Sandman Bikes is a Belgian fat-bike company that makes all-terrain bikes people have been doing incredible things on since 2007. Not just for sand and snow, these Sandman bikes! The current Sandman design is a symmetrical frame using a 165mm rear hub and a 100mm BB and they’re available with front suspension forks that can handle the toughest terrain and downhill trails.
I sent an email to Sandman and hooked up with Conrad for this email interview with Koen. Hope you enjoy it!
How did racing motorcycles influence Sandman?
Racing motorcycles helped make the Sandman happen. I was pretty good at tuning & setting up racing motorbikes and I always knew what setup or line saved me that tenth of a second – or not. I learned something very important early on while racing motorbikes:
- not everything what feels fast, is fast.
Like a screaming, adrenaline fueled two-stroke compared to a seemingly lame 2-cyl four stroke with a lot of grunt from down low. Or a rigid bike compared to a bobbing fully. Or a fully suspended MTB compared to a fatbike…
And I’m apparently blessed with a built-in chrono, my team always joked that I didn’t need them to show me my lap times because I always knew within a few tenths of a second, on 2-minute laps.
So when I started Mountain Biking, I had a completely open mind as to technical solutions and I could recognize parts or setups that gave me an advantage – or that were not so efficient.
Mountain bikes, being new at that time and dirt cheap compared to racing motorcycles, were (and still are) great for trying things out. I tried about every technical solution which I could lay my hands on and which seemed worth the while. Being the early nineties, I had no shortage of “weird” inventions to choose from :-).
So without my motorcycle tuning & racing background I wouldn’t have calibrated my internal chrono and – worse – I would probably have listened to people “in the know”. If all of us had done that, we’d still be on rigid bikes with cantilevers… or, for the rebels amongst us: with elastomer forks…
Karl is the financial man, me the R&D guy. Apart from the two of us we now have people manning the office, and for sales and marketing. And a team of what we call our “ambassadors”: nice persons with the right mindset (having fun) and at the same time incredible bikers who give us feedback and try to discover the limits of what our bikes are capable of. Speaking of ambassadors: our Race & Adventure team definitely lacks a woman, so if someone matching the above description feels like she’d fit in… ?
Tell us about meeting and riding in Copper Canyon. Did the idea to start a fat-bike company get worked out on that trip?
In fact it was the other way around: while doing research on fat bikes I came across Ray Molino’s website and noticed that he’s the expert Mountain Bike guide in the Copper Canyon region. The Copper Canyon was already very high on my to-do list. I worked for 12 years as a full-time professional canyoneering and mountain guide in the Spanish Pyrenees, nowadays I just do first descents for fun – hence the Copper Canyon region being on my radar.
So I contacted Ray and together with a bunch of Belgian friends we had a very memorable holiday together with him and his wife Michelle. My fat-bike project was still on the drawing board so we did talk fat-bikes during the trip.
Ray was quite a visionary almost 20 years ago, his problem was that there were no off-the-shelf frames at the time and he lacked the means to have them made. Much of the success of fatbikes is thanks to his audacity in having the first fat tires and rims made in Mexico. When you look at his tire and the Endomorph, the pedigree is quite clear.
And to everybody who reads this: Ray as a guide is very, very highly recommended and the Copper Canyon region is awesome – http://www.remolino.com/
At first the asymmetrical frame idea seemed great… for about 5 minutes. Strong and light = symmetrical.
Where are the fat-bike hot-spots in Europe?
There are no fat-bike hotspots yet, in terms of numerous fatbikes. In terms of terrain: everywhere.
Have you started to see Fat-Bike Races popping up in droves, like we see here in the US?
No, there are not enough fatbikes for the moment, and too far in between. On top of that most are Pugsleys, not the ideal all around race bike… But I’m personally dead against “just-for-fat” races or categories: events mostly want them as the comical sidekick! We deserve better: and that is to run with the best of them. Its pretty clear to everyone that you do have a bit of a disadvantage on a Pugs, but on a Sandman you definitely don’t need a special category.
To get this straight: I’m talking about normal mountain bike races. Snow and especially winter ’round the clock slogs where the average speed is a single digit figure are a whole different animal. In those events a different category would be appropriate for skinny tired MTB’s, for comical relief ;-).
Tell us about the ‘M’ Award that Sandman won recently?
This year the leading Belgian Mountain Bike portal website – www.mountainbike.be – granted us their innovation award at Belgian’s biggest bike show. We’re pretty proud of it too!
Where are bikes or frames available in the US and if they are not currently available will you be coming to the US market.
We’ve had some real bad luck with a software partner that was going to build us a website with integrated e-shop. A long story, but we ended up switching partners a few weeks ago and basically we have to start over. But the bikes and frames, are available: I think the oldest Sandman in the US is a few months from 2 years old now. In Florida.
Thanks, Conrad! And keep doing incredible fat-bikes!