Fat Bikes Gain Traction As New Winter Sport

Fat Bikes Gain Traction As New Winter Sport


It’s winter. Perfect time to enjoy the snow — on a bicycle? As long as it’s got very big tires. They’re called fat bikes. And because of them, a growing number of cyclists are riding outdoors year-round. They are just novel. I mean, who thinks that you can ride a bike on snow, right? You get a grownup on one of these and they act like a little kid. The tires are about twice as wide as a regular mountain bike’s. They provide a stable platform that can travel over almost any surface. Steve Mitchell started biking in snow in Alaska in the 1980s, long before fat bikes rolled onto the scene. Eventually I think people figured out that the bigger the tire, the better. Once an obscure novelty, fat bikes are becoming the hot new thing. In fact, it’s the fastest-accelerating portion of mountain biking sales nationwide. Like human-powered monster trucks, fat bikes bounce over hard-crusted snow. With Mitchell’s help, fat bikes have gained traction in the Methow Valley of Central Washington — a recreation destination made popular by a different winter sport — cross-country skiing. The region has more than 120 miles of Nordic ski trails, the largest such trail system in North America. People come here to experience this beautiful mountain valley, the old west town of Winthrop. But they also come here to recreate. And lately fat biking has become so popular here that Methow Cycle & Sport had to double its stock of fat bikes to meet rising demand for rentals. Julie Muyllaert is co-owner of the shop and has become a fat bike enthusiast herself. Almost everyone knows how to ride a bike. They can easily get on a bike and go: “Oh, this is familiar to me, I know how to do this.” Recreation on the Methow Trails infuses more than $12 million a year into the local economy. And in the winter, recreationists keep Winthrop from becoming a ghost town. Instead places like Mitchell’s Rocking Horse Bakery are packed. Snow is basically the dollar sign behind the local economy in the winter. And without it, I don’t think you’d have a thriving community. There’s been plenty of snow this year. But snowfall in recent years has been less and less consistent. And that trend is likely to continue as the climate changes. Northwest winters are expected to see warmer average temperatures leading to more rain and less snow. Nationwide studies estimate the impacts of climate change will curtail spending on snow-based recreation by billions of dollars in the coming decades. That’s a big concern for people like James DeSalvo. He’s the executive director of the Methow Trails Association. We think about the way that the environment is going to change here a tremendous amount and specifically that there won’t be any snow some winter. We want to be prepared for that day so that we’ve still got something to offer tourists who are coming here. And really active locals who just love the trail network. That’s where fat bikes come in. Because they work with, or without, snow on the ground, fat bikes could help places like the Methow survive lean snow years. Fat bikes are really fun to ride on dirt, in the mud, on the snow and as we are transitioning either into winter or out of winter we can still ride fat bikes. So James and his team have begun making room on the Nordic trails for fat bikes. They use snowmobiles with special grooming tools to create single track-style fat bike trails. The key is to create something that people want to ride. We were one of the first areas in the nation to allow fat bikes on portions of our trail system. We know that there are other types of users that would use our trails year around if we are just flexible enough and inventive enough to give it a try. If fat bikes catch on here, there’s a chance that cyclists will find themselves in conflict with other winter sport enthusiasts. But so far, that hasn’t been a problem in the Methow Valley. This isn’t the only place that’s giving fat bikes a try. Alpine ski resorts across the country have begun embracing fat bikes as well. At Mt. Hood Meadows in Oregon, they’re holding periodic demonstrations and offering free test rides. Very easy to ride. Lots of surface area for you to actually have amazing traction. So pretty much anybody can ride it. Would it increase the days that I come up here and am active? Yeah, absolutely. It isn’t always a smooth ride. But falling is part of the fun. And not just for newbies. Even for long-time fat bikers. You never quite know what the outcome is going to be. You are often tumbling and hopefully landing in soft snow. As the climate changes, the outcome for winter sports is unclear as well. But the enthusiasm over fat bikes holds promise for people who want to keep places like Mt. Hood and the Methow Valley popular winter destinations, regardless of how much snow falls.

42 comments

  1. well if these people in the fatbike industry doesnt want climate change to happen, they can start selling their cars and stopping eating meat.

  2. Yeah, there is a big advantage comes to choosing fat tires over thin ones, when one has to face the snowy patch. I tried a short ride through snow on my urban hybrid bicycle with thin tires and right away almost lost balance.

  3. . "Oh don't worry, while the planet is hurtling toward disaster we can continue life as usual by making money from the mud when the snow disappears."
    For you nay sayers out there; yes I am a 72 year old raw vegan that bicycles everywhere but that's not really the point. I'm not "purer than thou." We just need to really feel our connection to the earth, to all living beings and to one another and live in a way that acknowledges that reality.

  4. great information about fat bikes but not interested in the political BS about climate change.. Its Jan 2017 with record snow in the northwest.

  5. Climate change has been around since the dinosaurs when volcanos throw soot in atmosphere which over millions of years started to destroy the ozone layer which is making the sun hotter and making it melt the snow

  6. It's still a niche sport in Austria but it's gaining traction there too! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNPsPCYFqQ4

  7. Great Video , Except the Climate Change hysteria ….. Don't believe the Hype . Climate Change or Global Warming or whatever the Propagandists want to call it is a Hoax . Climate Changes are Natural . If you really want to worry about something . Worry about the Chemtrails that they are Spraying on us on almost a Daily basis . Worry about HAARP .

  8. With four winters with irregular snow and extreme highs and lows in MN, I am moving to fat biking from XC skiing. Nice video how to make the two work.

  9. Enjoyed the video until the climate change ideaology began. Sooooooo tired of one sided theories! Just enjoy the sport, let God take care of weather.

  10. I have a schwinn fat bike. Just wished it had a little deeper treaded tires. It's a heavy sow with a full steel frame but it rides well after proper tuning and adjustments. Love my fatty! 🚴

  11. Yet another way to sell something to people :). I understand that producing this bikes and disposing old is good for environment.

  12. I recently got a fat tire bike and I love it more and more when I'm riding it. Just wish here in Minnesota we would get more snow so I can love my fatty even more!!!

  13. If it comes to a point where they go through a whole winter without snow, wouldn't a standard mountain bike be the best choice?

  14. Why did it have to become a talk on climate change? Whether people believe it or not, it's an annoying topic to listen to.

  15. You have crosscountry skis for summer too, with tiny wheels attached, I don't think this town has to worry too much about tourists leaving because of the potential lack of snow.

  16. Climate change???? If the idiots who espouse this theory would actually have just a modicum of scientific knowledge, it would be obvious that over the last tens of thousands of years the earth has had many cooling and warming trends. Before Man!!!!!
    I wanted a video on Fat Bikes not Fat Heads!

  17. I see many watchers have complained about the references to climate change in the video. I listened carefully to the audio, and I don't hear anything like "hysteria", or political views, or claims about causes in the video; I see that only in the comments. Temperatures and precipitation ARE showing trends that have affected winter recreation and business prospects, and that is what I heard presented in the video. It is reasonable to refer to winter weather when comparing and contrasting fat tire biking to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling (as well as downhill skiing, snow boarding, snow tubing, snow shoeing, ice fishing, ice skating, sledding, tobaggoning, etc.).

  18. I live in Texas. We don't need no freaking snow. I just rode the Hotter N Hell Hundred on a single speed fat bike…on pavement. They are super super fun anywhere anytime!

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