Fats Bike Fundamentals: 11 Suggestions for Winter Biking
Don’t let the snow cease you. Hop on a fat-tire bike and prepare to pedal all winter lengthy.
It was once that when the snow had fallen, cyclists world wide would put up their wheels for the season. Now with fats biking on the rise, avid cyclists can bike twelve months of the 12 months.
From snow-packed roads to mountain bike and snowmobile trails, there are a number of locations to journey your fats bike. We’re fortunate to dwell in part of Oregon with loads of snowy trails and practically infinite alternatives for winter bike driving.
In the event you dwell someplace extra city, you might need to get inventive. Attain out to your native bike store for native tips about the place to journey.
Suggestions for Fats Bike Enjoyable
Whether or not that is your first foray into the game of fats biking otherwise you’ve been with it for the reason that starting, we’ve put collectively a listing of our favourite suggestions that may hold you steadily rolling via the winter.
1. Use flat pedals.
In the event you’re coming from a cross-country mountain bike or street bike background the place clipless pedals are the norm, this may increasingly sound ludicrous. Belief us, although, flat pedals with detachable metal pins are the best way to go.
Why? As a result of within the snow, you need to put your ft down much more. And since downhills on the snow are typically extra akin to snowboarding than biking (you’ll slide and fishtail throughout) it’s very nice to swing a leg out to the facet for stability as you’re careening on the sting of management.
However the clincher is that snow and ice are likely to ball up on the sneakers, making it annoying, troublesome, and even unimaginable to clip in or out throughout sure circumstances.
Our bikes run the RaceFace Chester Pedals ($50), and we’ve got no complaints.
2. Get a dropper publish.
When driving a fats bike, one of many predominant variations is that you just’re extra regularly getting on and off your bike. Step even an inch off that packed path, and you could end up practically knee-deep. A dropper helps mitigate the trouble totally, making the fixed on and off a breeze in addition to the downhills rather less scary and simpler to deal with.
It doesn’t need to be a super-fancy one, both. Chelsey loves her under-seat, lever-actuated one; it’s easy, straightforward to make use of, and even simpler to put in and work on.
The KS Exaform Hydro Dropper ($69) in all fairness priced and simple to put in with out a lot mechanical experience. Simply be sure you get the appropriate seatpost diameter.
3. Learn to layer.
Layering for fats biking may be very completely different than another winter sport we’ve got performed. Fats biking climbs are brutal, so that you get tremendous sizzling, and the descents are quick and chilly — nearer to alpine snowboarding.
On prime, we love carrying a light-weight and really breathable fleece or a wool layer. For the descents, we add a wind jacket. For the underside half, we put on commonplace bike shorts below a weather-resistant tight. Lastly, we end with our new favourite layering piece, a light-weight silnylon skirt.
Beneath our helmets, we’ve got a skinny wool buff that often comes off midway via the journey. And in our packs, we at all times have a light-weight artificial puffy (subsequent to our headlamp) simply in case we’re out for longer than we supposed — which occurs as a rule!
These are our winter fats bike necessities.
This skinny, breathable wool base layer is ideal for winter fats bike rides huge or small. Chelsey virtually lives in hers from November to March. The half-zip is ideal for venting, and wool naturally retains the stink out.
Having a light-weight wind- and rain-resistant outer layer that’s extraordinarily breathable is vital. For early-morning begins and lengthy downhills, this piece helps lower the wind and hold our core and arms heat. We love this jacket due to its stretchiness and comfortability.
We are able to match as many layers as we wish beneath and likewise put on it by itself with out feeling like we’re swimming in it. With 20K waterproof and 67K moisture permeability scores, it’ll hold you protected and dry in an enormous vary of circumstances.
The Alpha Flash fleece is the final word midlayer. It even beats out the necessity for a puffy, because it’s each heat and breathable on the identical time. Typically once we train in a puffy, we get clammy and sweaty quick.
With the Alpha Flash, we’ve got but to get too sizzling or too chilly. The fleece is skinny, making air circulate via the material extra freely. But it’s heat on the identical time, making the physique regulate its temperature properly.
Additionally, at 273 g, for those who do must take it off and put it in your backpack, the burden is hardly noticeable.
On super-cold rides or once we know we’re going to be stopping for various minutes, we throw in our Micro Puffs. It’s artificial, so it’s heat even when it will get moist and is so light-weight at 227 g, we at all times neglect we’re carrying them.
UL Silnylon Skirt: $21
This skirt is surprisingly essentially the most versatile layering piece of substances we’ve got. From snowboarding to fats biking to hot jungle treks, we at all times have this with us. Within the fats biking realm, it really works as a tremendous wind layer that takes seconds to placed on and take off.
Moderately than having to trouble with making an attempt to placed on wind pants over a pair of trainers, the skirt merely wraps across the waist and is Velcroed in place. It scrunches as much as the scale of a small espresso cup for simple packing.
4. Go 1x drivetrain.
Simplicity is vital. You actually gained’t want the identical excessive and low gears as you’ll on a mountain bike. It’s too straightforward to over-torque and spin out on the ups, and also you’ll at all times have important rolling resistance on the flats. So even for those who’re a die-hard 2x-er (and there are just a few left on the market), winter fats biking is made for a 1x drivetrain. Even a 1×9 velocity might be sufficient.
We used to run full 1×12 and virtually by no means used the highest or backside of the cassette. Bonus, you possibly can choose up 1×9 and 1×10 elements for subsequent to nothing, and the chains are wider and extra sturdy. Box Components is an organization devoted to 1×8 and 1×9 drivetrains with trendy tech.
