Thanks to Specialized, Turin and Qloom, Bella Oleksy and several other Naked Womens Cycling teammates had the opportunity to find out what the hype around fat biking is about.
As a theme this spring training season, members of the team have arranged for some fantastic clinics and demos for us all to try. Last weekend, I made the drive down from Fort Collins for a fat bike demo sponsored by Specialized. They had virtually every model in their fleet, including 20” and 24” bikes, which meant the whole family was invited! My boyfriend and I had rented fat bikes once before, but rode them in less-than-ideal conditions (too much snow, couldn’t really move unless we were going down hill). I was eager to give it another shot and find out what all the hype is really about.
The weather cooperated beautifully with sunny skies, a little breeze, and 50 degree temperatures. Since we haven’t had a good snow storm in the plains and foothills in a few weeks, the trails of Elk Meadow Park offered a variety of flow-y terrain, with just a little bit of mud, a few small rock gardens, and some super fast and packed snow in the sun shaded slopes and in the trees. The conditions were literally perfect for test riding a new bike—we pretty much got to experience every condition!
Immediately, I was smiling from ear to ear. I tried to rip a few corners to test the limits of traction of the bike on both dirt and snow and was amazed at how well the tires simply stuck to whatever surface they rolled against. The big tires have an interesting way of smoothing out the trail and eating up any root that comes at you. I ride a Specialized Era as my main mountain bike racehorse, so the feeling of the natural “suspension” a fat bike offers was definitely different. The squish of a fat bike tire offers a sort of delayed bounce-back, but I grew to really like it and it made me reminiscent of the days when I would take old rigid mountain bike beater on way-too-technical trails in college in New Hampshire. This, of course, was way more fun and comfortable!
My favorite part of the trail was about a mile in the woods with perfectly packed snow, on the type of singletrack that feels like you are going downhill in both directions because of the way you can carry your momentum. It felt like I was on a self-powered rollercoaster! I overheard my teammate say that was the most fun she had had on a bike in a long time.
Of course, no demo day would be complete without a contest for prizes. Everyone that was left at the end of the day went head-to-head in a burpee contest—last person burpee’ing wins. The winner of the day was Amanda’s boyfriends daughter, Haydn, who crushed the competition by a landslide! She won a cozy Qloom towel/blanket that will surely come in handy when changing after a race (or snoozing in the back seat on the way home).
Overall, I’d say that I finally understand the hype of fat bike culture. When you ride one of these bikes, especially in the right conditions, you feel like you can pretty much tackle anything. A bike like this would be a great investment for anyone looking to diversify their winter training. The bike handling skills you pick up riding a rigid (but squishy!) bike on a variety of terrain will help with any cycling discipline and simply put—it’s way too fun to even feel like you’re training!