Now THAT Was a Bike: 1992 MBS Clark-Kent Fat Bike

Apr 21, 2016
by Mike Levy  

While Clark-Kent's name might sound like it was lifted from the undercover superhero, it actually got its title when Pat Clark and Dean Kent, the two owners who founded the brand back in 1989, combined their surnames.

Steel was really real back then, not in just the hip 'I don't care' way that it is now, with Clark-Kent building most of their road and mountain frames out of steel tubing, as well as using titanium for their high-end models. All of these frames were put together by five welders when the Colorado-based company was in its prime, and those assembled by master welders Don Herr and Ivo Vinklarek are still sought out by collectors to this day. Olympic gold medalist Alexi Grewal was a top racer who was on one in the early 1990s, and Herr and Vinklarek even welded LeMond's early road and mountain frames before production was moved to Litespeed and then Trek.

Early 90s Clark-Kent fat bike. Yes perhaps the very first fat bike Only two were ever made and it is believed this is the only surviving frame.

Rumors point towards the deal to produce another brand's frames as one of the reasons for Clark-Kent's demise in the mid-1990s, along with outsourced manufacturing that was well below what the company was known for in their heyday. Before its death, however, Clark-Kent designed a suspension fork that was licensed to Scott (later named the Unishock), as well as an inverted suspension fork back in 1993 that sported wider than standard dropouts and disc brake tabs.

Before that, and many years prior to Clark-Kent closing their doors, top welder Don Herr created two wild looking fatbikes. The one you see here is from sometime before 1992 and is in The Pro's Closet's museum in Boulder, Colorado. It's also said to be the sole surviving example, making it an especially important piece of history. But while Clark-Kent's storied past and unfortunate demise are well documented, the tale of their wild fatbike is much harder to piece together.

Here's what little we do know about it.

Extreme conditions often beget extreme machines, and so it was when the Iditabike race, a 1,000-mile point-to-point event that saw riders cross snow-covered Alaskan tundra, had competitors looking for a better tool for the job than a normal mountain bike. Enter the first fat bikes.

True mega-wide fatbike rims were many years off, however, so small-time frame and component manufacturers improvised by pairing two, or even three, rims beside each other and mounted up multiple tires in order to create the wider footprint that would keep the bike and rider from knifing through soft snow and losing speed or control.
Early 90s Clark-Kent fat bike. Yes perhaps the very first fat bike Only two were ever made and it is believed this is the only surviving frame.

Clark-Kent's fatbike did exactly this, with two rims on each end of the bike that were welded together and then laced to a single hub by using an alternating pattern. Four Fisher FatTrax tires were put on the bike, two on the front and two on the back, in what must have been an interesting install, and each tire also had its own separate tube. One bike, four rims, four tires, and four tubes. And probably a lot of funny looks from other riders.

Early 90s Clark-Kent fat bike. Yes perhaps the very first fat bike Only two were ever made and it is believed this is the only surviving frame.

The frame and fork were welded by Don Herr, with widely spaced seat and chainstays made to clear what looks to be at least a four-inch-wide tire and rim combo, along with an elevated chainstay design. Chainline issues meant that a five-speed freewheel was used rather than a standard seven-speed Shimano XT cassette that would have been available at the time, but a wide-range triple-ring crankset, complete with a tiny small chainring, supplied the gearing range required to move what must have been at least a 50lb bike (when loaded up with supplies) through the snow. Sounds like a fun time, right?

It's been at least twenty-four years since Herr welded up the first Clark-Kent fatbike, and to say that things have moved on a bit would be a massive understatement. Now you can buy full-suspension fatbikes employing the latest technology, or even a carbon model, complete with matching carbon wheels, that weighs in around (or even under) the 20lb mark. But all that was kicked off by machines like Clark-Kent's fatbike, among others, that tested builders' ingenuity during a time when there were no off-the-shelf solutions.

Early 90s Clark-Kent fat bike. Yes perhaps the very first fat bike Only two were ever made and it is believed this is the only surviving frame.

