Part 1: Enjoy Getting Fat in the Winter

Fat Bike

You want to get fat? What?  No, you want to ride a Fat Bike!  This will be a regular topic we will discuss through the winter in an attempt to help inspire you to open your eyes to a different ass-spect of our wonderful sport!

For this three installment piece, we reached out to our most experienced friends to find out why they like to ride fat bikes durning the winter and find out some tips on bikes, dressing for success and what events they’ve enjoyed.

Winter/snow makes it more challenging to ride, you have to be committed!  You will most likely need some different gear than what you are currently using.  But, the fat bike is a great alternative to most traditional winter sports to keep you strong and active for the next few months.  As this sport continues to quickly evolve we felt  inspired to reach out to friends that ride all year and already have their games dialed.  We hope to inspire YOU to get out and shred the white stuff.

—–Here’s what they said—–


CJ:  What are the best/worst things about winter riding?

“The best things about fat bikes in the winter are warmer riding (reduced wind chill as compared to riding on roads); familiar trails are completely different under snow so it’s like having all new trails to ride; and keeping up those MTB-specific power surges that you don’t really get from riding the road or the trainer.  If you really want to change things up, do some night riding on snowy trails — just like riding in snow, night riding also totally changes the trails, so you get the peaceful winter wonderland and completely change the experience on same old trails.

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Anna Kiep. Photo: Gary Parker

Changing a massive tire in the freezing cold is the worst. Can anyone say screaming barfies? As mentioned, big tires can feel sluggish because of the extra weight, which will take getting used to for anyone accustomed to lightweight racing machines. And the sidewalls sometimes feel like they’re collapsing when you turn. ”  -Anna Kiep

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Rachel Alter, Gunnison, Colorado. (photo: Jefe Branham)

 “Fat bikes are another way that we can get out and enjoy everything mother nature has to offer during the winter season.  I love it!  One very very important item to bring along on most fat bike rides is a sense of humor.  As soon as you think it should be easier or you should be going faster, you’re doomed to grumpiness.  Conditions can be soft and slow and squirrely as hell, and that’s ok.  It really and truly can still be fun.

Fat biking has taught me how to be present in whatever conditions there happen to be.  It is amazing for line practice as sometimes the firm, ridable line is very narrow. and it is amazing for practicing that smooth, even pedal stroke that helps with any dirt single track. there we go!” -Rachel Alter

“If the skiing is good the fatbiking is bad, if the fatbiking is good, the skiing is bad. I can’t stand riding a trainer indoors and have found that if I can get out on the fatbike I can maintain my cycling fitness year round.  I also like just being outside in the winter and the cold weather. Riding in winter the same trails I ride in the summer gives them a new perspective.

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Eric Greenwood, Ogden, Utah.

The worse thing about it is that it is very dependent on conditions. Generally you need a good packed or groomed trail to ride on. Once the trails are packed and groomed they good until the next storm fills them all in again. Snowshoers are our friends because they pack down the best trails.” – Eric Greenwood

 

The best thing about winter fat bike riding is that you get to ride singletrack on snow in winter. It’s just it’s own little slice of giggly fun riding. Night riding around 2am to chase a better view of the northern lights stands out as a pretty sweet experience as did riding a natural quarter pipe at the base of worthington glacier.  

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Lee Hart, Valdez, Alaska.

I’ve yet to find The worst thing. I do not go out on multiday sufferfests so I’ve never subjected myself to ugly blizzards, wind or snowstorms. Fat bikes do require packed snow so it’s sometimes hard to have to wait for man made or natural compaction to occur before getting fresh tracks.” – Lee Hart


 

CJ:  What about the bikes/tires/equipment?

“I think it’s big tires meeting full suspension. I have a Fatback XO1 that’s probably best for very snowy winters and/or really hardcore touring — it has a buzzillion cage mounts and option for panniers and is a fully rigid with huge tires, great if you deal with Colorado winters or take a very sandy trip.

But for everyday and all season tractor functionality, rock crawling and big traction riding, and especially for riders that don’t have really crazy winters, I think mid-fat 27.5+ or even 29+ type bikes are the way to go. Specialized Stumpjumper 27.5+ carbon is a great example, and that style bike is what I’m saving up for! Playing with rear shock settings helps overcome some of the potential sluggishness that comes with the bigger tires.

A little while ago I tried the Borealis Yampa, which was amazing, just because it was so crazy light, so it was very responsive despite the full fat tires. Super playful. The feeling that your sidewalls collapse in a turn is common to most fat bikes I’ve tried and something to get used to for the new rider. Less of an issue with mid-fat, but still. I rode a Surly Krampus several times, another mid-fat full rigid 29+ bike, which handles great in both light snow and normal conditions. That’s a nice option for a budget- and/or simplicity-conscious mountain biker with touring in mind. The Trek Stache is in a similar vein and seems to get favorable reviews, but I haven’t tried it (yet!)….” – Anna Kiep

“As far as equipment goes, there are a looooot more factors to consider in a fat bike than a mountain bike whose intention is dirt riding.  Depending on the conditions you want to be able to ride in.  I want to be able to ride in as varied conditions as possible, so I run super beefy, burly, 4.8″ tires.  This helps literally plow through deep, soft snow. Some of the bikes are coming spec with pretty puny tires and unless you’re on super firm, groomed trails, you’re not having much fun.  You want big, fat knobs that are spaced widely apart to try and avoid build up of snow between them.  A rear tire with knobs in the shape of paddles is also awesome.  I think there are bikes out there that are passed off as fat bikes, but unless the frame can run 3.8″ tires or wider, it’s just not meant for snow.”  -Rachel Alter 


So to sum things up, it sounds like the wide 4.8 inches are what you’re going to want for the gnarly deep snow conditions, but the plus sized 3.0’s may be good if your snow isn’t too deep to have plenty of fun in.

Although I haven’t kept up on the latest fat bike trends since I’ve been mostly in AZ the last few years, I am excited about the more versatile options that have started to pop up.

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Mike from The Gravity Shop, Tahoe City, CA packing in the trails.

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Mike, with dog Yoda shreddin the fluff

What I was most surprised to learn when I first started is how relatively easy it is to stay warm. Some of us may need take extra precautions for the extremities to keep warm, but its really not hard to stay warm on the fat bike since speeds really aren’t that high and you’re normally working pretty hard.  A flask will probably help too.

Bikes that have the ability to run different wheel sizes are especially attractive.  I personally look for bikes that be fun and work in a wide range of conditions VS a bike that only excels at specific types of riding.  So I think that the new plus size tires are pretty awesome…BUT some of the new fat bike groomed trails are requiring 4.0 and larger so not to create the dreaded rut to slam others to the ground when they run across 2.0″ wide tracks that are a foot deep in the groomers.

In the end, I like the idea of having a bike to ride in the snow, to keep the legs spinning all year and enjoy the snow in a whole new way.

Continue to Part 2: What to Wear Fat Biking or here for Part 3: Fat Fun Winter Events

(Thanks to all our contributors and allowing the use of their images.)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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