set of Ortlieb Office Large with QL3 mounts. Those actually required a little tweaking to accommodate my feet, but that is exactly what the QL3 system is designed to do.
I love my Fargo and think that it is a very decent replacement for my SU200. The two are very similar bikes, but different enough to keep them both. The Fargo is a more capable touring and off-road bicycle; the SU is a more capable, but much less comfortable commuter. If you can only have one bike, the Fargo would be a good candidate. Like an SU, the Fargo can do just about everything and do it quite capably.
Small frame doesn’t fit water bottles
Stock gear range is not low enough and not high enough
Some fork braze-ons conflict with front rack
Fender conflicts with disc brakes, but that is SOP with disc brake bikes
Plenty rigid unloaded; comfortably compliant when loaded
Rigid enough for fully loaded touring