Fat Bikes Aren’t Just for Boys

Mountain Bike for Her - - Winter Riding - Words & Photos by Paula Bur­ton

Go dig out those old pair of snow­shoes in the back of the closet. “Snow­shoes? Isn’t this a mag­a­zine about moun­tain bik­ing?”

“Yes, snow­shoes.” In­vite as many friends as you can, bik­ers, non-bik­ers, young, old, fast and slow. Go on a night­time full moon snowshoeing ad­ven­ture. Don’t tell any­one the true in­ten­tion is to pack the trail for the fat bikes.”

Pack­ing the sin­gle­track is not only fun, but re­quires in­ge­nu­ity. Hitch up a har­ness of some sort and drag a tire. Wheel­bar­row tires, and car tires work well. Strap a weight onto the tire, and the pow­der packs into a buff path.

Fat bikes are hit­ting the trails in record num­bers in my area (Fair­field County, Con­necti­cut). I would see one rider or two on a fair day. This year I see 20 or more on a week­end af­ter­noon. Many more women are rid­ing fat bikes. I bought mine at the end of the sea­son last year. Greg Meghani, owner of Class Cy­cles of South­bury, CT, re­ports that the man­u­fac­tur­ers can­not keep up with the de­mand for fat bikes. Greg let me bor­row his Sur­ley Moon Lan­der. Af­ter one ride, I was hooked and bought a Sur­ley Pugs­ley with 4-inch wheels. At first, the Pugs­ley seemed too big and awk­ward to ride, although the bike is the cor­rect size for me. But af­ter a few rides, that feel­ing went away. Framed Bikes builds two mod­els of women-spe­cific Min­nesota bikes and a 24-inch Mini-Sota model, great for smaller women.

Rid­ing twisty, nar­row, packed pow­der trails is stren­u­ous, fun, and can take much con­cen­tra­tion to stay on the line. I over­heard a rider say­ing that it is like rid­ing a 3-mile skinny. One inch off the line and the bike and rider are swimming in a lake of pow­der. Get­ting back on the bike in pow­der can be a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially if ev­ery­one is look­ing at you and you are laugh­ing. Even very skilled riders take a header into the white stuff once in a while.

Why a fat bike? Isn’t a reg­u­lar moun­tain bike enough? Jewels Si­mone is stoked that the sea­son doesn’t have to end when the snow falls. She bought a Charge Cooker Maxi 2 with 5-inch wide tires. Last year she saw peo­ple rid­ing fat bikes when the skinny tired bikes couldn’t cut it.

“They were hav­ing so much fun! It’s a great way to en­joy the beau­ti­ful snowy land­scapes. The big tires also mean that they roll over and down ter­rain and tech­ni­cal fea­tures that may oth­er­wise toss around a reg­u­lar bike. Big rocks, and rollers are a piece of cake! And snow, sand, and mud which may have oth­er­wise been un- ride­able are now open to ex­plo­ration.”

Kathy Herde is an ex­pert moun­tain biker who rides a cus­tom­ized Pugs­ley with Clown shoe wheels dec­o­rated with plaid duct tape. “It’s great cross train­ing and who doesn’t like to mix it up? When I re­tire from down­hill rid­ing I will com­mit to just fat bik­ing. The first time I rode a fat bike I had so much fun. I could not stop gig­gling

and smil­ing the en­tire time. And man can they cor­ner!!”

“We live in a place where there’s not much to do out­side in the win­ter. The snow isn’t great for skiing, but per­fect for fat bik­ing,” says Ahmi Bryant. “Fat bikes let you ride in a dif­fer­ent way. You’re not out train­ing or tak­ing much risks. It’s very so­cial and you can’t stop smil­ing when you’re do­ing it! They roll so much bet­ter over the rocky ter­rain of the north­east. So if you live where you have white win­ters and love rid­ing a bike, it’s just log­i­cal!”

Fat bik­ing is catch­ing on all over New Eng­land. Cross coun­try ski ar­eas are groom­ing for fat bikes and are open­ing snow shoe trails to fat bikes. King­dom Trails in East Burke, VT has 20 miles of trails groomed for fat bik­ing. Rentals can be found at the Vil­lage Sport Shop and East Burke Sports. The fourth an­nual Win­ter Bike held on Fe­bru­ary 28, 2015 at­tracted over 300 peo­ple to ride fat bikes and celebrate win­ter.

Grafton Pond Out­doors Cen­ter in Grafton, VT, has 25 kilo­me­ters of trails. Ac­cord­ing to Daq Woods, the di­rec­tor, “Fat bik­ing is new this year and has re­ally taken off. We do have wide, groomed, cross coun­try trails but the favourite trails of the riders are the nar­row, twisty snow­shoe trails. A good rule of thumb is not to ride if the tires are mak­ing 2-inch div­ots. We ask that keep your tires be­low 10 psi. Stop by and buy a trail pass, and be cour­te­ous to other users. Most of the riders have their own bikes, but we do have two bikes for rental, and are plan­ning on get­ting more for next year.”

If you are up for a true ad­ven­ture, plan a mul­ti­day trip to ex­plore Maine Huts and Trails in Carrabas­sett Val­ley, Maine. Gear shut­tles can be ar­ranged. Four huts, ac­tu­ally full ser­vice lodges, await the rider with heated bunk rooms, hot showers, wine and beer for sale, and four course meals.

Keep the tire pres­sure low. Some folks go a lit­tle crazy with the ex­act psi, but if the tire feel soft, it is good to ride in the snow. Be pre­pared for the weather. I dress like I am go­ing cross coun­try skiing, which is in lay­ers of tech clothes. I also change to flat ped­als in the win­ter. The ped­als don’t freeze up and I can wear good win­ter boots to keep my feet warm. I carry a big­ger Camel­Bak so I can take lay­ers on and off. Wa­ter reser­voirs freeze up, so tuck the tube un­der your jacket. Spit­ting back into the mouth piece helps keep the wa­ter flow­ing. A flat fat need­ing a tube change can be a time con­sum­ing chal­lenge even in good weather.

Fat bikes aren’t just for win­ter. Rid­ing fat bikes on dirt is just as fun. One of our favourite lo­cal rides is Fat Bike Fri­day at Waldo State Park in South­bury CT. The trails are smooth and flowy, the park is small, and all lev­els of rider have a great time. And yes, fat bikes are for women too.

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