Ride Report: Global Fat Bike Day, 2014

Global Fat Bike Day is evolving… not officially, but heck, nothing was ever “official” about Fat Bike Day anyways. What once was a few hours on a Saturday of riding around on big tires “united in fat” has increased to a full weekend of fat-laden, beer-drinking, beard-toting hooligans having a hoot about obese rims and tires. I was there to witness some of it first hand.

First of all, I hope that you were able to attend one of the many fat bike-related events that I mentioned in this article a few weeks ago, especially if you are “fat-curious” but were too shy to ask before. After the explosion of fat bikes, components, and accessories this past year at every major bike expo, it is becoming clear that fatties are here to stay, and the “revolution” is underway.

Riding fatbikes always puts a smile on my face
Riding fatbikes always puts a smile on my face

I had hoped to attend two events this weekend, but an unexpected illness kept me from leaving my house on Sunday and attending a sweet fat bike party. The one I attended Saturday (the official “Global Fat Bike Day”), however, was a gathering of sorts in the Buffalo Creek trail system, just west of Denver. It was sponsored by The Hub bike shop based in Colorado Springs, along with UpaDowna, a non-profit agency from the same area that promotes just getting outside. They announced their plans on their Facebook Page well in advance and were prepared for riders with bikes, beer, and burgers. They handed out free swag. They educated anyone and everyone about all things fat, from newbs to seasoned riders. To top it off, it was was totally free, open to the public, and all weekend long.

the Hub and friends provided food and libations free of charge to attendees
the Hub and friends provided food and libations free of charge to attendees

One of my main reasons for choosing this particular venue is that Buffalo Creek is an amazing place to ride a fat bike. With over 50 miles of trails made of loose, decomposing granite, fat bikes deliver on the buff singletrack which can be slippery around corners. This time of year snow is usually part of the scenery. So far this year, however, only one major snowstorm hit the area, which was over two weeks ago… and the remnants are long gone.

Miles and miles of prime singletrack with views of the Rockies is a perfect place to celebrate Global Fatbike Day 2014
Miles and miles of prime singletrack with views of the Rockies is a perfect place to celebrate Global Fatbike Day 2014

No matter, though, fat bikes are fun year-round, anywhere, and in almost every kind of weather. My other reason for going to this event was to introduce a close friend, Mike G., to the sport after he expressed some interest in trying one out. After some searching, we finally found the venue (buried in the sea of folks along Road 550, who’d flocked to Buffalo Creek with a paid permit to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree). The demos were all out by the time we arrived, but after a quick warm up lap, we returned to get Mike the perfect demo fat bike: a Salsa Beargrease carbon, my current fatty and personal favorite.

Mike G follows me down a steep rock roller on Little Scraggly. Fatbikes offer a lot of traction for rolling over rock
Mike G. follows me down a steep rock roller on Little Scraggly. Fatbikes offer a lot of traction for rolling over rock

Understandably, he was a little uncertain about how to handle a fat bike on the trail, admitting that he would start out riding with uncharacteristic timidity (my words, not his). Mike is a great rider, and although he lives by the mantra of the 29er, I thought he would enjoy what I do about fat bikes: riding something really different.

I’ve said this before, but there is something special about riding a fat bike that makes you feel like you’re a little kid again. Time slows down and you don’t worry as much about riding faster then your buddies. You manual every chance you get. You have to ride a rigid fatbike very differently than most other mountain bikes. It’s like riding a big, fat, BMX bike–pumping the berms, using your body more in turns, and snapping the front and the rear around. I honestly think it makes you a better rider–not because fat bikes are sluggish (admittedly, some heavier ones are), but because of the simplicity. Throw in a single speed and you have a very pure MTB experience–of course, you have to be strong enough to pedal a SS fatty, and in the mountains of Colorado, I am not. My 1×11 is sufficient.

Riders from the fatbike demo enjoying the low winter sun and dry trails at Buffalo Creek
Riders from the fat bike demo enjoying the low winter sun and dry trails at Buffalo Creek

Not only did we enjoy some unusually warm weather for Colorado in December, we explored a recently completed new trail, the Little Scraggy Trail, in the Buffalo Creek area. Designed to be more of an intermediate route, it was an excellent place to test every merit of a fat bike: lots of twisting turns through trees, loose dirt, large rock rolls, and undulating terrain with a few punchy climbs.  I could have ridden all day, but the days are short in December, and the free food and beer was calling our name after about 3 hours of riding.

We returned to the demo area and talked fat bikes over the grub and beverages. I met a guy with a cool mustache. I had fun showing Mike the different types of fatbikes that were present in the demo area: steel, aluminum, bamboo, and of course: carbon. Some had big tires, others had even bigger tires. One even had a Jones bar–very cool. The fat biking community as a whole seems to be even more mellow than the mountain biking community at large, and that is saying something. As we pulled away on the dusty road to head back home I had only one regret: that I was not camping with those guys to do the full moon night ride followed by a lot more riding the next day. Maybe next year…

Smokey the Bear was also on hand to make sure that we didn't burn rubber. Ha! My weekend is now complete!
Smokey the Bear was also on hand to make sure that we didn’t burn rubber. Ha! My weekend is now complete!

 Special Thanks to Chris Wallin, Chris Behm, and Steve Hitchcock for setting this up!

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