It was born from my hatred of putting my bike on a trainer and “riding” it during the Winter months. A bike trainer is the only device that can turn something as fun as riding a bike into a boring and torturous session of going nowhere.
Then, on December 7th 2008, I mounted a couple Nokian Extreme 294 studded tires to my old 1996 Cannondale Super V, which I had just converted to a single speed, and discovered my love of cold weather ice biking. Studs are great fun on ice, but sometimes I would encounter snowy conditions that were not ideal for the 2.1″ studded knobbies. After 2 years of riding studded tires in the Winter, I was hooked. Winter riding is so much fun, I really look forward to that first beautiful snowfall.
Now, I had seen Surly’s purple Pugsley before, and it always put a smile on my face just looking at it. I never thought about ever getting one because you had to buy the frameset and all the components and build it yourself. I have zero knowledge and skill in the art of bike assembly, and by the time you were done they could be pretty expensive, especially if you had to pay someone at a bike shop to build it for you.
Then on August 2nd of 2010, Salsa released their new “Snow Bike”, the Mukluk. It was a complete bike for only $1499. I knew right away, I had to have one. After figuring out what size I’d need, I ordered my bike on September 10th, 2010. I was a little scared and worried about buying a bike I had never seen in person. I hope I did the right thing.
The next day, I went to see the bike shop that ordered my bike, and got to ride their shop Pugsley. That smile I got from my first Fat-Bike ride assured me I had made a great decision.
While waiting for my bike, I joined the Fat Bike forum at mtbr.com and became a Fat Bike fanatic. There I learned that all of the Mukluks Salsa had built were quickly sold. Holy cats! I wonder if I’ll still get a bike? In the time I wasted, trying to decide what size bike to get, I missed out on the first run of bikes shipped. I thought I might have blown my shot at a bike.
Surly saw what was happening and quickly released their new white Pugsley as a complete bike for the first time, for only $1550, and actually got them into bike shops before any of the Mukluks had been delivered. All of the new complete Pugsleys also sold out in a short time.
My worries ended on December 22nd, when the bike shop called to tell me they were assembling my bike and it will be ready tomorrow. Sweet!
I picked up my bike on December 23rd, 2010 and immediately went for a ride on the local snow covered Rail-Trail path. It was love at first ride. Since then, I’ve put over 600 miles on the bike. I have more miles on it than any of my other bikes this year. Including my road bike. Riding snow packed trails is a blast. And because snow conditions are constantly changing, even riding the same trail every day can be exciting.
The Mukluk brings new life to the sweet singletrack you love to ride. The big wheels ride like 29er’s, they roll over most anything with ease, but the low pressure tires also provide a little cushion.
I’ve also noticed a few things about Fat Bikes. Other than the obvious… They’re great in the snow, sand and singletrack. They offer gobs of traction that a “normal” mountain bike just can’t give you. You can’t ride one without smiling and feeling like a kid again.
I’ve noticed after a few group rides, that the Fat Bike community is all about one thing… Fun. They don’t care what brand of bike you ride, or how much (or little) you spent, how fast, or how slow you are. It’s about the ride, the freedom of being able to ride places a regular bike just won’t take you as easily. And, they’re not snooty or uppity about it, we want everyone to join us in the fun. If I only had a dollar for every time I let a curious stranger ride my bike! In fact, the first snow bike “race” I entered, (The FatTrack Team SnowBike Enduro) was set up so Fat-Bike owners were made team captains, and there was a rider pool of people that didn’t own a Fat-Bike. The captains chose riders to share the team bike. We’d ride a lap and switch riders. Some teams raced to win, some just rode for fun. And we all had a great time. I’ve never seen so many smiling faces in a bike race.
Are Fat-Bikes the most fun bikes ever made? Only you can decide that. But, on a recent trip to my favorite singletrack destination, I brought two bikes, my Mukluk and my $5400 light weight, full suspension mountain bike. Guess which one stayed in the car all weekend?