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Thin inventory of fat bikes this year as demand begins to outpace supply, say Whitehorse retailers

Every winter, they become more visible around Whitehorse — but the growth in fat bike sales this year has been slowed somewhat as demand threatens to outstrip supply.

Fat bike sales have been on a steady rise in recent years, and the pandemic seems to have added to the demand

The tire of a fat bike, right, is seen next to a mountain bike, left, at a retail shop in Maine. Fat bikes have become more popular across North America in recent years, and bike sales of all types were up this past year according to retailers in Yukon. (File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press)

Every winter, fat bikes become more visible around Whitehorse.

And for a while, the sales seem to match that trend — the winter-ready bikes have had a steady increase in buyers in recent years as the sport catches on, says Jonah Clark, owner of Icycle Sports.

Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, bike sales of all types went up dramatically.

"More than half of the model year '21 bikes that can be produced by the factories out there in the world have already been sold — shipped to dealers, gone," Clark said.

 But lately, demand for fat bikes has threatened to outstrip the supply. 

The thinning inventory in Whitehorse is also partly due to delays in shipping, says Clark. For example, he says his store is still waiting on about 16 fat bikes that were supposed to arrive at the end of December.

"Something happened with shipping in the port in Asia where they were produced and they got delayed about a month," Clark said.

Dean Eyre, who owns Cadence Cycle in Whitehorse, says he's seeing the same trend.

"I would say there's a shortage overall for bikes and components right now," Eyre said.

Dean Eyre of Cadence Cycle in Whitehorse says he's got a few fat bikes in stock right now — but only larger sizes. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

He added he has a few fat bikes in stock right now but only in larger sizes. 

"If you're around 5'10" and up, we can set you up with a bike. Otherwise, you'll have to wait," he said.

Yukon ideal for fat bikes

Clark says Yukon is the biggest consumer of fat bikes, per capita. He says the territory's winters typically offer ideal conditions for the vehicles.

"Basically, you don't want tons of regular, wet snow. You do want dry snow, and ideally not super often so you don't have to groom [trails] as much," Clark said. "That's kind of created the perfect conditions in Whitehorse for fat biking."

Whitehorse winters are typically ideal for fat biking because of the dry snow, Jonah Clark says. (Submitted by Icycle Sports)

More and more people in Whitehorse are using them for winter commuting as well as recreation, he said.

And the more visible around the city they become, the more people want to give fat biking a try — sometimes after they've discovered their regular bike just won't cut it in the snow and ice.

"Lots of people just hop on a fat bike, and [after] one test ride and they've just got a huge grin on their face," Clark said.

People who want to buy a fat bike this year shouldn't panic, however, says Clark.

Supply may be low, but he's been able to satisfy most customers who are patient, and flexible with their wishes.

"Maybe not always a particular person's first choice, but given how most brands are very similar to each other in terms of how good the bike is, the quality, the specs," he said, "there will be stuff available for everybody."

With files from Mike Rudyk

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