When Surly Bikes’ Pugsley fat bike first came out, it was unlike anything else out there, according to bicycling.com.
“Many moons ago we began producing the Pugsley because we wanted to ride a bike that could be ridden where other bikes simply faltered,” reads the Surly Bikes website. “In order to do that, we figured this bicycle needed to have floatation and traction the likes of which have never before been seen. Pugsley is our brilliant solution to this — and it seems to work. This bike rolls through all the sloppiest slop around.”
This bike, with 3.8-inch wide tires, was introduced in 2005, and according to bicycling.com it not only rode like a jeep, but also quickly became a new way to exercise during winter.
It was preceded by another bike meant to get across snow: the 1991 Hanebrink Extreme Terrain.
“Current offerings ride more like traditional bikes and have improved in other subtle but important ways,” according to a bicycling.com article by Joe Lindsey.
Three years later, the word about fat bikes has continued to spread, and fat biking even has its own racing scene.
So why not give it a try this winter?
Scott Hurst, manager of the Outdoor Resource Center (ORC) at Brigham Young University-Idaho, said that fat biking has a different kind of appeal than typical mountain biking. Because fat bikes have that combination of larger tires and a lower air pressure, fat bikes can take on terrain that mountain bikes couldn’t handle, like snow. Hurst added that fat bikes aren’t limited to only winter and can be ridden year-round and on sand, gravel and loose dirt.
“If regular mountain bikes are sports cars, then a fat bike is a monster truck because you can ride over anything,” Hurst said.
He also said that fat bikes are great confidence boosters because their larger tires give them more stability.
Where to go
Most groomed Nordic trails, snowmobile groomed trails or snowmobile “singletrack” and winter roads are potential routes for fat biking. One cannot simply ride a fat bike in a snowy field, as it will sink into the snow. Harriman State Park is a great place for fat biking in East Idaho, as it allows fat-bikers to explore over 24 miles of groomed trails. Horseshoe Canyon, Packsaddle Road, Teton Canyon, Darby Canyon and Grand Targhee are all locations many people take their fat bikes. Remember, not all groomed trails are open to fat bikes, so it’s wise to check before you try a particular groomed trail.
What to bring
You’ll need a bike, a helmet and gloves. Some people use special gloves that fit over handlebars called pogies to keep their hands warm. In order to prevent either overheating or freezing, layers are the way to go. Try having a “base layer,” “mid-layer” and “shell” and carry a pack to store layers as needed — visit fatbikemammoth.com/2013/02/17/how-to-dress-for-winter-fat-biking for more details on how to dress.
Where to rent
Grand Targhee, Kelly Canyon, the BYU-Idaho Outdoor Resource Center and Fitzgerald’s Bicycles in Victor, Idaho, all rent fat bikes. Visit their respective websites to find pricing.
Hurst is an avid outdoorsman and goes fat biking year-round. He recommends that if people only want to fat bike once or twice a year, they should consider renting the bikes, as buying a good fat bike costs around $900 to over $2,000.
Some other helpful tips from the International Mountain Bicycling Association include the following:
• Only ride at ski areas that allow and encourage biking.
• Yield to all other users when riding. Skiers don't have brakes, but you do!
• Ride on the firmest part of the track.
• Do not ride on or in the classic tracks.
• Leave room for skiers to pass (don't ride side-by-side, with all of your buddies blocking the full trail).
• Allow the track time to set up after grooming and before riding.
• Respect alternate-use days for bikers and skiers.
• Some areas require riding only a purpose-built fat bike, not any old mountain bike. There may be a minimum tire tread width.
• Be an ambassador for the sport: stay polite, educate other riders, discourage bad behavior and follow the rules.
• Help out and get involved by joining your local nordic club.
• Consider donating money for trail grooming.
For more information visit www.imba.com/resources/land-protection/fat-bikes.