Right, first things first, I don’t want a fat bike. Don’t get me wrong, they look cool and
whenever I see one I get a big smile on my face, But I don’t want a Fat bike. I have way too
many bikes. Most of which, surprisingly, are working at the moment. So no more bikes and
definitely not fat ones. I do love talking bikes with Michael of Travers Bikes though and
watching him build up his new business, as he designs and then produces another
prototype which then leads to a production model lifts my usual standard day to day life
interspersed with too infrequent cycling trip masquerading as a training ride.
“I tell you what Michael, if you can build a fat bike in time for this year’s Thetford 12 hour
‘Dusk 2 Dawn’ race, I’ll ride it!”
“Oh, who’s this messaging me? It’s Michael, that’s nice… I like talking to Michael… What’s
this? You’ve produced a titanium Fat Bike, you wonder if I’ll help take some photos of it?
Sure I’d love too… oh you’ve just built it in time for this year’s D2D race… ahhhh…
yeah….. Erm…. yeah I know, I remember what I said…”
So… after convincing my pairs partner that I’ll be riding a fat bike, who genuinely thought I
was joking, this year and not my usual carbon fibre pocket rocket, I rock up in my slinky blue
and white Travers Bikes team kit and start transferring pedals and saddle and Garmin
mount onto Michael’s “Fat Race” titanium fat bike.
It looks Amazing; I’m not the only one who thinks this. The amount of attention it garners is
genuinely surprising. Cyclists, myself included, are usually snooty aloof types who have
very strong opinions how a bike should look, what components should be used with
conversations generally limited to “seriously you use those type of pedals?” and “What do
you think? Should I keep my summer tyres on or go to mud?”
Not so with the ‘Fat Race’; “Is that titanium?”, “That looks amazing.”, “Can I pick it up? That
weighs less than my full suspension bike!” and finally… Can I have a go?
I was one of the first mountain bikers I know to sign up to the 29er philosophy; I got plenty of
stick for that but the buzz around the fat bike just doesn’t seem to polarize people in the
same way. People just love the look of it and smile, try the brakes, which are no different
from normal brakes, and become ever more polite as they work up the courage to see if
you’ll let them have a go.
I’d ridden the Fat race four days before, on a footpath and a farm road while we took
photos of it and Michael’s seriously quick looking 29er+. We figured we’d put too much
pressure in the tyres, 25psi, and just kept getting rid of more and more air until the ride
started to feel less bouncy and more smooth. After my first sighting lap of the course I
came back and let even more air out. 10 psi in the front tyre, 13 psi in the back. I’m no race
Eight pm, I’m lined up with the rest of the Travers Bikes team and the rest of the
competitors. I’m up for the first two laps, as the Quad bike gets up to speed leading out the
racers for the first kilometre loop I get the Fat Race rolling. It doesn’t stop rolling while I’m
on course the entire night. I have ridden the Dusk 2 Dawn race four times now, and have
fallen off every single race, buckling a wheel so badly it only just rotated in the fork in one
wet race, sliding through mud in other and slipping on loose sand in others still. This is on
my tried and tested race bike or my trusty single speed remember, it is the first day I have
ridden the ‘Fat Race’ in anger and for the entire race I put my foot down once, just as I go
into a corner a little too hot before a technical section. That’s it… one dab. I throw it with
more and more conviction as my body gets more and more tired as the night wears on and
it sticks, it sticks!
I jokingly said that I wanted to cause mayhem on the course. What I thought would happen
was that people would laugh so hard that they would fall off their bikes as they passed me.
Now don’t get me wrong, racing as a pair I got passed plenty, going uphill mainly but that all
changed in the technical sections. Particularly the technical sections downhill, once you get
the wheels spinning they don’t stop. The huge contact patch of the tyre deforming to ignore
roots, sink into the well of a berm or grip and hold solid over Thetford sand, as soon as we
got into the technical single track sections the “Fat Race” flew. More and more often I
would be smashing through the undergrowth calling my line as I passed slower riders or
listened to the pants and swearing of the faster riders as they lost their bottle as I just hit the
next corner at full pace or was taken over a lip of a ditch with the massive inertia of the
wheels. It was me who was laughing maniacally. Through the night I would have lines of
less confident riders or riders running in the solo category tuck in behind me on the less
speedy sections using the predictable pace of bike as a metronome for their heroic efforts,
at other times I had race whippets coming passed at the end of a technical section, calling
“Nicely ridden”, “Magic carpet ride!”, “Played mate” and “Nice one Fatty!”
Then, surprisigly, it was all over. My teammate and I had completed the race, ticked off
more laps of the course then we had ever done before and had an absolute scream doing
it. I was less beat up then usual and I’d talked with more people through the night than my
previous races put together. I gave the “Fat Race” back to Michael, just in time to see
someone else sit on it and ride it round the field, just to test the brakes of course. Yeah……I
Definitely don’t want a fat bike.