Watson Cycles makes the Great Divide Fat Tire fat-bike and we recently had the opportunity to ask Andrew Watson about his inspiration and experiences with fat-bikes. Read on, gentle readers!
When did you first discover fat-bikes and what was your initial impression?
More than 10 years ago I was digging around in my friend’s basement and found some wheels that blew my mind. He had ordered four blank steel rims, ripped a sidewall of each one, and then welded them together to make two double wide ones. Then he drilled out his own spoke holes and laced them up. Let me tell you these things were NOT beautiful or well done but they were super cool. When I asked him about them (he was a bit older than me) he started telling me about this race he had done 3 times in Alaska and how he had made those wheels for more floatation after having a hard time on his first race. I had always wanted a fat bike since the moment I saw those things.
When did you actually build your first fat-bike?
I built my first fat-bike for NAHBS 2011. I had some Graceful Fat Sheba’s hanging in my shop for almost two years before I figured out what I really wanted to do with my design. I didn’t want to simply build a wide tire bike; I wanted to build a touring bike. I pulled in my friend Rick mentioned before who is still one of my main riding buddies and grilled him over every detail. I wanted to know every problem he had faced with his equipment through the Iditasport so I could come up with a solution. Thanks to him we came up with a pretty bad-ass bike.
What have you learned and/or improved since you built your first fat-bike?
Control! Those fat tires go wherever they want to. I nearly killed myself a few times by having my front tire grab onto something so I bent up my Titanium Parkarino bar. 720 mm wide with a 31 degree sweep, it puts hands in complete control over your rig. The ti also makes the rigid ride a little smoother if you have your tire pressure up riding on hardpack surfaces.
Symmetrical frame vs. offset?
Symmetrical, I’m not sold on the offset thing.
Paint vs powder coat?
I was a powder guy for years but I’ve made the switch. I’m all paint now. It’s more expensive but the quality is there. Powder is never as beautiful and can be finicky. A really good quality wet paint job is hard to match.
Do you work strictly with steel or have you explored any other materials?
Other than the Ti handlebars I’m all steel. I’m real big on making everything as American as I can and it’s hard to match the quality, ride, and performance of True Temper steel.
Where do you see fat-bike tech heading? Have we gotten as fat as we can/will?
That’s a good question. Don’t know. I’m real happy with my Great Divide Fat Tire and don’t know that I would change a thing. I think a tubeless rim would be cool, although it probably already exists and I just don’t know it.
What is the most unusual request you’ve had from a fat-bike frame customer?
One guy told me that he did NOT want the twin flask cages on the fork. Does he even know what Fat-Bikes are about??
Are there organized fat-bike events in your area?
Well, certainly not this year, there is no freaking snow! Such a lame winter, I’ve only gotten in powder a few times, at least I live near the beach so there is always sand.
What do you like to do when you are not building bikes?
What is your favorite beer? Any good, local brew houses in your neck of the woods?
I don’t play favorites. I’m an equal opportunity drinker, however at the moment I’m split between Smuttynose Big A IPA, Victory’s Storm King, and Dogfishhead’s Indian Brown. We do also have a stellar brew pub up the road call The Willimantic Brewing Company. I go to a lot of brew pubs and I have to say this might be my favorite. It’s at a central point between several rail trails so riding there is fun, the food is amazing (try the chili), their beer is epic and always cycling/ experimenting, and it is in an old stone cut postal building that makes for a fun experience.
Any thoughts we didn’t touch on?
The headtube badge! I put my sculpture to work and we came up with this great abominable snow man. I cast each one in my shop one at a time to be the protector or the bicycle.
Thanks, Andrew! Great perspective on you and the Great Divide Fat Tire from Watson Cycles!