We met Wyatt Hrudka, President of Wyatt Bikes located in La Crosse, WI, a few months back at a fat-bike race in eastern Wisconsin where he gave us a sneak peek at his upcoming fat-bike called “The Drift”. Wyatt has been working with Singlespeed bikes and Fixed Gear rides for a few years now and the synergy of Fat and Fixed had me curious so I put a few questions to Wyatt and here is what he said!
When did you first discover fat-bikes?
The first time I discovered a fat bike “in person” was back in 2009 when I saw one cruising the streets of La Crosse. At first, I thought that fat bikes were going to be a fad even though I had never ridden one, but boy was I wrong! It wasn’t until a year and a half ago that I truly fell in love with fat-biking. I went on a ride with George Kapitz from Broken Spoke Bike Studio in Manitowoc, WI (an authorized Wyatt Bicycle Co. dealer) and he took me on a ride through the woods of Point Beach State Park and then onto the shores of Lake Michigan. Being able to transition from riding in the woods to riding on the beach was an amazing experience and opened up my eyes to the capabilities of riding a fat bike.
Wyatt Bikes started out selling Single Speed bikes and Fixed Gear rigs. What got you involved in doing a fat-bike?
Fixed gear and single speed bikes are very fun to ride because they are simple and reliable, but they do have their limitations, especially during the winter months. I wanted to offer my customers a bike that had very few limitations and could be ridden year round. There was no better solution than to create a fat-bike.
Your frames are US made, correct? How does that work?
Yes, our frames are made in the USA by an OEM manufacturer called Zen Bicycle Fabrication, located in Portland, OR. Zen introduced a private label line of bike frames last year and one of those was a fat-bike frame. I have always wanted to make an American made bicycle, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to test out their new private label frame design. I ordered a sample frame and had my factory in Asia make a lightweight aluminum fork to match. Initially, I planned on modifying the design of the frame, but after test riding the bike, I realized that the frame geometry was spot on for an all season bike.
How are your frames finished? Paint? Powder coat. Benefits of either?
The frames are powder coated in Ettrick, WI by a small shop called Premier Powdercoating, Inc. I had a horrible experience with my first production run of single speed bikes from Asia because they used liquid paint, which chipped very easily. I then decided that all future bikes would be powder coated because it is an eco-friendly alternative to liquid paint and is more resistant to chipping, scratching, fading, and wearing when exposed to snow, rain, and the hot sun. Powder coating also allows me to give customers the option to choose from several different frame colors. One of the limitations to powder coating is the inability to put decals underneath the clear coat because the frames are baked in an oven at almost 400 degrees.
Are you offering frame only, complete bikes or both?
I will be offering the frame, fork, frameset, and complete bike.
What is availability like? Could a customer buy one right now?
I am launching a Kickstarter campaign on Monday, June 16th to raise enough funds to bring the bike into production. We will be offering both the frameset and complete bike as a reward to those who donate enough money to our project.
Is there a model name for the fat-bike yet?
The Drift. I thought it fit well with the idea that it can be ridden through snow drifts, the rider can drift off to new territory, and Wyatt Bicycle Co. is located in the Driftless region of La Crosse, WI.
Do you work strictly with aluminum or have you explored any other materials?
I am currently only working with aluminum for the fat bike, but I will be exploring other materials for future models.
Where do you see fat-bike tech heading? Have we gotten as fat as we can/will?
I believe that fat bike tech will continue to improve as more and more companies get involved with fat bikes. Now that a full suspension fat bike is being offered, I think the next direction will be geared toward carbon full suspension frames and improving component offerings. I also see fat bikes heading more towards the e-bike market.
Are there organized fat-bike events in your area? Have you attended any?
There are a few events in Western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota, but there are currently no organized events in La Crosse. La Crosse is a great place to bike and I would like to organize an event during the winter months.
What do you like to do when you are not building bikes?
Building bikes takes up a lot of my time, but I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and traveling to new areas to bike.
What is your favorite beer? Any good, local brew houses in your neck of the woods?
I like a lot of different types of beer, but one of my favorites is from a local brewery, Pearl Street Brewery, and is called Downtown Brown (D.T.B.). Pearl Street Brewery is a huge supporter of cyclists in the La Crosse area and is putting on the 3rd annual Tour de Pearl this summer. Wyatt Bicycle Co. is the title sponsor of this event where participants are able to win one of 2 Wyatt bikes valued at $1,000.00 each. This event takes place this summer in both La Crosse and Madison.