Fat Bike Life: Is it for you?

Nine2FivePro team member Graham Page (OttSnowCyclist) shares his adventures in fat biking:

Just like every Nine2FivePro, I love to ride bikes and I love being outside.

I am a road rider…I dabble in a bit of gravel riding, but during the summer I am pretty much on the road. As a result, I do a lot of training inside during the Canadian winter. I suffer on the rollers or the trainer; I create pools of sweat; and I curse the fact that I live where the air hurts my face. But I also find that trainers and rollers can be boring and repetitive; even with things like GCN training videos, good movies, and of course Zwift. I started riding bikes because I like being outside.

Enter – fat biking!

Now, I should add that I bicycle commute year-round, and have done so for about 8 or 9 years. So, when I started thinking about buying a fat bike, I was already used to riding in cold, snowy, icy, less than ideal conditions. I actually love doing it. I figure I build up my HTFU points over the winter, so come spring/summer/fall if I bail on riding outside on a less than ideal day I don’t worry about it. And you can’t tell me I’m soft when I ride in -40, freezing rain or a 50cm snowfall.

But back to fat bikes. If you haven't tried one, know this: Fat bikes are awesome! Sure…they are slow, often heavy, and kind of ridiculous looking, but you can ride in just about any conditions. You can ride groomed trails, or single-track packed down by snowshoer’s and walkers. Run a low pressure and you can ride over or through just about any terrain. In Ottawa, we are also getting more and more places that are welcoming fat bikes. This is largely thanks to efforts from groups like the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association and the SJAM Winter Trail.

There are a few key things to get right for successful winter fat biking. These are tire pressure and clothing. For tire pressure, it is entirely dependent on the conditions. You may be running as low as 3 or 4 PSI if conditions are soft. This low traction gives you a nice wide platform to provide some float, and TONS of grip. Now clothing is a more personal choice, and depends where you are riding. On the SJAM Winter Trail, I wear a good wind layer almost all the time because it is so open. In Gatineau Parc this is less essential because of all the tree cover. Aside from that, investing in good gloves (or bar mitts) and boots is a must. A lot of people run flat pedals on fat bikes, so you can choose any boot really. I have clipless pedals with a good set of 45Nrth boots. Toss a toe warmer in there and I am good for just about anything.

My favourite place to ride is the Gatineau Parc snow shoe trails. But I most often ride the SJAM winter trail since it is pretty much out my front door. I have yet to venture to Larose Forest or SMH, but with more and more Nine2Five’rs joining the fat bike ranks, I am hoping to get some groups together and go exploring.

In terms of racing, I’ve done a few fat bike races with pretty terrible results. But I am hopeful I can turn that around. I will likely be lining up for the Gatineau Loppet Fat Bike race again this year. And perhaps one year I can make a run in the 45Nrth Fat Bike Series based near Toronto. If I write it down, it might actually happen.

If you are interested in trying fat biking, many stores that carry them offer rentals so you can give the fat life a go.

See you on the trails!