For as long as I can remember, the first snowfall of the season has symbolized the end of the cycling season here. For some, the bikes go indoors on stationary trainers, but for most they go into storage. Waiting until spring arrives, skis and snowboards take precedence throughout the winter months. However, with the creation and exploding popularity of a new type of bike, this ritual is changing. Rather than putting the bike away, people are beginning to take them out once the snow falls. The bike I’m referring to is the ‘fat bike’ and it’s a new style of mountain bike and sport that has been sweeping the country.
You’ve probably seen one by now, either out riding or on some kind of media outlet. Fat bikes are like regular mountain bikes, but with massive tires, often 4 inches in width or more. These ‘fat’ tires allow riders to run fairly low air pressures and essentially glide over all kinds of different terrain, including snow. That’s right, fat bikes effortlessly float over the top of snow, sand, even mud. Surfaces that normal mountain bike tires would sink in to, fat bikes roll over with ease.
I got my first fat bike from KTM in 2014 and was blown away by how fun and exciting they are. Trails deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains are now ride-able year-round. I was skeptical at first, until my first big snow ride and I was sold. I climbed up to the top of a 9,000 ft peak overlooking Lake Tahoe in the middle of January. With 1-2 feet of snow the whole way, the bike just cruised along the surface of the frozen snowpack. The views and winter-peacefulness were unlike anything I had ever experienced on two-wheels before.
Over the last three years the sport of fat biking has exploded. Even more, there is even a Fat Bike National Championships now held in Utah in late February, as well as a Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte, Colorado, both of which I am excited to participate in once again.
Interested? Want to give it a try? Stop by your local bike shop and ask to take one for a spin. Get plugged in to your local fat bike ride group. While I don’t expect it to replace skiing, fat biking is yet another great way to get outside for a different kind of Great Journey during the winter months.