Chances are you’ve heard about fat bikes, or have seen one yourself—they’re pretty hard to miss. The bikes with bigger forks and massive tires are popping up just about everywhere, begging the question—is fat biking a major trend or a new permanent addition to the bike industry?
With major manufacturers like Trek, Kona and Mongoose recently investing in their own fat bike models, it seems the industry giants think the fat biking phenomenon is just getting started. Fat bikes have their own internationally recognized day—December 7 is Global Fat Bike Day and the annual Global Fat Bike Summit made a stop in Jackson Hole this past January. Add to that the fact that tons of bike shops and tours have added fat bikes to their lineups and it seems a lot of people have put up a sizeable bet that fat biking is growing.
One such business owner and industry expert, David Hunger of Teton Mountain Bike Tours, says although he was skeptical about fat biking at first, he is now convinced the sport is growing—and growing rapidly.
“I’ve definitely seen growth and my sales show it this year,” said Hunger, who had winter sales double in the past year. “There were weekends where all of my fat bikes were sold out and I had to turn business away…we’re still booking fat bike tours even though there’s no snow in the valley.”
Despite a lofty initial investment of more than $1,000 per fat bike, Hunger said it’s worth it, both personally and for his business. In past winters he would shut down the bike shop and find another job, but since the addition of fat bikes he now owns a business that can be open—and fairly busy—year-round.
When it comes to personal use, he finds himself riding his mountain bike less frequently and his fat mike more frequently, even in the warmer months. He also said he’s seen people sell their bikes and buy a fat bike instead, so that they can ride year-round.
The big manufacturers bringing fat bikes to the market—that’s a good sign for the sport too. Hunger said there have been about 15 companies that have made either fat bikes or fat bike parts for the first time in the past two years.
“Why would all these companies be in it if there was no money in it?” He said. “When manufacturers start entering a market like that it’s no longer a fad. They’re not going to invest in a fad; to me that’s a huge indicator that fat biking is growing.”
Hunger also attended the annual Fat Bike Summit in Jackson Hole this year and said that weekend does a lot to inform people—whether it be the public or land management—about fat bikes.
“What I came away with this year was that fat biking is not going away, it’s growing,” he said. “I think that message is loud and clear.”