"Man, those bikes are goofy."
I am not sure if that was my exact words or not, but it pretty much sums up how I referred to FatBikes two years ago. I had good reason. They are goofy, afterall. If you said that everyone in Belgium grows up with one and that is what makes them all great cobbles riders or cyclocross riders, of course I would have to have one - just because. Afterall, short of burritos (Texas), coffee (Italy and Handlebar Coffee in Santa Barbara), #Joetmeal (my kitchen) and Pearl Jam (Seattle) - all the other really excellent things in life come from Belgium (beer, frites, cyclocross racing, Classics, beer, Atomium, chocolate, Eddy Merckx, beer, etc...)
Getting back to FatBikes, they are just goofy. Big. Pigish. Bouncy. Slow. All of those adjectives can be applied. I mean, look at the size of the tires! They are so large. If you think 29'er tires look large, take a look over here, it's like they have their own zip code or something. Holy cow. Makes me think of this movie clip.
That always cracks me up. There are about 5 different versions of that clip on YouTube. Do yourself a laughfest and watch all of them. Great stuff.
But back to this Fatness thing. They really are goofy. Turns out though, they are a riot. Holy cow, they are fun. You will find yourself bouncing along on a tiny bit of trail with an absolute ear to ear grin on your face.
What's amazing to me is how the cycling world has taken to the things. This was a thing that only Surly was doing a few years ago. Now, every self respecting bicycle company has one. Some are great, some are not. But the point is that there are just a ton of choices now. Once you have one, you learn a lot about what they will and will not do.
Here is my summary of what's required for snow riding:
- You need a trail. Contrary to what the bike looks like it will do, you cannot just ride the thing anywhere. If it is going to be singletrack, it will need to have been packed down by snowshoes or other riders at a minimum. The best trails are the trails that are being prepped specifically for Fat Bikes. Groomed just like ski trails are groomed, only with something not much wider than a normal ribbon of singletrack would be.
- Falling is not that big of a deal. Rest assured you will fall, you are riding along on frozen water afterall. You will be riding along, your front wheel will veer over into the soft snow and poof, into the powder you plop. But, you are falling into snow. Generally, you just create a mangled snow angel.
- They are bouncy and you go slow. I think there are probably people that can make these things go fast, I am just not one of them. Seems like a whole bunch of work. But, you will not mind going slow. In fact, you will finally find yourself enjoying the woods and the silence of being in the woods when covered in snow. It is fun to ride along following deer hoof prints from the night before.
- Dogs love snow bikes. Dogs like to sniff around and eat dead stuff in the woods. Normally, on a summer mountain bike ride they miss out. It is just an all out chase and run for them. In the winter, they can sniff and eat dead stuff all ride, because you are not dropping them.
It appears to me, that here in the upper midwest the concept of Fatbiking is growing like crazy. There are race series developing, many new trails that have sprouted up, lots of blogs and people talking about things, cool movies, a new national championship (Ned Overend who won his first MTB race about 62 years ago won - geez). Take a look at a few of those things here. And get out on your Fat.
Check out Hansi Johnson's blog site. Hansi is the upper midwest IMBA rep, and a FatBike fan. Also a great photographer.
Wisconsin race series (although I am still not sold on racing one of these things). www.wisfatbikeracing.com/
At Wisconsin Fat Bike, you can find links for trails and other info.
This film is about as inspiring as you will find about Fat Bike riding. Watch it all the way to the end, and you will get the inspiration about the whole thing. (Almost makes it so that winter could be something looked forward to.)
Going for a ride.