How To: Fat Bike Like A Pro


Inspired by Global Cycling Network’s wildly entertaining and informative series, here’s a few tips on how to fat bike like obese-tired professional. 

Fat biking now as many, if not more, races on the calendar as road events in Michigan. Between series in Grand Rapids and Traverse City alone, you could race nearly every weekend from now until Barry-Roubaix. It’s no surprise then that some fast dudes and dudettes have raised the proverbial bar on the scene. kolo t.c. has collected some borderline obvious but also practical tips on how to be casually awesome on wide tires. Most of these are probably old hat, but for those just getting into the game, could shorten the learning curve.

Check Your Tire Pressure. At last year’s Fat Bike World Championships, Einstein Racing put a whole slew of guys in the top five. Sure, they had some pretty quick racers, including the freakishly-fast Ryan “Mr. President” Kennedy, Chris Kushman and winner Jorden Wakeley. But the other half of the success was simply knowing where to run their tires. They were in the 3-4psi range, while much of the field was over 5. Doesn’t seem like much, but tire pressure is the whole game. Check your tires to make sure you can push the tire down in the center with one finger. Investing in a digital gauge is handy, as most floor pumps won’t read accurately under 10 or 15psi. Lower tire pressure gives more traction and stability. It also helps keep trails in good shape, and you go faster.

Two Rings To Rule Them All. For most riders, keeping the stock 2x setup is still going to be ideal. Some riders in flatter areas can get away with running something like a 30t or 32t in the winter, but with conditions and hills dictating affairs, having that 22t is pretty handy for the majority of riders. Some notable exceptions include Jorden Wakeley and Nate St. Onge, though Nate has the ‘manual shift’ option: he doesn’t have a front derailleur, but runs two narrow-wide chainrings so he can use the smaller, 32t when he is breaking trail on the singletrack, with a 36t for normal riding and racing.

Hydrate. While much of the allure of fat biking comes in fermented form post-ride, don’t forget to put some thought into keeping yourself hydrated during the ride. In colder conditions, bottles, even insulated ones, will freeze relatively quickly. If you’re using a normal bottle, try putting in half hot water and half brewed tea. It takes just a bit longer to freeze, and if you’re going for a ride shorter than an hour and a half, you should have the liquid to get you home, especially if you can keep your bottle in a back pocket. If you’re out longer, it’s tough to beat a CamelBak set up. Even if you don’t have the thermal sleeve, you can usually wear the pack under your jacket, with the tube under your collar. Blow the water back through the tube when you’re done, and you’ll have water to spare, even in very cold conditions.

Hands and Feet. If these are warm, you’ll be warm. When all else fails, it’s tough to beat Bar Mitts, Pogies or the 45nrth Cobrafist, if you can get your hands on them. (Get it?) Boots like the Lakes, 45nrth Wolvhammers and Fasterkaats are great, but if you can’t swing them, don’t fret. Use your normal shoe and a thermal shoe cover. If it’s really cold out, put a bread bag in as a liner. It’ll stop any wind coming through, plus help retain heat. If you’re really worried, toss some duct tape over the vents of your mountain bike shoes as well, just don’t let John Leach see you.

Bring It All. For long rides, bringing spare gloves, another hat, jacket or vest, can make the final miles that bit more comfortable. Especially when you hike-a-bike, sweating cools and can bring your body temperature down quickly once you’re stopped for a while. Toss the extras in a backpack that fits well, or put a frame bag on to keep the load on your bike, and not on you.

Watch Your Stems. The number one cause of flats on a fat bike is YOU. When adjusting air pressure, always double-check that you’ve tightened the valve fully. Most flats don’t come from pinches or punctures, but from forgetting to close the valve tightly. Air pressure in the tire helps to close the valve on your mountain or road bike, but when running 3-4psi, there isn’t enough to close it. You can leak air slowly until you’re on the rim. It’s also smart to toss in a surplus of C02s, as using your frame pump on a flat could take you a long, long time. Bring a tube, just in case, and if you’re riding with a pal, it’s always a good idea to bring enough to set them up in case of a flat as well.

Helmet. Wear one. Even if you’re ‘just going slow’, it doesn’t take much to crack your dome like an egg for an omelette. To keep your ears warm, just wear a thin running cap or a cycling cap with ear flaps, like the 45nrth Greazy Cap. And if you’re still a person worried about looking stupid, remember, having your brains spewed over some icy sidewalk or tree looks totally lame.

Beer. An absolute fixture. Bring some for afterwards, though many fat bikers choose to imbibe on easier rides as well. Some popular favorites for your flask include the Walston special, Maple Crown Royal, or the favorite of Nate St. Onge, Fireball. Drink responsibly, carefully, and always pass around the flask when your ride regroups. That’s just basic social niceness.

Any tips you’d add?

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