Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No…it’s a fat bike!
Home over the holidays and out on some backcountry trips, I started to notice quite a few adventurers using bikes with wide rims, extra-large tires, and oddly-dimensioned frames to account for the larger tires. I soon became introduced to the sport of ‘Fat Biking’. Fat bikes provides flotation when riding through snow, so you can boldly go where you have not gone before (at least in wintertime)!
These bikes have tires that are 4+ inches wide (twice as wide as most mountain-bike treads), with monstrous lugs, which adds grip on the ground. The extra surface area prevents the wheel from sinking as much as it otherwise would in soft snow.
This also means that the tire pressure only needs to be around 7 psi – you’ll notice the tires are extremely ‘squishy’, which translates into better grip on the trails.
These bikes are designed specifically to ride on packed snow and anything unpacked or a soft layer of snow requires an extreme amount of effort. Snowshoe trails are definitely the targeted location to ride. Again, soft or fresh snow is harder to ride than groomed, hard-pack or crust snow. Fat bikes are not built for powder. Riding in snow conditions is a fine balance to prevent burning yourself out.
My most important lessons of my first outing were to stay off the front brake on the downhills because you slide and lose stability. And shift weight towards the rear tire to get better traction if required i.e. don’t stand on the bike in an effort to gain more power.
As I quickly learned, fat biking is an art that definitely requires mastering!