My trip to Anchorage probably would have not happened without Bill Fleming’s invitation to come and spend a week, to check out 9:Zero:7’s operation. Bill is one of the founders of 9:Zero:7 and during my trip, I stayed with Bill and his wife Sheryl. They even set me up with one of their gorgeous carbon Whiteouts, to ride whenever I pleased. Bill showed me the best trails and introduced me to the Anchorage fat-bike tribe. He even went out of his way to introduce me to Pete Bassinger – 6 time winner of the ITI. Bill and Sheryl were delightful hosts. It’s during opportunities, like this, when I realize, that I’m one of the luckiest men alive…..a feeling that repeated itself over and over for the balance of my time spent in Alaska.
9:Zero:7 is the fat bike born from Bill & Jamie Stull’s shop – Chain Reaction Cycles, in Anchorage. Both of them started racing bikes on snow before fat bikes (as we know them) existed. Bill showed me pictures of him racing the ITI on an old Novara hardtail with snowcat rims, back in the day, before Surly came out with the 65mm Large Marge Rim and the Pugsley. I found it very interesting to learn that Bill, Jamie and Fatback’s Greg Matyas owned and raced Pugsleys at one time. Soon after, they started to develop their own snow-bikes, built to accommodate the new rim and tire, along with of a big dose of Alaskan Race DNA. Decades of winter racing experience and knowledge went into the development of 9:Zero:7’s modern-day fat-bike, that many of our readers are familiar with.
In Addition to Chain Reaction, Bill and Jamie own the Trek Store of Anchorage and wwwfatbikes.com. Fatbikes.com is the division that produces 9:Zero:7 and support’s both consumers and their dealer network.
I remember the first time that I saw one of 9:Zero:7’s hydro-formed aluminum fat bikes. A close friend of ours, Butch, sold his curry squirt pug and showed up at one of my crazy winter enduro races with a lime green 9:Zero:7 race bike. That bike opened quite a few eyes that day when we started to trade bikes for laps around the short (2 1/2 mile) race loop. I remember my friend Cale, coming back from his test lap and letting out a string of profanity, that would make any sailor proud. He was cursing Butch for ever letting him ride the new race bike, because ‘now’ he was going to have to buy one. Cale went on to explain how his lap time was five minutes faster on the 9:Zero:7. That was sort of the shot that was heard around the world and kicked off the fat-bike revolution. It’s only fitting that the first place that I saw a 9:Zero:7 was at a race, because when Bill and I talked about the legacy of he and Jamie’s bikes, he shared that 9:Zero:7 had a focus on racing, from day one.
9:Zero:7’s newest fat bike – the carbon fiber, Whiteout, has certainly shown itself to be the hot ticket for racing this season. I wittnessed Carey Grumelot beat a couple dozen other carbon fatties at this year’s Ice Man Cometh Challenge and the Whiteout won both the 150 and 75 mile titles at the Tuscobia Ultra in Wisconsin this year. I had the opportunity to ride a green and black, Whiteout, for most of the time that I spent in AK. This was my first time riding a full carbon fat bike for any real or meaningful time period. Before this I had only ridden a carbon at Interbike. This was more like I had my own Whiteout for a week, in a town with world class trails and (fortunately for me) just about perfect riding conditions. My test bike came with an eleven speed XX1 drive train and a plethora of RaceFace bike jewelry. The wheels were Rolling Darryls with 45NRTH Husker Du’s. The Whiteout is a light and nimble trail bike that treated me very well during my time in Anchorage. From dodgy singletrack to the super groomed Anchorage multi-use trails, my test bike performed flawlessly. The Whiteout did everything that I asked of it and felt balanced and light. I’m probably most accustomed to the ride of a Surly Moonlander. The Whiteout felt more nimble, yet still very stable. The Whiteout is a bike that would be welcome in my bike coral, any time.
Early in the week, Bill invited me to take his Whiteout for a spin. Bill’s Whiteout has a set of Hed carbon rims – Raceface Next Carbon Cranks – Enve Carbon Post/Bar/Stem and tips the scales at twenty-two pounds and some change! Short of spouting a string of profanity, like Cale did, when he rode Butch’s 9:Zero:7, (over two years ago) I don’t think I can accurately express to you all, what a game changer, that this feathery weight makes, in the way that the bike feels. The whiteout with the Hed wheels is a rocket! It almost feels self-propelled. I think it’s unfair to call this combination a fat bike. It’s a mountain bike with fat tires…even though it has all of the width that all fat-bikes possess. Acceleration is instant and the front end feels incredibly light. Bill’s bike made me want to get out of the saddle and hammer up hills……and that doesn’t usually happen in apes my size and age. Fat-bikes no longer have to be heavier than standard MTB’s and that evolution happened just this season with the introduction of carbon rims and cranks. You absolutely have to try one of these bikes, if and when you get the opportunity.
Both Chain Reaction and the Trek Store of Anchorage are fat-bike candy stores! There are rows of complete bikes and obscene numbers of 9:Zero:7 frames hanging from the rafters, but the kicker is the amount of supporting gear that abounds. Revelate’s brand new pogies and frame bags – every tire imaginable – Lake and 45NRTH boots – All In Stock!
I’ve been to numerous bicycle retailers that focus on fat bikes. These two shops blow every one of them out of the water! I guess it only makes sense, since Alaska is the ideal environment for fat bikes. Imagine if you lived in a town that had winter for 8 months and everyone that you knew that rides a bike, rode a fat-bike. That’s what Anchorage is like. Everywhere I went, I saw fat bikes!
This trip was the first time that I had an opportunity to meet Bill. He’s one of the nicest guys that you’ll ever meet. If Bill ran for mayor of Anchorage, I have no doubt, that he would win by a landslide. When we all went out for a ride at Hill Top, on the Sunday after the Frosty Bottom 25/50, one out of every few riders or skiers, or mushers, knew Bill!
Bill is currently training for the ITI. He and Jamie are putting in big miles to get ready. The week that I was in town, Bill started his day at 5 am to train and then after work, he still had the energy to attend bike club or event planning meetings. For a guy that busy…..he always had a smile and maintains a great outlook on life. He has a great sense of humor and shares it with everybody that he meets along the way. Bill showed me the Hilltop singletrack trails because he wanted me to see something that he and the Anchorage cycling community had accomplished together. Anchorage is a world class fat-bike destination and Bill is the sort of fella that leads by example. The kind of man that we should all want to lend our appreciation and support. Plus he’s at the helm of a company that makes a pretty kick-ass fat-bike!
9:Zero:7 is a company that is always innovating and continually developing their line of all terrain race bikes. Keep your eyes peeled, right here, at fat dash bike dot com for what Bill and Jamie have up their sleeves for next year!
For more information about 9:Zero:7 visit – www.fatbikes.com