Fatness at 50

Who doesn’t start out life at some point loving the freedom of riding a bike? I have fond memories of learning to ride over curbs, building bicycle jumps and bicycle-mounted crabapple wars in my neighborhood. Throughout my life, I have been through many bicycle phases. I had a mountain bike for a time. My wife and I bought a tandem bike for a while (be very careful with this). I have had my Dean titanium road bike for a decade, and I absolutely love it. With all the injuries I have collected over a lifetime, biking seems to be the best fit for me to stay in shape.

Biking at the gym or inside is not the same as in the wild, and I get frustrated taking the break every year. I do not like road biking in winter (yes, I am a wimp). I recently saw a two-wheeled creature in the woods that stirred within me that caveman desire to sequester myself to quarters and relentlessly google more about it: a bike with REALLY, REALLY fat tires! A pretty recent phenomenon, fat tire bikes are great for snow, sand, bad weather and any old Tuesday morning. You can wear boots, stay warm and ride these bikes in all winter conditions. They have a Fat Bike Iditarod in Alaska every year (google this . . . please). Here is where obsessive compulsivity, titanium and fat bike met for me.

I decided to design the perfect fat bike for my 50th birthday. Man, even the internet started to sigh at the usage I racked up studying the different possibilities. I knew I wanted a titanium bike, and this narrowed the search. Titanium is a nice ride, lasts forever and will not rust if used at the beach. I talked to reps at Seven, Lynskey, Moots, Salsa, Why, Black Sheep and Bearclaw. I found out I could spend ten grand on a fat bike. Then, I found Carver Bikes. I spoke to Davis Carver and was really impressed with how much time he spent with me answering dumb questions.

Designing my perfect fat ride was a fun process. At each step, I had fun researching drivetrains, cranks, pedals, seat stems, grips, wheels, tires, valves, chain ring colors and Chris King Headsets. Davis stayed with me. Davis is a bike pioneer and has designed custom bikes for specific journeys in amazing places. Helping a D.C. suburbanite satisfy a midlife desire to revisit the second grade may not be Everest or Anchorage, but he made me feel like it was. The specific base model I chose was the Carver “Ti O’Beast,” and, man, is it cool. Once I had decided on all the parts, Zach Pilgrim at Carver put it together for me. Zach has built most of the custom bikes at Carver for the last 14 years and has an infectious penchant for bike-building dating to early childhood.

Complaints in the custom bike world loom large around communication issues, and I had none of these at Carver. They were there for me when I called, and I had my bike within a month.

Waiting for my bike to arrive was what my parents would have once called “an exercise in delayed gratification that was good for me.” When it did, I had it put together in under two hours and was riding the trails the same day. I really was back in second grade. Fat bikes are the most stable bike you can ride. My wife had a bike accident and has been nervous to get back into biking. So, we got her a titanium fat bike also, and she loves it. She says, “It’s grippy, and I feel like I could ride up a tree.” Imagine riding a light, nimble, thin coffee table that laughs at bumps, roots, acorns and sticks.

Since I got my fatster I have ridden through streams, horse trails, gravel paths, soccer fields, neighbors’ lawns, the C&O Canal, the W&OD, Rock Creek, and zigzagged the hilly streets of Georgetown. I can now ride all winter long and stay in good bike shape without freezing and have a ton of fun in the process. Designing a lifetime bike was an extremely rewarding project for me. The irony of my becoming a fan of fat at the age of 50 is amusing, but the real thing here is that I am having FUN, FUN, FUN.

Author’s best second grade, fat bike war cry in the woods.


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