It was the year of the lord, 1998, and Brooke Scatchard had a dream: a mountain bike that could float on snow. Fat bikes weren't even a thing yet and Scatchard was just a high school student in a small town just south of Burlington, Vermont. He loved mountain biking and tinkering.
Sponsored by the Cannondale-Headshok team, he started toying with prototypes that would replace the front wheel on his bike with a ski in his metal shop class. By the winter of '99-'00, he had a working prototype. Fast forward to 2016 and, with any luck, Fat Bike Skis will hit the market by the end of the year.
And until Fat Bike Skis are available to the public, he's been bringing his creation to fat bike events and letting riders go for a spin/slide.
"Some are skeptical. But, everyone comes back saying, 'I can't believe how well it works,'" said Scatchard in a phone interview.
He even raced a bike with Fat Bike Skis at the Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte in Colorado in January, passing many riders on the downhills mostly because the ski is designed to carve into turns.
About 50 riders tested the tech at the event, and one person even told the proud designer, "I don't know why anyone would ride on snow without this."
How did the evolution of Fat Bike Skis come about? Scatchard graduated high school in 2000 and the product was his senior project. He filed for the patent and was awarded the patent on July 9, 2002. He remembers the patent number fondly and can recall it as quickly as he can his social security number, he says.
During research and development, Scatchard was surprised to find that the device that was most similar to what he imagined was patented in 1898 and was dubbed the ice velocipede.
There's been about a dozen evolutions since the original prototype. The original design had just one pivot when he was working on it in college. He designed a version with two pivots and more complex linkage that "allows the ski to follow a complex arc as the bike is leaned into turns," according to Scatchard.
That design also earned him another patent. Currently, he's playing with different ski designs, but the dry winter on the East Coast is making testing difficult. And then there's that pesky full-time job: The 33-year-old started a trail-building company five years ago.
He's hoping to release a version of the product this November with a target price of about $900. And although he says the learning curve is relatively flat, there's one skill that's worth focusing on.
"The only learning curve would be to learning to drift your back wheel in corners. It's not necessary, it's fun, though, and surprisingly easy."
Want to ride Fat Bike Skis this winter? Check out their calendar of demo days.
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