The Sami, the legendary reindeer herders who reside within the northernmost areas of Russia, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, have 180 phrases for snow and ice. That may be mentioned for cyclists who journey by means of the winter months in any northern local weather. Due to seasonal adjustments in mild, temperature, and precipitation, compounded by the growing irregularities of local weather change, it’s virtually assured that no two days of biking within the winter would be the similar. That’s the place a fats bike can save a bicycle owner’s soul.
Some might imagine that driving a motorbike within the winter sounds just like the worst potential form of teeth-shattering hell. It’s true that to have a enjoyable, protected journey there’s strategizing concerned: What sort of layering works for single-digit temps? Studded or non-studded tires? Do my lights work? Will I kill myself driving on icy roads or sidewalks to get to the trailhead? Greater than summer time driving, it’s important to dial a journey in forward of time as a result of the implications of a mechanical failure, like hypothermia or frostbite, are excessive.
However there’s additionally one thing profoundly meditative about driving within the winter, floating throughout a silent, monochromatic panorama. It’s a time to throw out the incessant Strava objectives and as an alternative benefit from the fleeting magic of winter. Experience on into the night time, which arrives at about 4:45 pm the place I reside, and the survival-of-the-fittest Jack London vibe is exponentially amplified.
Within the lengthy trajectory of biking historical past, fats bikes are comparatively new: In 1980 a Frenchman named Jean Naude had the good concept to run low-pressure Michelin tires to pedal greater than 800 miles throughout the Sahara desert. In 1986 he added a 3rd wheel and pedaled virtually 2,000 miles from Algiers to Timbuktu. On the similar time, cyclists in Alaska have been welding rims collectively to create a wider floor on which to journey the Iditabike, the 200-mile undergo fest that follows snowmobile and canine mushing routes. In the meantime, a man in New Mexico named Ray Molina was constructing 82-mm rims with 3.5-inch tires to journey dunes and arroyos. The tinkering went mainstream in 2005 when Minnesota bike producer Surly created the Pugsley, with its 65-mm Massive Marge Rim and 3.7-inch Endomorph tire, which made fats biking obtainable to the plenty.
Fats bikes was synonymous with “slow,” and which will have been true with the earliest behemoth metal frames. Pedaling them by means of bottomless white fluff was a grindingly brutal exercise. However instances have modified. Manufacturers like Salsa, Fatback, Specialized, Trek, and Rocky Mountain proceed to evolve with more and more lighter builds, ever-widening tires to deal with much more excessive situations, and standardized elements like dropper seat posts.
In January, Rad Energy Bikes’ debuted its new e-powered Rad Rover, and in September, REI Co-Op Cycles got here out with its first ever fat bike, a inflexible aluminum body with 26-inch wheels. Right now’s highest-end fatties are lighter than many mountain bikes. A dimension medium 2021 Salsa Beargrease Carbon XO1 Eagle, with its carbon body, rims, and bars, weighs in at 27 kilos.
Because the snow started to fly on October 15 in northern Minnesota, I’ve been driving the 2021 Salsa Beargrease Carbon SLX. It’s the identical bike because the XO1 Eagle, minus a number of carbon elements and with a barely lower-end drive practice. Of Salsa’s three fats bike fashions (the Beargrease, Mukluk, and Blackborow), the Beargrease is designed for going quick, because of its progressive form, its means to deal with a number of rim sizes and tire widths for various race situations, and its plethora of attachment factors to lash on further gear, meals, and elements for long-haul races just like the notoriously difficult Arrowhead 135.