The Appeal of the Fat Bike 7

Locals Give Input on the Bike Industry’s Fastest Growing Trend

This winter consider leaving your skis or board in the garage and head to the mountains for a ride on a fat bike instead. In the last ten years, fat biking has grown in popularity as the bike industry’s fastest growing trend. Fat biking is a year around activity as the beefed up width of the tires allow for better control and the ability to ride or float on pretty much any terrain.

Draper resident and avid cyclist Christian Sybrowsky, M.D., provides insight on what to expect from a fat bike and why it is such a trend.

What advice would you give 
to a first time fat bike rider?

“First thing: if you are riding in the winter, be sure to dress warmly! There is nothing worse than being stuck in the canyon without enough layers!  Invest in a good pair of winter biking shoes and wear warm socks. I will frequently put disposable toe warmers in my riding shoes to keep my toes warm. In addition, if your fingers get too cold, it is difficult to pull your brake levers or shift gears quickly. Invest in a good set of dedicated winter cycling gloves to avoid the risk of a crash!”

“Another tricky thing about biking in the winter is that the snow conditions will either make or break your ride. The best time to ride is when the snow is hard-packed and cold. Morning is an excellent time to ride because in Utah, the sun will often heat up the snow later in the day and make it a bit slushy. Which in turn makes it difficult to keep traction and navigate corners. One of the perks of living in a cycling friendly community is the fact that others care about the sport. Mike Rossberg, owner of ThinAir Cycles, volunteers his time to pack down the snow after each snowstorm on some of the more popular bike trails in Corner Canyon for excellent riding. I don’t recommend riding in fresh snow or powder more than a few inches deep as it will mostly be an exercise of frustration.”

“Watch for ice. Riding on the snow is fun, but riding on the ice is a death wish. My worst crash occurred when I was descending on a fire road and hit a sheet of ice covered with a thin layer of snow. One minute I was cruising down smoothly and then somehow found myself in the bushes with a sore shoulder wondering what in the world happened. Pay attention to the conditions, be careful and watch your speed on icy descents.”

How do fat bikes differ from 
traditional mountain bikes?

“Fat tire bikes take a little getting used to. Turning is a little tricky with the wider tires as you tend to drag a bit during turns with the increased traction, but you may feel a bit sluggish. You get used to the resistance, but it takes a little practice. Going from my x-country race bike to the fat tire bike is sort of like switching from driving a sports car to driving a pickup truck without power steering.”

“Tire pressure is significantly lower in a fat-tire bike than in a traditional mountain bike. Average tire pressures in fat bikes run from 5-10 psi, whereas a traditional mountain bike will run 25-40 psi. Most fat bikes don’t have suspension, although some models utilize a front suspension fork. I have found that suspension doesn’t make a big difference for winter riding, since the tire pressure is so low, and the tires are so big, they absorb most trail chatter.”

Are fat bikes as agile as 
traditional mountain bikes?

“I wouldn’t say they are as agile. However, they can still be extremely fun. Fat tires are excellent for climbing and the tires eat up the bumpy and rocky trails. Don’t plan on breaking any records on your descent, however.”

Do you use a fat bike when 
not riding on snow?

“Outside of the winter months, I rarely use my fat bike. I switch to my other traditional mountain bikes. There are many people who ride them year round and love them! It is not uncommon to see people cruising up on them in the summer months.”

Will fat tire winter riding 
become more popular?

“I think it already is quite popular, and seems to be getting more so! During the winter, take a look at the trailhead parking lots in the morning hours and count how many cars are there with empty bike racks…”

The volunteer trail groomer, Rossberg of ThinAir Cycles, said serving the biking community is “a labor of love.” He grooms Corner Canyon’s Ann’s, Canyon Hollow and Potato Hill trails after every snowstorm. When asked about fat bikes, Rossberg said, “ThinAir rents them, builds them and loves them.” As far as what ThinAir specializes in, Rossberg added they “specialize in service.”

Jamie Pogue, a Draper resident and voluntary Chairman of the Draper City Parks Trails and Recreation commented, “Fat biking is great for off season training to get outside and breathe some fresh air. As an added bonus in the spring, you will feel like you are in turbo mode as a standard mountain bike weighs much less.” Pogue also stated, “The groomed trails in Corner Canyon make for better biking, snow shoeing and running. You do not want powder. You want packed snow. Similar to Draper, Park City is another area with groomed trails for winter riding.”

“You will be riding in wet and muddy conditions more frequently,” commented Parker Williams with Wasatch Bike Pros, a mobile mechanic. “So making sure your bike is washed and clean will help prevent any maintenance issues. If you are running tubeless tires or sealant in your tubes you will want to use Orange Sub Zero Sealant, designed for freezing conditions.”

Go Ride offers a selection of high-end fat bikes also available for rent. Kris Baughman with Go Ride added, “Fat biking provides an option for those wanting to get out of the gym in the winter months.” For comparison, Baughman said, “Fat bikes have a 4” tire width versus a 2.5” standard mountain bike tire.”

“I would choose riding outside in freezing weather over training indoors every time. Draper has world-class trails in Corner Canyon,” shared Ricky Maddox.

Call Alles, age 14, added, “Riding on top of the snow gives me a feeling of adventure. Plus, you see nature covered in a white giving you a unique perspective; I love everything about it.”

“More kids are on bigger tire bikes,” noted Troy Williams with Canyon Bicycles. “We are heavily involved with high school mountain biking teams, renting out fat bikes to students so they can keep up with their training during the winter. Renting a fat bike at $25/half day can go towards the purchase if the fat bike experience is for you and can range from $1000 to $8500.”

Experience this growing trend for a great workout, adventure and a different perspective on Draper life.