“The Bike That Got Away” is a series of interviews intended to showcase the best bikes of all time from the perspective of the diverse characters that make up the cycling industry. It’s an opportunity to look back fondly (or not at all) on vintage technology, paint jobs – whatever made or continues to make bikes compelling and awesome. These are the bikes that have shaped us as industry members, dealers, cyclists, and super fans.
Read Part 1 of this piece to get up to speed.
Now for part two, we’ll dive into more about that wild Hanebrink fat bike we briefly covered at Sea Otter…
BIKERUMOR: What other bike would you like to talk about?
SKY: That fucking Hanebrink thing I have right now is just a trip.
BIKERUMOR: Yeah! Where the fuck did that come from?
SKY: I just got it recently. That’s the oldest prototype one ever made. That’s 1993. The oldest one.
BIKERUMOR: You’re talking the pre-fat bike bike with the studded craziness.
SKY: They still make it today, though. If you go to the internet- someone on the internet posted a timeline of the fatbike. Iditabike to Surly. And everyone’s copied that. Now, this bike was started in ‘93. They still make ‘em today. It’s the oldest production fat bike on the planet. The longest running fat bike on the planet. The fattest of all fatbikes. Yet erased from history. Erased. Completely erased from history. To this day, go on any blog in America and type it in, “fatbike history”, erased. It’s so weird.
BIKERUMOR: That’s a bummer.
SKY: And it’s more capable. It can do deeper snow, deeper sand, deeper, more extreme terrain than any fatbike made today. It’s a weird thing that that bike just got erased.
BIKERUMOR: Well, let’s talk about that bike. Considering how fat bike-focused everybody is, that’s a crying shame because I’ve never seen or heard of anything like that.
SKY: They still make them.
BIKERUMOR: Who buys them?
SKY: Nowadays? They do electric upgrades to those things so you’ll see them used that way. But I don’t know. I don’t know if they sell too many, but I know they still sell them, though. Dan Hanebrink is an older guy, he’s not connected to the internet at all, he doesn’t promote himself.
BIKERUMOR: I was checking it out the other day because I hadn’t seen it as part of that Surly timeline, but their timeline makes a lot of sense as something that leads up to them. That they can logically insert themselves into it, which may be why they have that perspective.
SKY: Yeah, which I’ve had people say: well that’s not a fatbike. Well, what is it, you know? It doesn’t look like yours, but that [Slingshot] doesn’t look like a mountain bike, but it’s a mountain bike. When people were coming out with weird, strange mountain bikes we didn’t say it wasn’t a mountain bike because it didn’t look like the other mountain bikes. It was a mountain bike. That IS a fatbike.
BIKERUMOR: Do you know- so those tires. Where did those tires come from?
SKY: So that’s a prototype. So those were ATV tires that they shaved about five pounds off of per tire all the way down to the cord, then file-cut their own tread in, then put studs in.
BIKERUMOR: So those are straight-up prototype tires. Oh damn! That’s crazy. Is there a built wheel inside of this? Unless those are just rivets?
SKY: I think those are just rivets going into the spoke holes… but he must have taken a hub and lengthened it?
BIKERUMOR: I love shit like this. Whenever you have square profile tubing on a prototype, that’s when you know it’s the good stuff. Interesting stuff. Occasionally, in development, I’d walk into a room and see a weird square tubed fork like that and I’d be like: Aw yeah! I’m not supposed to be seeing that!
SKY: You’d appreciate this one. I was making fun of fixie riders. (see video here)
BIKERUMOR: In Minneapolis, we call fat bikes “Dad Fixies.”
SKY: They are the new fixies! So, there was one prototype in front of this, but it was pulled apart to make the second prototype. And this is that one. The oldest living prototype.
Dan Hanebrink is an inventor, a designer, designed motorcycle parts and downhill mountain bikes, pretty prolific in his design work. That’s ‘93 with front suspension and disc brakes. That’s got a jack shaft so you’ve got normal Q Factor.
BIKERUMOR: Yeah I saw that. I was peeking at that through the window the other night.
SKY: See those two bikes hanging on the ceiling? The Retrotec, only about 50 of those, that’s a cable bike. That’s a passive rear suspension. It’s got cables to kind of hold it all together. And elastomers to allow it to flex just enough.
The one next to it is an ‘82 Skinner Descender. Only about 24 made. And that’s the oldest rear suspension mountain bike on the planet. It’s an ‘82 which is the first year of the first production mountain bike, the Stumpjumper, The same year. And five or six inch rear travel. It’s a hard nose- no suspension on the front. Ten years ahead of anyone else, really.
There’s a lot of bikes that represent transitional periods, like the Mountain Cycle San Andreas. That was Pistol Pete’s. You have to put things into historical perspective. Because you look at that bike and you think wow, it looks like every bike on the trails today. Walk into any bike shop and you see that bike. There is nothing weird about that bike. But you have to go back to 1993 when nothing looked like that bike.
I was at the start of a pro downhill race, we were all on hardtails, there was some rear suspension… but you know what ‘93 looked like. Then Jake Watson rolls past the line of pros on that thing and trust me, everyone was like “Fuck. Game over. What the hell was that thing?” It’s the first monocoque frame. The first long travel. The first disc brakes. The first upside down fork. It was a transitional period. And that bike really started an entire genre of downhilling, that type of bike, that was it! That was the bike. But now people aren’t tripped up about that. It doesn’t look weird at all. It was at that point in history when everything changed. That bike- everything just changed.
BIKERUMOR: Everyone was trying to hit a mark at that point. And there were some doozies.
SKY: That thing rides like shit, but it changed the world. It changed mountain bikes.