Snow Bikers: Fat Tires Not Fat Heads

Photo By Raven Eye Photography

“Winter is for skiing! Spring, summer and fall are for biking.” My black and white mantra persisted until I got my first taste of riding King Kong tires three years ago. A friend was kind enough to lend me his fat bike for a group ride, and so I raced home to face my first dilemma: what to wear? After some indecision, I showed up for our group ride ready to get on a chairlift, not to ride a bicycle up into Ridgemont. Our contingent was five strong and we rode single file sweating (some more than others), laughing and doing slow motion falls in the most benign places. I say slow motion because you really don’t go very fast when you are on a fat bike. When riding a bike with oversized tires in the snow, the sweet spot is the hard-pack, which is machine-groomed, snow-shoed or previously ridden. If you leave that groomed area you end up planting that big tire in some deep snow which results in a f-a-a-a-l-l-l and usually some laughter.

I realized after my first ride that ski clothing is not bike clothing. I was incredibly sweaty and as a result instantly freezing and ready for a long soak in a hot tub after the ride home. But man, was it fun and I was hooked. I mean really, why wouldn’t a guy who loves to ride his mountain bike not enjoy riding in the winter? It’s beautiful, quiet and super fun. Obviously, powder days mean skiing but mediocre snow days are bike days now. It was a natural extension, an evolution, it made me healthier, kept my legs spinning and plus I got to go bike shopping… again. 

The following season, my wife and I shared a fat bike, which probably wasn’t the best idea as it was a little too big for her and a little too small for me. My buddies said I looked like a circus bear on a bike.  This was a temporary solution that worked for both of us, as great rides ensued that season. In 2015, much to the chagrin of my bulging garage, a new fat bike found a place under our roof.

Fat biking has turned my black and white attitude grey. It supplements my other winter sports and keeps me happily spinning my wheels all year long. Whether you are here for a weekend or a season,  give it a whirl! What’s the worst thing that can happen… you have to go bike shopping?

What You Need

  1. A fat bike. Rentals are available in multiple places in the valley and if you want to purchase a two-wheeled monster truck you can do so at Straight Line, Gear Hub, Guides Hut and Ski & Bike base. Remember, there is no PST on bikes.   
  2. Helmet and eyewear. I wear my bike helmet with a lightweight toque (beanie). For my face I will wear a buff as a “just in case it gets crazy cold” layer. For me, sunglasses work well but some friends wear goggles for the ride down.
  3. Layers of clothing (not ski clothing). Merino wool is the best as it wicks the moisture away from your skin and can be worn several times before it starts to really smell. A merino layer with a fashionable bike jersey (for the pockets) over top and then a shell that can cut the wind for the ride down. The ride down is the coldest part, as you are now a little sweaty so this is where an outer layer truly comes in handy. “Less is more” means dress for ten degrees warmer than it truly is.   
  4. Footwear and pedals. Some experts say to go with flat pedals before progressing to clipless. I wear my Shimano shoes with a pair of merino wool socks and a Pearl Izumi overshoe and have had very warm toes. Other friends wear flat pedals and a big pair of boots. My wife wears hotshots in her shoes when snow biking.
  5. Hands. My Bar Mitts are so toasty that I have taken off my summer bike gloves while riding in the winter. Personally, they are a must if you plan to winter ride. Some friends who dislike the Bar Mitts because of reduced mobility go for lobster mitts and seem to have great success in keeping their hands warm.   

Where To Ride

  1. The 2015/2016 season is going to be the best ever as the Fernie Mountain Bike Club (FMBC) has a couple of groomers and there is significant traffic from the increased popularity. Ian Shopland from Straight Line says, “We used to have to wait multiple days after a significant snow storm to ride the trails. Now with the all the traffic and groomers we can pretty much ride any day.”  
  2. Ridgemont & Montane. Cemetery Bypass, Kiddy Up, Queen V, Eco-terrorist, Deadfall, Eric’s and Sidewinder, and the Montane Trail area.
  3. Fernie Provincial Park.  Gorby, Old Goat, Old Stumpy.
  4. Mount Proctor.  Swine Flu and Far Side.    
  5. Facebook has a public group called Fernie Fat Bike where people ask questions, give trail conditions and post about equipment etc. The group is quite responsive to queries as we are all very involved with the sport. 
  6. Strava is another tool that can be used effectively for winter biking. Members of the Fernie Mountain Bike Club have their own feed that you can follow and see rides, duration and even photos. 

Troy Nixon is a director of the Fernie Mountain Bike Club. For more information on this organization, please visit