Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are Erica Barnes’s alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.
Winter is already in full swing even though the calendar says it winter is just getting started. Temperatures in many parts of the country have begun to dip into the single digit regime. Many places have already experienced the scary, horizontal line in front of numbers. And while most in the northern hemisphere are cursing the sight of snow shovels, axes, and the onion layering of clothing, a certain cult following of mountain bikers are grinning ear-to-ear at the sight of fresh powder.
The general public, for the most part, doesn’t truly comprehend our obsession in mountain biking. And who can blame them? What doesn’t sound foolish about spending more on a bike than a nice used automobile, only to throw both you and the thousands of dollars in self-propelled, high-end tech down a rocky mountain? Stepping back and looking through the eyes of others makes you realize how foolish it all can seem. But there are those amongst us that take this foolishness to a whole new level by participating in the delusional subcategory of fat biking.
Here at Singletracks, the fat biking phenomenon is in a full blown outbreak amongst the writing staff, quite like this season’s flu virus. It’s even spreading to the children of all things. The children!! I will admit that a fair number of our writing staff live in regions of the country where numerous feet of snow falls every year, thus making fat bikes an attractive proposition. Consequently, the views shared here are my own, and definitely do not reflect that of the writing staff at Singletracks.com.
Not once while riding on a gorgeous summer day have I thought to myself, “If only I could suffer more by riding through snow in sub-zero temperatures, battling frostbite and terrain simultaneously.” There are numerous activities I can enjoy during the winter time that don’t require biking in the snow: drinking hot cocoa, sitting in front of a fire, watching football, even shopping for next year’s mountain bike. Sure, I occasionally participate in winter-related activities such as skiing. However, I tend to contain my outdoor winter activities to those that offer lodges with hot meals and alcoholic beverages within mere minutes of participating in said activities. Fat biking provides you with none of these niceties. Nay, necessities.
While New Mexico does receive snow in the winter, there are numerous trails near the Albuquerque metro area that stay dry enough that a fat bike is not needed. So in that regard, my take on fat biking is admittedly biased. However, I know there are many of our readers who reside in snow-filled terrain, yet still abhor the idea of riding in snow. It is for you that I have decided to write my anti-fat biking manifesto:
1. Biking in temperatures below freezing is permissible but not encouraged.
Mountain biking in the negative temperature range is absolutely banned. Our very distant relatives, homo erectus and the neanderthals, worked very hard to “invent” fire to combat the freezing cold. Additionally, a great deal of research and effort went into developing the modern heating system for personal home use. Honor their efforts by sitting in your heated home, sipping hot cocoa that was warmed in the microwave or on your electric/gas stove, while sitting in front of a fire.
2. No man, woman, or child should have to fear the loss of digits due to mountain biking.
These types of medical maladies should only be encountered while summiting Mount Everest. And since Mount Everest does not have mountain biking trails, we have no need to attempt such feats on our mountain bikes in the winter.
3. Tires wider than 4 inches are to be ridden on the beach.
Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a minute. The ultra fat tires were first developed for beach cruisers (as a past resident of Florida, I am clearly an expert on the history of bikes on beaches). How these made the leap from a sunny paradise to the frigid tundras, we may never truly know. However, the natural habitat of fat bikes is along the coastline. Fat bikes found further inland, on snow-plagued terrain, should be considered an invasive species and dealt with appropriately.
4. While mountain biking, you should never be mistaken for the abominable snowman.
Being mistakenly identified as a creature from folklore commonly occurs while fat biking in the winter due to the 12 or more layers that is required to be worn in order to stay warm. It’s how ancient folklore is perpetuated in the modern era. And as more mountain bikers take to fat biking, the more often people will report false sightings of the abominable snowman. This will prevent the masses from accepting real photos published in the next issue of the National Enquirer.
5. Mountain biking was invented in the mountains of California, where the weather is constantly sunny and 70 degrees.
Ok, so it may not be sunny and 70 in the mountains year-round, but you get my drift. While not all of us have the luxury of residing in the human-infested state of California, we should all strive to mountain bike in the true spirit of the sport: biking only when the weather is gorgeous. For some, this may only occur for one month of the year, while for others this may be year-round. But that’s why we as humans invented cars and airplanes, so we can transport ourselves and bikes to warmer climates.
In all honesty, I don’t fat bike because I hate the cold. Plain and simple. So to you fat bikers, hats off. You are truly some of the most hardcore, passionate riders amongst us. Thanks also for pushing the industry to develop better cold weather gear so I can stay toasty warm on my rides when the temperature dips to 50.
On the flip side, be sure to check out Greg’s article, “5 Reasons Why You Need a Fat Bike.”
Your turn: Are you truly hardcore and brave the cold by fat biking in the snow? Or do you abandon mountain biking and join the masses by hunkering down in front of a fire with hot cocoa?