Just when every cyclist on the Front Range was settling into a good rhythym of riding without too many layers, we are brought back to reality with a good February snowstorm. Was your daily commute to work doomed, are you looking for an alternative bike to cover the snowy, hiker-packed trails, or just looking for a different bike to hit up the trails once the snow and mud are gone? Read More
Fatbikes, which are also known as snowbikes, are bikes made specifically to ride conditions that tradional mountain bikes can't tackle. They are built around "fat" tires of 3.7 - 4.7 inches mounted on 65 - 100 millimeter wide rims. The large profile and wide tire contact patch allow for riders to float through snow and other difficult conditions. The design was originally built to handle riding in snow, but over the last couple years fatbikes have become designed to perform in snow, mud, sand, rocks, and swamps.
There were small builders who originally started building bikes designed for snow, such as Wildfire. In 2005, Minnesota-based Surly created a bigger niche and put the fatbike design to production and created the Pugsley. It was an inexpensive, durable bike that held up well during long, cold adventure rides. Surly and it's sister company, Salsa, have released several versions since 2005. The newer models have been engineered to handle year round riding. As a result, cyclists have discovered a whole new world on a bike. Ben Welnak, an owner of Colorado-based Twenty2 Cycles (, says that "It's more of a mindset. You can't expect to ride like you are used to. Don't expect to crank out intervals and fastest segments on Strava. It's more about the fun factor than the race factor."
The change in mindset has caught on quickly during the last two years and many other companies, throughout the US, have emerged with fatbikes. Three Colorado-based companies produce their own versions of fatbike. Twenty2 Cycles, based in the Vail Valley, produces titanium and steel fatbikes they call the "Bully." Moots, of Steamboat Springs, offered a limited supply of its titanium "FROSTi." Black Sheep Bikes of Fort Collins, produces their own titanium version, as well as 9:ZERO:7's titanium fatbike. Other reputable brands include the two Alaskan companies, Fatback and 9:ZERO:7.
The number of fatbike races has exploded this winter. The Iditabike in Alaska is still considered the big race. Racers follow the Iditarod Trail from Anchorage to McGrath for 350 miles and some even travel to Nome for the full 1,000 miles. The Arrowhead 135, which was this past Monday in International Falls, Minnesota, has become a very popular race. Several shorter races are popping up in snowy states around the country as well. Twenty2 Cycles has compiled a comprehensive 2012 fatbike race calendar. Locally, the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series has seen increased interest this year. They added a new race at Copper Mountain that was a huge success.
If you haven't ridden on the big tires, today is the perfect day to try!