By : Kevin Higgins
The missus and I were heading to the east coast to visit some friends down from the North Island. Kaka Point is a tiny community about two hours south of Dunedin nestled in a small bay right on the big, blue Pacific Ocean and it was a no brainer which bike was coming with me. I should point out now that I only recently purchased a fat bike. It was more out of curiosity than thinking it would ever find a spot of equality among my three full sus rigs and two singlespeeds. The trip to the coast changed my mind quicker than a Jack Russell’s legs move when you utter the word “walk?”. You see….fat biking is the future of cycling. Give it a bit of time and everyone who bought a 29er hardtail will be selling them in favour for a 26″ fatbike…and why not, the wheel diameter is the same and with more and more fat bike builds tipping the scales well below the 25lb mark, the arguments against them are pretty thin. People are buying fat bikes as a return to a simpler kind of bike, but with a capability and versatility full sus rigs can’t offer regardless of wheel size.
But I digress. I don’t need to sell you on fat tyres, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t already of the converted. I was looking forward to a blast on the beach. I had no idea what to expect from the conditions of the sand or how my ‘summer’ tyres would cope. Well I was in for a surprise. Access to the beach from the road was down a near vertical set of stairs which I foolishly tried to ride. To get to the sand, I had to cross what can only be described as a geologists wet dream. A rippled, jagged, undulating sea of rock was between me and the coveted sand. Staring at it through my 2.5 inch wide tyre eyes it looked completely un-rideable. Forget about choosing a line, forget about maintaining momentum and forget about balancing on the stuff trying to get going again. Despite the little voice in my head nay-saying away, I dropped the pressure in my tyres from 10 to about 6 and went for it. Now this is one of those moments when new sensory inputs from a bicycle will never be forgotten. Granny ring got me going and the bike did the rest. The voice in my head was still shouting, “Forget about choosing a line!” because it simply didn’t matter. The bike ate that shit for breakfast and went back for seconds. Working in bicycle shops since ’95 i’ve thrown a leg over a good cross section of bikes, but i’ve never ridden anything that could grapple with this kind of foreboding terrain with such tact. Every so often I would look down and witness my tyres deforming and rippling to the contour of this hellish topography and simply have to shake my head over and over at what I had just pedaled over. This was better than I could have ever imagined, this was cycling nirvana.
Once through the raised, rocky seafloor from hell (or heaven?) I had finally reached the wonderful sand. Sand of all types greeted the underside of my tyres that day. Hard pack, soft underneath with a firm crust (like riding on a creme brulee) and the full soft, sinking, you-just-cant-pedal-fast-enough-to-get-through-it sand. I believe the expression is “Happy as a pig in…” yeah, that was me. Many skids were had and a fair bit of riding in the surf was had. The best part by far though was I had to retrace my steps back through that raised sea-floor. Knowing what my porky tyred companion was now capable of, I wasted no time taking a completely different route. I now had the mentality of a 4WD enthusiast whose aim is to try and get stuck. Sure, I had a few foot dabs here and there but the return journey was much like the pedal out. The bike just dealt with it in a no nonsense, is this the best you can do attitude. The only limitations of my fat tyre bike seemed to be the flacid, carbon based life-form riding it.
My fattie is now my go to explore bike. It inspires me to find new trails (or simply, terrain) that appear to be otherwise un-rideable and has more than earned its spot in the rack between my Santa Cruz Chameleon and Commencal Meta 6.
Editor’s Note : Thanks to Kevin, for sharing this great story with all of us! It’s great to be able to share such awesome enthusiasm for fat-bike beach rides from all around the globe! If you have a story of fat-bike fun, please send it to your tio gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org .