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The new winter adventure machine
Words by Casey Coffman and photos by First Tracks Productions
Fat biking is one of the fastest growing segments in cycling, experiencing an almost exponential growth in the last few years. What was once a rare sight on the trail has now become commonplace, not just in the winter time, but on the dry trails of summer as well. But these monster truck bikes were built for the snow, and that’s where many riders feel they excel over many other forms of winter recreation.
Fat bikes are best ridden on snow that is somewhat firm, groomed, or tracked down by other users. Avid fat bikers have formed many localized social media groups to inform one another about trail conditions after fresh snow falls, in order to find out the conditions in different areas. Trails are often first packed by snowshoers or hikers, and then fat bikers can venture out without too much trouble. That said, fat bikes are more capable than many people would think.
“One night ride we pushed through 6 inches of soft snow for 6 miles. The first rider had it easiest.” Mike Henderson, owner of Jet Lites in Reno, NV has been riding fat bikes for a little over a year now. He started as a way to stay in shape for the 24 Hours of the Old Pueblo, without having to ride a road bike or an indoor trainer. He has since made his fat bike his primary ride. He enjoys the unique backcountry experience of riding in the snow, at night. “Fat bikes are great in gravel, sand and rocks as well. There’s a nice loop from the Jet Lites shop that has a lot of gravel and baby-heads. It would be doable on a regular tire, but the fat bike is more fun.”
Tom Driggers of Black Rock Bicycles in Reno agrees. “Tahoe is a perfect place to ride a fat bike, but riding a fat bike is so ridiculously fun, it is enjoyable anytime and anywhere you ride.” He also rides his fat bike in the summer, on all types of terrain. He adjusts his tire pressure to match the terrain, and says it makes a big difference. “6 to 8 psi is normal for snow/sand with big knobby tires for optimal traction. 8 to 12 psi is best for dirt trails and fire road with not as an aggressive tire.” He owns different sets of tires for summer and winter to get the best performance out of his 25 pound carbon fat bike.
Cross country ski areas are starting to offer fat biking on their groomed trails, but many fat bikers prefer the adventure of riding their favorite singletrack trails when they’re covered in snow. As more people start to get into the fat bike craze, it’s only a matter of time before more areas are open to people looking to get on the bandwagon. “It might just be that it’s new and weird. But the bikes are super fun to ride.” Henderson is sold on the unique fun factor the monster tires offer. “A fat bike is an exploration machine.”
Off the Beaten Path
Off the Beaten Path is a new adventure film in the works from South Lake Tahoe’s First Tracks Productions. “We’re exploring new terrain and really seeing what fat bikes are capable of,” said Anthony Cupaiuolo of First Tracks. “It’s a lot of fun riding and filming in places you wouldn’t expect bikes to be. And, I think our experience producing skiing and snowboarding films and content for companies such as Warren Miller and Burton has been helpful for this project. That said, this isn’t going to be a snow-biking film, we’re looking forward to filming in a variety of unique terrain.” firsttracksproductions.com