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The Fat Chance Slim Chance Road Bike Keeps '90s Style Alive

Chris Chance of Fat Chance Bikes and Fat City Cycles is one of my favorite framebuilders, so when our Master Tech, Carl, bought a Fat Chance Slim Chance road bike, I had to feature it. It's a modern steel rim-brake bike that oozes '90s style. So cool!

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

My co-worker Carl is one of our best Master Techs. He's the guy we like to send our most finicky bike repairs. He’s also a former collegiate racer who, after pivoting away from racing, discovered that he prefers a good steel bike to carbon.  

“After I got done with college, I sold my [Giant] TCR,” he explained. “I wasn’t looking for your standard all-out carbon race bike. Those bikes focus so much on stiffness and lightweight that they get a little bit jarring over the truly rough stuff, even with big tires. I want a road bike that feels both smooth and fast. It can hop into the occasional crit race or a road race and hold on. But in Boulder, we also have all these really great dirt roads, so I want something capable and comfortable enough to explore those roads as well.” 

A do-it-all bike that’s smooth, fast, comfy, and capable? Something that can shrug off knocks and last a lifetime? Sounds like a job for steel. It’s why the last few road and gravel bikes Carl has built up have used this classic frame material. 

Cielo Sportif ClassicCarl certainly has a type. 

A couple of years ago, I featured Carl’s steel, rim-brake road bike — a Cielo Sportif Classic which was built by Chris King. He bought it from TPC and customized it to “crush miles and get a lot of time in the saddle.”

The Cielo served this purpose well for a couple of years, but as often happens here at TPC, something new and exciting came along, and Carl couldn’t resist the draw of a New Bike Day. 

Slim chance headbadgeHe’s traded-in his trusty Cielo for a new and equally trusty 2018 Fat Chance Slim Chance. He’s added a few personal touches to make this bike his own. 

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Fat Chance: The Legend Continues

We have several Fat Chance mountain bikes in our vintage museum, and I consider them to be among the best bikes that we have on display. Why? Well, most of our 30+ year old museum bikes aren’t actually safe to ride. Our 3 Fat Chance Yo Eddy mountain bikes, however, are solid. I still trust them enough to hit the trails on one during our yearly vintage MTB ride. 

1992 Fat Chance Yo Eddy TeamI'll confidently rally these vintage Fat Chance Yo Eddy Teams on our Vintage MTB rides. 

It’s clear that their creator, Chris Chance, knew how to make a rock solid bike. These old Fat Chance bikes feel stiff and stout. The geometry is super agile and they handle with telepathic grace. The r/xbiking crowd is obsessed with vintage Stumpjumpers that feel like lazy cruisers, but if you ask me, a sporty vintage Fat Chance is 1,000x better. (If you can’t tell, I’m a Chris Chance fan.) 

While he was best known for his mountain bikes, Chris Chance actually cut his teeth building custom road frames in the '70s as an apprentice at Witcomb USA. He learned to build bikes alongside several other future framebuilding legends: Richard Sachs, JP Weigle, and Ben Serotta. 

Fat City CyclesChance eventually struck out on his own and started Fat City Cycles around 1982 to produce his now legendary Fat Chance mountain bikes. In 1991, he used all of his knowledge and experience to create a new generation of road bikes, cleverly named the Slim Chance. The original Slim Chance was built with Columbus TSX tubing and it was one of the first production TIG welded road frames. 

Unfortunately, the next 10 years were tough for Fat City Cycles, It was sold off, bought back, and it eventually folded in 2000 and Chris Chance left the bike industry, burnt out. But his fans remained. Calling themselves “Fat Cogs,” these Fat Chance owners were hungry for new bikes, and their passion was enough to convince Chris Chance to make a comeback 15 years later. 

Chris Chance building a modern Fat ChanceHis first project was to resurrect the legendary Yo Eddy mountain bike. Not long after, his Slim Chance road bike rose from the dead as well. The new version features larger tubing profiles, a carbon fork, and modern geometry. Slim Chances are made in small batches and use hand-selected and size-specific Columbus and Reynolds tubing. 

