Fat biking has evolved to become one of the fastest-growing trends in cycling. With tires as wide as 4.7 inches (nearly double the width of mountain bike tires), fat bikes allow riders to not only tackle snowy singletrack, extending the cycling season into winter, but also float over fair-weather terrain that would otherwise be impassable (like deep sand or mud). Fat bikes are the ultimate vehicle for riding year-round. Keep in mind that fat biking is a different feel and ride that mountain or road biking. If you’re a first time fat biker, check out those tips before you hit the trail on your new fat bike…
- Select the Right Trails – What skiers consider substandard conditions, fat-bikers call ideal – day-old hardpack. Many resorts maintain off-mountain Nordic, snowmobile, and singletrack trails that are perfect for fat biking. The morning or evening are best for fat biking. Cooler temperatures create firmer snow. The sun can bake the snow into slush in the mid day hours. Adjust your technique to the immediate conditions—shift your weight forward in crusty snow and back when it’s soft or wet.
- Dress for Warmer Temperatures – You read that correctly. Wear clothing appropriate for temperatures 10° to 15°F warmer than the average temperature that day. Fat biking is a workout and it’s not difficult to stay warm. Plan to burn up to 1,500 calories per hour! It sounds crazy, but you overheating is quite possible on a fat bike – even in the dead of winter. Sweaty clothing can also set the stage for hypothermia. Dress in layers that you can peel off as you warm up, and avoid cotton (which retains moisture) in favor of merino wool or synthetic fleece (which wicks it away).
- Use Flat Pedals – If you’re new to snow biking, you’re going to be putting your foot down- a lot. Even if you’re a seasoned cyclist, start fat biking with platform pedals and regular winter boots to keep headaches and cold feet to a minimum. You can upgrade to cycling boots and clipless pedals later. It’s less common to flip over the handlebar in fat biking, but tires sliding out is more of an occurrence. When that happens, simply use your foot as a kickstand.
- Reduce Your Pressure – Mountain bike tires typically require inflation of 20 pounds per square inch (psi) or higher to prevent flats. Fat bikes, on the other hand, can go as low as 2.5 psi. The sweet spot is between 4 and 5 psi. It’s the perfect mix of traction and flotation for most snow conditions. Finding it can mean the difference between riding and walking. After the snow melts, increase the pressure in your tires to 8 to 10 psi to maximize control on harder, dirt ground.
- Stay In Your Seat – Although tempting, avoid the temptation to stand up while pedaling uphill. Popping up transfers weight off the back wheel, which can cause loss of rear-wheel traction. The tire will just spin and momentum will be lost. Instead, stay seated on the saddle to keep weight in the rear wheel. As the hill gets steeper, shift into progressively lower gears. Although speed will be sacrificed, peddling at a lower gear gives leverage and traction necessary to climb the hill. Keep practicing this technique until it becomes second nature!
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