Bikes for supreme (winter) fun


Usually, on a day like the one captured above, I would be strapping on my x-country skis. My love for x-country skiing notwithstanding, pulling out a fat bike is simpler, quicker, every bit as much or a workout. And that was just an hour or two in the urban forest preserve. Unlike skis, a fat bike can carry you just about anywhere.


Those of us who engage in "bicycle commuting" sometimes need reminding that biking is about fun. Sure, we preach fun, but in our routine daily travels, we often ride grim-faced, with our jaws set as we battle traffic, weather, and laws and practices that can seem quite unfair when all we want to do is simply engage in healthy, economical and sustainable transportation.

On the one hand, all of the above practical concerns seem simply irrelevant on something as all-out fun as a fat bike. On the other hand, fat bikes are supremely practical for winter commuting. Who cares if the street hasn't been plowed? Let's go get groceries! Is it better to ride in the street, or over the neighbor's lawn covered in 6" of snow? I dunno, let's find out! I forgot my helmet! Oh, well... What if I fall? Not likely. The traction is great. And if I do, the snow is soft and fluffy.

With any accumulation of snow on the ground, there is no more practical and safer bike than a fat bike. It's a little harder to install racks for carrying stuff, but with a backpack, it's definitely possible to fetch basic necessities when other vehicles are stuck in a snowdrift.


Are fat bikes just a crazy fad? Maybe. But it's a fad that's taken people's imagination by storm, and -- because of fat bikes' go-anywhere personality -- they have been largely responsible for exploding interest in bike adventures and bikepacking. Just this year alone, using fairly low-end, inexpensive fat bikes (<$1000), we've done snow biking, ice biking, winter beach biking, mountain biking, puddle biking, trail-less explorations and bikepacking.


If there is one problem I have with fat bikes, it's how overwhelmingly male all their marketing is. As a woman of a certain age, and not a particularly daring one, what I love about the fat bikes it that they enable me to try things I would never dream of on an ordinary bike. For all their wild appearance, they are solid, sure-footed and dependable. Once you realize this, you get the feeling of being in control enough to let yourself get out of it, marveling at what you are brave enough to do, and reveling in those new abilities.

Try it. You'll like it.