There’s a chance you have seen them out there — these weird wonky bikes with huge tires. And if so, you have also probably seen the huge grins on the riders’ faces. You might have seen one on a trail in the Bighorn Mountains. But if you are a mountain biker and you don’t already own one, I argue it is the missing piece in your outdoor experience quill. And if you’re not already a mountain biker, this is a great way to get started.
I’m referring to fat bikes. These bikes were created for unstable terrain, have oversized tires and a frame that allows for the low ground pressure of snow and sand.
For those of us that commute by bike in wintertime, it can be a little bit of an adventure. Riding a fat bike, which can be done easily on fresh or packed snow, instills a new sense of discovery into this routine. It can mean avoiding paths entirely to instead carve out a new route based on conditions (and your energy). And, instead of loading your gear into your car and driving to the mountains or a Sheridan Community Land Trust trail — both good spots for biking — you can combine your practical transportation with the excitement of mountain biking by commuting with a fat bike.
Fat bikes may look heavy and sluggish but are only a few pounds heavier than an alternative mountain bike. Plus, their beefier size is part of the excitement. You will find that they resist directional change slightly, and have an extra bounce — something caused by the large tires and lower air pressure. It’s an effect that will make you feel like you’re riding on a grown-up kids’ bike. It’s a ton of fun and as they have grown in popularity these bikes are easier to find and the price tags are now less than $1,000. You can even rent one for a day or week at bike shops downtown.
If you’re looking to bike in the mountains this winter, take your fat bike to the trails at Cutler Hill. The trail is groomed and makes for a great winter mountain experience. Plus, then you can grab a cup of hot chocolate at Arrowhead Lodge just down the road. Soon, trails at Antelope Butte will be groomed for fat bikes every winter, too. It won’t be long until there are more fat bike races and events locally — I can guarantee it.
Those who already enjoy fat bikes will be quick to tell you about the virtues of this fast-growing sport. For example, traditional mountain biking trails actually become smoother in the winter. And, the fluffy white stuff makes flying over the handlebars a lot less painful. Fat biking group rides tend to be more about the beautiful views and pit stop fellowship than who gets to the end first. If you happen to be bored with typical winter camping you can always try a “bike pack” trip this winter.
Winter is short, and it’s already here. So stop by a local bike shop, rent a fat bike, and go spend a family day in our beautiful Wyoming outdoors.
Andrew Gast is the executive director and Ski-EO of the Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area.