Saturday, 7 July 2012

Fat Bikes and Evolution.

Evolution does not affect only living creatures. Objects are affected by a never ending evolution too: design, materials, engineering... everything of daily use is constantly changing.
Bikes do not differ: the market changes, consumers require always different things so manufacturers have to adapt. Just consider frames: till 25 years ago 90% of the bikes had steel frames... then aluminium  became the next big thing, then carbon fiber, then titanium... nowadays there are many manufacturers that admit that steel wasn't that bad after all.
Now let's consider mountain bikes: the MTB phenomenon started in the 80s, mountain bikes at the time were very similar to cruisers, but with fat wheels and a sturdy steel frame, made to receive some abuse. And those frames performed very well in the years, fact is that some of those bikes are still around (my Bianchi Cougar and my Wilier Triestina still serve me very well). But what was the main purpose of those first mountain bikes? Surely it wasn't speed. Those first MTBs were actual adventure bikes, made to explore unpaved areas and to have a lot of fun.
Then, in the early 90s something changed: at first it was just the front suspension, then manufacturers decided that mountain bikes had to become lighter and lighter. That was because of increasing popularity of cross-country racing.
From that moment, mountain bikes went hi-tech. Ultralight materials, aerodynamics, carbon fiber. On the other side, also MTB racing changed a lot, becoming more and more specialized: cross country, all mountain, downhill... and bikes were specifically made for every type of race. From an evolutionary point of view, it's called specialization and character displacement. Great, isn't it?
Yes, great. But mountain bikes were made to explore paths and have lots of fun, not only for racing, right?
Seems like something is missing in MTB evolution.
But wait... have a look:
Surly Pugsley, the most classic Fatbike.

A sturdy bike, with extrafat tires that can go on snow, gravel, sand. Wasn't it the first idea behind mountain bikes?
Now this is the natural evolution of a bike made to explore and to have a lot of fun, and it's called Fat Bike.
Fat Bikes were born in Alaska as snow bikes, but soon they were appreciated all over the world and used to recreative rides on beaches, forests, everglades... wherever. Seems like they float too.
Remember the post I made some time ago about the Rovaniemi 150 race, and the video I posted? The bicycles in that video are all Fatbikes.
Nowadays Fatbikes are not an Alaskan specialty anymore, there are many manufacturers worldwide that produce fatbike frames and parts, there are models with titanium frames too.
To discover the Fatbike world one of the best online resource is Fat-bike.com: lots of pictures, videos, reviews and a full list of manufacturers.
If you enjoy a good read, then you should have a look at PugsleyOnPartol too. The admin of this website is a happy Fatbike rider and he puts a lot of energy and passion in spreading the word about the joy of riding a Fatbike on all terrains. Excellent pictures and videos too.

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