There’s a school of thought among some fishermen, a school of thought that loves the status quo. That school loves the way things are.
Fishing, after all, is a sport built on tradition. It is a craft honed over generations; an ancient art that brings man closer to the water than almost any other. Fishing, they say, can only be done this way. Some say that school of thought should never change; however, on the banks and beaches of the United States, the way things are is changing.
For countless generations, bank fishermen have been limited to areas they could access by foot. Finding a hidden hole meant walking, hiking or otherwise contriving a way to access a place that other bank-bound anglers would have a hard time finding. This search would inevitably take the adventurous angler on long journeys through arduous or uncharted terrain far from the local fishing pier. In the end, they were all limited by the time and distance they could cover on foot … until now.
Last year, we touched on the emergence of mountain bikes in the fishing world. A mountain bike paired with a solid backpack brimming with tackle goes a long way towards widening the scope of a bank fisherman’s target area, but there’s a funny thing about the banks of rivers, lakes and seas … they are usually made of sand. And mountain bikes have trouble with sand.
Well, most of them do. But there’s another breed of bicycle that has no problem with sand. They are, in fact, made for sandy beaches and thorny river bottom trails. They are “fatbikes,” and they are gaining a following among adventure anglers.
Like most outdoor inventions, fatbikes were born out of necessity. They were originally designed as a way to traverse sub-arctic Alaska before gaining notoriety in 1986 thanks to a Michelin campaign that sent one traipsing across the Sahara desert. And like many novelty products that gained fame in that decade—the skateboard, the snowboard, the home video game console— fatbikes managed to carve their own niche into the subconscious of a rebellious youth that was bent on challenging the status quo.
But a funny thing happened to fatbikes on the way to the alt-rock show—they never quite gained the notoriety of their ’80s counterparts. At least, they didn’t until now.
Fueled by a nationwide boom in the $6.1 billion bicycle market, fatbikes have hopped on for the ride as the bellcow for outdoorsman who are looking towards bikes to solve transportation problems in the outdoors. Fatbikes like the Cogburn Outdoors CB4 (pictured above) are taking the mobility of mountain bikes and combining that with the practicality of an ATV. The result is a fatbike that doesn’t just cruise the beach, but also cruises over the river and through the woods to your grandmother’s secret fishing hole (yeah, the one she forgot to tell Grandpa about).
So how well does the bike named after Rooster Cogburn cruise? It doesn’t.
No, the fatbike named after the Duke doesn’t cruise, it tackles. True to its breed, this fatbike bashes and bruises its way over logs, rocks, thorns and incredible amounts of sand. But unlike the fatbikes you’ll find at the local cycle shop, this one comes with a plethora of attachments (like a rod holder) for getting your gear into the outdoors.
Of course, true rebels might ditch those. They might choose to chunk the rod holder and handle bar horns in favor of a lighter ride. They might choose to test the Cogburn in a trail race against mountain bikes. They might be surprised when a fatbike doesn’t fall behind a pack of slimmer-wheeled counterparts. They might laugh when those counterparts take a tumble in the sand as the fatbike cruises on.
All of that is to say that fatbikes have a niche. Thirty years after one bobbed across the African desert in a PR stunt, they’ve come full circle … back to their practical roots. But this time, fatbikes are carrying more than Alaskans across the tundra. They’re carrying their fishing gear, too.