How I Roll: Fat bikes to the rescue

Words and photos by David Grant

I was a lifeguard and trainer in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico back in the late ‘90s when I was doing my Ph.D. dissertation research. I had ridden my bike (a ‘93 REI Randonee) from Los Angeles, down Baja and up through Sinaloa from Mazatlan as my way of conducting research on disability and special education needs in Mexico. (Learn more about that at

fat bike lifeguard 4

Back in Mexico I had to walk back and forth across the long, hot beach during my lifeguard rounds. I never thought it was possible to do that more efficiently on a bike. Though I’m no longer a lifeguard, this summer I brought my fat bike and my gear and set it up as an experiment to prove the concept. It worked like a champ! I could ride for miles at the waterline with no problems at all. I’d love to see lifeguards in poor countries equipped with this kind of gear. It could save lives!

I set up a Blackburn front rack for holding the flotation device. In the handlebar bag is a first-aid kit: bandages, gauze, tape and splint material, whistle, light—just the basics. On the back was a single pannier with swim fins and goggles. In Zipolite, because of the strong rip currents, you really need fins to get out to people as well as just to maintain your position out on the edge of the waves in order to see things.

fat bike lifeguard

But the value of a bike is that when there is a problem with a swimmer people often come to you or wave and shout from a distance, so time can be critical because you may not be the first on the scene. Having a bike enables you to get there fast and with all the first-aid gear you need.

All in all, bike-mounted lifeguards are more economical than pickup trucks or ATVs and much more environmentally friendly and just plain more friendly, period.

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