Part 2: What to Wear Fat Biking

Riding in the snow in sub-zero temperatures can be super challenging to stay warm, dry and comfortable enough to enjoy the day.  Every year that this sport grows it seems that there are more and more companies putting out gear to shred the pow in.  Here are some suggestions from friends with plenty of fat biking experience to test out for yourselves.

Eric Greenwood:  For clothing, I prefer backcountry ski gear, rather than bike clothing.  I have found that clothing made for high aerobic alpine activities works the best and are the most comfortable for me.

The jacket I prefer is the Outdoor Research Centrifuge Jacket ($180.)  It has a wind and weather resistant front and a highly breathable fleece on the back. The hood is nice because you can take it on and off easily according to your temperature needs and it fits up around my chin like a balaclava. I have never seen any hoods on cycling specific clothing and I don’t know why, because they are so nice. The only drawback it does not have back pockets like a traditional cycling jersey.  

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Outdoor Research Centrifuge Jacket

For pants I wear a soft shell alpine climbing/skiing pant from Patagonia because they breathe very well and block the wind. I also have a pair of Sport Hill soft shell pants that are very wind resistant and breathable. I have nearly worn them out.  

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45nrth Wolvhammer Boots ($325)

For boot and pedals I have found that I like a flat downhill style pedals and a pair of Keen snow boots that I found on sale work the best for me. My feet run cold and I could not find a pair of SPD compatible shoes that would keep my feet warm enough.  There is a company called 45nrth that makes fatbiking specific winter boots that look like they would be awesome. They tend to be pretty expensive so I haven’t tried them yet, but they definitely are worth a look.

Last of all I wear some Outdoor Research gaiters that keep the snow out of the top of my boots and also keeps the chainring from snagging the bottom of my pants.

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Relevate Frame Bag, out of Alaska

I use a Revalate Designs frame bag to hold all my extra gear. With fatbiking I find I have to add or take off layers frequently and the frame bag has plenty of room for extra layers.  I don’t like wearing a Camelback because I sweat too much with it on, so I use the frame bag instead.

For water I use a Camelback insulated bottle. If its really cold and I am going to be out for a long time I will use a small Camelback and wear it under my jacket to keep the hose and bladder from freezing. The hoses will freeze very quickly.  

Another nice thing to have are poggies or bar mitts. My hands get extremely cold and they work awesome at keeping my hands warm. I use Bar Mitts and I love them. They keep my hands nice and warm.


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Julie Kramer, at QBP’s Frost Bike Demo.

Julie Kramer: “Old Man Winter requires more time, more gear, and more thought than the other seasons. He’s kinda demanding, actually. Layers. And venting. And wool. And bringing extra shit, but not too much. Just in case. Because winter. Stormy, rainy, snowy, hail-y, windy, chilly, unpredictable winter.  

My staples for winter include variations of lightweight and mid-weight wool base layers. Remember that wool tends to keep you warm, even when wet. Tank tops, tee shirts and long sleeves. Brands like Smartwool, Ibex and Icebreaker, among others, make some of the best pieces on the market. On top of that I’ll use a bike jersey that’s either wool or synthetic. Then possibly the most versatile, and vital piece of the puzzle is a vest of some sort…either a paper-thin wind vest, or a heavier, wind-proof softshell vest to keep the core warm. Arm warmers can be lightweight for fall and spring, or heavier weight for winter. May as well toss a lightweight, water and windproof jacket with pit zip vents into your hydration pack or jersey pocket…just in case.

On the bottom half, you have your favorite cycling shorts, then add knee warmers for below 60 degrees. Below 40 degrees you’ll trade those knee for full-length leg warmers. And below 30 you may as well add a full set of leggings (preferably with ankle zips) over the whole thing. A pair of lightweight, waterproof shorts or knickers layer on top is key in wet weather, or if there’s a chance that mud or snow or water will contact your bottom half. “

“For the extremities, you’ll want a lightweight skull cap that covers your ears for 40-60 degrees. Something heavier weight that still fits under your helmet works for below 40 degrees. Guaranteed wet weather?  Consider a waterproof skull cap or helmet cover. A thin wool or synthetic neck gaiter takes up little room in your pack and can feel like a lifesaver at times. I have fleecy, wind-resistant gloves for 45-60 degrees, warmer, windproof, cuffed gloves for 30 to 45 degrees, and another really beefy set for below 30 degrees. It’s a great idea to carry one extra set of gloves with you. Nothing like swapping a soggy, cold pair of gloves to fresh, warm and dry ones mid-ride! Oh, hey, I can feel my brake levers again! Wool socks also come in lightweight to mid-weight and can be combined for more warmth. For the wetter conditions, you’ll want to consider adding Gore-Tex socks that go over a lightweight pair of socks. Your shoes get wet, but your feet don’t. And if it’s wet AND cold, I go all in with boots.”

In regards to clothing Anna says “My general rule is overdress the extremities and underdress the core. Hands and feet are key. I’m a big fan of the Goretex Alp X gloves for very cold temps ($90) or Goretex Windstopper gloves for 40+ degrees ($70).Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.40.34 PMI use Pearl Izumi windproof booties for sub-40 temps, or just their toe covers for slightly warmer. I’ll layer a capilene under a long sleeve jersey, pack a wind vest in case I need it, then put on a skull cap and insulated tights (or Goretex cycling pants if needed). Goggles if it’s really nippy out. Love my Rapha windbreaker for after the sun goes down but it’s awesome for pretty much anything.  If someone would make a jacket with only windproof sleeves, and a permeable core with zip windproof panels to micro adjust insulation, that would be pretty awesome. But, I have not found that product yet.”


Rachel Alter:  “An absolute must is a good set of poggies.  Poggies are handle bar mitts that screw onto your bar ends.  This is important because no matter how insulated your gloves are, your hands are getting all the wind and extremely difficult to keep warm.  Bulky gloves make braking and sifting a challenge.  And cold hands just plain suck.  Jefe made me a super sick custom pair of Poggies.  (see first photo)  They are super warm, wind resistant, with vents for when they’re too warm.  I wear summer gloves or just liners underneath.  Love them!

Clothing is a funny topic as far as fat bikes are concerned.  There seems to be this idea that since I’m riding a bike, I need to wear bike clothes.  Nope.  Throw that out the window.  It’s all about warmth, mobility, and comfort.  I wear a chamois under ski pants. I have a pair of soft shell pants for warmer (warmer = 10-20 degrees above zero) and maybe a pair of knee warmers under the pants, or long undies over the chamois.  I also have a pair of hard shell ski pants for when it’s snowing and I really need to stay dry.  On top I wear a wool base layer and a wind breaking layer.  I often find myself too warm, even when it’s single digits below zero, if I wear much else.  

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Rachel Alter’s ride, Gunnison, Colorado.

I have a frame bag in which I carry hand and toe warmers – those chemical reaction pouches that you can stick in your gloves or anywhere else.  I also carry a puffy coat just in case, and a thermos of tea, hot chocolate, broth, even just hot water.  That thermos is money!  Sooooo good!  Sometimes I’ll even put a little pad of butter in my hot liquid for some extra goodness.  Game changer!  It’s amazing how much energy I burn and how warm my body feels even in negative temps as I work to propel that fat machine forward!”


Go here for Part 3: Fat Fun Winter Events or here for Part 1: Enjoy Getting Fat in the Winter

(Thanks to all our contributors and allowing the use of their images.)

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