A group of five mountain bikers unloaded bikes from the back of a truck on a sunny spring day in Moab, Utah at the sand dunes just outside the entrance of Arches National Park. The bikes’ front wheels and forks were covered with big black trash bags – something was being hidden.
As two of the riders hiked up through the soft sand, two others set up cameras, while the third talked business on his cell phone. This was work, but it felt more like play.
Run after run, the two riders seemed to ski smoothly down, their back tires floating from side to side, spraying up sand. What made this riding so unique?
The tires were fat, and the bikes had suspension.
Adam Miller, a Colorado College senior and co-founder of Borealis Bikes, has been riding regular fat bikes with rigid forks for about seven years. With the release of the Borealis Yampa last year, the company took the fat bike world by storm, but that’s nothing compared to what’s coming.
Miller always thought performance in the summertime and for year-round mountain biking would be greatly improved with a suspension fork for a fat bike. So, when RockShox approached Borealis last August to talk about the idea of a fat bike suspension fork, “I decided immediately to design a bike just for that suspension fork,” he said.
And thus, the ECHO developed.
The bike is named after Echo Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument in northwestern of Colorado.
“This bike will put a smile on your face bigger than any fat bike rider’s smile seen before,” says Borealis’s website. The ECHO is “the first performance-oriented, full carbon frame designed around the brand-new RockShox BLUTO fat bike suspension fork.”
Over the last eight months and three trips to China to visit the Borealis manufacturing plant, the development process has been long and strenuous for Miller, but there has been time for fun.
“The fun thing about making bikes,” said Miller, “is that it involves a lot of riding of the bikes to figure out the best geometry and tube shapes and sizes and carbon fiber layup.”
Beyond the fun, partnering with a giant in the bike industry, RockShox/SRAM, was great luck.
“They are [based] three miles away from us, which is lucky, but they saw that we wanted to push the limits of what people thought fat bikes could do,” Miller said. “I hope we continue to work together and develop more products to get people out riding these crazy bikes.”
It was difficult for the Borealis crew to keep the project top secret for almost nine months of development. As the ECHO is the first fat bike ever with suspension, the idea was to take the fat bike world by surprise by unveiling of the bike and fork yesterday, April 10, in Monterrey, California at the Sea Otter Classic, one of the industry’s leading trade shows.
“It was very important for our business and our partnership with RockShox to keep [the design] secret,” Miller says. “Now that the bikes are real, and we’ve had them and have been riding them for several months, all I want to do is show them off! It’ll be nice to not ride in secret anymore.”
With the release of the ECHO, Borealis now has two models of bikes.
The Yampa is the “adventure, snow, and sand bike,” he says. “It has rack mounts for intense long bike packing trips, but is still the lightest fat bike in the world and is great for snow bike racing.
“Our vision with the ECHO was to create an entirely new class of fat bike that provides the rider with nimble shredability they just can’t find on another fat rig. It is designed for more intense, all-mountain style biking, but generally the market and its first users will determine how to describe its best purpose, so I’m excited to see where it goes.”
For Borealis, the ECHO will hopefully mean their popularity and business will remain strong throughout the summer and put their name at the forefront of the fat bike industry as a main innovator.
“We really want to push the limits of what these bikes with big tires can do,” says Miller.
So what’s the ECHO like to ride? It’s kind of like skiing with some serious boards in powder or, as Miller put it, “It’s awesome. It feels like a super lightweight monster truck that you can roll over anything with.”