The 1980 Jean Naud Journey: Fat Bike History

Author: Alex Bristol

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The 1980 Jean Naud Journey; Fat Bike History

Have you bought fat bike after fat bike over the years and noticed them evolve as time goes on and wonder how it all began?

Well, you may not be the only one.

Fat Bikes have massively evolved and changed since they were first introduced in the 80s by Naud, and what a journey it has been. Fat bikes are a brilliant trail shredder on the mountains and even on the road.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of the history of a fat bike:

History of the Fat Bikes:

Fat bikes have been around since the 1900s, but they weren’t fully developed until the late 70s and early 80s; this is when the world of fat bikes came alive.

Most fat bikes had 2-3 wheels to begin with, and they were put together side by side to increase the surface area contact to the ground and make the wheel appear thicker.

Jean Naud of France was the first person to design the first ‘fat bike.’ It was known back then as a longtail bike that had massive tires. Michelin made their own fat bike tires for Naud to use as he rode his bike long distances.

Despite the fat bike being created by Naud in the 80s, they weren’t available to the public as of yet; they were designed and progressed in New Mexico and Alaska.

In New Mexico, Roy Molina created his own version of a fat bike with tires that were 3.5 inches thick and rims that were around 3 inches thick.

In Alaska Icycle Bicycles Steve Baker decided to create yet another version, using a welding technique. Cyclists were able to try these fat mountain bikes on the trails for a real feel, such as the Iditarod Trail.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the Interbike convention where the two designers met to discuss their design and their fatbikes.

This was when John Evingson and Mark Gronewald made their first fatbike together; it had the same tires and rims that Roy Molina had created.

Mark Gronewald was actually the one that came up with the term ‘fat bike,’ and then that’s when the fatbike took off.

Commercializing the fat bike:

As the fatbike started to evolve, a company called Surly Bikes in Minnesota released their specialized frame, which had an offset wheel and frame build.

Their design was the one that made it all over the globe, in local bike shops, and was a massive hit. Their bike was also known as the ‘Pugsley,’ and it was the first fatbike commercially available for bikers.

This is when fat bikes really bloomed.

Many fatbike companies jumped on the bandwagon and started to produce their own designs of the ‘fat bike,’ and that’s when it started to evolve.

Now 30 years later, it is one of the most common bikes you’ll find on the market; it has well and truly earned its place in the mountain bike category and overall a brilliant bike.

When fat bikes were first introduced, they seemed odd and weird, whereas it is one of the most affordable mountain bike options out there, and any average Joe can use one.

Fat bikes have stretched across the globe; thanks to the versatility and superior features when tackling snow and mud, it is a brilliant all-year-round bike!

Check out my guide of the top fat bikes on the market here!

Why Was The Fat Bike Made?

The top reason why fat bikes were made was so you could ride on any terrain: sand, snow, mud, wet seasons, and unpredictable terrains; they’re like mountain bikes with fatter tires.

But the fat bike doesn’t just need to be ridden on uneven terrains; it can also be ridden on pavements, boggy areas, mountainous terrains, and even on the road.

Contributions to the development of The Fat Bike:

List of companies and individuals that helped develop the fat bike:

  • Naud: He created a longtail bike with massive tires and rode across the Sahara, Niger to Algeria on the ‘fat bike’ he had created.
  • Steve Baker of Icycle Bicycles: Designed bikes that could ride on snow in the 80s.
  • Roger Cowles, Dan Bull, and Mark Frize rode Baker’s bike on Iditarod trails in 89.
  • Ray Molina created fat bike tires called ‘Remolina’ in New Mexico.
  • Mark Gronewald and John Evington used Remolino tires to make fatbikes in 1999.
  • Mark Cunak used Evington bikes with Remolino tires in Iditarod racing in 2000.
  • Surly Bikes made the first commercialized fat bike called ‘Pugsley’ in 2005.
  • Dorel Industries made the cheapest fat bike in 2006.

Why Is It Called A Fat Bike?

Fatbikes got their name because of the size of their tires; they’re huge and knobby.

But these tires are the most important feature on this bike as it makes the bike as a whole more stable, have a stronger grip on slippery, uneven surfaces such as mud, snow, sand, riding in the rain.

Thanks to the tires’ size and surface area, it allows the bike to move smoothly on rougher terrains. The wide wheels have more surface areas in contact with the ground and much more than other tires.

They have become permanent bikes within the mountain bikes family.

What are the features of a fat bike:

Here are the common features you’ll find in a fatbike:

Massive tires: The tires’ wide surface area provides traction and can work under high and low pressure. Your goal should be to go as low as possible while mountain biking; you should aim between 8-10psi.

Suspension: As a result of the fatbike having large tires, it eases and absorbs the roads’ shocks, making these fat mountain bikes brilliant for the unpredictable terrain.

Floatation: While mountain biking or riding on the sand or snow, you need to have a good amount of flotation for ease of riding, and the fatbike does just that, making brilliant all-weather sports.

The fat tire allows the rider to have fun down the trail; it is the most fun bike to ride for mountain biking as it is a real trail shredder. It is also super fun for desert travel, riding on a whole range of surfaces and terrains covered in snow in winter.

It makes the ride super adrenaline enduring while safe at the same time. The fat tire has a strong grip on the ground, and it disperses the weight evenly to relieve shocks.

Which brands manufacture fatbikes?

Nowadays, fat bikes have boomed, and most brands now offer their own range of fat bikes for you to choose from.


Trek has introduced the Farley fatbike, which is their best-known bike from Trek. Trek is well known for its Mountain Bike and Road Bike collection.

The newest Farley bike in 2022 is the Farley 9.6, which retails on their website for $3,449.99. For a more budget-friendly fatbike option, you can always go for the Farley 5. It is brilliant and under $2000!


Sala offers a wide range of brilliant fatbikes; Beargrease Carbon X01 Eagle is my favorite; it has four-inch tires which fly over the mountainous terrain like a dream.

It is the ultimate fatbike, and it is designed to convert strength and determination into speed. It retails at roughly $4600, and it is a real trail shredder down the mountains.


Surly is one of the originals; it was the first fatbike to be commercialized back in 2005 with their first ‘Pugsley’. They offer a wide range of cool names for their bikes, and I must admit, Ice Cream Truck is my favorite.

They now have fat tire up to 5 inches thick and glide over the trail like it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Rocky Mountain Bikes:

This is another brilliant brand; their bikes are designed for all kinds of riding conditions, snow, sand, mud; they can even tackle the Sahara desert.

Their 2019 Blizzard is brilliant for riding in these rougher conditions, and you can buy it for $2400.


Pivot has a wide range of fat bicycles that allow you to ride at multiple high speeds; it has a chainstay length you can alter and have full carbon frames.

Their LES Fat range is brilliant as they’re completely customizable; they tend to retail at around $4300.

Framed bikes:

Framed bikes are brilliant for those looking for a great rating fat bicycle without having to pay thousands of dollars. Their Minnesota fat mountain bike only costs $800.

It still has all the features you need, too, such as the Avid BB5 disc brakes and a Sram drivetrain.


All in all, a fat mountain bike has come a long way since the 80s; rather than an odd, weird-looking bike, it is one of the most common mountain bikes you’ll find on the trail.

The fat tire’s surface area is brilliant for riders who love riding on rough terrains, love to race, or even for riders who love mountain biking as it is a real trail shredder.

The history of fat mountain bikes and the fat tire revolutionized the biking world, and it is an excellent option for beginners and more advanced riders.

Check out my awesome guide here of the best fat bikes for shredding the trail.

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