The Origin of Fat Bikes

What today has become a raging phenomenon, once had a very humble beginning. The fatbike as we know it today, didn’t look all the same when it was first introduced. With its roots back in Alaska, the fatbike was primarily invented as a transport mechanism for Alaskans to brave the dense snow.

It wasn’t until the early 1970’s – 1980’s that the modern form of the fat bike came to life. Frame builders in Alaska began to experiment with different parts to construct a bike that well fitted their environment. In 1987, the first Iditabike event challenged riders to travel 200 miles of Alaskan backcountry in winter, following snowmobile and dog mushing trails. The course followed the first section of the historic Iditarod dog mushing trail to Nome, another 1000 miles further. Conditions along the trail range from rideable frozen crust — the result of daily freeze-thaw cycles — to a mélange of soft snow, glare ice, and liquid water overflow. Harsh conditions, and lots of walking alongside a bike in the snow challenged riders to improve their equipment for next year. A wider tyre footprint was therefore essential.

It was Surly Pugsley who vowed to change the fatbike forever. Surly introduced the fat tyre, an impetus enough to reshape the way fatbikes were conceptualized. Released in an audacious purple color in 2005, along with the 65mm wide Large Marge rim and the 3.7” Endomorph tire, the modern fatbike era was born. The Pugsley was available to almost every bike shop in the country through Quality Bicycle Parts (QBP), a distributor with broad reach. The bike came as a bare frame and fork, and was intended to be completed with common mountain bike components, including standard 135mm hubs and a 100mm wide bottom bracket, also borrowed from downhill bikes.

Following the release of the Pugsley bike, several players tried to make an inward into the industry. Each offered newer aspects to the bike. Sales plummeted and demand increased. Soon, there was a fat bike for everyone. Beginners loved the more stable platform, while the experts swore by the year round versatility of the bike.

The fat bike today has scourged snow clad pathways, smoothly manoeuvred coastlines and have ridden the length and breadths of the continent. They now have dedicated races and expeditions across the world and a fan base that’s growing one country after another.

Little did fat bike enthusiasts like us know that the humble bike once used in the coldest part of the world, would someday become the hottest trend.