Naturally, FATBikes are being used on the more extreme side of life. So how about a red hot story about riding FAT tires on Nicaragua's volcanos? Months ago we got contacted by Damien Artero, film maker, reporter, camera man, author, editor and rider who shared just one photo on our facebook page. Having seen it it was clear to us that we have to learn more about it. An this leads us to where we are today.
An interview about volcanos, food, loving FATBikes and live's philosophy.
Zur deutschen Version gehts hier!
All answers and pictures by courtesy of Damien (copyright (c) damien artero www.planeted.eu)
Damien, who are you?
I'm a lover of life, people, travels, sensations and good stories. I'm a runner, a fatbiker, a raw vegan foodist and an adventure film maker. I'm quite normal I guess: I want to live life at its full power, I like beautiful things – especially when they have pedals, brakes, handlebars and big wheels. I live in a shared solar-passive house in the French Alps, a beautiful community living project we built together with a bunch of friends.
As we could see from your website you're into doing outstanding and extreme travel. Are you an adventurer or what else motivates you?
Wahoo, Matt, thanks for the feedback but I really don't see myself as outstanding and even less extreme! Like I said, I just have a large appetite for life, I love people and sports, nature and freedom, and travelling by fair means just is the relevant way of merging this all together. I don't see myself as an adventurer, in the hardcore sense of the word – I'm no Paul-Emile Victor, no Mike Horn, no Indiana Jones – but I guess my life is full of smaller adventures and I have this tendency to make my dreams come true. What motivates me is capture the beauty of life and share it with the audience through a film, I'd say.
And also, on a more selfish level, travelling by fair means connects me to what nature and mankind have to offer. When you ride around it like I did a few years ago, on a tandem with my former lover, for 2.5 years, the world is the best place ever.
Lets however speak about adventure – you rode a Volcano on a FATBike. How does it feel to ride on your FAT tires with only an eggshell between you and shitload of red hot magma?
Ah-ah! Well for one thing, magma usually is a fair shot away from the surface. Truth be told, the volcanos in Nicaragua are all active and regularly turn into wild beasts. But they're very well monitored and not that dramatically active either. I think we kinda forgot the real context once we were riding down the Cerro Negro: it felt like skiing on a bike and on dark snow. The fat tires were totally relevant for that purpose – even mine that are only 4 inches wide, set up on 50 mm rims, whereas my partner Tibo's bike had 100mm rims and 5″ tires, all of which were kindly provided by Vee Tire and Frenchys distribution.
The black ashes on the volcano's slopes are real light, it's more a powder than rocks. Which basically means that braking is of no use. You're gathering speed in no time, and you need to keep control over hundred meters of downhill, but the fatbikes are just perfect for that. All combined – the exhilaration of being up there on a volcano, away from civilisation, the exhaustion from the climb, the feeling of literally gliding down at full speed – it was a master blast of sensations!
For all who – like ourselves – never did anything like that so far: how can we imagine the environment you were riding in and what kind of riding did you do? How long were your rides?
The environment is pretty easy to describe. The West Coast and inlands of Nicaragua are flat lands covered in jungle and farms. Evey once in a while a volcano pops out and point its jaws skywards. From the top of Cerro Negro, we could only see jungle all around, bright flashy green jungle, ourselves standing on a nearly perfectly shaped dark crater. Contrast is what you get for an environment!
My rides were pretty basic: piloting down the volcano, enjoying my time and trying not to get too loose and crash, but as a film maker I spent much of my time, if not most, filming my fellow rider Tibo. His rides were another story altogether: he's a super good pilote and a big jumps addict. On the Cerro Negro, we managed to build a nice and small kick at the very top for Tibo to jump in the air and land right into the slope. Crazy!
In case there is no Volcano around – where do you normally ride your FATBike?
I live in the French Alps. Thanks to 3 different pairs of wheels (slick, medium, hardcore) I ride my fatbike everywhere: to go shopping, to pick up the kids from school, on the mountains around, in summer or winter, on snow, mud, dry rocks. Isn't what fatbiking is all about? I only have this one bike, and I use it for everything. What I like most is to go riding on single trails, narrow trails, technical rides, were all my friends are thinking, there's no way a fatbike is making it – and it does!
