BEING FAT – A BLOG SERIES ON FAT BIKING PART 2: DRESSING FOR COMFORT AND FUN!

January 13th, 2018

This post was originally published at boulder.sacredrides.com

Fat bikes originated in chilly Alaska (see our previous blog at https://tinyurl.com/y85xze3n), and were adopted quickly in other locations with long, cold, snowy winters like the Midwest. Mountain biking became a 12-month sport for these early adopters! But preparing to tackle the trails and chilly weather on these fat-tired beasts takes some knowledge and preparation – and we’re here to help!

 

fat biking snow

 Photo: BikeRadar

CLOTHING:

It is just as easy to overheat, sweat, and suffer hypothermia when riding in the cold as it is to under-dress and be miserable.  Staying dry and warm is key in the winter months, and the extra energy one uses to push through the snow becomes an enemy of staying warm! Therefore, you must become a master of layering and carry a pack to store those layers. Keeping the core cool on the climbs so you’re not soaking wet with sweat for the descents, while keeping your tootsies/fingers/ears warm, is both an art and a science.

 

Although we’re seeing some bike companies offering fat-bike specific apparel (45NRTH and others), chances are if you live in a place with a true winter, you already have the gear. You just need to think more ‘SKI’ rather than ‘BIKE’! In Boulder, CO, we usually dive into our Nordic ski gear for fat biking. Here’s what we wear:

 

 

Photo: trailsource.com

 

TOP: Wool base layer, fleece cycling jersey, puffy coat to be put on at the top of climbs before descending or when trail-side repairs or shots of bourbon commence), waterproof/windproof jacket with hood, buff around neck that can be pulled up over face

 

BOTTOM: wool base-layer tights, waterproof/windproof pants, gaiters (you likely will be getting off your bike and post-holing into deep snow)

 

FEET: thick insulated socks, chemical toe warmers, well-insulated waterproof hiking boots if flat pedals or winter insulated cycling shoes if clipped in (more on that in our next post!)

 

HANDS: thin liner gloves, heavy mountaineering gloves, Pogies which are insulated covers for your hands that attach to the handlebars

 

HEAD: buff ear band, thin cycling hat, cycling helmet, or snowboard helmet with snow goggles (which provide a lot of protection and keep the face and head warmer)

 

DEFROSTING: Unfortunately, you will learn the stages of defrosting: that searing pain, deep aching, pins-and-needles and multi-colored experience you feel when those frozen fingers and toes thaw out. Time to get tough…it will only last a few minutes, I promise!

 

 Photo: Lester Binegar

PACK:

Even with the best gear, you’ll find yourself mid-ride with numb toes, a shivering spine, and a wet head before a descent. This is the reason to keep an extra jacket, hat, base layer and chemical toe warmers in your pack.  Bring a few other essentials for safety as well: a lighter or fire-starter, space blanket, map, compass, pocket knife, and a light. Your smartphone will also lose battery quickly in the cold, so store it close to your body in a plastic baggie to avoid sweat, and consider bringing a recharger if you’re relying on it for trailfinding. Oh, and a flask of your favorite bourbon (!)  

 

 

Photo: Lauren Costantini - don't laugh at my girly flask! 

 

Although using your regular hydration backpack to store your gear is totally reasonable, it does lend itself to a bit more sweating on the climbs, and thus some chills on the descents. Frame packs have become more popular and can hold much more gear. They’re also easier to get into mid-ride – just reach down between your legs, unzip the pack, and shazam – your jacket is right there!

 

Photo: BikeRadar 

HYDRATION:

Fat biking is hard (but fun!) work, and although you may not get as thirsty as during your singletrack rides in July, you do need to hydrate as much (if not more).

 

Protecting your water from freezing is an important challenge when fat biking during freezing temperatures. Skip the camelback bladder system as the hose will freeze, leaving you sucking and slurping to no avail! Use insulated bottles – I fill mine with warm water or tea with honey for a little extra energy.  Some riders add electrolytes, alcohol (Hot Toddy, anyone?!), and other ingredients to change the freezing point of the water.

 

If you do ride with a regular hydration pack, fill it with warm water, tuck the bite valve into your jacket, and be sure to blow the water in the tube back into the bladder. Neoprene hose sleeves are out there, but they won’t really prevent the water from freezing.

 

Follow these tips and you’re be smiling and laughing all the way through the snow!

Come back for our next blog in our BEING FAT – A blog series on Fat Biking when we explore the bikes and the trails in Part 3, and fat bike fitness in Part 4!

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