Winter is coming in the northern hemisphere, but the onslaught of cold temperatures, limited daylight, and snowy conditions doesn’t require you to stop mountain biking. The advent of the fat bike means that off-road, two-wheeled fun can continue all year long. But the cold temperatures and wet snow do require a special level of preparation.
Choosing the right fat bike is only half the battle. Once you’ve purchased a fatty, the next step is to acquire all the gear you need to stay warm, dry, and prepared in below-freezing temps. If you want to purchase a plug-and-play fat biking starter kit, look no further than these 10 essential products:
1. 45NRTH Wolvhammer Boots – $325
The first parts of your body to get cold will be your extremities, so doubling down and purchasing good protection for your hands and feet is absolutely mandatory. When it comes to footwear, you can’t beat the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots (rated to 0 degrees F) or their warmer cousins, the Wolfgars (rated to -25 degrees F).
Modeled after mountaineering boots, the Wolvhammers feature a secure pull lace and velcro strap closure, a heavily-lugged Vibram outsole, and the ability to run SPD cleats, if you so desire. I’ve found the Wolvhammers to be the one product that could single-handedly make fat biking a thoroughly enjoyable experience despite the cold and the snow!
2. Bar Mitts Extreme Cold Mountain Mitts – $125
While you can use a pair of warm gloves to protect your hands, Bar Mitts offer unparalleled warmth and wind protection. With the Extreme Cold Mountain Mitts installed, you can often use a standard summertime full finger mountain bike glove inside of them, offering optimum brake and shifter feel.
3. Club Ride Fat Jack Pants – $100
The exterior of the Club Ride Fat Jack is designed to resist wind and rain, and is made of a very durable yet stretchy polyester/spandex mix which is perfect for fat biking. Having a durable external layer that blocks wind from getting to your body is paramount for comfort on the fat bike, and I’ve found these pants to be just the ticket.
4. Hincapie Fission Bib Knicker – $120
Unfortunately the Fat Jack pants aren’t warm enough on their own for fat biking, so I pair them with this pair of thermal bib knickers from Hincapie. Adding a chamois is key for long hours in the saddle, the bib design keeps everything where it needs to be, and the 3/4 length is actually perfect for pairing with a long pair of wool socks and the Wolvhammer boots, eliminating possible pressure points.
5. Hincapie Fahrenheit Puffy – $160
When the thermometer truly takes a dive, I turn to the Fahrenheit Puffy jacket from Hincapie. If you already own a thermal puffy, feel free to use that, but at $160 the Fahrenheit offers a solid value for the insulation.
As for other layers on top, I generally use a base layer or other thermal layers underneath, and possibly a rain jacket or wind breaker for cutting through the cold air. While these don’t need to be bike-specific and consequently aren’t included on this list, running a quick search on our comparison shopping engine should reveal plenty of excellent options!
6. Pearl Izumi Thermal Skull Cap – $25
While some fat bikers swear by ski helmets, I personally find Pearl Izumi’s Thermal Skull Cap under a standard mountain biking helmet to be plenty of warmth when my heart rate is up. But if the mercury really takes a dive into below-zero temperatures, an insulated downhill ski helmet with a pair of goggles is a great way to keep your head warm.
7. Oveja Negra Frame Bag – $100
Almost all fat bikes are hardtails or rigid, which means there’s plenty of space in the main triangle to fit a frame bag. Not only am I addicted to frame bags for all of my mountain bike uses, but if you’re using water bottles or soft flasks, tossing them in a quality frame bag like one of these from Oveja Negra can add an extra level of insulation and keep them from freezing.
Riding in temperatures too cold for the frame bag to do any good? Try out the Winter Bot from Bar Mitts for maximum water insulation.
8. Topeak Smartguage D2 – $35
With the high volumes and ultra-low tire pressures required for perfect fat bike traction, adjusting your tire pressures by half of a PSI can make a massive difference in how your bike handles ground conditions. A standard floor pump is incapable of accurately measuring these minute differences in pressure at the low end of the spectrum, so a standalone low pressure gauge is required. This digital gauge from Topeak is the best on the market, with a digital readout, the ability to use either Presta or Schrader valves with the flick of a switch, and a bleed button to let air out.
9. Niterider Lumina 750 – $140
Along with the cold and snow come short daylight hours. Don’t let the long nights keep you off the trail–buy a light for night riding! While there is no end to the options available, models like the Lumina 750 are relatively affordable, compact (thanks to the single battery+light unit), and easy to charge with a USB cable.
10. Yakima Dr Tray – $579
Many fat bike riders overlook the task of transporting their new fat bike to the trailhead. Some bike racks simply are not compatible with wide fat bike tires. You might be able to jury rig some others to work with a few bungee cords. But very few bike racks are 100% compatible with full 5-inch fat bike tires, right out of the box.
The new Dr Tray from Yakima is one of the few racks that is fully compatible with big tires right away, and a plethora of other handy features make this rack an excellent choice!
While of course you don’t need all of the items on this list to get started riding in the snow, if you’re looking for a plug-and-play solution, pick up a fat bike from your local shop that fits you well, purchase these accessories, and you’ll be off into a winter wonderland of fun and enjoyment!
This article was last updated on December 10, 2018.
Yeah this sounds like a blast! While I am not a fat bike rider (or fan), riding in the snow is a total blast!
I found this list completely relative and great Greg. I will recommend to anybody I know!
Thanks Joel, stoked you found this informative!
PS: The only item I disagree with on that list would be the mountain mitts. I have found that a dedicated extreme cold glove works perfect for all snowy conditions. I own a pair of Endura Deluge golves. These gloves are rated by Cycling magazine as “totally waterproof, thanks to a full waterproof membrane sandwiched between the Cordura outer and the soft touch palm. They are also impressively warm. Best on test”. They are worth checking out as they are FAR less bulky than the mountain mitts. The bar to hand feeling is also preserved. I picked mine up at a LBS for 65 dollars. Worth every cent.
Great list Greg. I’m up in AK and I bought the 45nrth Wolfgar boot. For my neck of the woods it’s a great boot as we get stupid cold at times. One item I’d add is an insulated water bottle, if it’s stored in your frame bag you’ll actually have liquid. I’m probably going to get the Revelate Wampak hydration pack, it’s designed to fit your under your coat. It’s been tested in Fairbanks and worked well at subzero temps. Hope all you fat bikers get out and enjoy Global Fat Bike Day on December 3rd. In Anchorage we have a short track race during the day and group ride at night.
An insulated bottle is a great addition! I’ve found I can often get away with uninsulated ones in frame bags, but then again, I don’t ride in Alaska! 🙂
Great list of gear Greg. Sounds like the plug-play-and-pay solution. =)
Personally, I think it’s easier to work backwards from a nearly complete list and figure out where you can cut corners, instead of working forwards with no information. For instance, if you’re looking at this list and you think you can substitute standard winter boots and flat pedals for the Wolvhammers, great! You’ve saved $325. Same with any other article of clothing, if you can substitute with something you already own.
Yep. Good point and good approach. I think your article was really informative and helpful. That was the intent of my first sentence. In the second sentence I was just joking around about the crazy expensiveness of pretty all outdoor gear. One can fork out a couple of grand in a blink of eye. I think most of us have to make some choices and articles such as yours are REALLY helpful in those choices.
Haha right on, thanks man!
Seems pricey. I use my LL Bean muckluck boots, old ski gloves, my ski helmet, and a few layers. Not saying your list is wrong. But there are more economical options if you’re looking to break into winter fat biking