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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.