Visit the feature gallery for additional high resolution images

Special thanks to The Pro's Closet for once again allowing us access to their treasure trove of historic bikes.
Photos courtesy of The Pro's Closet

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 429 77
 Even this is less retarded than a fat bike
  • 83 323
flag inked-up-metalhead (Apr 21, 2016 at 0:31) (Below Threshold)
 And your more retarded so I guess everything's balanced...
  • 64 11
 Never go full Fatyred.
  • 191 13
  • 26 100
flag Aarrce (Apr 21, 2016 at 0:48) (Below Threshold)
 @inked-up-metalhead: umm.. you are one to speak, proper term would be "you're". learn the difference and speak the enlgrish right.
  • 22 188
flag inked-up-metalhead (Apr 21, 2016 at 1:12) (Below Threshold)
 @Aarrce: calling someone retarded because their phone auto corrected to the wrong one is more retarded than not realising your phone had incorrectly auto corrected. Being grammar Nazi never make you look cool.
  • 30 15
 This is the best looking design I have seen in 2016. I might weld 3 rims and tires to the rear and four up front because I ride the big fat fuckers.
  • 65 15
 @inked-up-metalhead: Wow so much anger, did you stay on your mothers boob too long?
  • 36 13
 "Now THAT was a bike." it wasn't
  • 34 14
 @inked-up-metalhead: Two the pfew above. Learn too speek intermet and than cum back to BikePinC.
P.S. Its quite offensive to use the "R"word so learn some manners as well please.
  • 9 24
flag richierocket (Apr 21, 2016 at 5:35) (Below Threshold)
 @inked-up-metalhead: Two the pfew above. Learn too speek intermet and than cum back to BikePinC.
P.S. Its quite offensive to use the "R"word so learn some manners as well please.
  • 13 5
 Ironic how the guy who called the original comment "retarded" is telling the guy correcting him that it's not cool to be a grammar nazi.
  • 9 14
flag jordache-keepers (Apr 21, 2016 at 9:02) (Below Threshold)
 That was NOT a bike. That was an abomination! An idea born deep within the mind of a sick and twisted individual.
  • 20 7
 Still better than a Mongoose.
  • 4 8
flag getschwiftyclub (Apr 21, 2016 at 12:56) (Below Threshold)
 @ctd07 Thank you for the laugh, glad I wasn't eating or drinking.
@inked-up-metalhead: One of the best tips regarding online posting is to proofread. I always read over or read it out loud one extra time before hitting send.
  • 9 7
 YES indeed,,, must use perfect spelling and grammer on mtb forums. Personally I run my posts thru the grammer rodeo software before posting and always have a thesoreass ready for adding a bit of zest to my posties. Proffesor Doctor Claus Schtinksteifel always say don't run by a pool with scissors.
  • 1 7
flag leviboardbike (Apr 21, 2016 at 16:25) (Below Threshold)
  • 3 5
 @ctd07: Look at the guy's user name Big Grin
  • 10 9
 @fecalmaster: Shouldn't all of us try to use correct spelling and grammar all the time? Sooner or later we will be spllng lik dis u kno? That worries me. "Yes Pat, I'd like to buy a...uh...word that exists?" Nobody should have to play Wheel of Fortune to read text communications.
  • 5 10
flag fecalmaster (Apr 21, 2016 at 17:06) (Below Threshold)
 Unfortunately for you and Prof Schtinksteifel spelling b championships are that of 1965. Maybe you have been in a time capsule for the last 30 years. These days people post quick on tha go an nobody givafuk about spellin. Thank you for taking us back to 1965, always a far out ride.
  • 2 9
flag getschwiftyclub (Apr 21, 2016 at 17:07) (Below Threshold)
 @davemud: Wait, what? Are you insinuating that because the user's name has metalhead in it they should automatically be classified as an angry person?
  • 5 9
flag getschwiftyclub (Apr 21, 2016 at 17:15) (Below Threshold)
 @fecalmaster: There are flaws in your theory. "tha" and "the" have the same amount of keystrokes. There is no way that leaving words incomplete, bad grammar, and incorrect spelling should be normal no matter how busy, in a hurry, or lazy people are.
  • 2 7
flag davemud (Apr 21, 2016 at 17:15) (Below Threshold)
 @KottonGin: I was refering to fecalmatter... I mean fecallover... damn, I mean fecalmaster Big Grin
  • 5 1
 I would reffer you two to get a room.
  • 3 4
 Say's the aussie who lives where it never snows. Sorry but your opinion is invalid.
  • 6 2
 What is the point of this fatbike hate? They definately have their use and function in MTB world. You can ride them into places where you would struggle with normal MTB. This is how most of trails I rode looked like this winter. Fatbike is the only way I can enjoy mountainbiking during winter. I would love to see how fast all you fatbikehaters would be with your slim tires in this type of terrain. Sorry for my bad english. Razz
  • 3 5
 @PetrolLungs: I totally support fatbikes for the appropriate use: Snow.... But they sell them everywhere now, even here in oz, where there will literally never be any need for one at all, but shops everywhere have them. So that is idiotic IMO and why they are getting a bad rep, they've gone from being a niche but functional idea to just another gimmick the industry is pushing on everyone
  • 4 7
 @ctd07: if you'd actually ridden a fat bike anywhere but snow then youd understand why everywhere is selling them and why so many people are buying them. Yes, they make unrideable snow and sand rideable, but they also make loose climbs easy, loamy climbs and descents dont feel loamy anymore, you can just dick about on them like a big trials bike, ive got a second set of wheels for mine that mean its a road bike or full rigid 29er if I so wish. The only time ive not enjoyed mine as much as a 'real' mtb is riding on roads to or from a riding spot, the drag is noticeable.
  • 3 7
flag ctd07 (Apr 22, 2016 at 3:34) (Below Threshold)
 @inked-up-metalhead: But you look like a total goon riding one when you're not on snow is all
  • 8 7
 @ctd07: you know what? I couldn't give a rats ass what I look like to other people, im happy and enjoying ridding my bike more than I have since I was 17. Surely thats all that matters?
  • 1 3
 @fecalmaster: u so smart. Congrats bravo
  • 5 2
 @ctd07: Fatbikes still have their use in summer time. I have used it as an exploration bike, since you can ride it trough forests and other places where there are no trails. Based on my experiences, it is quite hard with normal MTBs, since the thin tires do not have enough grip and they tend to sink in to the soft soil, at least in here where I live. Fatbikes are not superior in normal dry trail riding to normal MTBs but they are not definately not useless and "retarded" and there are certain uses for them where they outclass normal MTBs.
  • 2 2
 @PetrolLungs: Yeah that's a pro and con. A pro in remote ares where there are no trail net works and a con because they can and will increase braiding and widening of established trails and riding off trails in managed areas. Those areas you can't ride a normal bike in may and often are environmentally sensitive and without trails established by the land owner/manager for a reason.
  • 1 2

