It’s winter, but you don’t want to stop riding your bike. It’s how you get exercise, how you get to work and how you do everything — shopping, going to the bar, visiting your friends. You know you can bundle up just like you do for winter hiking and you’ll be fine.
But will your bike? Your big concern is that you will lose control when the snow and ice coat the roads. You don’t want to slide through a stop sign or spin out on a turn and skid into traffic.
The solution may be simple: Get a fat bike.
What is it?
If you have never seen one in action before, a fat bike isn’t actually any fatter itself. The frame is very similar to a mountain bike frame. It’s just the tires that are oversized, like extra fat mountain bike tires. They’re often around four inches wide. If you’re used to a traditional road bike, they’re huge.
Why does it help?
It’s really just an advancement of the mountain bike mentality: Wide tires increase the surface area and give you better traction. For mountain bikes, they ride well on dirt and rocks. With fat bikes, you feel a lot more stable on sand or snow. These bikes pad a path through thick, loose material. You stay upright and cut through without losing an edge or getting stuck in a rut.
Another thing to consider is PSI, or the air pressure in your tires. Some people ride their fat bikes with the PSI all the way down at 5, giving them a soft surface for ultimate traction. You’d worry about wrecking your rims on a trail doing that, but smooth road riding in the snow is no big deal. Even if you feel like 5 is still too low, you can drop to 8 or 10 and get great traction all winter.
Can you ride them on the road?
You can. Be warned: It’s harder, physically speaking, than riding a road bike. You’re not nearly as fast. You really have to work for every mile. Again, think about taking a mountain bike on the road. It’s more work and the bike feels sluggish.
This is winter riding, though. You’re not out there to set any time records. You just want a stable, safe means of transportation. That’s what you get. It’s also a fun way to extend your riding season and get exercise even after the weather turns.
Are you safe?
Fat bikes can help you avoid crashing, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe. Just like in the summer, drivers can make mistakes and cause accidents. If you get injured in a wreck, make sure you know what legal options you have.