Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Dirt Rag issue #150, published in July 2010. Words and photos by Jeff Archer.
If you were to put mountain bike companies on a map in the mid-1980s, it would look like they had washed up on the California coast like debris from the wreck of a framebuilders’ supertanker. A small tribe was able to migrate to Colorado, but no one must have been crying out, “Go east, young framebuilders.” One of the few exceptions was Fat Chance.
In the late 1970s, Chris Chance was building road bikes under the Witcomb USA banner. When Witcomb folded, he continued building road bikes in Somerville, Massachusetts, under the Chris Chance brand name. In 1982, he built his first fat-tired bike and Fat Chance seemed like a natural choice for a name.
When it came to model names, Fat Chance displayed a sense of humor with monikers like Wicked, Buck Shaver and Yo Eddy. The humor sometimes leaned more towards the inside joke. The best example of this is probably the Fuck’n Fat Chance. The frame was a standard Wicked frame with different decals. Just a handful of bikes were decaled this way and they usually went to someone within the bike industry.
Other than the decals, this bike also has a few interesting parts. The fork is a Bontrager composite fork with bolt-on crown and replaceable legs. This crown design was later used on the first production suspension fork, the RockShox RS-1. This era saw riders, led by John Tomac, using drop bars on their mountain bikes. WTB designed drop bars specifically for off-road use that featured flared drops, while Salsa made a specific high-rise stem to accommodate the drop bars. The brakes are also a little unusual: they are the self-energizing models made by Pedersen. A helical spline used the rim rotation to pull the pads against the rim with more force. The rear brake is the “U” style, while the front is a standard cantilever. Suntour later licensed the design but only made them for the rear due to their overwhelming power.
These parts combined with the unusual decals make for a pretty rare bike. What would be your chance of finding a similar bike? The answer lies in the name!
This bike is part of the MOMBAT collection housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you are unable to visit in person, take a virtual tour at www.mombat.org.
Fork: Bontrager composite, curved blades
Rims: Araya RM20
Bars: WTB/Specialized dirt drop
Stem: Salsa for dirt drop bars
Shifters: Shimano bar end
Brakes: Pedersen SE
Levers: Shimano Dura Ace
Cranks: Cook Bros. Racing
BB: Press fit sealed cartridge