winter 2019 update
When winter comes around in Ontario most of us fair weather riders put our bikes away. But Fatbikes (or is it Fat Bikes?) are a new design of mountain bike that enables riders keen on riding year round to get out of the spin classes and do real riding. This new trend evolves our bike sport to new possibilities and one day I see it in the winter Olympics.
These new bicycles are a hybrid of the MTB concept. The obvious difference you can see are the fat tires that help you “float” over loose, soft terrain, be it snow, sand or soggy soil to have an easier and more enjoyable ride.
What also has changed is one crank gear up front, fewer speeds to change and a lower gear ratio. These bikes are not made for speed as there is plenty of friction at work as the fat tires plow through the snow.
Fat bikes come with wide handlebars, disc brakes on a wide fork frame, but few have shocks. You just don’t need them on the soft stuff. Tires may have studs for ice and tire pressure is a low 10 psi or less.
With the fat soft tires and wide handlebar stance riders have firm control, and keep moving beyond what a typical MTB could handle. There is a limit naturally, traveling through a two feet of powder is going to be tough. Ice is more manageable but still treat with caution as any bike can slip from under you in a blink. (studs will help)
Keeping warm is an issue and requires a change in tactics. How to keep your feet, fingers and drinking water from freezing is a concern. You may opt for flat pedals and winter boots, or covers for riding shoes and your bar handles. Lots of accessories are coming out to fill this niche.
If you cross country ski you know all about the balance between staying warm but not sweating too much, as this moisture will chill you out eventually. One has to dress in layers and peel before overheating. Remember that the days are short and be certain not to get lost. That’s definitely more of a problem than in the summer.
So with that short intro where can you ride your Fat Bike in Ontario? The simple answer is everywhere you could with your summer bike. Well almost… there are exceptions to this new sport. As with anything new, some locations are a little fearful of the new and the unknown, so check before you go.
Many summer ride locations on this site’s map pages are cross country ski locations in the winter. Be sure you are welcome and give lots of space to skiers as you have better braking and turning then they do. And never ride over the ski tracks set in the snow, that’s just bad etiquette.
Most MTB, forest parks and rail trails on this site have easy routes to try. Also up north snowmobile trails are a possibility with hundreds of kilometers to ride if you find a quiet side loop. Use caution as these snow machines need as much respect as cars.
Check the Weather and Snow Depth
Where to Ride a Fatbike in the Winter:
My close to Toronto favourites – free, few hills, no crowds:
Whitchchurch – flat, easy, just north of Toronto
Long Sault – hilly, small fee north of Bowmanville
Eldred King – gentle grades, sandy too
Palgrave – north of Albion Hills and similar
Durham Forest – free, groomed loops!
Glen Major – beside Durham for more action
Northumberland – free, hills, large area north of Cobourg
Ottawa – river park trail
Kivi Park – Sudbury
Groomed with Trail Fees $
Albion Hills – Black Trail only
Hardwood – Barrie
Georgian – Parry Sound
Walden – Sudbury
Hiawatha – Sault Ste. Marie
Gatineau – Ottawa area
Where to Rent a Fat Bike:
Approximate full day bike rental rates below, some shops
do half day and hourly rentals. Also the price gets better if
you rent for additional days. Call ahead to be sure they got’m
Horseshoe – $38 for 2 hours
Hardwood – $46
Albion Hills – $50
Algonquin Outfitters – Huntsville $45
Parry Sound Bikes – $50
Liv Outside – in Bracebridge ~$42
Oxygen Bike Co. – Toronto $59
Trek Bicycle Store – London $70
And a quick review of the going price for a NEW Fat Bike $1000 to $6000+ with most in the $2000 range (still too high for a bike with no shocks and few gears, you might want to wait a few years…unless well you can’t)
Here are a few websites for more info:
Fat Bikes.ca – more on winter clothing
Now get out there and have some fun you crazy kids!