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Alaska – Episode 3 – Fatback & the Speedway Shop Ride

Greg Matyas is the captain of the USS Fatback. A fat-bike maker, true to its Alaskan heritage. I chose to introduce Greg, in such a manner, because Greg posseses the charisma of Jame T. Kirk along with a good balanced helping of pirate ship captain. Greg’s one of those guys that you want to follow into battle….or more likely, into the Alaskan wilderness. In addition to running, Fatback, Greg also owns Speedway Cycles in Anchorage. I respect his no BS, honest and common sense, approach to this (multi-terrain) cycling movement that we try to capture and share with our readers. You can’t talk about Greg, without mentioning his sense of humor! We interviewed Greg back in November of 2012. You can experience a bit of Greg’s sense of humor, for yourself, in his responses to our interview questions. Check it out right here —>http://fat-bike.com/2012/11/interview-with-greg-matyas

Fatback has roots deep in Alaska’s long and rich, bicycle racing history. This is the band of Alaskan bike pilots that ruled Ultra Fat Bike Racing Scene, up until a year ago. Six time ITI champion, Pete Bassinger, worked and rode for fatback. Past Arrowhead champions, Jeff Oatley and Kevin Breitenbach both ride Fatbacks. White Mountain 100, winner, Tim Berntson, rides a Fatback. Greg not only designs the bikes , he also has raced in every big race in Alaska. Greg has been making steel, aluminum & titanium fat race bikes specifically designed to carry a rider and their gear into the back country and… regularly visit race podiums, for many years now. Fatback makes everything from a classically beautiful stainless steel , double diamond frame and fork, to the latest 190 mm aluminum, hot rod, made to run the biggest and the baddest rim and tire combination. The newest model in the fatback line-up is the Corvus. A full carbon frame and fork, that I was fortunate enough to get a chance to ride, while I was in Alaska.

Fatback Stainless Steel (Made in Wisconsin)

Fatback Stainless Steel (Made in Wisconsin)

The Speedway Shop Ride

When I got to Alaska, Greg invited me to come to the Speedway Shop Ride on Tuesday night. I started to get a good feeling, when Tim Bernston mentioned the ride, to me, at the Frosty Bottom awards party on Sunday. Tim had that tell tale, glint in his eyes that hints of mischief and fat-bike fun! On Tuesday evening, I headed over to Speedway Cycles in Midtown Anchorage…an area of town, the locals call ‘Spenard’. Speedway Cycles is someplace that every fat-biker should visit. Greg has put together a collection of Alaskan Snow-Bike Racing history that covers the wheel and tire evolution that gave birth to the modern fat-bike that we all now ride. There are also some rare old pre-pug race bikes on display all hung from the rafters.

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On top of all of that – there are rows and rows of Fatbacks…Kona…Revelate and Becker Bags – Shoes – 45Nrth Boots – Tires of every variety and brand. I walked in the door and started clicking pictures like a Japanese tourist. Greg snapped me out of my trans-like state and offered me a beer. Soon the shop was buzzing with conversations and dozens of friendly introductions! The folks in Anchorage really went out of their way to make me feel at home….and it was about right at this moment that I felt like I had found my peoples.

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Greg set me up with a 190 aluminum demo, rocking clownshoes and a pair of race trimmed buds…..plus a really sweet Lupine lighting system, while Speedway’s ace mechanic,Jason Hill, put the finishing touches on the brand spanking new Corvus Carbon test frame, for Greg to ride. The Corvus was set up with xx1 and Fatback’s new carbon rims. All of this new cutting edge product had literally come in that day. (Another moment that exemplifies my good fortune). After a bit, we started to get ready to roll.

Speedway Group Ride

The Group Shot (click to enlarge)

Greg walked around and handed out road sodas in a scene that could come directly from just about any one of our group rides back home. We took a group photo and then blasted down the multi-track to some creek side singletrack sections that were either a little sketchy or I was feeling the effects of my pre-ride beer(s). I proceeded to dab and then full body dab into the deep snow. One of the coolest (and kindest) riders in Anchorage, Tim Berntson, helped me up and along with mi amigo Jordan Blackson, kept an eye on me and made sure we stayed on track. Tim bled some air out of my tires and that helped get my groove back. The group patiently waited for me and found ways to keep themselves entertained.

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Waiting for Uncle Gomez

The riding was a total blast! The perfect blend of skate groomed multi-track along with sections of twisty creek-side singletrack, that just seemed to get better and better as the ride rolled on. It was a crisp winter night with temps somewhere in the mid twenties. After a bit, Tim had to peel off and head to a hockey game or practice, so Greg, Jordan and I, bee lined back to the shop, where the party was in full swing (by the time I climbed my way back up the hill from the creek).

bikes and beer

bikes and beer

After the ride we all kicked back and enjoyed a beer or two. Greg sat across the counter and poured one delicious beer after another. I almost had too much fun, for words!

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I made a return trip to Speedway the next day and Greg showed me lots of new goodies, like their new thru-axle hubs for the Corvus and the new Fatback Carbon Rim.

The Corvus with phasers set on STUNning

The Corvus with phazers set to kill!

I also got the opportunity to test ride Greg’s first Corvus test frame. Jason set me up with 4.8″ tires and flat pedals and I took it out the back door and tore around Spenard in mashed potato snow over rough ice build-up. The Corvus felt really compliant, and sure footed….and super light. Later, Greg showed me that much of the compliance that I was feeling came from the Niner seatpost that he runs. Since this is a test frame, we’re going to hold off on any sort of full fledged analysis until the production frames arrive, but if the production frames are as good as the test frame, I think the Corvus is going to be a huge success.

As you can probably tell by now, I’m a fan of Fatback. When I went looking for a new fat-bike, I chose a Fatback 190 to replace my Moonlander. I thought it would take me a long time to let go of my Moonlander, Thparkle. That bike and I were like peas and carrots….but I’m so happy with my new Fatback, that it only took about a month for me to happily find Thparkle to a new home. Greg hinted that there’s big things coming from Fatback in the future. I can’t wait to share it all with you, down the trail a ways…

For more information about Fatback visit – http://fatbackbikes.com/

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4 Responses to Alaska – Episode 3 – Fatback & the Speedway Shop Ride

  1. akbooyah January 30, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    Don’t forget that Greg holds the White Mountains 100 record!

  2. bob January 31, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    gomez, i enjoy the articles. but, please, learn, the proper, use of, commas.

    love,
    wilma

    • Gomez January 31, 2014 at 9:43 am #

      In a word…no. Or, maybe…I’ll try, but I’m not making any promises.

  3. Jim MacGregor February 25, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Right on article about the great crew at Speedway Cycles! Just had them set my mukluk up tubeless and with some sweet new lightweight pedals. (Getting my ride ready for the Trio which Mr Gomez, you should not miss.)

    -Jim