I reckon that height, temperature und dusty sands are a tough cookie for bike and rider. Did you use any special material and how did you prepare yourself?
I must confess I didn't prepare myself specifically. Like mentioned, I use my fatbike and ride it everyday on various conditions, now it feels the bike is a part of me 🙂 Sports and training are a regular and important part of my life and I usually rely on my normal fitness or condition when I travel somewhere or do some silly adventure. As for special gearing, yes, we used bikepacking bags provided by French reatiler High Mobility Gear and its travel equipment subdivision, Bikepacking Gear. Vee tire and Frenchys distribution gave us new tires, with a special rubber for extra traction and grip. I used to ride Surly tires and I must say I'm very happy with the Vee tire products.
You just recently published a short video that we've linked below. This looks great fun. Was it just a fun trip for you or is there a deeper meaning?
Ah, yes, no. It was lots of fun but it mainly was, somehow, a pretext, an excuse to build a documentary film about raw food and how it can or cannot sustain a healthy, super active, energetic and sustainable / environmental friendly life. I also documented the emergence of organic food in a developing country – Nicaragua.
That sounds exciting! Tell us a bit about it (the movie 😉 )!
Well, I've been a vegan raw foodist (mainly but not strictly) for 7 years now. People who become aware of my lifestyle – very active as a father, very active as a film maker, very active as a sport addict and lover – often wonder how a vegan raw diet can sustain such a pace and fulfill such a demanding lifestyle. Often too, they doubt it or have fears. I wanted my new adventure film to be a great trip across a country I knew nothing about but also an answer to those questions or fears.
So basically, I subjected myself to a medical analysis before and after and interviewed lots of relevant people – doctors, nutritionnists, raw athlets, etc. – to try to answer to this triple question: is raw vegan food a proper way of being healthy, powerful and sustainable? Is it the food of our future? I chose Nicaragua to try and prove that: fruit everywhere, nice people, demanding volcanos to climb and ride down, everything to make a great adventure film and documentary!
Back to FATBikes. Although it's pretty obvious – but why did you choose a FATBike for your adventures?
I like to travel with my fatbikes because it catches people's attention and allows for nice encounters. Then, obviously, fatbikes are perfect for extreme terrains like sand, ashes, snow, mud, and it made absolute sense to ride them down volcanos. I've been riding my fatbike for 3 years now. I started in Lapland for a previous film, fell totally in love with it and never quit! My bike is made by the French fatbikes genius, Yann Thomas, under his label Salamandre Cycles. I have no idea how many kilometers I ride per year – there is a French saying that goes: „When you love counting doesn't matter“… I'm on my bike every day, so it must add up to thousands of kilometers but that really doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I love this bike, it loves me, and together we're sharing the greatest of experiences!
If you had one wish how to improve FATBikes – what would that be?
Switch from chain train to carbon drive belt! Because in the sand and ashes, it would really be much easier – I had to clean and oil my chain quite often in Nicaragua. Apart from that, my bike is perfect for me and has been tailor-made by Salamandre Cycles. A pure work of art and science.
You're a crazy guy! But I would not be heavily surprized if some of our readers are equally crazy and have similar plans. What would you recommend them to have a successful trip?
Follow your gust, listen to your dream, never stop believe in yourself. What else? logistics are different for everyone of us; priorities too.
Too many to be accounted for! I think I'd like to go back to snow and ice for a next fatbiking adventure? Also I plan on riding the Great Divide across the USA some days, maybe with my daughters – I'm getting a tiny fatbike for my elder daughter soon, provided by my sponsor Cyclable (a network of cycling shop in France) so why not? Both of my daughters are natural born riders 😉
Boy, what an interesting story! Particulary as central Europe starts freezing now it was a great pleasure for us to speak with Damien about this project and learn about this guy. Now we're egerly looking forward to the publication of Damien's movie that will be out later in November. And of course we will link movie and any trailers for you! So, more to come – stay tuned!
And find out more on Damien's Facebook page.