For those of you who have not tried a fat bike this winter, there is still time left. Michelle Hoffer has fallen in love with this new way of biking during the winter and shares some advice below.
If you are looking for a great way to stay in shape in the winter and have a ridiculous amount of fun, jump on a fat bike. I long for those balmy winter days (which are few and far between in the Front Range) when you can jump on your bike for quick ride in 60 degree weather. Finding dry trails to mountain bike is almost impossible until the snow starts to stay away for more than a few weeks and motivating myself to ride my trainer in the winter is like signing myself up for a root canal. What is a girl who loves bikes to do? Get a Fat bike?
The training potential during the winter is amazing. I accidently fell in love with fat biking last year while in McCall Idaho on a family ski trip. Looking for something different to do during the week, I stepped into a local bike shop where they were renting some fat bikes and off we went exploring snow packed trails on our bikes. I have never laughed so hard riding a bike and the fun factor is out of this world.
Fast forward 1 year and 2 fat bikes later, I have fallen in love with this sport. This year I purchased Helga, Specialized women’s specific fat bike, and she is a beauty. Deciding to train and head to the first ever Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte, I explored as many trails around the Front Range and Winter Park that I could. It can be tricky choosing a trail due to the potential melt, ice and mud conditions that can quickly develop, so choose trails wisely.
What to wear? It’s entirely up to you and it takes a few times to figure it out. I started out using my winter boots with flat peddles (sometimes in gaiters depending on the conditions and where I was going). I still use big boots on powder days when I know I will be hiking in the snow. I have transitioned to clips during races (where the trail is well groomed or packed) wearing big winter booties over my cycling shoes (thanks to Jim at Turin for recommending the warmest ones he had) and adding foot warmers as needed. Good gloves are essential and getting bar mitts to keep hands protected from the wind and snow have been amazing helpful to staying warm. Layering is essential since you will get hot going up and get cold coming down. I have ridden in temperatures as low as 14 degrees and I was warm enough when riding but if you stop or start descending you get cold quick. Your water freezes at those temps (I learned that the hard way at the last Winter Park race) so insulated bottles with hot water is a must when it’s below 25 degrees. After racing at Fat Bike Worlds and seeing the costumes, outfits, kits, and pink onesies, you can almost wear anything that suits your fancy and personality for the day. The great thing about fat biking is the relaxed, happy faced, no nonsense attitude on all riders you meet. You are just out having fun!
Great rides: Green Mountain is a great beginner fat bike ride but go 2-3 days after it snows. You need some traffic to go through that area first to pack the trail or you will experience a hike a bike ride you never anticipated. Trail conditions can change quickly at Green Mountain so avoid conditions that can ruin good trails. Apex Park/Chimney Gulch is a grind but if you are looking for some hill climb training-this is the place to go. Hauling up a fat bike that weighs easily 6-10 pounds more than your mountain bike will take training to a whole new level of suffering. This is a full body workout!
My favorite rides have been in Evergreen and Winter Park. Evergreen trails stay snow packed for a long time (and stay frozen to protect the trail) so you can enjoy these trails weeks after a good snow. Elk Meadow, Bergan Peak and Alderfer/Three Sisters Park are a hoot of fun. For a beginner ride take the Meadow Trail and complete the loop, for a good climb take the additional trail to the top of Bergan Peak. At Alderfer/Three Sisters, climbing up Mount Evergreen is a great climb with a fun decent (ridden counter clockwise) that results in permanent smile for the rest of the day. The Winter Park area is becoming a very friendly place to visit on the fat bike. With the Winter Park Fat Bike series starting in its second year, you can become acquainted with many trails open to fat bikes, and get some low key, low stress race time in. Trails outside of Fraser are open to bikes as well as groomed roads for a good spin. Vasquez road, D2, D4, Chainsaw, Creekside, Flume and Zoom, and Elk Meadow are all available for whatever type of ride you are looking to attack. Devils Thumb and Snow Mountain ranch both offer rentals and groomed trails specific for the fat bikes. Daytime is not the only time to ride a fat bike either. Winter night riding offers a completely different and exciting ride experience, all you need is a good light, some warm wear and a spouse, partner, friend, or kid to ride and be crazy with you.
Ultimately be prepared to have fun, fall (and maybe disappear in the snow with your bike on top of you), laugh, sweat, hike, carry, drag, smile, giggle, and hoot out loud as you ride this winter on a fat bike.