Advice from Native Ambassador, Ryan Michelle Scavo.
I’ve been riding some form of a bike for as long as I can remember. From my classic red, hand-me-down rusted tricycle to my trusty college commuter, I can’t think of a time when bikes weren’t a part of my life. But, It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I started exploring plus-sized rigs…and it didn’t take long to catch the fat tire rider bug. Now, a couple of cross country moves, a husband, two dogs and two kids later, we’re getting after it all year long—with winter fat biking being one of my favorite ways to ride! Here are some tips to get out and ride this winter!
Do the research & take the right gear
There are a lot of gear options out there. From “plus” bikes to full on fat bikes, full face or top dome helmets, thermal gloves or handlebar pogies, clipless or flat pedals…the possibilities are seemingly endless. Don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re ready to make the investment, check out different brands and gear options first. Most importantly, make sure you have a capable bike and warm feet and hands. Watch some YouTube videos, research the gear, talk to your local bike shop, and then decide what works best for you and the types of terrain you’re looking to ride. Some of my favorites follows include FatbikeDOTcom, Path Less Pedaled, and Seth’s Bike Hacks.
Choose your route & know the weather
Fat biking in the winter can be a lot of fun—if you pick the right route. On days when it’s dumping in the hills, stick to the lower elevations. Powder is fun to ski, but nearly impossible to bike. Packed snow is best, and if you have bike-specific groomed trails, go there! We like to ride a mix of single and double track as well as US Forest Service roads, depending on the weather and conditions. If you’re just starting out, familiarize yourself with riding on snow by riding wider, low traffic, forest roads (preferably, that you are familiar with). Once you’re confident with bike handling in the snow, hit some single and double track!
Bring the fur family
If you have an adventure dog that loves to join you on hikes and rides during warm weather months, bring them along for winter rides, too! Depending on the breed, snow conditions can get a little…hairy. Prepare your dog(s) for the day’s weather and snow conditions. While some pups like booties on their paws, ours prefer a breathable wax-based snow-shedding creme like Musher’s Secret to keep their paws clear of clumping snow. Dogs can go stir crazy from sitting indoors all winter. Take them along for the ride—they’ll thank you!
Kiddos can do it, too!
If you’re situation is anything like ours, long before we were parents, we were bike riders. Just because the snow is falling, doesn’t mean the kids can’t play. On colder snowy days, we use an enclosed pull-behind carrier. Companies like Burley and Thule make great ski-compatible kid-carriers that will keep your little one(s) snug as a bug. On bluebird days, switch it up and consider attaching a sled with a fat bike pulk system made by SkiPulk. And better yet, if your kiddos are up for it, grab their bike, add a ski attachment (like those made by Strider Bikes) and have them ride along with you!
Set realistic expectations
Wherever you fall on the experience spectrum, the important part is to set realistic goals and expectations. If you’re familiar with riding, but a first-timer on snow, a 2-4 mile ride on packed snow is a good place to start. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the bike, conditions and the rest of your gear. If you’re a seasoned winter rider, skip the packed snow and go to the mixed-conditions singletrack. Whatever trail you choose, just have fun out there!