Fat bikes might be less visible on Laramie’s streets, but the craze is far from dying off, Pedal House Co-owner Dewey Gallegos said.
“If you go to California, it’s over,” Gallegos said. “But here, it’s still going strong. The culture is still there, but people have gone from commuting and that biking on the road thing, to realizing what a beneficial mountain bike a fat bike can be during the winter.”
Alex Kapeller, a mechanic and salesman at All Terrain Sports, said he’s seen similar trends in the sport.
“I wouldn’t say it’s in decline by any means,” Kapeller said. “They’re popular here in the winter, especially warmer winters like this one, because it’s not as great for skiing.”
With technological advancements in the biking industry, a fat bike frame can come in dozens of shapes and sizes, suspensions or no suspensions, but what really makes a fat bike fat is the tire.
“It comes down to the tire dimensions,” Kapeller said. “Anything 4 inches or wider, I would classify as a fat bike.”
The average tire width of a typical mountain bike is just under 2½ inches, according to REI’s website.
Gallegos said fat bikes hit the market around 2009 with introduction of the Surly Pugsley.
“Now with all the new technology in fat bikes, people look at the Surly Pugsley as something of an archaic design,” he said. “Everything is offset, and they didn’t really have the technology to make the hubs wide enough. But truthfully, it was awesome. We had a lot of fun riding them.”
The fat biking craze picked up speed around 2013, and Gallegos said it hasn’t lost steam in the Rocky Mountain region.
“We rent more fat bikes during the winter time than we do all our other bikes during the summer,” he said.
All Terrain Sports also rents fat bikes, and Kapeller said the store has seen consistent interest in the sport during recent years.
“As the winters continue to get warmer, I think we’ll see more interest grow, because the snow isn’t great for skiing,” he said. “Without skiing, fat biking is one of your only other options to get outdoors during our long winter season.”
Pedaling past the initial burst of sales and subsequent design improvements, Gallegos said the industry will likely peak soon.
“I think we’re starting to see the limits of where it’s going to go,” he explained. “It will be an area specific niche like BMX is in California.”
But reaching a peak doesn’t mean the end of innovation.
“For a while, the trend was to get the widest tire you could get, because it helps you float so well,” Gallegos said. “But you got to go uphill on those. So, I think tire innovation is next. You’ll get a grippier tire.”
Lug design and narrower “Q factor,” or the width between a rider’s feet when pedaling, could also be ways the industry might improve fat bikes to make them more accessible to a wider range of riders.
Both Kapeller and Gallegos said a major factor in fat biking’s popularity around Laramie was a good relationship between skiers and bikers.
“The skiers and the fat bikers in a lot of places have huge conflicts,” Gallegos said. “But we didn’t really experience that here, because the skiers here are pretty rad to be honest.”
Call All Terrain Sports at 721-8036 or the Pedal House at 742-5533 to learn more about fat biking.
The Pedal House is also hosting a fat bike race called “Chubby Chaser” at 9 a.m. Saturday, starting in the Happy Jack Recreation Area lower parking lot. Gallegos said the race is a good opportunity for people to engage with the fat biking community and learn more about the sport.