We recently shot off a note to Conrad at Sandman Bikes in Belgium to learn about their plans for the 2013 model year. Sandman, as you many know, is a maker of fat-bikes that are geared towards the all season fatbike crowd. Their bikes have had front suspension for several years now as well as narrower rims and the type of riding the company aims their bikes at can probably be best shown by checking out some of the videos that Martin Campoy has done riding a Titanium Hoggar Sandman. Like this one!
Without further ado, here is some major info that Conrad passed on. In fact, the bikes are so new that the spy shots we have are of the first batch fresh out of the paint shop and under assemble for the upcoming Roc d’Azur tradeshow that begins tomorrow. More photos when we get them!
FB.C – Conrad, can you tell us a bit about Sandman’s plans for your upcoming fatbike models?
Conrad – We’ve got several completely new models in the pipeline and a little revamp of our top titanium model. Plus some other 2012-2013 projects about to see the light. Your timing is perfect, you get the scoop – even before our own website or Facebook pages!
At the start, our business model was (and still is) to cater to the high-end trailbike crowd. Our handmade bikes are available through our website and some “boutique” dealers who appreciate a well-made frame & bike. Our goal was to develop the best fat-tired bike available, and have that technology trickle down the line when the moment was there.
That moment has arrived! We get almost daily demands for an all mountain fatbike, but cheaper and locally available through a dealer network. So, that’s what we’ve been working very hard at this year: translating our know-how to a range of fast & fun fatbikes, at affordable price points and which are available through your LBS.
Instead of producing locally, we now work together – every step of the way – with the best Taiwan manufacturers for production according to our designs and specs.
The result of our new partnership is the new Atacama, the entry level Sandman with a rigid wide fork with a 15mm thru-axle. It’s a perfect base for later upgrades if owners would want to tackle tougher terrain once they’ve outgrown the possibilities of this rigid bike.
Next is the new Gobi, sharing the aluminum frame with the Atacama. That’s our workhorse “big mountain” fatbike with our very own Sandman suspension fork and a very good but still affordable spec list. Race Face parts, Sram X7/X9 and hydraulic discs.
Last, but not least, will be our Titanium Hoggar Sandman, a very high end fatbike with all the goodies. It’s a fantastic bike in its current form, so the design won’t change and it will remain available as is with some spec changes in 2013.
There might be a fourth model if the market asks for it, the design is ready and spec list is as good as complete. So if there’s demand, we’ll add it to our line-up.
FB.C – You’ve mentioned that you make your fatbikes for the trailbike crowd. What design features do you consider important for that market?
Conrad – After much consideration, we’ve stuck to our 165mm rear hub because we see no reason to widen it: our frames were designed before the existence of the super wide tires, but we always had reserve clearance in mind so they accept a 4.8″ tire on a 100mm rim as they are. On top of that, we’ve been able to build our own hub at a weight below the 170mm boutique brands, with a price that has nothing to do with “boutique” and with a 10mm through-axle QR for added stiffness. When you see what our customers do with their Sandman bikes, a thru axle front & rear is a good thing… and by building it with a 10mm axle in the rear you can use the hub in any frame with normal dropouts, including our current ones.
FB.C – Why not a 170mm hub?
Conrad – The only reason to go to a 170mm hub would be a choice between a wider range of hubs. But what are the reasons to get a different hub? Lighter? Bummer, everything on the market is heavier… Cheaper? If tomorrow somebody would make a looooow-end 170mm hub, maybe… Stiffer? Hell no! Easier to service? Ours is on par with the best out there, it’s got an easy to remove & rebuildable 6-pawl freehub – it’s even tandemproof. So, basically, a 170mm upgrade in any way you’d want (apart from color options) is just not there. The only reasonable upgrade we can think of is an aluminum through-axle instead of the stock steel one. So such QR’s will be both on our parts list.
FB.C – You were one of the first fat-bike companies to embrace front suspension. What is new on that front?
Conrad – We recognized the need for a more affordable fatbike-specific suspension fork. Our current German A Flame is a very nice fork, we’re very happy with it and we’ll continue to offer it on our high end bikes, but price wise it’s limited to the happy few. So, we went to the drawing board and set to designing our own fork. It has the familiar upside down design, the travel is between 90 and 130mm, with a 15mm proprietary QR through-axle, it accepts a 4.8″ tire on a 80mm rim and as the cherry on the cake: it will be available for 1 1/8″ and tapered steerers alike.
We’ll start testing the new fork by the end of next week when all parts are in – alas not in time for the Roc d’Azur show & races. Pricing will be concluded after the lab & terrain tests in a few weeks time and they’re expected to hit the shelves around February.
We expect a massive demand for these forks. While they’re designed to work best with our Sandman frame geometry, we’ll offer them as an aftermarket part too. So it might be a good idea for those interested to send us an e-mail to reserve theirs.
FB.C – You mentioned earlier that you are revamping your distribution of Sandman bikes. How can customers get a bike from Sandman?
Conrad – Dealers/distributors interested working with Sandman can contact us through our website – http://www.sandmanbikes.be – which remains a work in progress. For those customers in countries without dealerships we’ll maintain the webshop. We’re busy integrating credit card & PayPal payments along with a slew of other improvements to make it more user friendly.
FB.C – What more would you like to tell our readers about Sandman Bikes?
Conrad – Once sold, we don’t just forget about our bikes and their owners! We’re about to launch an adventure series in which Sandman owners are invited to participate.
The kick-off to the series will be the tour of Menorca on singletrack. Menorca is a little known speck of an island in the Mediterranean, a rare gem largely forgotten by tourists. We’re going to follow, in four days, a 180km singletrack all around the island along the rocky coastline and over hidden sandy beaches. Absolutely perfect terrain for a Sandman and a great way to linger in summer temperatures just those few days extra. Dates will be 1st to 4th of November. Details will appear on the website and our Facebook page very soon.
We’ll go with the Sandman Owners Club to Finland as well, in February to participate in Europe’s first & only long distance snowrace by bike – http://www.rovaniemi150.com. To defend our 2012 win of course but also with a number of training days leading up to the race while doing “touristy” things like visiting a reindeer farm, an ice hotel, ice fishing… all by bike of course. Here’s an impression of the fun we had last year: http://vimeo.com/38215534
Then a summer bikeraft expedition in Iceland and some other summer adventures. 2013 will be a fun year for Sandman owners !
FB.C – You’ve mentioned some great European plans and events, any chance we will see you at events in North America?
Conrad – We’re also going to enter bikes and riders in a number of North American races, definitely in some of the XC classics like we already did in 2010 & 2012 with the BCBR. But we’re looking at some Super D races too, because they seem like the most fun (and that’s what it’s all about!!). We are working on a plan and on nailing down events to attend now.
FB.C – Thanks, Conrad! We look forward to more info and photos as your 2013 plans roll out and become a reality!
Conrad – Cheers!