Fatbikes were invented for winter trail riding and racing in sub-arctic Alaska and simultaneously, for touring the deserts of New Mexico. They are very versatile bikes, capable of riding on any terrain which includes: snow, sand, desert, bogs and mud as well as normal mountain biking terrain.
The original fatbike was ridden in 1986 across the Sahara using fat tires prototypes from Michelin. Other early versions of the fatbike were normal mountain bikes equipped with the SnowCat rims, created by Simon Rakower of All-Weather Sports in Fairbanks, Alaska in the early 1990s Simon was involved with technical support aspects of the Iditabike (later IditaSport) race, which started in 1987. He started hand making extra wide rims for participants by welding two rims together and cutting off the middle ridge. Enthusiasts would cut and sew tire-carcasses together to maximize the size of the tire and utilize all the available space between the seatstays and chainstays; this tire and rim combination would maximize the bicycles footprint, increasing flotation on winter trails. Soon after, Simon decided to design a 44 mm rim from scratch and had it produced. SnowCats revolutionized winter cycling as they could be fitted to nearly any commercially available mountain bike.
At the time frame builders were experimenting with custom components and configurations designed to achieve a large contact patch of tire on snow. Simultaneously, in New Mexico, Ray Molina had commissioned 80 mm rims, 3.5" tires and frames to fit them. He wanted the bikes for his guided desert tour business; the soft-sand of the arroyos. Rims and tires were imported to Alaska where frame builders began making small, handmade, production runs and custom-ordered frames built around the 80 mm rims and 3.5" tires. Surly Bikes released the Pugsley frame, in 2005, Large marge rims and Endomorph tires. The Pugsley frame, rim and tire offerings made fatbikes commercially available in local bike shops world-wide. Other bike manufacturers have also entered this market, including Trek with the Farley, Salsa with the Beargrease, and Specialized with the Fatboy. And On-One with the Fatty who have also launched the world's first ever 24" Fatbike called the Baby Fatty.In December 2012 Eric Larsen (Polar Explorer) attempted to ride a fatbike to the South Pole. He made it a quarter of the way before he had to turn around. In 2013/2014 there were three cycling expeditions to the South Pole. Maria Leijerstam became the first to cycle to the South Pole, across the South Pole Traverse road. She rode a tricycle with fatbike tires. Juan Menéndez Granados skied and rode a fatbike to the South Pole. On 21 January 2014 Daniel P. Burton became the first person to ride a bike across Antarctica to the South Pole. Burton started at Hercules Inlet, and biked 775 miles to the South Pole. He rode on a carbon fiber Borealis Yampa fatbike with 4.8" wide tires.