Perhaps it is no wonder that Minnesota has found itself at the epicenter of the recent fat-biking boom. With its ever-changing temperatures and terrain, countless miles of state and city trails, and a thriving year-round bike community—the natural surroundings and infrastructure can't be beat. To be sure, even the Minneapolis police have started patrolling the city by fat bike since the first snow and the Winter Cycling Federation just recently announced that the Twin Cities will host the 2016 Winter Cycling Congress.
In the midst of these developments, the Twin Cities has become home to a long list of brands that work to churn out equipment and gear specially made for fat bikers.
It all began in 2005 with Surly’s Pugsley frame (a Bloomington-based Quality Bike Products brand), which was the first commercially produced fat bike to hit the market. That set a precedent, making the sport more accessible and also launching the brand’s recognition far and wide. What has followed has been an increasing number of companies peddling gear for the burgeoning fat-bike population, including bikes, apparel, accessories, and everything in between. Here are some of our favorite local brands that make gear fit for any fat biker, especially if you harbor some hometown pride.
Aside from putting out some of the best bikes and frames in the fattie business, Surly also caters to its Minnesota-based customers with products like merino wool jerseys, neck gaiters, and riding jackets. If you’re looking for something a little less heavy duty, they also have bikes built for pavement, touring, hauling, and trails.
Tired of lackluster cycling apparel? Founded by designers who have a passion for riding, Twin Six incorporates real graphic trends into their gear, foregoing some of the more tired and overused looks in the cycling wear of yesteryear. From “Northwoods Race Club” thermal vests and jerseys, to a winter commuter bundle, to “real deal” winter riding boots, just about any Northlander who likes to get out and about can appreciate this stuff. They also have fat frames, forks, and a number of must-have accessories, like a flask holder for your ride.
What sets Framed apart from other fattie manufacturers is their price point. With quality options starting around $800, they can beat just about any of the other big fat bike brands when it comes to your pocketbook. Framed recently expanded its popular Minnesota bike series, introducing both women’s and youth-specific options, and debuted the Alaska Carbon and Alaska Alloy frames.
45NRTH is well known for their softgoods and footwear, as well as their tires. Their true understanding for what it takes to ride through a Minnesota winter is made evident in the Cobrafist, one of the warmest and most advanced pogies in existence. They also make a great selection of hats and gloves specifically designed for winter riding. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything better for your feet when riding or commuting on a cold Minnesota day than 45NRTH's Wölvhammer boots, which blend footwear concepts borrowed from both cycling and mountaineering.
A big promoter of off-road exploration, Salsa has a growing line of fat bikes fit for just about anyone interested in riding. The Bucksaw, in particular, is turning heads as the world’s first full-suspension fatbike. This model is expanding the boundaries of what a fat bike can do and where it can go. No longer are fatties just for snow, models like the Bucksaw are perfect for the most gnarly adventures year round.
Based in Two Harbors, Granite Gear makes packs and bags fit for a wide range of outdoor pursuits, including fat biking. With everything from multiday backpacks to technical day packs, their totes will get you through a weekend or bike packing or simply from home to work. A brand born in the Boundary Waters, you can rest assured their bags will be rugged enough to withstand even the worst winter weather Mother Nature can throw at you.