winter 2020 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 is the fat tires that help you “float” over loose, soft terrain, be it snow, sand or soggy soil. A base on regular MTB tires 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 half a metre of powder is going to be tough. Ice is more manageable but still treat with caution as any rubber bike tire can slip from under you in a blink.
Metal studded tires come to the rescue giving a rider a firm tread on maneuvering precarious icy patches.
In a way riding on snow would give you a soft landing when a fall comes. Still wear a helmet over a thin toque cause those trees are not moving.
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.
Many summer ride locations on this site’s map pages are Nordic 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 kilometres to ride if you find a quiet side loop. Use caution as these snow machines need as much respect as cars.
Below is a list of links to get you on your way. Rent first then buy into it later.
Where to Ride a Fatbike in the Winter:
First try my Fatbike Tag on this site for ideas…
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
Farther away from Toronto
Northumberland – free, hills, large area north of Cobourg
Dufferin Forest – south of Collingwood
Hydrocut – Waterloo
Guelph Lake – Guelph
The Pines – Woodstock
Turkey Point – on Lake Erie, snow depth could be low
Ottawa – river park trail
Larose Forest – south of Ottawa
Kivi Park – Sudbury
Torrance Barrens – Bala
BRMC – Bracebridge
Shuniah Mines – Thunderbay
+ Groomed with Trail Fees $
Why would you pay when you can ride for free? Well, few times the snow base is ideal for Fatbike riding. There may be too much snow and you are getting nowhere fast burning up energy. Or it could be icy and lumpy, no fun either.
A groomed path sets up the snow base to roll easier with better traction. Climbing and zipping down winding tracks become manageable and fun too. Plus even your regular MTB with not so fat tires can take on these trails.
Albion Hills – Black Trail only
Hardwood – Barrie lots to ride
Highlands Nordic – Collingwood – New
Georgian – Parry Sound
Walden – Sudbury
Hiawatha – Sault Ste. Marie
Gatineau – Ottawa area
LivOutside – Bracebridge, bike park
Rail Trails – And then there are many Rail Trails in Ontario that one could Fatbike on. Granted they flat and straight, but if you want to put in some mileage they go on forever.
Most Rail Trails allow snowmobiles on parts of or the full length of the route. Some are popular snowmobile highways and likely not a good experience (or safe). Lesser traveled routes may be found and other Rail Trails, where sleds are banned, you will have no one but only the odd Nordic skier or hiker in sight.
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 have them as some locations have very few.
Horseshoe – $38 for 2 hours
Hardwood – $ 50
Albion Hills – $56 (8 bikes, different sizes) no reservations
Algonquin Outfitters – Huntsville $45
Parry Sound Bikes – $50
Try Sports – Parry Sound $48
Liv Outside – in Bracebridge ~$42
Oxygen Bike Co. – Toronto $ 75
Kamikaze Bikes – Collingwood $50
Friday Harbour – Lake Simcoe $25 for 2 hours
Adventure 360 – Sudbury $65
velorution – Sault Ste. Maire $50