The name pretty much gives it away. A fat tire bike is a mountain bike with “fat” tires that are a minimum of 3.8 inches wide but can also exceed 5 inches. They are easy to spot and easy to love. They look super fun – and they are super fun.
What you should know about fat tire snow biking
First, let’s talk attire. This is a sport where you’re going to want to layer up. Think about lightweight, breathable fleece that’s warm when you’re wearing it and easy to stow when you’re not. You’ll get pretty warm, pretty quick. And during the times you’re walking or carrying your bike (yes, that happens), you’ll get cold just as fast. Being able to dress up or down quickly is important.
And don’t forget about gloves. Keeping your hands warm is imperative. They are the lifeline to your gears and brakes. Unpredictable terrain will have you switching gears and changing speeds constantly. The colder your hands are, the greater the chances of making a bad move.
The lower the pressure, the easier the ride
There’s a term you’ll learn quickly: “No pleasure? Lower pressure.” That means the flatter your tire, the easier the ride. We get it, this is exactly the opposite of what you’ve learned from summer riding. The math of this is simple; the more rubber that touches the snow, the more traction you’ll have. Along with that, less air in the tires means a softer ride.
But this rule of thumb is designed for soft snow, so you’ll need to plan for groomed trails and frozen surfaces as well. Bring a pump in case you need to put air back in the tires. Snow can be fickle, so it’s best to be prepared.
Your favorite 10-mile summer ride won’t be the same experience in the snow – especially if you’re a first-timer. The cold air, the extra clothing, and the frozen paths will quickly take a toll. Start with shorter rides.
Rethink your gears
You won’t need the same high and low gears you’re used to. Find a happy medium and stick with it. Going too extreme on the gear scale will cause you to spin out – and wear yourself out. Fat tire biking is made for a 1x drivetrain.
Old-school flat pedals are your friend
Though they’re rudimentary, basic flat pedals will be your best bet on a fat tire snow bike. You’ll learn quickly how often your feet will be on the ground during this venture. For that reason, you’ll want to keep your seat post a little lower than usual. In certain areas, you’ll find yourself getting on and off your bike almost as much as you’re pedaling. And if you happen to wind up on the ground instead of on top of the bike, take a break, make a snow angel and get back on again.
Fat tire bikes are a great source of exercise and fun. It’s a great time to get into them as well. More and more manufacturers are entering the market, and more and more models are coming out. And more and more people are going to want to join you as you ride!