Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's 1984 all over again

During one of our area's few encounters with snow this year.
The title of this post refers to a recurring statement and general theme of Nicholas, the wunderkind behind gypsy by trade, regarding similarities of the current, quickly rising tide of interest in fatbikes to that of mountain bikes during the early 1980s. For those who are unaware, Nicholas is an adventurer and fatbiker of the highest caliber, who spent last year on a Surly Pugsley, riding through an Anchorage winter, then on to Canada, the Continental Divide Trail, the Colorado Trail and down to Albuquerque to spend this winter. Although he wasn't even alive yet during the heyday of those early mountain biking years, he is in perhaps the best position of anyone I know to have formed the observation underlying his statement.

What prompted me to write this post was that I encountered the first popular media news item that I had seen about fatbikes as being more than just snow bikes. It was on the Denver CBS affiliate's website. I don't ordinarily post things that I didn't produce myself, but as this is merely a link to a story about fatbikes in the popular media, I don't think I've violated my internally imposed guidelines. Although there are one or two items stated in the story that I might call into question, it was generally an honest attempt to illustrate how people are beginning to use fatbikes. The most serious quibble I might have is that although the tires are bigger, the trail impact is smaller, that is more minimal, than a typical mountain bike. It could just be the phrasing playing off the immensity of the tires as used in the article, that might indicate otherwise. To the reporter's credit, the story diligently sought out some people who are in positions from which they may reasonably understand and describe the potential of fatbikes. Overall, the CBS story does well in noting the increasing interest for and presence of fatbikes in use year around, the growing industry segment related to fatbikes, and the developing movement to ensure access to places to ride them.
Baby got back. Here's a 4.8" Surly Lou that I saw at Surly's Unicorn event last year.
Hey Surly guys: How about naming an upcoming tire "Sir Mix A Lot"? You know you want to...
Incidentally, the CBS story contained mention of Reeb bikes, an in-house boutique bike project of the Oskar Blues Brewery in nearby Longmont. 'Reeb' is cleverly 'beer' spelled backwards. I encountered my first Reeb fatbike last week at the Colorado Bike Summit. This particular Reeb was a real gem, in clear powder-coated steel and featuring a Gates Carbon Drive belt drivetrain on an internally geared hub, and shod with Big Fat Larry tires. Fittingly, the bike was built for the upcoming North American Handmade Bicycle Show coming later this week to Denver. As an old guy, I spaced on having a camera in my phone, so no photo. I apologize for failing my legions of readers.

I will say, however, that there are a few photos of me sitting on the Reeb out there somewhere, as I apparently looked excited enough that a photographer covering the event asked me to sit on the bike for a few shots. The Reeb had no pedals, and the nice engineer at the Gates Carbon Drive booth hosting the bike gave me a more-than-slightly-concerned look as if to say, "Dude, it could cost my job if you break it," so I don't have a ride report. Too bad, as it felt to be just my size. I will seek the Reeb out during the NAHBS and rectify the lack of photos.
Nope, not the Reeb. It's my faithful and fun Neck Ro Pug, though. 
In any case, returning to the main point of this post is that fatbikes seem poised to hit big in the next year or two, in a manner similar to the first wave of production mountain bikes. They really are that different, and even more fun than you might imagine. My Pugsley has quickly gone to the top of my list of the plethora of bikes from which I may select to ride on any given day. Of the real world and netherworld fellow bike aficionados with whom I share a similar orbit, most have been bitten by the fatbike bug. From my semi-scientific reckoning, around half have made the plunge into fatbikes, and nearly everyone else would desire to follow, should they be able to clear any financial or spousal barriers to doing so. As with just about anything else bike-related, my advice to anyone even considering going fat is, "Go for it." What was true back in '84, is even more so now. The fatter, the funner.
Unrelated bonus photo: This is evidence of the risk one might run when attempting to take a photo of a baby in the presence of a curious dog.


  1. I'd love one, but I think I need to wait until "1984" when I can find an affordable one that's not sucky. Also, I probably need to get rid of a few bikes (sacrilege!) And man, you are going to give Nicholas such a big head, it might 'splode. ;-)

    1. I know what you mean. I had been stewing over a fatbike since about 2006, and for a couple of years I'd been scanning any used possibilities with no luck. Once I decided to go for it, I rationalized myself into the, "To compensate, I'll shed a few of my bikes later" frame of mind. That has yet to happen.

      I'll have to take it easy on Nicholas, but what can I say? The kid is living the dream from the perspective of an old guy like me.

  2. I initially imagined this post spinning off in a more Orwellian direction, I like Nicholas' 1984 even better. Then I momentarily feared you were going to comment on the WIRED/bikehugger folks were bashing yesterday, but the CBS piece you delivered was actually quite good.
    They did they're homework and talked to some folks who know a thing or two about fat bikes (unlike the aforementioned wired piece). In the future please ignore your self imposed guidelines should you find other worthwhile items out there.

    Nicholas is a humble enough guy, able to handle facebook shoutouts from Surly and having a lovely piece published by Bunyan Velo, but the homage from you seemingly put him over the top.

    1. I actually didn't see the WIRED article until after I wrote this. I've since read it, and put it into the same camp of lazy and misinformed opining as Jan Heine's scuffle with a Big Dummy a couple years back. Actually doing homework and attempting to understand an item under review should, but does not necessarily, precede publication of any review.

      As for Nicholas' reaction, this is the Big Dummy Daddy blog after all. Recognition here is essentially the bike-nerd equivalent of a Nobel prize :-)