I’ve learned a lot from working in the bike industry over the past couple of years since Verde, my brand communications agency, signed on with several bike brands.
In that time, I’ve worked hard to learn my pro road riders, I know my seat height by heart (74.5) and how many teeth my front chain ring has. But there’s one more thing I’ve learned but don’t really understand. … Throw out the topic of “Fat Bikes” at any industry function and be prepared for a cage fight.
This bovine, corpulent and well, kind of dumpy and plumpish genre of cycling is indeed a lightning rod. There are some, like me, who truly embrace and love (and want to buy and ride) all things bike, and we are okay with embracing the porcine Fat Bike.
Other cyclists, and there are many, strongly disdain the Fat Bike. I can understand why a cyclist who doesn’t live in a mountain town or in a region that has a long winter and no mountains (such as Minnesota, for example), would automatically dismiss the Fat Bike. But why do so many other cyclists harbor hatred toward the Butterball of the Bike Industry?
Because I have to step carefully these days (being the representative of several bike brands), I decided to research this trend first before impulsively purchasing a Fat Bike. I note four main pillars of hatred that emerged from the online posturing I waded through as I researched Cyclists Who Hate Fat Bikes (CWHFB).
1 – Plain ol’ Prejudice.
There’s a strong tone of prejudice going on around Fat Bikes. FACT: Serious cyclists eschew the concept of weight. An entire segment of the industry exists because people want to shave grams of weight from their bikes. I learned this the hard way this year when was made fun of for putting a more comfortable saddle (read: heavier) on my super deluxe Diamondback Podium7 race bike. (Yes, I really did that.)
Fat Bikes are indeed heavy and people pedal them in races anyway, against bikes that weigh 10 or 15+ pounds less.
I think that Pink Bike’s Mitchell Scott summed it up best:
“Please agree with me here, the words “fat” and “bike” should never even be used in the same sentence, let alone right beside each other. …”
2 –Design Snobbery.
Many bike brands are over a century-old and push their European heritage. What do people in Europe love to do? Make fun of fat Americans, that’s what. …
Imagine the response I got when I recently innocently asked my manager at one of our bike companies not if, but when the brand would be debuting their Fat Bike. I didn’t receive an answer – he just stared out into space for a few minutes as if to compose himself, there was steam visibly emulating from his ears.
“But they seem so great! You can ride them at the Nordic center and on the trails in the winter! You can tour on them!” I excitedly blabbered on to him, trying to chip away at the awkwardness I had created with my initial question.
I now see that my serious guffaw was just like asking the designers at Mini when their version of the Hummer would be coming out.
Completely. Different. Customer.
Mini = Blue Stater, design aficionado, likely metro sexual tendencies, lover of dark coffees and the rarest of cycling socks. Ardent environmentalist.
Hummer = Red Stater and as a result, Red Neck (caps used for emphasis), meat and potatoes, NASCAR, Rush Limbaugh.
Reference this image of the Cogburn CG4, covered on the GearJunkie:
See? Extreme. Polarizing.
3 – Fat Biker Parties? Um, different:
Having been to a few of the Interbike Sinclair parties and other gatherings, I kind of can’t wait to hear the response from CWHFB on some of the events and gatherings I’ve been seeing online.
Reference: Southern Comfort Tour-de-Fat
Reference: Fat Bike Championship in Japan (photo courtesy of Fat-Bike.com). A picture is worth 10,000 words. …
4. Trek and Specialized both have Fat Bikes Now
In my hometown of Durango, Colo., Fat Bikes are embraced – I think. Personally, I see a lot of utilitarianism in the Fat Bike. Instead of resigning myself to the indoor trainer or rippin’ off some ‘K’s’ at the Nordic Center, I can now also ride my bike on the snow.
No matter what CWHFB try to do, there’s no stopping the growth of the community of Fat Bikers. Fat Bikers buy stuff, as evidenced by the myriad of accessories are already showing up at retail in the form of special racks, touring bags and the like. Watching the reception to the emergence of the Fat Bike category has been sort of akin to the cold shoulder stand-up paddleboards received when they first came out. We all know where that “trend” went – it continues to build into a bonafide bright spot in the summer outdoor market.
So, did I end up going there?
You bet I did.
I also will proudly pedal my Fat Bike because I want to keep cycling approachable to as many people as possible. I have to play my part, right?
Declaration to the Bike Industry: Embrace the Velveeta and Coors factor that Fat Bikes bring to the party! There may be a day very soon in a cross country race where you’re passed by a cyclist riding one of these elephantine steeds, might as well make peace with this new genre now.