Critical Analysis of the Exit of a Friend
Chris Chance was an early pioneer in the mountain biking industry. One of the first frame builders to emerge from the East Coast, Chris Chance started a company that would change the way many people viewed the bike. That company was Fat City Cycles. A small yet unique company, Fat has an almost cult like following to this day as a result of the passion and attention to detail that Chris Chance and his team put into his bikes. Nothing illustrates this more than Matt Phillips’s letter revealing his article, “Good Bye to a Friend” in Mountain Bike Magazine, to Chris Chance.
Phillips wrote a letter to Chris Chance expressing his regret at such a great company leaving the market and details an article that he wrote for Mountain Bike Action in which he discussed the 15 most influential mountain bike products. On the top of the list was none other than a Fat City’s own, Yo Eddy. Chris Chance and Fat City Cycles put themselves on the top of that list with bright paint jobs, humorous bike names, and quality rideable mountain bikes that left the West Coast baffled to keep up. A Fat Chance was more than a bike: it was an embodiment of excitement and the reason to get out and ride. As Phillip’s states, “Like most mountain bikers from the East Coast, a Fat Chance is more than a bike to me. It represented passion and commitment, friendship, good times and trying to be your best”. But the end of an era had begun with the invention and practical and usable application of full suspension to mountain bikes leading to the decline in a need for custom, high end rigid frames. Gone were the times where a rider built a relationship with their bike so that the couple may go out and conquer that winding, rocky single-track together. Phillips alludes to the marriage of man and bicycle a rider experiences on a Fat Chance, but new technology came a new style. Technology and innovation led to a ride that no longer meant hours of bonding over brutal falls and jaw breaking descents much like a turbulent relationship that makes you appreciate the ups. Now, like a mail order bride, all one needs to do is click their options and bike is pumped out ready to ride with no work to be put in. New inventions led to an emotionless bicycle that takes little skill to ride and only a hefty investment to enjoy. Phillps highlights the void left when Fat City left the bike industry. The resulting void came from the new absence of passion and humor that was so ingrained in Fat City Cycles. We no longer see bright paint jobs and names such as “Wicked Fat Chance” or “Fat F*ck’n Chance”. Names now evoke no emotion and only bring attention to the massive amounts of technology put into the bike to make it a point and shoot weapon rather than an experience that lasts a lifetime. Like Matt Phillips points out, “is the bike industry more based on fashion than substance now?” Whoever can pack the most technology into a frame becomes the most sought after design.
When Fat City Cycles left the market, there was visible sadness in the bicycle community as a small but vital part of bicycle history was taken away. But we have much to thank Chris Chance for; many of the companies that build quality frames today were started by previous Fat City employees and continue Chris’s legacy of building frames that show an unimaginable attention to detail. Fat Chance has left a visible mark on the East Coast bike scene and ultimately mountain biking as a whole. Today we see a scene that is not worse than the early mountain bike days where bright bikes ruled; rather, a different scene that takes the passion from before and embodies it in a new way, to surmount new challenges. The Fat Chance opened up the world to bikers and showed us that there is no limit to the enjoyment one can have on a bike. All we need is the drive to take our two legs and pedal those two wheels out into nature to experience the world in unique way.