Slim chance steel road bike

Riders can choose from rim or disc brake builds, mechanical or electronic shifting, and stock colorways which callback to the classic Fat City Cycles designs of the late ‘80s and early '90s. Carl’s bike here is a 2018 model and it has custom single color paint, which is an additional $150 charge. Instead of the standard ENVE carbon fork, it has a classic "Yo Road" steel fork which is rim-brake only and is another $420 (heh) up charge.  


Why Carl Bought the Slim Chance

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Carl bought this Slim Chance the moment it was listed on our site (I guess he’s a “Fat Cog” now!). He saw the bike getting serviced and immediately knew he wanted it. It had good looks and it fit him better than his previous bike. 

White industries bottom bracket

Purple and gold - fit for royalty.

“When I saw the Slim Chance, I really liked the purple paint matched up with the gold of the White Industries bottom bracket,” Carl explained. “Plus, there's no missing the cool factor of the titanium eeWings cranks. I looked at the measurements and it actually looked like a perfect fit for me, so I pulled the trigger.”

While Carl’s old steel bike was very pretty, he explained that it never fit quite right. He also didn’t like how inconsistent the shifting was with the old-school forward-facing horizontal rear dropout. This Slim Chance uses a more modern quick-release dropout which meant it played much nicer with a more modern Shimano Ultegra 11-speed group that requires a narrower chain and more precise indexing

Shimano Ultegra rim brake caliper

Also, yes, this bike has rim brakes. Carl’s previous bike had rim brakes too. Is Carl part of the #rimbrakesarentdead crowd? Sort of. He likes rim brakes, but he fully acknowledges the superior stopping performance of hydraulic disc brakes. 

“Disc brakes are definitely better,” he said. “You don't have that continuous power you get with hydraulic disc brakes.”

Does that missing stopping power matter to Carl though? Not really. He didn’t say this to me, but my theory is that, after wrenching on modern disc brake bikes all day, he enjoys tinkering on a bike with simpler brakes at home. He can wash his hands of all that nasty DOT fluid or mineral oil, and pour himself an Old Fashioned to sip while playing a vinyl record through a tube amp. Ah yes, the perfect environment to enjoy a classic pair of rim brake calipers. 

Cane Creek eeWings

Anyways, this Slim Chance came well-equipped from its previous owner. Frankly, I can’t believe the previous owner sold it to us with a set of Cane Creek eeWings All Road titanium crank arms. These are super fancy $1,100 crank arms, and like a good steel frame, they’ll last a lifetime. If this had been my bike, I would have kept them! Or at least sold them separately. Carl really scored with this purchase. 

Phil wood hubs

Carl decided to shed a few grams by swapping the alloy Boyd Altamont wheels the Slim Chance came with for a set of pre-owned Light Bicycle carbon rims laced to Phil Wood hubs.

Light bicycle carbon rims rim brake

If you’re going to use the rim as a wear component, then an affordable option from Light Bicycle makes a lot of sense if you want carbon. This is Carl's daily driver after all. The Phil Wood hubs have a similar vibe to the frame — classic and bombproof. 

Silver bike handlebars and stem

Carl added just a few more bits of personalization before his bike was ready to rip on our weekly TPC lunch rides. For the cockpit components, he went from “boring black with too many logos,” to “clean-looking silver” in the form of Salsa bars, a Whiskey stem, and a Thomson seatpost. 

Cane Creek “El Fuego” eebrakes

I think these “El Fuego” eeBrakes should be the next upgrade.

For tinkerer like Carl though, a bike is never "complete." So what’s next? I suggested some fancy Cane Creek eeBrakes to match the fancy crankset. Carl guffawed a bit at this. Apparently, he didn’t buy this bike just because it was cool. He also wanted to “save money.” But I caught him browsing eBay for some bright purple eeBrakes the other day. All I can say is, DO IT, Carl. DO IT.  

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