I have never been too convinced either about the place of mountain bikes in the mountains or of their value as vehicles of human integration in Nature. Sure, they can be useful for getting around moderately difficult terrain in hilly areas..but so too can a bulldozer, or a pair of legs. Like a large caterpillar vehicle, the effect of multiple MTB wheels especially in downhill scenarios can be quite destructive to vegetation and soil. (So too can lots of legs in boots if they keep wandering off trail.) The erosion -and sometimes brutal degradation- caused by mountain bike activity is very visible in my local Fuenfría Valley for example. Add to this the fact that i had a couple of unhappy experiences rolling down the hills almost two decades ago and the result was that i gradually reduced my two-wheel activities until i finally gave them up entirely.
Fifteen years down the line, my five-year-old -encouraged by me- really begins to like biking. At first he follows me as i run along in front, pacing and directing him..then, as he reaches six and begins to move those pedals, I run alongside him or just behind. When he turns six it begins to get difficult to keep up even on the flat, and when he starts to roll downhill.. forget it. So i had to buy a bike.
Trouble was..even after a year or more thinking about it, i was having a hard time getting my head around the idea of riding a bike again..let alone what type of bike to buy. I knew i didn’t want a road bike, and i knew that if the objective was to get out with my son on the dirt roads, forestry tracks and easy trails that are accessible to us locally, then it had to be a mountain bike. But what kind of MTB? In the intervening years the sport has mushroomed into dozens of disciplines..and a myriad of bikes. Just going into a shop can make your head swirl..and that’s before you see the prices. The apparent complexity of bicycles and their components nowadays requires an industrial engineering degree just to understand what the wheels do. (Back in my day they used to just turn..) After a few pathetic attempts to get with it, i decided to buy a fairly cheap, unspectacular “hardtail” bike (with only front suspension) on the second-hand market. But even this turned out to be more complicated than i expected..
About this time i read a comment somewhere on the net from a guy who was sixty-something years old and had recently bought a fatbike and was really loving it. He said that he hadn’t had so much fun on a bicycle in several decades. That got my attention. I began to look at this new concept of two-wheeled travel with big fat tyres..and i liked it. For one thing there are not that many fatbikes available in Europe yet, so choice was limited – a good thing! On the other hand, they don’t exactly come cheap. Even the most basic models won’t leave you much change out of a thousand euros. And even the cheapest one from across the Atlantic will come with several hundred euros delivery. And since they are still relatively new locally, the second-hand market has little to offer. However, some local European bike companies are beginning to catch on to this new trend and produce their own basic models..
Way back in the early nineties i had purchased a Bottecchia mountain bike in Italy and given it considerable use, it was a solid and reliable performer..so when i came across the Italian brand’s first venture into fat tyre bike terrain, i decided to check it out. It was reasonably affordable too.. and SO i finally got myself some wheels! The fun followed from the first day out. Well, to be honest, the first day out i went over the bars and was lucky not to get seriously hurt..the perils of powerful disc brakes!
But yes, having survived the first day, it really has been fun, fun, fun. And now i can keep up too!
(More to come on the fabness of fatbiking..)