Given the grammar used in writing some of the cycling articles these days (stop doing it on your phone ed.) I blame the magazines for the poor state of forum grammar.

(not just here its happening everywhere).

If I wasn't a supporter of evolution id be annoyed.
  • 1 3

In the right setting (snow or beach waterline etc) they're a great idea.

As a fashion item, nah, silly.
  • 1 2
 @Enzyme: Who buys mountainbike as a fashion item anyway? Atleast here where I live, fatbikes give me more opportunitues where I can go and I enjoy that.
  • 73 2
 The gap in the tyres would do a grand job of picking up all the dog turds on my local trails...I'll take it!
  • 1 0
 And it will throw it right onto your face! Frown
  • 43 0
 guess it doesn't need a kickstand, makes it easy to take pictures of.
  • 17 0
 I don't want to be the one to point out that there's a kickstand in the first picture, but I was also a little surprised.
  • 29 2
 "Steel was really real back then, not in just the hip 'I don't care' way that it is now, with Clark-Kent building most of their road and mountain frames out of steel tubing, as well as using titanium for their high-end models."

I ride a steel bike because is rides better than aluminum at a lower price point than Ti. You don't have to be a mustached, PBR drinking, ironic cat T-shirt wearing hipster to tell that it does in fact ride better. There is a reason builders are still using it.
  • 5 1
 Funny I thought the same thing when I read that. Good read but to bad he added that into it.
  • 2 4
 My alloy FS is stiffer (side-to-side), more compliant (up-and-down), and lighter than your steel hardtail.
  • 4 4
 @dthomp325: your alloy FS doesn't have a soul. Also, there was no comparison to be countered. Also, it's not.
  • 6 3
 @riffratt: Yeah, I'm not sure how I've managed to put in thousands of miles and millions of feet in elevation up and down mountains with my soulless alloy bikes.
  • 4 2
 @dthomp325: shut it you massive hoofwanking bunglec*nt! I ride steel hardtails because I like them. I also hate hippies. It is horses for courses, I like them, you don't. Same as the other guys. Let them have their say without getting silly. Bloody knob cheddar....
  • 21 0
 If this dually is a 1-ton, then I'm sold. I need something more robust to pull my toy hauler.
  • 17 0
 ___ Any questions?
___ What does this..... monstrosity cost?
___ Jerry, what's the sticker price? (whispers into ear)
___ $82,000???!!!... This monstrosity costs $82,000!!!
  • 5 1
 I don't have to click the link to know that one.
  • 4 0
 I'm ruined!!
  • 1 0
 Hahaha uncle herb
  • 18 1
 Stop the denial. We all secretly want this epic bike of history on our man cave wall. Cool factor: Level 9
  • 17 1
 "That was a Bike" That was two bikes mate!
  • 9 2
 AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! What a conspiracy! They knew all along that wider hubs were needed to support more weight/impact force! They then devised a plan to come up with different hub widths, and axles standards. Clark and Kent were the masterminds to what is now Boost! What is next? "From 1989 Zinn created the relax geometry you see in today's Enduro bikes!"
  • 12 2
 2 fast 2 furious
  • 2 6
flag brodoyouevenbike (Apr 21, 2016 at 0:42) (Below Threshold)
  • 12 0
 @brodoyouevenbike: more like 2fat2furious
  • 4 2
 4 fast 2 furious.
  • 8 0
 this is so cooool...even if you had a flat tire, you can still ride the bike. no dual chamber needed..
  • 8 0
 Haven't seen it yet so I'll just leave this here... Two rims one hub.
  • 4 0
 I remember RC saying his elevated chain stay frames had issues at the seat tube junction. This bike looks like it did to and was repaired, maybe? Gotta give these guys the credit for creativity and making it happen.
  • 1 1
 Can someone point me to the place I can find the mythical " full-suspension fatbikes employing the latest technology, or even a carbon model, complete with matching carbon wheels, that weighs in around (or even under) the 20lb mark."? Im gonna be happy when Im riding a full suspension 27.5 that is sub 30lb.
  • 1 0
 On the history part, the Iditabike back in '92 (or before, as implied in your article) wasn't 1000 miles. It was more likely 200 or even 160 miles then.

