By this time, you’ve probably seen a fat bike or two around Buffalo. These unusual looking cruisers are picking up in popularity for a number of reasons, including the stares that they get from people as they pass by. It turns out that these fat bikes are not only interesting to look at – beyond the ogling, they are a lot of fun to ride. That’s why enviro-entrepreneur Steven Young has started a fat bike rental company called Buffalo Fat Bikes.
I first met Steve years ago when he was riding around town in a biodiesel truck that he maintained using discarded veggie oil. At that time, he was maintaining biodiesel facilities for companies like Atlas Steel (side gig), while touring with moe. as the band’s front of house sound engineer. Buffalo, at that point, was still ten years away from seeing its first fat bike.
The fat tire bike fad started on the West Coast, in the beach communities where people were looking to get a good grip on the sand. The fat tires became so popular that people began to show them off on the roads. The trend quickly gained momentum until the first fat tire bikes started appearing in Buffalo a couple of years back.
Steven first got the fat tire idea while traveling with moe. When the band would travel to different cities, Steve and the rest of the moe. crew would look for scooter rental shops to tour the cities. When Steve got back to Buffalo, he wanted to tour the members of another band (on the moe. ticket) around town and realized that there was nothing similar to what he was accustomed to – either a scooter or a motorized assist bike. This, my friends, is how great ideas are born.
Soon after, Steve began to purchase fat tire bikes and convert them into motorized assist rentals. He abided by the Federal guidelines, by using a 750w motor, which is still classified as a bike (the vehicle goes up to 20 miles per hour). Then he rigged up a trailer, which allows him to set up shop virtually anywhere. One day, he hopes to add solar panels to the roof of the trailer. This will allow the bikes to be charged while out on the road. In the meantime, the back wheel hub regenerates electricity back into the lithium ion battery, which prolongs the daily life of the all-wheel drive contraption.
At this point, Steve is offering a couple of different touring rides.
The first is out at either Hunter’s Creek (more technical) or Sprague Brook (easier trails). Depending on the age (kids and adults) and the skill level, Steve can direct interested parties to the appropriate ride.
The second ride offering is just getting underway – Steve is testing out the Outer Harbor on 716 Day (July 16). “I heard about 716 Day on Buffalo Rising,” he told me. “So I offered rides for $7.16 and immediately sold out for a 7pm ride. The ride will start at the Niagara Bike Rental shack at Wilkeson Pointe. We will then head out along the Outer Harbor, over to Silo City, then RiverWorks, and onto Canalside, before grabbing the bike ferry back to the Outer Harbor. There has been such an incredible response to this that I am hopefully going to nail down a permanent Outer Harbor tour schedule. People are really digging this – it’s like being ten years old again.”
In order to accommodate the little tykes, Steve also offers ‘tag-a-longs’ that hitch to the fat bikes (see inset trail photo). “My eight year old daughter loves this,” said Steve. “She helps to pedal, which applies torque to the rear wheel. Then she will ask me to hit the ‘happy button’, and boom!, we’re climbing a hill together. My kids love these adventures. When I used to tour around to see The Dead, my eldest daughter had a room in half of a split window on the top of a ’67 bus – today she helps me with my social media for Buffalo Fat Bikes. I built a two wheel cargo transport for my dad who has Alzheimer’s – I hook the transport onto the back of my fat bike and take him for a ride everyday. His face lights right up and he waves to people as we go by. I’ve always taken my family everywhere I go – it’s all part of the adventure that I want to share with the community now that I have this new touring business.”
Steve has gone from maintaining biodiesel facilities for companies like Atlas Steel, while touring with moe., to setting out on this new two-wheel passion play. In fact, he’s still the front house sound engineer for moe., and is bringing his fat bikes along for the ride. While he’s given up on driving a veggie oil truck (too hard to maintain in the winter), he’s diverted his energy to something that’s a lot more fun and doesn’t smell like a deep fryer.