The fatbike boom has landed on other countries too. In this three part series I take a look how fatbiking has progressed in my home country, Finland. The country’s location in Northern Europe means that we have snowy and cold winters, although in the southern and western parts the winter conditions can be milder and wetter. So, it’s no wonder that fatbikes have started to find homes in Finland.
In this first part we will look at fatbiking from a salesman’s perspective. I interviewed salesman and bike mechanic, Tommi Ruohola, of Foxcomp in Turku. Foxcomp is the Finnish distributor of Quality Bike Products, in other words of Surly Pugsley, Moonlander and Salsa Mukluk. It has the main shop in the capital city Helsinki. In Turku, Tommi is undoubtedly the best bike expert who understands the needs of bicycle enthusiasts really well, and having mountain biking background himself is passionate about bikes.
– I sold the first Pugsley in December 2009. The frames had been hanging here for a couple of years, but nobody was really interested before, Tommi tells. – A couple of Pugsleys were sold in Helsinki.
The big factor was certainly the change in winters. The winters of 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 saw very little snow and were very mild. 2008/2009 was slightly better, and then came the hard, cold and snowy winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011.
– Most of the mountain bikers perceive fatbikes as snowbikes. But the best thing about fatbikes is that they can be year-round adventure bikes. Compared to other bike touring and bikepacking mountain bikes, heavier loads and panniers behave better on fatbikes. And most of the fatbike frames have versatile rack mounts, so they are very easy to setup for bikepacking.
– It doesn’t make a sense for a buyer to purchase it only for snow use. Year-round use has a big meaning here.
– There is now probably about 50 fatbikes in all (including other brands) here in Finland. It’s not a lot, but the interest has grown.
What about the future of fatbikes? Will they stay more as special bike or go mainstream?
– The next step is suspension. Maybe full-suspension is in the works, and I would anticipate a hard-tail fat-bike with a front suspension. Add an adjustable seatpost and you have more freeride capable bike ready for Alps, bike parks and so on.
– Fatbikes would be great for other than enthusiasts too. Imagine professionals like mailcarriers and bike couriers in tough winter conditions. Or people with other hobbies, like ice-fishing. Or even golf players.
One aspect is also of course the size of fat tires and rims. Big Fat Larry and Clownshoe with a Moonlander is the biggest at the moment, but where are the limits?
– If I would try to make even fatter tire, like 5.5″, I would consider 24″ rim size. It would be better for smaller frames too.
Personally I see the future of fatbikes as interesting. They are certainly here to stay and will experience some growth. Where ever I have ridden with my fatbike, people are always interested of it.