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Interview with Greg Matyas – Owner (and racer) of Fatback Bikes

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We met Greg Matyas out in LasVegas at the Interbike Outdoor Demo last September and asked him for the opportunity for an interview. I hope you enjoy reading Greg’s answers as much as we liked hearing them.

FBC ~ Tell us the story of what led you to open Speedway and then start your own fat-bike company (Fatback).

GM – Well, I was getting a bit long in the tooth for an exotic dancer, so I said to myself, “Why not lose your ass in the bike industry?”  Actually I was a commercial contractor and my body didn’t like it anymore, so, being a lifelong cyclist, I decided to give it a go. As a kid, I would ride all winter, as well as alpine and nordic ski race, so it was an natural progression. Originally I was going to do skis in winter as well, but ended up having my hands full right from the get go with the Fatback line. Pete Basinger* was working at the shop, and he’s been on top of that game for awhile now, so he had lots of good input. At that time, the Pugs was available, as well as the Vicious, and the  Wildfire. They were all a little different, but I had my own ideas. First and foremost, a wide, symmetrical drive train. Wider tire clearance. Lots of stand over, vertical drop outs, longer, slacker head tube, lower bb, steeper seat tube, under top tube cable routing…basically everything you see on virtually all the bikes now. We started with 165mm rear  hubs, as that’s all that was made in 2007. In 2008 I had Peter at Phil Wood make the first set of 170mm rear hubs for us. Beautiful, but really expensive, and a bit heavy, so I had Hadley start making hubs for us and we still use them now, though we do have an imported hub as well. None of us thought it would be as popular as it is. Lot’s of riders here prefer winter over summer riding. More trails, much smoother, no bugs, bears, mud or mosquito’s.

Greg at the start of the ITI Feb. 27 2011 by Sven Berglund

FBC ~ Kevin Breitenbach^ told me that you have quite a few races under your belt. Tell us how your racing experience influenced the design of the Fatback.
GM – I’ve always been competitive, and almost always think I can improve products (at least to my liking), whatever they are with the exception of Midnight Sun Sockeye Red and Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin. They cannot be improved.  I started racing bikes in ’78, as well as ski racing, so I do have a few races under my belt, but after getting married and having three kids, my perspective is much better now. I wanted a bike that I could ride fast in winter. The first few people I saw riding fat tires were rolling along at a walking pace. Didn’t look like much fun at all. Then I tried a friend’s Pugs that wasn’t loaded down with every doo dad and gee gaw and it ripped. I was hooked, but still wanted a different ride. I did a bit of prototyping and came up with what we have now. No right or wrong, just my interpretation, with some input from a handful of  folks.

Greg racing the White Mountains 100 in 2011

FBC ~ In the last few years, Fatback has owned the podium at the ITI, White Mtns.-100, Arrowhead-135 and Sustina-100. What makes a Fatback so unbeatable in these ultra-distance, arctic races??

GM – It’s because we’re all racing to get away from Sarah Palin. Our success is due to the riders. Plain and simple. I’m thrilled to have them on the bikes. Great people, tough competitors, seasoned winter riders, and particularly smart racers.

FBC ~ When we talked to you last month at the Interbike Outdoor Dirt Demo, you were riding a Belt Drive, Fatback with a squishy fork. Will you be offering that Fatback/Flame fork as an option for your customers?

GM – At some point down the road. No need for a suspension fork in the snow or sand, but more and more riders are using these bikes for different (summer) conditions, and it makes sense. Fork availability is the big obstacle now, but I imagine that will change soon. The belt drive or IGH hub can be used on our Rocker drop out frames now.

FBC ~ What are your thoughts on using fatbikes year round?

GM – My first thought is to start calling them ATB’s, as that’s a much better name than fat bike, which is pretty mundane. They are not the perfect bike for all occasions, but they can handle just about any condition. Using them year round depends where you live and what terrain you ride. We have lots of customers who have sand washes to deal with in summer, or lots of beach riding, so it makes good sense for them. There is a stability to them you don’t get on narrower tires/wheels.

FBC ~ Does Fatback have any new product developments that you can share with our readers?

GM – My electric fixie full suspension fat recumbent should be out any time. Now that I’ve let that one slip…I have several projects in development I’m keeping under wraps-they should be out in the next month or two. A few things I can speak of are a new 1.5 steer tube aluminum fork with more tire clearance arriving next week. Our US made hubs went under the knife to shave grams, and we’ll offer a ti free hub as well, which saves weight but doesn’t gouge like aluminum bodies. We will also have an 1X11 compatible free hub available in Dec. Lot’s of cool things happening so stay tuned!

FBC ~ What do you think, will be,  the next big innovation or development for fat-bikes?

GM – I think the next wave of innovations will probably be suspension, but that’s kind of a regional thing. Tire development is coming along quickly now too. We’ll see how some of the current developments pan out.

*Pete is a six time Iditirod Trail Invitational Winner
^ Kevin is the 2012 Arrowhead 135 Winner

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5 Responses to Interview with Greg Matyas – Owner (and racer) of Fatback Bikes

  1. Leopold Porkstacker November 22, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    Great interview. Love Greg’s sense of humour (the Palin joke, the “electric fixie full suspension fat recumbent” line). I was originally looking at getting a Fatback back in 2009 but the deal fell through–not Greg’s fault. Riding a 9:zero:7 at the moment, but am still lusting after a Fatback.

  2. Henri Bourjade November 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    I have an electric recumbent velomobile. It is not fat nor fixie. It is serious, doctor ?

  3. Kirk Fisher December 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Great interview. Greg is a great guy. I bought an aluminum Fatback last year. It has been an awesome bike and I would choose to ride it (winter) over my MTB (summer). They nailed the geometry which is huge given all the fine adjustments necessary when riding technical singletrack on snow at high speeds. These bikes are performance oriented whether loading them down with gear for an expedition or out ripping a 2 hour high speed ride.

  4. Rob B August 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    Am in the process of putting a FatBack together and for all the reviews I looked at the FatBack just seemed the way to go. Can’t wait to get it built up and on the trail.

    Spoke with the Speedway shop and a class act for sure! Once you go FatBack you’ll never go back!

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  1. Fat-bike.com Interview Series | FAT-BIKE.COM - December 17, 2012

    [...] Greg Matyas – Fatback owner and racer- http://fat-bike.com/2012/11/interview-with-greg-matyas-owner-and-racer-of-fatback-bikes/ [...]

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