Fat Biking 101

As I write this article there is snow softly falling on our mountain bike trails. The beloved Swine Flu, the epic Hypervent/Hyperextension loop and my favourite Red Sonja will soon be gone - erased by up to 10 metres of whiteness! Should this ‘legendary powder’ spell the end of your riding season? Well, it shouldn’t.

We’ve been fat biking in Fernie for many years. Our Fernie fat biking community has gotten bigger and more organized with each year. We went from floundering on precarious single track to riding side by side on groomed trails. Our volunteers are the heart of this community and continue to go out and groom trails for all users in the middle of the night! Fat biking is a great outside workout which keeps that spin alive all year long. Slow, methodical and peaceful are just a few of the words that come to mind when riding through the quiet forest. Sure, I wouldn’t miss skiing Skydive or Snake Ridge on days when the avalanche guns ‘boom.’ But on those other days when the snow is a little ‘meh’ or I am pressed for time I am spinning those ridiculously large tires up a trail. Ride on.

Fat Biking Essentials

1. Obviously, a fat bike. Rent or borrow one first. Rentals are available in multiple places in the valley. Straight Line, Gear Hub, Guides Hut, Ski / Bike Base and Quest Fall Line Sports up at Fernie Alpine Resort can hook you up.
2. Helmet and eyewear. Wear a bike helmet with a lightweight toque or beanie. A buff is a good option in case it gets cold. For me, sunglasses work well but some friends wear goggles for the descent.
3. Layers, layers, layers! Merino wool is the best as it wicks the moisture away from your skin and can be worn several times before it needs to be washed. Try a merino layer with a 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 of the ride, 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. Overdressing is bad.
4. Footwear and pedals. I have been using 45North boots for a couple of seasons. They are the bomb and my feet haven’t been cold since. Prior to this I wore merino socks, Shimano shoes and a Pearl Izumi overshoe on top. An alternative option is to use flat pedals and a wear a pair of winter boots. One big thing that has come around recently is heated socks and by golly… they are amazing.  
5. Hands. Bar Mitts are so toasty that I have taken off my summer bike gloves while riding in the winter. I personally think they are a must for winter riding. Those 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. Critical mass dictates where the riding will be good. More riders and people with snowshoes mean that the trails get packed down, resulting in better riding!
2. Check your local bike shop for information on the best fat biking trails this winter.
3. Trailforks is a great resource to use in the summer and winter. Riders post conditions after the ride and can leave comments if the trail is good to go.
4. 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 they are all involved with the sport.
5. 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 photos.
6. In past, loops have been groomed at Fernie Alpine Resort, Montane, Ridgemont, Phat Bastard/Red Sonja, the City Loop… and as this guide goes to press, additional loops and trail maps are in the works!

Stay up to date at ferniefix.com and tourismfernie.com.

Above all else, get out and have fun. Remember, trails are multi-use and include snowshoers and trail runners. And less the ski hill, there is absolutely no fat biking on Nordic trails. 

Troy Nixon is an avid mountain biker, event organizer and the Chair of the Fernie Mountain Bike Club. bikefernie.ca 

Photo by Vince Mo