Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #37, published in October 2015. Words and photo by Jeff Archer.
The origin of species can often be tough to track down when dealing with specific styles of bikes. The current iteration of fat bikes can be traced to the mid-2000s with the introduction of the Surly Pugsley. But, as is often the case, there were folks experimenting with the concept a decade prior to the Pugsley.
One such effort can be seen in Dirt Rag magazine Issue #175: a Retrotec fitted with Snow Cat rims from All Weather Sports, circa 1994. AWS took two regular width rims, welded them together and then removed the center walls, resulting in a double-width rim. Most tires of the day topped out around 2.35 inches so they didn’t have the 5 inch footprint of some of the current tires, but the double-width rims put more rubber on the trail at a lower pressure. Around the same time, Dan Hanebrink began experimenting with ATV tires on bicycles.
Dan was no stranger to bicycles. In the mid-1980s he worked with folks such as Brian Skinner and SE Racing to produce rear suspension designs more than five years before front suspension hit the scene. (Examples of these bikes can be viewed at mombat.org). He also worked with Gravity Powered Vehicles as well as the short-lived Formula One bike racing series. These other bikes had relatively short lifespans, but the Extreme Terrain bike can still be bought new 20-plus years after it first hit the market.
This particular bike is fitted with 8 inch wide tires, a 21-speed drivetrain, a Hanebrink suspension fork and disc brakes. The tires are a turf tread, but other bikes were fitted with wider tires, paddle type rear tires or even had the front wheel replaced with a ski. The drivetrain is relatively standard except for the undersized sprockets and the second drive chain to keep the pedals from being shoulder width apart.
The telescoping fork was housed inside the head tube and reportedly gave up to 3 inches of travel. The hole in the head tube allowed for adjustments to the fork without removing it from the bike. The disc brakes are very primitive and appear to be off of some type of lawn equipment.
In speaking with Dan about the history of this particular bike he confirmed that this one was sent to the U.S. Army to test the feasibility of equipping troops with bicycles and may have seen duty in Iraq.
This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology which is housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at mombat.org.Tweet Print