My Journey & Why You Should Try It
I came to fat biking from a unique place: bike commuting. For many years I commuted by bike year-round riding in rain, snow, and sun. There was a certain kind of grit developing in my character that compelled me to ride no matter what the weather was doing, and I liked that.
But one day I was riding home from Salt Lake City to Ogden with a friend when an accident occurred. As a result, my carbon road bicycle was destroyed. I had no idea of the significance at the time, but this was the beginning of my new life.
I had a choice to make: purchase a custom road bike or do the practical thing and buy a commuter-specific bicycle. At this point I remembered an ad I’d seen in a bicycling magazine for a fat bike. When I first saw it I remember thinking, “That would be the coolest thing in the world.” But who can spend that much money on a “Freakish” bike that seemed to have zero functionality in the real world?
Despite these worries, I was drawn to fat biking. So I decided to explore this new genre and purchased a commuter-specific bicycle and a fat bike.
Learning to Ride a Fat Bike
The first thing I noticed when riding my new fat bike was that the rolling resistance was not what I thought it would be. I expected an exaggerated mushy resistance equal with what the tires looked like, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. This fat bike rolled almost exactly like my full-suspension mountain bike. Next I noticed the feeling of confidence the bike was transmitting to me through its handling. It was quick, but not twitchy, and easily accepted my body language, making the bike handle just as well, if not better, than my mountain bike.
Then there was the traction. Our local trails have loose rocks that make riding very technical. On my first ride I experienced the primary gift of fat bikes, traction! Sketchy terrain became easy to negotiate, allowing me to ride at a faster pace. Climbing loose, rocky sections of the trail and tight switchbacks became almost effortless. The increase in traction due to the fat tires at a relatively low pressure made braking a wonderful experience of control. I could ride faster into corners and brake effectively without skidding and go far faster than on my mountain bike.
Riding in the Snow
As the seasons changed, I felt a new excitement growing. I wanted to see what a fat bike could do in the winter. I’d ridden in the snow ever since I was a kid, and those experiences were almost always comical, if not downright dangerous. Any extended rides on snow were on solidly packed trails or roads. You couldn’t ride very aggressively, and you had to stay vigilant about balance and direction of travel, and even then it was assured you would wreck at some point.
But fat bikes were different. On my first snow ride I learned that this adventure machine was quite capable of conquering nearly everything I pointed it at, but was not invincible. In more than 8” of fresh snow a fat bike is still just a bicycle and you do get stuck.
I also learned that momentum is key to winter fat bike riding, the more you keep up your momentum the easier you can ride. Body position is also important and differs for winter and summer riding. In winter, I found that my center of gravity moved towards the back of the bike. This aspect impacts everything from traction to cornering. Once I learned these aspects and practiced them a bit it was time to experience the same trails I rode in the summer that were now covered in snow.
I knew that after a winter storm dumped over a foot of snow that the local trails would be packed down by snowshoers and hikers. This proved to be the perfect place to explore on my fat bike. Throughout the winter I explored more trails and found that anything packed is fair game to try to ride a fat bike on. It was the most fun winter I can remember, and it was then that I became a full fat bike convert, passionate about growing the community and getting others interested in the sport.
Ready to Join the Fat Biking Community?
Visit Fat-Bike.com to find others who share a love for fat bikes. Here you can join this growing community and learn about fat biking events, best trails to ride, and more. Then go out and try it for yourself! Even hard-core road cyclists that proclaimed fat bikes a fad often change their minds after riding one. Visit sportsguidemag.com for a list of places to rent a fat bike locally.
You can also watch pro and amateur fat bikers compete at USA Cycling Fat Bike National Championships on February 27, 2016 in Ogden. Amateurs ride 12 miles across Powder Mountain’s Hidden Lake terrain while pro and open class riders compete on over 18 miles of challenging terrain.
Trails to Try Near Ogden
- Birdsong Trail from Rainbow Gardens on the east bench of Ogden.
- Shoreline Trail at Pineview Reservoir.
- Canal Road above Ogden to North Ogden.
- Bonneville Shoreline Trail from the lower trailhead north over North Ogden.
- Ogden Nordic Center in North Fork Park in Liberty. Nordic Trail Pass required.
Other Northern Utah Fat Biking Trails
- Corner Canyon in Draper. Easy to moderate trails.
- American Fork Canyon near Highland. Fat bike singletrack paradise. Take Ridge Trail 157 from Alpine Loop Summit Parking Lot, descend Pine Hollow or take Salamander Flat Trail back to road.
- Lambert Park in Alpine. 14 miles of trails for beginners to upper intermediates.
- Round Valley in Park City. Great trails for everyone. Quinn’s Junction is the most popular trailhead and is easily accessible from Highway 40.
- Antelope Island State Park in Syracuse.
tips & tricks
Tire Pressure – Tire pressure can make or break having a good time on a fat bike. Not to mention the performance side of things. For winter riding, start at 10-12 psi. Ride for a bit then drop the pressure a little, and repeat until you find the perfect pressure for your riding style. I run 5 psi in the winter.
Body Position – Move your weight back slightly from your normal positioning. This helps with traction and keeps the front end from washing out.
Momentum – A fat biker’s best friend! Keeping your momentum up plays a huge role when riding twisting, rolling terrain.
Apparel – Layers, layers, layers. Be prepared for cold, but know you will warm up throughout the ride. Wear gear that allows you to vent efficiently.
Ride Time – Ride late at night or early in the morning when the ground is frozen so you don’t wreck the trails with ruts. Be aware of the tracks you leave and be considerate of others.
Lighting – Invest in a decent lighting system. Darkness comes fast on the trails in the winter, and they’re easier to follow if you can see them.