They’re the stomper trucks of mountain biking. With laughably big tires and rims, a fat bike looks fit for Shrek or maybe the Abominable Snowman. But, alas, fat biking is the newest, hippest trend among cyclers. Fat bikes are taking over the snow-covered trails of Colorado, the rugged terrain of Utah, and even the rocky shorelines of Maine.
The fattest of the fat, these bikes have wide rims, huge tires (four to five inches wide) and large frames to support the lot. The appeal of this monster is that the stout tires provide for a ridiculous amount of traction on all sorts of surfaces. Meaning, mountain biking season has just been extended to all year round!
These bikes originated in Alaska and became popular in the upper Midwest, where harsh winters are the norm and previously limited the mountain biking season to only a few months. Because of the increase in demand for fat bikes and fat bike trails, many land managers are specifically grooming snow-packed trails for the wider tires. Minnesota, a state with a very large fat biking community, and the Department of Natural Resources expanded the number of fat biking trails in state parks this past winter, making 78 miles available for the growing sport.
In a Men's Health article, Mike Curiak, the record holder for 1,000-mile Iditasport Impossible, said, “You’re working so hard riding on snow that it’s not difficult to stay warm — you’re burning up to 1,500 calories per hour.”
Of course, that is biking during the winter months over hard-packed snow. Regardless, biking of any sort for around an hour can burn upwards of 500 calories! Fat biking is doubling that number. Most normal bikes require inflation of 20 pounds per square inch (psi) or higher to prevent a flat. Fat bikes only need 3 or 4 psi to provide for optimal traction and flotation over a variety of ground surfaces.
And because fat bikes aren’t built for speed, many riders find the journey more relaxing. You may need to tweak your technique with these behemoths, but the payoff is in the places you’ll go! Bike around sand dunes and in dry, rocky riverbeds; you’ll appreciate the views and your thighs will appreciate the workout!
If you are interested, there are places that rent the bikes out for novice riders. So take a chance and ride fat this summer, and enjoy the endless paths ahead!