It was love at first sight. And, like most great starry-eyed tales, I was an innocent victim of the juncture of time and circumstance.
There I was, roaming the aisles of Farm & Fleet in search of your basic sewer pipe root killer, when I turned the corner and suddenly there she was. All 26 inches of her.
Her name was Mongoose. Her color was neon green. She had 10 speeds. Yep, she was a bicycle, but what made my heart skip a beat was what she sat upon. For, resting between her two stout wheel forks were the pudgiest, fattest, most rubberiest tires I had ever seen!
You see, normal bike tires have a width of about 2 inches, but bikes like the Mongoose have ones that measure 4 to 5 inches. To appreciate the magnitude of this size increase, picture a 16-inch pizza that has been stretched to more than two and a half feet in diameter. Envision that your head has grown to be the size of a beach ball. Or, my favorite, imagine a foot-long Twinkie. You get the idea.
So, there I was, standing there wide-eyed and open-mouthed, staring at this beauty. I reached out and squeezed its front tire. Such subtle, chubby rubberness. Before I knew what I was doing, I had kicked up the kickstand, hopped on the seat and was peddling down aisle 22.
It is hard to describe the feel of those fat tires on that farm and fleeting polished cement surface. Kind of like the butter that you left out all night that is so soft you could almost pour it onto your English muffin. Heads turned as I glided past the windmill lawn ornaments. Mouths gaped as I streamed by the multipurpose tractor lights. I even caught the backward glance of my wife as she scurried down the farm equipment aisle and dove into a galvanized horse tank.
Without a doubt, this bike was a real head turner. But it was more than that. Somehow, riding on those fat tires gave me a feeling I had never experienced before on a bicycle. It was a rebirth, a renaissance. It was as if someone actually DID reinvent the wheel.
You can imagine the conversation I had with my wife after I went back and helped her out of the horse tank…
“What do you mean? I haven’t even asked yet.”
“But did you see the tires?”
“Yes, and I also saw galvanized metal.”
I knew I could not argue with her ironclad logic, so with a bottle of RootX in my hand and a rubbery longing in my heart, I left my beloved Mongoose leaning on her heavy-duty kickstand and sitting upon her beauteous, bulbous feet.
But my dream has not diminished of owning what I now have learned are called “Fat Bikes.” Besides Mongoose, there’s a multitude of “Fatties” out there. They have names like “Moonlander” and “Karate Monkey” and “Borealis Yampa.” They have tires named “Dillinger” and “Endomorph.” You could even get a rim called “Large Marge.”
These bikes come in cool colors like “Moonlit Swamp” and “Stretchpants Black” and “Dave’s Frozen Tears.” They have bizarre parts called “horizontal rear-loading dropouts” and “gusseted toptubes” and “internally-geared hubs.” And there are far-out options like the Mr. Whirly Crankset System and Dingle Cogs and Krampus Forks. My favorite is the Jethro Tule combination box wrench/bottle opener.
But that’s all a lot of gibberish to me. I’m a simple man with simple needs. All I want is to enjoy the glorious feeling of when the really fat rubber meets the road.
• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. If you really want to see the coolest Fat Bikes, go to Wheel Werks in Crystal Lake. Just keep your hands off the “Pugsley” in “Apathetic Black”… I’m saving up for that baby. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.