Editor’s note: This story first appeared in issue 211 of Dirt Rag Magazine. Like what you see? Subscribe now to catch the last issue of the year, and stop by your local bike shop to pick up issue 212, hot off the presses.
by Martin Kozaczek
You’d be hard-pressed to throw a rock into the showroom at NAHBS — the North American Handmade Bicycle Show — without hitting a bike whose lineage can’t be traced back to Fat Chance. Chris Chance and his newly born-again Fat City Cycles brand are responsible not only for some of the best-riding and most-desirable mountain and road bikes, but also for providing a starting point for nearly a dozen builders, many of whom still churn out some of the best bikes in the world.
With models like the Wicked, Yo Eddy, Slim Chance or Fuckn Fat Chance (which was really just a funny sticker put on the Wicked), and a myriad of vibrant and wild paint jobs, Fat Chance was not your average bike manufacturer. Though committed to quality and performance, the company was always out on the fringe of the fledgling sport of mountain biking and did their best to stave off the mainstream trends.
The Yo Eddy and the Wicked are perhaps the best-known Fats these days, and collectors often have multiples of each bike in various paint schemes because, you know, why not? However, if you want one of the coolest and rarest Fats, look no further than the Team Comp. Made for only a short time in the mid- to late ’80s, and in small quantities, the TC stands out among an already amazing lineup. Probably best described as the Wicked’s racy brother, the TC was Fat Chance’s top-of-the-line race bike prior to introducing the Yo Eddy. The frame borrowed the Wicked’s geometry but used Tange Prestige tubing on the main triangle and fork, versus the True Temper 4130 chromoly on the Wicked. This particular bike has roller-cam mounts and G.P. Wilson forged dropouts on both the frame and the optional and legendary box crown fork.
I could wax poetic about the lively ride or the unique qualities of this particular frame, but the thing that I want to talk about is the drivetrain. There isn’t a rarer or odder set of components than Mavic’s short-lived off-road group. Most know Mavic for its rims, wheels or hubs, but few know that it made drivetrain components. The initial group included hubs, a bottom bracket, a headset, a crankset, derailleurs, shifters and a seatpost, but no brakes, chain or freewheel (cassette hubs and cogs came later).
At best, these parts shared the same success as Renault did in the U.S. automotive market. OK, maybe not that bad — their main claim to fame was getting spec’d onto Greg LeMond’s mountain bikes in the early ’90s, but only maybe two sold, so it wasn’t a huge success. I’ve always liked Mavic hubs and bottom brackets; they had some of the smoothest and most durable bearings available back then. The main marketing angle for Mavic components was their fully serviceable design. Mavic had always done this on its road components, and I guess it hoped it would play well in the rugged and dirty world of mountain biking. Each component could be fully rebuilt with brand-new parts, down to the pivots on the derailleurs. The concept didn’t really resonate, but it’s an interesting commentary on how some manufacturers approached product development back then compared to today. In the end, these parts proved too heavy and couldn’t compete with Shimano and Suntour in terms of performance and usability. After maybe two years, Mavic dropped the drivetrain and focused on rims and wheels, probably for the best.
Bikes like this Team Comp may not have been groundbreaking or innovative in any particular way, but they perfectly summarize what’s so great about this era: Builders and manufacturers pushed forward with materials, construction, geometry and components. In some cases, it resulted in a winning mix; in others, their efforts became historical footnotes. I’d like to think this bike is not simply a footnote, but rather an entertaining chapter.