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Fat bikes extend the mountain biking season through winter

Oct 28, 2016 09:56AM ● Published by Jared McCauley

An example of a fat bike that can be ridden in the snow. (Canyon Bicycles)

By Jared McCauley | j.mccauley@mycityjournals.com



Draper, Utah - As the seasons change and the air gets colder, many thrill seekers in Utah hang up their favorite warm weather outdoor activities in favor of flocking to the slopes of the Wasatch Mountains to glide through the state’s famous powder on skis or snowboards. While the first heavy snowfalls of the season may be to the skier’s delight, they have traditionally been to the mountain biker’s lament as it typically marks the end of even the most avid riders’ seasons. However, the times are changing. 

The fat bike, the bulkier brother of the mountain bike, has recently experienced a dramatic increase in popularity after decades of obscurity and is designed specifically for riding snow-covered trails. Fat bikes’ enormous tires provide this benefit. 

“Five-inch tires are ideal for the snow,” said Derek McGrath of Canyon Bicycles in Draper. 

At five inches in width, ideal fat-bike tires are about twice as wide as standard mountain bike tires. This gives fat bikes superior traction on snowy and rocky ground. 

With an explosion in popularity, fat bikes have also experienced rapid innovation. Once bulky and difficult to maneuver, most fat-bike frames have been streamlined and are now available with front or full suspension. With full gears and different braking systems to choose from, fat bikes bear a remarkable resemblance to mountain bikes. While the two styles of bikes may look extremely similar and share many characteristics, mountain bikers cannot simply buy larger tubes for their mountain bikes and hope to use it as a fat bike. Standard mountain bike frames are not designed for five-inch tires so the larger tubes will not fit. Fat-bike riders will have to buy or rent their very own fat bike. Compared to mountain bikes, fat bikes have a slightly higher price range. 

“Low-end fat bikes go for about $2,000 while ones with full suspension will go for a bit more,” said Ashlee Richardson, who also works at a bike shop in Draper.

While fat-bike riders will cruise over snow-covered terrain with relative ease, traversing snowy trails is still no easy task. Riding fat bikes presents a tremendous workout. People interested in the hobby but weary of the strenuousness associated with it need not worry too much about difficulty; being a master mountain biker is not a prerequisite for taking up fat biking. 

Fortunately for Draper residents, Corner Canyon offers some of the premier groomed fat-bike trails in Utah. McGrath also suggested venturing into American Fork Canyon for additional groomed fat-bike trails. Draper’s cycle park near the rodeo grounds, although a useful spot for fine-tuning technical mountain bike and BMX skills, will not be groomed over winter. Nonetheless, it will remain open with snowfall for anyone eager to get in some extra practice on their fat bike. 

Other trails, such as the Solitude ski area in Big Cottonwood Canyon, prohibit fat bikes, so it is advised that riders check with trail administrators before planning a ride. If manicured trails don’t hold an allure, fat bikes can also handle rough and rugged backcountry where the rider is the trailblazer. In fact, McGrath suggested using a fat bike to explore the snowy wilderness on hunting trips as an environmentally friendly alternative to a snowmobile.

With an explosion in popularity, fat bikes have also experienced rapid innovation. Once bulky and difficult to maneuver, most fat bike frames have been streamlined and are now available with front- or full-suspension. With full gears and different braking systems to choose from, fat bikes bare a remarkable resemblance to mountain bikes. While the two styles of bikes may look extremely similar and share many characteristics, mountain bikers cannot simply buy larger tubes for their mountain bikes and hope to use it as a fat bike. Standard mountain bike frames are not designed for five inch tires so the larger tubes will not fit. Fat bike riders will have to buy or rent their very own fat bike. Compared to mountain bikes, fat bikes have a slightly higher price range. 

“Low-end fat bikes go for about $2,000 while ones with full-suspension will go for a bit more,” said Ashlee Richardson who also works at a bike shop in Draper

Fat bikes may seem like a risky investment. Luckily, nearly all bike shops in Draper have fat bikes available for rental. Bike shops usually allow interested shoppers to take quick test rides, as well.  

Sports Wasatch Mountains Mountain Biking
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