Fat Biking, Take Two (Or, Sam Learns How to Ride Through Really Deep Slush)

Fat Tire Biking is the Hot New Sport, proclaims Forbes Magazine.

Fat tire biking is the right sport at the right time, taking advantage of recent technological advances like disc brakes, which work better in winter conditions, and following years of growth in cycling in general. It bridges the gaps between several disciplines, mountain biking, increased urban bike commuting, the fast rise of dirt road riding, and as a wintry alternative for formerly locked indoors avid cyclists. But the appeal is broader than cycling, and even people who don’t ride that much are embracing fat tire bikes as a way to get a good workout in winter, always a challenge for runners, skiers and other outdoor fitness types. In particular, fat biking is drawing crossover converts from Nordic skiing, especially since snow conditions are notoriously fickle for most winter sports. Where I live in New England, we would normally be cross-country skiing regularly at this time of year, but there has not been enough snow all season – yet it’s just fine for fat tire cycling. In fact, abnormally mild conditions that are bad for other winter sports are excellent for cycling.

This weekend I got out for my second try on a fat bike. A few weeks ago Sarah and I rented fat bikes at Horseshoe Valley and we had a terrific time both on the wider groomed trails and on the single track that wound through the woods. It was beautiful, snowy, and cold.

Today was a bit different. A local bike shop teamed up with a local conservation area and put on a fat bike demo, for free. “Wildwood Conservation Area is the place to be!! Wildwood and Totally Spoke’d invite you to try fat biking for free. Fat biking is off-road bicycling with over-sized tires and larger rims so you can ride on soft, unstable ground such as snow and mud.”
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Jeff couldn’t ride with me–he’s still recovering from surgery–but we drove out there together and he chatted with the bike shop guys about the bikes.

I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only woman there. There were about a half dozen of us when I was there and we went out to do a loop of the trails together.

It was super warm–10 degrees Celsius–and super slushy!

The conservation area was very pretty and I loved being out in the woods on a bike.

I learned some lessons on my second time out.

Lesson 1. You don’t have to stop when you think the bike might tip. You’ve actually got a lot of leeway to just go with it through mud, slush, and deep snow and most of the time I managed to keep the bike upright and keep on going. Once that happened a few times in the slush, I had a lot more confidence.

Lesson 2.  Falling is just fine. The one time I did fall, nothing hurt. You’re going slow and landing in pretty soft stuff. No road rash or pavement burn.

Lesson 3. I also learned to keep pedaling even when you’re in effect coasting because when you need to pedal again, it’s better to be already moving.

Lesson 4. I can ride over bridges without railings. Oh, oh, oh. Sara (our instructor from last time) and Sarah (from above linked post) will be proud. This time I went over the bridge. No walking the bike! Last time Sarah managed it but I couldn’t commit and chickened out at the last minute.

I’m looking forward to Fat Biking, Take Three. That’s at the end of the month with my bike rally team. We’ll be sure to take a group photo and report back.

Getting set up on a demo bike
Checking out the seat height
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