5. Defend your digits.
As a result of our arms management the brakes and gears and are essentially the most susceptible to the skin air, we’ve got to maintain them heat. The identical goes for ft and toes. Defending them from the skin components is vital, and it’s exceptional what a distinction only a few items of substances could make.
Pogies for the arms and gaiters for the ankles to maintain the snow out of your boots whenever you step off the bike into knee-deep snow.
For super-cold driving, we use shoe covers so as to add an additional layer onto our ft. We by no means depart dwelling with out these necessities; in actual fact, they’re at all times in our baggage (or on our handlebars) able to go.
Whereas there are some very good and costly pogies on the market, we’ve got discovered that the lightweight neoprene ones work simply high quality.
6. Curb your expectations.
A 30-mile journey on flowing singletrack isn’t actually a difficulty on 2.25-inch mountain bike tires. Actually, that’s a mean journey for a lot of avid mountain bikers. However on fats tires, typically going even 1 / 4 of that could be a feat, particularly for first-timers.
After all, if the circumstances are excellent and the path is properly packed down, you possibly can go for an extended whereas. Simply don’t exit anticipating this, as circumstances can change so shortly. And even just a few levels of temperature distinction could make the going a lot slower (or quicker if it’s getting colder). Consider fats biking as exploratory and adventurous.
7. Embrace the work.
Typically, we’re the primary ones on the trailhead and due to this fact the primary to put down tracks. Moderately than seeing this as a nasty factor, we take a look at it as a service to all of the riders that may come behind us. We take turns main in order that the individuals behind can catch their breath. Breaking path is difficult work, however it’s nice coaching!
In most fats bike communities, it’s an unstated creed that you must break path on a minimum of one journey per thirty days. It’s superb the distinction just a few riders packing the path could make. Generally, this even means snowshoeing a preferred route after new snow the day earlier than you wish to journey it.
However this type of particular laborious work is an acquired style, so to your first a number of rides, attempt to stick on to the well-packed areas so you possibly can be taught to like the game first. Many energetic fats bike communities have Fb pages (like this one), the place riders repeatedly report on circumstances and steered psi so fellow riders can have an awesome expertise.
8. Drop that psi.
There’s a basic rule amongst skilled fats bikers, “No pleasure? Decrease strain.” Trip sufficient, and also you’ll see it in motion as you wrestle to churn up the mushy snow whereas another rider comes cruising previous like they’re on pavement.
It turns on the market’s a super psi for each situation. Extra occasions than not, you’ll need to drop the strain to flatten out your tire. You need as a lot rubber as potential to make contact with the snow, particularly your again tire.
Our native fats bike guru repeatedly posts situation stories with preferrred psi. For the primary 12 months, we by no means believed him (who’d ever assume driving at 2 psi is an effective factor?), however we’re converts now. In spite of everything, the penalty for too low of psi is simply extra rolling resistance and softer journey — if the strain is simply too excessive, you’ll simply flat-out fail.
A enjoyable upside to that is that flat tires will not be practically as huge of a difficulty for biking on the snow. I’ve ridden 10 miles to get again to civilization on a very flat tire — and it was a number of the greatest traction ever.
There are just a few events (like a wonderfully groomed snowmobile observe that froze in a single day) that you really want more durable tires for, so it’s an awesome thought to add a small pump to your kit.
9. Thoughts your cadence and pedaling torque.
Our fats bike mentor used to say, “If you spin, no one wins.” Greater than another focus, we’ve had to concentrate to our cadence essentially the most on fats bikes.
If we attempt to crank too laborious, we spin out and dig our tires into the snow, making us slower and extra drained — in addition to pissing off anybody behind us who has to journey via the free ruts. So discover a tempo, settle in, and be taught to really feel the tenuous and slippery connection between your tire and the snow.
That is particularly essential on the climbs, because the added torque from low gears can basically destroy the very floor you’re biking on. When performed properly, it begins to tackle a meditative high quality of listening and adapting. Moreover, in a gaggle of riders, everybody might want to journey a bit otherwise primarily based on weight, tire width, and tire psi.
10. Be ready to crash.
As we talked about earlier, fats biking is a novel beast. The tools and health might be acquainted to any mountain biker, however precise fats biking abilities is usually a bit nuanced in comparison with trendy XC path driving. Study to embrace the sensation of semi-controlled descents — keep free as your bike strikes backwards and forwards under you.
Rigidity usually works in opposition to you, because it forces the bike tires to dig right into a free and movable floor as an alternative of permitting the final momentum to hold you ahead. Being a bit free additionally works in your favor whenever you crash, because it feels quite a bit higher in your physique.
The excellent news is that sketchier circumstances often imply softer snow, which in flip means extra snug falls. Simply bear in mind to make use of care (identical to in snowboarding off-piste) when early-season circumstances exist.
11. Something goes, so be adventurous.
A lot of the wonder on this sport is which you could go wherever. Snow-covered forest service roads, snowmobile tracks, and snowshoe tracks are a few of our favourite locations to journey. The panorama appears to be like so completely different with a contemporary coat of snow blanketing it.
And lots of of our summer season singletrack trails and gravel street loops turn out to be utterly new to us with our fats bikes. One in all our favourite yearly rides is a 12-mile journey out to a lodge. The street is barely open to skiers, snowmobiles, and fats bikers. We like to get up early, journey out, get espresso and breakfast, after which journey again.
And be ready for the magic of spring when a uncommon phenomenon known as “crust cruising” occurs. The complete backcountry is became a fats biking playground of epic proportions. In our opinion, even a day or two of crust cruising every year is sufficient of a motive to personal a fats bike.
Previously 5 years, we’ve discovered increasingly pleasure in exploring winter’s presents through bike. We hope you possibly can take a few of these tricks to make your snow pedaling extra pleasing. See you on the crust!