Being Fat: The History of Fat Biking

by Lauren Costantini of Sacred Rides Boulder

 

It’s time to get FAT! This latest craze in mountain biking is the fat bike. These nutty-looking machines not only extend a cyclist’s season (and avoids the dreaded trainer!), but they also make you feel like a kid again – you won’t stop smiling and giggling once you throw a leg over a fat bike! Used not only for winter snow riding but also making light work out of technical summer singletrack, sandy rides on beaches, and rocky rides along river banks.

 

FIRST, A DEFINITION:

“a fat bike is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, typically 3.8” or larger, and rims 2.6” or wider, designed for low pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud. The wide tires can be inflated at pressures as low as 5 psi to allow for a smooth ride over rough obstacles.”

 

THE FIRST FAT BIKES:

Fat bikes have been around since the early 20th century, but the first modern versions were not developed until the 1980s when 3 men on opposite sides of the world were inspired:

Steve Baker of Icicle Bicycle’s needed a bike that could traverse the snowy terrain of Alaska. He began experimenting with custom components and configurations designed to achieve a large contact patch of tire on snow, and started out by welding two rims together and mounting two tires side by side, creating a double-wide tire measuring 4.4” wide. Afterward, he welded together a frame to fit the wheels and the first fat bike was born!

 

Another Alaskan, Simon Rowaker, saw Baker’s idea and developed a 1.7” (44mm) wide rim called the Snowcat. This became most popular in the early 90s as the largest production rim of that time, and was used by many adventure cyclists.

At about the same time, Ray Molina, an adventure cyclist, tour guide and frame builder, was exploring new terrain in southern New Mexico. Riding sand dunes and arroyos, Ray took 2 Snowcat rims and welded them together to make the first 88mm (3.2”) wide rim, along with a 3.5” tire called the Chevron. He made several frames to accommodate the new equipment and testing took place at the Samalayuca sand dunes in Chihuahua, Mexico. The benefits of the extra wide tires and rims were a game changer. By 1999, Molina had Remolina rims in production and a sand bike ready for sale.

Complete article here

Watch for the rest of Lauren’s series over the next several weeks.

 

About Lauren Costantini:

As a former Pro mountain bike and cyclocross racer, I’m thrilled to share my knowledge and love of the Majestic Rocky Mountains and incredible trails around Boulder, Colorado! I love riding 2 wheels of any style: cross country, downhill, all-mountain, fat biking, touring, or commuting to the coffee shop.

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