“Why do you drive an SUV? Do you need such a car?” Gunnar Fehlau of the Bicycle Press Service counters the question with more questions. “First and foremost a Fatbike is a lot of fun and provides a completely new riding experience. It easily overcomes challenging conditions like sand, gravel, ice, mud or snow. My Fatbike helps me reclaim the fourth season; even in winter I don’t have to forgo biking.”
Putting spikes on the wheels of a conventional bike would not get you very far. A Fatbike, however, easily tracks even through deep snow. Fehlau knows: he challenged himself last winter and biked through snowy Norway in temperatures of minus 32 degrees. “After I got used to the bike, I couldn’t stop myself from grinning with happiness.”
Until now, the all-terrain vehicles among bicycles were mostly the domain of extreme cyclists in the USA. The bikes with fat tires are an absolute craze and have been around for about ten years. According to estimates by experts they have grown from a special order to a mass-produced product within the last three years.
Surly brought the first Fatbike to market in 2005. “Nobody ever dreamed at the time that we would become so successful with it,” the company still admits. By now, the pioneer Surly has three Fatbike models in the program and introduced the Moonlander model last year for the first time also in Europe.
These days there is a considerable selection of Fatbikes available around the globe. Every large and even smaller manufacturers offer one. German manufacturer Velotraum offers an extremely wide bike, called Pilger; and the German-American company Felt presented the prototype of an E-Fatbike with Bosch drive, called Lebowsk-e.
“Fatbikes are no longer just niche products,” Fehlau says. “This segment is extremely exciting for the bicycle industry. Proof is that many of the large manufacturers are already offering components for these bikes.” Only a few years ago European Fatbike fans were forced to order tires or suspension forks from special dealers in North America.
The bicycle expert believes that Fatbikes will become more attractive for the mass market in the not-too-distant future. On one hand, because cycling is becoming more popular and the Fatbike seems perfect for cyclists who want to be independent of the weather. On the other hand, because an increased selection will translate into “getting more for your money”. At the moment these bikes are still comparably expensive; the average cost is 2,500 Euro.
The technology of the “Fatties” as the Americans love to call them, is relatively simple. The lowered pressure in the fat tires absorbs all shocks, they are usually pumped to less than one bar. The tires of these monstrous bikes are up to 4.8 inches, or twelve centimeters, thick.
Fatbikes seem to have gained as much popularity as cross-country skiing in the snowy north of the USA. In Minneapolis, for example, where Surly’s headquarters are located, Fatbike enthusiasts founded an annual race, the Fatbike Frozen Forty, in 2012. Wonder if the wheeled monsters truly go really fast?