velocult sky boyer hanebrink 8

“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.

velocult sky boyer hanebrink 4

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?

velocult sky boyer hanebrink 7

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!

velocult sky boyer hanebrink 5

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.

velocult sky boyer hanebrink 3

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.

velocult sky boyer hanebrink 2

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.

velocult sky boyer retrotec

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.

velocult sky boyer skinner descender

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.


  1. BH on

    To my knowledge the early Hannebrink wheels were made using Bullseye hubs. He would remove the flanges, cut a longer shell tube, and then press everything together with a longer axle and axle ends. Rather than weld the flange to the wheel discs, they were riveted together to prevent the “hub” from rotating in the wheel. I think the idea was that you could drill out the rivets and remove the wheel center if it needed repair or got damaged.

  2. Gertjan on

    Great story!! When i was working for the Dutch Vertex importer for Giro Rockshox and other high end stuff. We also had a black Hanebrink! Don’t know what happened with it wen they went bust in 2000….

  3. Robert Reisinger on

    Wow, that’s a nice paint job on my San Andreas. I never knew that Pistol Pete owned one of my bikes… that’s pretty cool! I love seeing all the cool things that owner/riders have done with the San Andreas. R.R.

  4. Alex on

    Cool bikes! As a former MBA reader I´m remembering every single one!
    Breezer by the way made a even weirder cable bike with cables running to headtube.

    Got my first Suspenders System II forks in 1993 I think and still owning two of them.
    The second was part of a very rare Extreme Performance Products Tandem…

  5. john on

    Love the San Andreas!

    Regarding the Hanebrink, it’s definitely a cool bike from an engineering perspective but the tiny tire diameter inherently limited it’s versatility. My understanding is that it worked well on flat, soft snow but not so much when you were rolling over cracks, logs, and boulders. Not to mention that it was expensive, complicated, heavy, and hard to find. Surly solved all these shortcomings with the Pugsley which is why they have sold a gazillion of them.

  6. Ruda on

    I believe the first fatty was this in ’86

    Around ’87 Steve Baker @ Icycle Bicycles in Anchorage was welding rims together and making custom frames.

    ’89 Ray Molinio was making production 80mm rims and 3.5″ tires for Baker’s frames

    ’99 the 18mm rear offset was the brain child of Mark Gronewald of Wildfire Designs in Palmer,Ak with John Evingson.

    ’05 Pugsley was put to market using Gronewald and Evingson’s offset design.

  7. Tim on

    Just look at how ridiculously huge those rotors are on the San Andreas! Wonder what kind of stopping power they offered, esp. compared to the cantilevers popular at the time…


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