Here’s a nice story that all of us – from long beard to newbie – can appreciate. It’s a two part story from a reader named Pat that was born on St. Patrick’s day. It’s a story that Sven and I, often hear, when we talk to fat-bikers from all around the country and it never fails to bring a smile to our face! Reading this made me think about the first time that I ever rode a fat-bike. ~gomez~
By : Pat Morrison
Feb 13 – after 3 weeks fat
Midwest winters can be harsh. Especially for mountain bikers. I live and ride in Northern Illinois. The cold temperatures never really bother me; you can always dress for it. But when the snow falls, it limits the amount of riding if (and when), the local bike paths get plowed. And the closest bike path for me is a ride that stretches along for about 10 miles between a highway and a bleak expanse of empty corn field stubble, usually accompanied by a bitter wind that whips across the frozen tundra with no trees to break the gusts or the monotony. The path does end at the edge of Rock Cut State Park with a terrific network of singletrack through pine groves and hardwood forest. Unfortunately, the state closes their bike trails from late November till early April. Hence, the need to slog along the bike path. It’s either that, or set up indoors and pretend I’m riding somewhere. No thanks.
Three weeks ago now, I picked up my new Specialized Fatboy. To say it’s changed my life might be exaggerating, but it has definitely changed my winter riding from something to be endured into something I can’t wait to get out and do. After 30 years of riding mountain bikes, I literally feel like a kid with a new toy. Since going from hardtails to full suspensions years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever consider another hardtail. But this bike has an incredible amount of give in the tires, rolling over logs and rocks way better than I expected. The handling is amazing, given the bulky look of those monster tires. I thought the 2.3″ tires on my full suspension Gary Fisher were big and really dug in well. But the 4.6″ Ground Control tires on this fat bike are not only enormous, they GRIP in the snow, whether you’re turning or climbing. The only trick is getting used to how low to keep the tire pressure. I’m used to running 40-50 psi, so now going between a low of 2 to a high of 10 psi takes some mental adjustment. I even had to get a new tire gauge that would read that low.
Even though the state park trails are closed, there are a couple other local areas that don’t restrict winter riding. A nearby county forest has a decent singletrack and a trail that runs along the Kishawaukee river, connecting to other forest preserves. It makes a great place to re-learn how to ride in the snow – on these new wheels. The city of Rockford where I live has also opened up a golf course to winter riding, with groomed trails that criss-cross the links. And the local bike club has show-shoed to cut a tight singletrack that winds along a creek through the woods next to the golf course. It really makes for some challenging turns when you’re trying to stay in the track and not go off into the deep stuff. But that just adds to the fun. And this bike is fun. Like I said, I feel like a kid with a new toy. Can’t wait to get back out and play.
April 28th – 4 months fat
I’m getting fatter all the time. Haven’t touched my full suspension bike all year. My Fatboy is the only way to go now. It’s lighter; it’s smoother; it climbs better; and it corners more aggressively than I dare to push it. (YMMV – remember I live where trails are pretty buff)
A couple days ago I swapped bikes for a few minutes with a riding buddy so he could try it. While he was thoroughly impressed with mine, I was surprised by how skinny and frail his bike seemed with those “normal” mountain bike tires, and they were the same 2.35’s that I’ve got on my old bike, (now gathering cobwebs hanging in my garage). I guess I’m getting so used to looking down on these rolling treads the width of a bone-in ham, and it seems to make anything else seem flimsy in comparison. (even though mtb wheels are tough as hell)
I’ve only been riding fat since January, and had originally planned on riding it just in snow. And as I found out, this thing really handles in winter, digging in around corners and gripping like you wouldn’t believe when going up snowy hills. But now that I’ve got a feel for it on singletrack in the warm weather, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be getting back on my old bike again. I’m just having too much fun with this thing. Although it took a little getting used to – after having 3×9 gearing on my last several rides, this new 2×10 setup with the 4.6 Ground Control tires actually makes it seem much more effortless to grind up steep rocky climbs, and it’s a lot sturdier going down the same root and rock strewn trails. The wide footprint on these tires imparts a lot more control over the terrain, whether it’s muddy, dry, rocks or sand. It just rolls right through it all.
While it was also an adjustment going from SPD pedals and cleats, there’s a lot to be said for platform pedals and not being locked in. Easier to bail when needed, although I’ve yet to lose it in any turns. In fact, I usually end up pulling the plug, grabbing the brakes before I’ve reached the limit to how much lean-in these tires will allow. So far, it’s been a game of chicken that I’m just too chicken to carry through to the end. But like I said, I’ve only been riding since January. Plenty of time left for finding the limits of what this fat bike will or won’t let me do. But that’s all part of the fun, and pushing myself is part of why I ride in the first place.
So is it any wonder, why we love sharing stories like these with the world wide fat-bike tribe? Tell us about the first time that you rode a fat-bike in the comments below. My first time was at Gnome-Fest Three up at 9 mile. It was Aintra’s Purple Pug that Kieker had helped her nab off’a ebay or craig’s list. Sweet bouncy fun. I think she still has that bike. ~gomez~