By Cynthia Jessup
The snow limits what you can do outside. So what’s a person to do with all that restlessness? Cyclists rejoice—you can now get out and enjoy the snow on a fat bike. A unique and fun challenge during the winter months, “Fat bikes are a fast-growing trend as more people learn how comfy and convenient these bicycles are. Fat biking during the winter is a great way to stay active and avoid SAD and winter weight gain.” With winter being here, Sara Villalobos, community outreach director of My City Bikes, notes, “icy roads can be risky for any cyclist and should be avoided if at all possible, but fat bikes are a more stable bike for these kinds of conditions.” A bike that’s easier to ride in snow so just be mindful of the slick ice when using them.
What is fat biking?
“Fat biking” is riding a fat-tire bike, or “fat bike.” Fat bikes are a type of off-road bicycle with large rims and tires that are specially designed for riding on soft, slushy, unsteady terrain like snow and sand. They’re perfect for winter biking because they roll on snow more easily than a traditional bike and they’re very comfortable.
What do you need?
A fat bike is a particular style of bicycle. There is a very broad range when it comes to fat bikes based on their materials and construction, but the low end starts at around $500. Because fat bikes can be ridden year-round—they’re especially comfy for mountain biking—people can be confident that they’ll get plenty of use out of the bike. If a new fat bike is out of the budget, swapping out regular mountain bike tires for seasonal tires is an alternative that can make your bike better equipped to roll over the snow. Of course every rider at every age needs to wear a bike helmet.
How can you get started?
You don’t need any special skills to go fat biking, just a fat bike, a helmet and some strategically layered clothing. Because fat bikes are designed for the types of conditions that usually keep people inside, they’re ideal for staying active in winter. This is especially true for people who may have joint issues that prevent them from traditional winter sports like downhill skiing. Biking in general is a low-impact sport, and fat bikes let people at any skill level stay active year-round. People can take advantage of the recent snowfall and bike their favorite bike paths for a scenic ride, or check out a regional mountain biking trail like Laurel Hill or the trails at Meadowood. TheMy City Bikes Northern VA and My City Bikes DC apps will give novice riders a great set of beginner-friendly bike paths and trails to choose from. You can also visit a bike shop likeA-1 Cycling in Herndon and Manassas to take a test ride and learn more about the bikes themselves.
Are there meetup clubs or groups?
Mountain biking clubs like MORE have regular group bike rides around the region that are a great place to meet new people and enjoy off-road cycling in good company.