Fat Bike Winter Riding Tips
People often assume riding a fat bike is difficult or more challenging than riding an "ordinary" bike. If truth be told, it isn't, and in certain situations, a fat bike will be easier to ride and suit the conditions better. Winter is the time of year that ft bikes can come into their own. Their big footprint allows you to float over the top of groomed trails, rather than sinking into them and having life become a slog. Read on, and we'll give you some fat bike tips to keep the smile on your face all winter.
Bring a first aid kit and a survival blanket.
A fire stick and compass combined is a useful accessory.
Don't overestimate how far you can ride.
Go to new places.
Explore your old routes.
Clothing. When thinking about going fat biking in winter, it is very easy to obsess over your bike and forget about your clothing. It doesn't matter how well set up your bike is if you can't stay warm or get soaked. In fact, getting your clothing wrong could even be deadly. Think about summer riding and how you'll unzip for climbs and then zip back for descents. Winter fat bike riding can mimic these types of situations, so make sure your clothes are easy to ventilate or remove and put back on.
You'll want layers, a buff, and some good gloves and socks. Honestly, you'll want to keep your extremities as warm as possible. Cold feet and hands can ruin a good ride, so make sure you keep them warm.
Bring a first aid kit and a survival blanket. Accidents can happen on a summer ride and not be a problem but can become a massive problem on a winter ride. The better prepared you are, the better your chances are if things go south. It is always better to have these items and never use them than need them and not have them, as cliché as that may sound.
Picture taken from Amazon.com
A fire stick and compass combined is a useful accessory. Carrying on with our theme of things, it is better to have and never need. We all carry mobile phones and sometimes GPS units, but it is useful to have a compass if your electronics don't like the cold. Make sure you know how to use both of these items before you need to use them.
Don't overestimate how far you can ride. Riding conditions will be hard. Don't expect to be doing marathon like summer rides. Snow and ice will make riding much harder than you think. Start with small circuits and slowly start to climb your mileage up.
Go to new places. Places that you can't ride at other times of the year will now be open to you. Go and explore these areas while ensuring that conditions will be as safe as possible and follow any local guidance.
Explore your old routes. Your familiar haunts can take on an entirely new look during winter. Some places will look nothing like they do during spring and summer, so go and bask in a lovely winter landscape.
Crashing. On snow and ice, you will fall. Don't worry, as most of the time, you will be blanketed by snow but be prepared when riding on ice or crusty snow. Falling is a right of passage. Being scared of falling can make you to rigid, and this will cause a crash. Stay calm and loose, and be prepared to move around your bike to keep weight where it is needed. Being loose will also help you react and also help if you fall to avoid injury.
How to set up your fat bike for winter?
When riding in winter, you want to set your bike up as straightforward as possible. You want to stay on top of maintenance and servicing. Winter can be hard on your bike, so you want to make sure that you're going to have as few issues out on the trail as possible. Having to deal with a puncture in -10° weather is not a fun task, so make sure it is not going to happen to you.
Go tubeless. Hopefully, if you're riding a fat bike, you're already riding your wheels with a tubeless setup. Search forums and look for fat bike wheels that are easy to set up tubeless and make sure your bike has them in advance of winter. When setting your wheels up tubeless, make sure that you're using new tires. There is nothing worse than setting up fat bike tires tubeless that already have small holes in them.
I like carbon fiber fat bike wheels. They help to take a little bit of weight off. You'll appreciate this every time you hit a climb. XC skiers are super fit, and there is a reason for that, so make sure your fat bike is as light as possible for riding across snow this winter.
Flat pedals. Have you seen stomp pads on a snowboard? They are used for getting the balls and clumps of snow to fall off your boots. If you don't do this, it can be hard to get strapped into your bindings. Have you seen the size of snowboard bindings compared to the size of clipless bike pedals?
Then if you remember, we said you'll probably crash at some point? One of the ways to avoid this is to stick your foot out. Doing this is more comfortable with flat pedals, especially as you'll be doing it more frequently than you would during summer.
Ditch the front derailleur. You'll find a lot of people talking about parts freezing during winter. One of the parts that does this more than other components is the front derailleur. It is easy to get a build-up of snow here that melts slightly and then freezes—causing you issues.
Ditching the front derailleur will make your fat bike look bang up to date but don't go for a 1x11 or 1x12 drivetrain. Get a cheaper and simpler 1x8 or 1x9. A correctly picked cassette and chainring will give you all the gearing options you need. The 1x8 or 1x9 will be less likely to jam with snow than the narrower spacing used in cassettes with more cogs.
Winter fat bike tires. You can get tires that are designed for winter. You'll find fat bike tires such as the 45NRTH Dillenger 5 and the Vee Tyre Co Snowshoe XL make riding across the white stuff much easier. Riding across snow is hard, so make it easier on yourself by using the correct fat bike tires, even if they are more expensive. You also don't want to buy secondhand ones as they may have tiny holes in them from having been ridden before, and as we said above, this could make setting them up tubeless more hassle.
3 Spoke Fat Bike Tire
Some things to know about riding a fat bike in winter
One of the things you'll hear about fat bikes is that you should ride cable disc brakes and not hydraulic disc brakes during winter as hydraulic fluid can freeze. I've ridden cable and hydraulic disc brakes during winter, and cable brakes have frozen for me, but I've not had that happen with hydraulic ones.
I will say that mineral oil hydraulic disc brakes, such as Shimano, can have their seals freeze on frigid rides. Pressing your brake will then bring you the usual amount of modulation that you're used to. If you press your brake on and off for around 15 to 20 seconds, the friction will cause heat to melt the ice, and your braking power will be restored. I like to make sure at the top of descent that my brakes have their full braking power.
Everything will be slower during winter. Summer seems to bring speed and winter the opposite but what it does tend to get is a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Be aware that you won't break any KOMs, but your soul will be much better after a winter ride.
Should I ride a hardtail or full suspension fat bike during winter?
Should you ride a hardtail or full suspension fat bike during winter comes down to how you ride. It is similar to would you ride downhill skis on a Nordic ski route? Hopefully, the answer there is that you wouldn't. How to think of your fat bikes is similar. A hardtail fat bike is XC skis. A full suspension fat bike is like downhill skis.
Hardtail fat bikes
Hardtail fat bikes come in two varieties. You get fully rigid fat bikes and fat bikes with a suspension fork. The suspension forked versions are the bridging ground between the XC version and the downhill version.
Rigid fat bikes are an excellent choice for those of us who want to on long winter adventures. With a rigid fork, your fat bike has become simpler, and as we said earlier, a simpler bike makes riding in winter safer. This is not the end of the story, though.
A suspension fork can make your fat bike faster on downhills and allow you to get away with mistakes you may make on icy and rutted terrain. You then have to ask yourself do you want a simpler bike, or do you want a more fun bike? You could always get a rigid fork and a suspension fork and change them out depending on the conditions and how you want to ride.
ICAN SN01 Fat Bike
Full suspension fat bikes
If you want to fly down snow-covered mountains leaving, leaving a wake of snowflakes trailing behind you, then you want a full suspension fat bike. A full suspension bike will help you get away with any mistakes you make at top speed, but it might not be the bike you want to take on marathon winter adventures. Flying through snowdrifts is great fun, so make sure this winter you get that big smile on your face.
You'll now have a grasp of how to get out and enjoy winter on your fat bike. It doesn't matter if you pick a hardtail or full suspension fat bike; make sure that the bike is working well and have enough clothing on, and you'll have the best winter ever.