Fatback Titanium - Stopped by Nothing
Price: $4,500 (as tested)
Weight: 30.75 lbs.
At first glance, it resembles a bike that may be aboard the next mission to Mars. With its 4.7-inch tires and 90-mm-wide rims, Fatback’s well-refined contribution to the fat bike movement is sure to turn a few heads out on the snow-packed trails.
With high-quality proprietary components, a refined titanium frame and custom carbon fork, Fatback is pushing the technical, functional and practical aspect of the very fattest of fat-tired bicycles.
Based in snowy Anchorage, Alaska, Fatback owner Greg Matyas has always looked for ways to perfect bikes’ abilities in the snow. “Many of us started out putting the widest possible tires on our existing mountain bikes and running about eight or ten psi,” Matyas says. “But once I got a chance to ride a bike with really big tires, there was no going back.”
As a local bike shop owner, Matyas already had some connections within the bike industry, and in 2007 he took a chance with his first Fatback design. “Pete Basinger was working at the shop at that time and had ideas on how to improve what he was riding,” Matyas explains. “Pete has won the Iditarod Trail Invitational six times, if I remember correctly, and has more experience than anyone with what worked in extreme cold and what didn’t.”
With Basinger’s valuable input and a little help from an overseas connection, Matyas was able to get a few frames made. He remembers making that first frame order with some uncertainty and recalls thinking, “I know I want one, and Pete Basinger wants one, but I don’t know if I’ll sell any more than that.” But once Matyas was able to let riders actually try them out, they started to catch on quickly, as Alaskan winters are long and lend themselves well to winter cycling.
Fatback offers frames in aluminum, steel and ti and sources its steel and ti versions from some well-respected U.S. framebuilders. “It is easier for me to work with the U.S. builders than overseas,” Matyas explains. “We get our titanium frames from Lynskey, and our steel frames come from Waterford, and we’re currently working with a U.S. manufacturer for our future aluminum frames as well.”
Featuring tapered head tubes, a direct-mount front derailleur, rigid carbon forks and even belt drive compatibility, Fatback’s bikes offer a refined ride and frame details rarely found in the fat bike market. Various build packages ensure that each customer will get exactly what he or she wants, from frame material all the way down to rim and tire widths.
Riding the titanium Fatback was like discovering bike riding all over again. With such massive-volume tires, riding was transformed into a new, more anchored sensation. Turns through snow were easily carved and drifted with a shift of the rider’s weight. Descents provided an exhilarating feel of stability. Riding on cold, dry snowpacked roads and snowmobile tracks was a wild sensation I can only liken to riding on sticky Styrofoam. The traction and steering accuracy was amazing.
Matyas is dedicated to R&D and improvement. For example, with its current proprietary symmetrical 170-mm rear hub, Fatback is able to use a dishless rear wheel, which dramatically increases its strength, and you’ll only need to carry one size of spare spokes on big adventures.
Surprisingly light at 30.75 pounds, Fatback saves weight by sourcing single-walled 90-mm rims (vs. more common 70-mm wide fat bike rims) with large cutout sections to shave unnecessary weight in the rim. Paired with a titanium frame and custom straight blade carbon fork, Fatback has created a refined bike that pushes the limits of what fat bikes can be and how functional they have become. This ti rig is a full 9 pounds lighter than the more budget-oriented chromoly fat bike on the market.
Though fat bikes are a bit of a niche, popularity has skyrocketed. They not only extend the riding season for those in snowy country, but they also offer a great option in sandy, desert conditions and a whole new cycling experience for riders looking for a change from the norm. Whether you’re aiming to keep your cycling fitness through the winter or just wanting a new way to explore on two wheels, Fatback offers a feature-rich and functional fat bike. –J. Carr