The 1000+ mile race didn't start until 2000.
  • 5 1
 Wow. The OG Fat Bike!
  • 3 1
 Would be like riding a snowboard going straight , trying not to catch an edge ! Or not ! Hehe
  • 3 0
 Try to tell that to kids these days and they wouldn't believe you.
  • 1 0
 Ay they won't
  • 1 1
 Okay, they invented the fat bike, but I don't see why the chainstay needs to be such a repugnant, scary write-off. It is a piece of cycling history though I suppose, and I can't say that about anything I've ever done.
  • 2 0
 Looks like they used the exact same tubes as the fork to make the chainstay. Maybe it was a cost saving measure? But those elevated chainstays were also cool back then.
  • 3 1
 @leojos: Because of how wide the chainstays are for tire clearance having them elevated keeps them above the cranks chainrings.

Keeping them low would mean some intricate tube bending, or the need to also manufacture an independent yoke to clear the chainrings and also would have lead to a flexy frame.
  • 3 0
 That bike is Super...Man its of Steel
  • 1 1
 Remember it was the late 80's early 90's designs....weird cutting edge ideas are the base of mnt biking today. Super cool....Looks like a military type bike...just needs a machine gun mount.
  • 2 1
 Think about the weight savings and stiffness that could have come from 2 carbon hoops laced together in perfect harmony! Ah, progression
  • 3 0
 Ya gotta love old school ingenuity! Big Grin
  • 2 0
 eh eh nice piece of history!
  • 1 2
 Super sick design! I guess it doesn't work well at all, but I always really enjoy watching experiments that bike companies make. Definitely a sick piece I would love to hang on my wall though. Museum-y stuff.
  • 2 1
 I own a Clark-Kent F-14 frame which was built up into a pretty nice bike back in ~1998, I still have it and it rides great.
  • 1 1
 Further proof the bicycle industry has always had people who confuse innovation with wishful thinking,smfh. Just because you can doesn't mean you should comes to mind.
  • 1 0
 I like this thing, cool part of history.. I mean I wouldn't ride it though
  • 1 1
 I can still see where the frame cracked and they welded and repainted it. Ah the nineties were a magical time of wonder and unicorns.....
  • 1 1
 It's steel so you can do that without much fuss, post weld heat treating.
  • 2 0
 Reminds me of biggun's that I used ride drunkenly.
  • 2 0
 Bottom bracket is cracked.
  • 1 0
 Bet it handles like a truck with its 4 wheels and all.
  • 1 0
 The frame was an Alpinestars top off.
  • 2 0
 Looks like a Haro
  • 1 0
 looks like jasons dreamcoat
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 So this is where the trek stache came from...
  • 1 0
 Double bubble! That mtb can twerk
  • 1 0
 A flat tire looks like a nightmare...
  • 2 1
 I ... umm ... what?
  • 2 1
 Master Bodge
  • 2 1
 Those shifters.
  • 1 0
 Thumb shifters FTW!
  • 1 0
 Now THAT was a QUAD
  • 1 0
 and 1
  • 5 6
 Looks like a Session
  • 4 0
 Golf clap for the implied sarcasm.
  • 2 0
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