The history of fat bikes

Fat Bike

The latest trending development in the bike industry is the rapid emergence of fat bikes. Throughout our journey of marketing and showing our kids’ bike range, many people have not been sure what a bike with 4 inch fat tyres would be good for. Surprisingly, even hard-core riders in the mountain bike community have been questioning both its purpose and existence.

Surely, the same scepticism was present in the late 70s and early 80s when the first mountain bikes appeared in the cycling community. The scepticism did not last long though, as riders soon realised that riding a mountain bike with wider tyres, lighter frames and technical components opened doors to great new riding experiences away from the traditional paved road. This emergence allowed for more and more areas to be explored, such as gravelled and rocky roads, tracks in forest and fields. But mountain bikes also have their limits. As soon as the bikes approach softer surfaces and untouched terrain, carrying or walking with them is inevitable.

Two different parties in Alaska and New Mexico were facing this problem as well when they attempted to ride through softer terrain during the late 80s.

The first Iditabike Event in Alaska in 1987 put riders to their limits when they had to cross a 200km snow covered area. While riding on harder surfaces during colder times of the day was possible, it became challenging as soon as the sun thawed the snow into a slushy mass. Many riders ended up walking long distances with their bikes to reach the finish line. In the following years, the riders adjusted their bikes to the difficult conditions to reduce walking/carrying to a minimum. Some built custom forks and frames adding two or three tyres next to each other at the front and the rear of the bike in order to give them more grip.At around the same time Ray Molina faced similar challenges in New Mexico and Mexico when exploring new sandy terrain in the area. In order to enable riding in the sand without sinking in or getting stuck, he build a 3.5” tyre and rim and adjusted the frame to fit the tyre which eased the ride over the sand dunes significantly.

As a result of his successes in navigating sandy terrain by bike, Ray Molina exhibited his Remolino rim at the Interbike show in 1999. Impressed with the idea, Mark Groneweld from Alaska took these with him to build a bike that made riding through tough snowy conditions possible. The result was the first fat bike which enabled riders a smoother ride at the Iditabike event with less walking.

As with many new products, access to these fat bikes were initially very difficult. Most of the bikes were custom made and very expensive. Consequently, only hard-core riders embraced them.
In 2005, Surly Pugsley made the change by building a more affordable model and distributing them in high-end bike shops all over the US. Through the easier access to these bikes and its success many other big bike companies joined in over the years and extended their bike range with fat bikes.

20 inch kids fat bike

Today, nearly every major bike brand stocks fat bikes in their range, enabling the everyday rider to have access to some cheaper models as well. Since 2014, many brands have also added fat bikes to their kids’ bike range after On-One (UK) and S’COOL (Germany) took the lead in building the first 24” and 20” kids’ fat bikes, respectively. The cycling community was so impressed with this development that S’COOL received a Eurobike Award in the Mountain Bike Category for the first production 20” fat bike in the world.

Children now also have the opportunity to ride on more challenging and softer terrain as well.

Mont 24 Hour Race

Mont 24 hours race

As many mountain bikers might be aware, last weekend was the Mont 24 Hour Race near Canberra. Scoolbikes unfortunately could not participate in the race, but we had the chance to exhibit our bikes at the event and show the enduro mountain bike scene our kids’ MTB and fatbike line-up.

The event was situated about 10km from Bungendore, just off Kings Highway towards Queanbeyan and Canberra. The race started on Saturday at noon and finished 24 hours later (as the name suggests). The idea behind the race is to have a team of ideally 6 people, who one after the other do an approximate 18km lap in the East Kowen Forst area on their mountain bikes. Once a rider has finished a lap, the next rider follows and this goes on for 24 hours. The team with the most laps wins the event.

The great part about the race is that the riders bring along their partners and children and a lovely community meets in one spot and enjoys a weekend of pure outdoor life with camping and plenty of opportunities for mountain biking. The event also includes a kid’s race, so the smallest riders had a chance to be part of the show.  East Kowen Mountain is full of challenging and fun tracks and everybody could find a way of riding and experiencing the essence of mountain biking (even the ones who did not participate in the main event).

Facilities were provided by the organiser Self Propelled Enterprises and there were plenty of food stalls to grab a bite to eat. They even organised a café stall and a bar, so really nothing was missing the event.

The two days went very quick. We had a chance to show our bikes and it was very encouraging to hear such positive feedback. I would think those opinions are valuable reviews, given they were from serious riders with plenty of knowledge on bikes. We showcased our fat bikes of course, which were the eye catchers of our stand. The enthusiasm got even bigger when the riders examined its build and quality. They were highly impressed with the bikes as a whole.
The troX elite range got the thumbs up from pretty much everybody who looked at it. They are not just beautiful looking mountain bikes for children from six years, but are also sturdy and built from high-end components to ensure safety and fun.

All in all, the event was a great experience from both a business and personal perspective. It was lovely to finally get on my mountain bike again and to go for a good ride. The nature in the East Kowen Forest area is simply breathtaking. Never in my life did I expect to cross paths with a wild kangaroo and be surrounded by hundreds of rosellas while mountain biking. We certainly will return for a weekend ride in the near future and definitely next year for the next Mont 24 Hour Race, hopefully then with a big enough team to participate in the race.