Quandary: Fat bikes and how to use them
Quandary, the old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to all questions about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Email your queries about Summit and the High Country to Quandary@summitdaily.com.
What is a fat bike?
Ah, the obese velocipede, the ride with an eating disorder.
In reality, a fat bike might help keep you slender throughout the winter by allowing you to keep those biking muscles in shape year-round. You see, a fat bike is a frame with big-boned tires. Riding a fat bike can be challenging, but it allows you to get better grip in the snow, though it works best on a compacted trail.
The tires are much wider than those on a regular mountain bike, and they have deep tread. Fat bikes are also great for tearing through sand, though this is not as valuable in the High Country. It is really a mountain bike for terrain that has a tendency to give way under regular tires. It uses the same basic principle as snowshoes, sort of. With both technological marvels, your weight is dispersed over a wider area so you don’t just sink down. If you tried to hike a trail instead of snowshoeing, you might find yourself post-holing your way along as you huff and puff at a snail’s pace. Snowshoes keep you light as a feather by distributing your weight over a wider surface. Fat bikes use the same idea, but with those bulky tires.
Trying to ride a regular mountain bike on a compacted winter trail is really just a good way to anger those around you. Your slim tires would only push into the snow, digging in and leaving you spinning your wheels — at best. Not to mention, drawing the ire of your fellow trail users as you tore it all to pieces.
If you do make the conversion and find yourself believing that big is beautiful, the key to keeping your butt above the tires is in your ability to keep rhythm. Chances are this ride is going to be slower than the average mountain bike trip, but it can be as much fun. Just remember: Don’t be a jerk.
Jerking movements are going to make this ride a lot tougher than it should be, so try to focus on maintaining consistent strides and controlled steering.
One thing to keep in mind is there is a big difference between fat and snow bikes. Snow bikes are for the skier who doesn’t want to fall as far when things go poorly, or at least that would be this old goat’s reasoning; if you’re sitting down, you’re already in an ideal tuck-and-roll position. The simple way of explaining a snow bike is to take away the tires and toss on skis instead. The handling system is a little bit different as well. It does have a front handlebar that will steer as your weight shifts, but even more importantly, two tiny skis are strapped to your boots, and you use those to turn and burn. This method is less likely to help keep your cycling muscles rippling, but it’s a fun and different way to make your trip down the hill.
If you are interested in checking out either of these options, there are fat bike rentals throughout the county, and places that will take you on a guided tour. This season, there is even a race series for those who find exercise goes best with competition. The 2017 Summit Mountain Challenge Fat Bike Series first put tread to snow on Jan. 7 with the Ullr Bike race at Gold Run Nordic Center, and your next chance to make the grade will be on Feb. 4 for the Frisco Freeze race at the Frisco Nordic Center. To register or learn more about this series visit MavSports.com.
Snow bikes, on the other hand, can be rented to rip down many of Keystone’s trails, so check in with the resort for more information about how to get your tiny skis, and where you are allowed to go.
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