Fat Biking in the Columbia Valley

If you love eating up the hundreds of Columbia Valley backcountry trails with your mountain bike every summer, you can now add fat biking to your list of reasons why you love the valley just as much in the wintertime. If you’ve never heard the term ‘fat biking’, you will before long because the sport is rapidly catching up to skiing and snowboarding on the list of favorite things to do when the snow flies.

You’ve likely found out by experience that the bike you have and love just won’t perform in the snow, ice and slush the way you’d like so you put it away each fall after one last ride before the first snowfall. And before the last snow is shoveled off the driveway, you pull it out of storage and lovingly prepare it for the first sign of spring.

What would a bike need to have in order to make it on your favorite trails in winter? Well, it would need some sort of flotation and traction, among other things. Only a few short years ago, back in 2005, a particularly brilliant mind in Alaska came up with the idea to make a bike that could be ridden through the toughest winter conditions. And so the sport of fat biking was born.

If you’ve never been fat biking before, you will likely feel a bit embarrassed the first time you try it. It might remind you of that banana-seat bike you were so absurdly proud of back in the 70’s, with its balloon tires. The fat bike differs a bit, though, because when you get on it for the first time, you could swear that the tires needed a whole lot more air. That is, until you hit some packed snow and you realize that it’s supposed to be that way.

Some claim that a whole different law of physics comes into play with fat bikes. Not gripping the ground like your summer bike, the fat bike just seems to float along on top of the snow. A really strange feeling at first.

The ideal fat biking trail is groomed or at least packed but for different conditions, you can just change the tire pressure. Now if you could also change the wheels for the summer season …. well who knows, someone may have already had the idea.

Fat biking has become a popular sport in countries around the globe where winter and snow are synonymous. In Europe, the US and Canada, there are fat bike meets and major championship events everywhere, it seems. Right at home here in the Columbia Valley, Panorama, Kimberley, Fernie and Kicking Horse ski resorts have set up bike rentals and offer instruction and guided tours. One of the reasons for its popularity is that with its wide tires that handle any snow conditions, even a beginner can do it. So families are quickly hopping on their fat bikes to enjoy the winter like never before.

What do you wear when fat biking? You will need very different gear from snowmobiling, for instance. One Brit who was used to braving the elements in his home country is quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

Since you will want to be prepared for every condition you could possibly meet on your fat biking adventure, you will most likely need waterproof shoes, waterproof socks, waterproof shorts, a warm layer or two for under the waterproof jacket, vest, neckband and headband, ski goggles and gloves with insulated backs.

The Columbia Valley has not only enough trails to try out but spectacular scenery no matter where you go and crisp fresh mountain air to fill your lungs. Try fat biking for yourself and make lots of new wintertime memories with your family.

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