Fatbikes love winter
While it continues to hose down (day 3 and counting – not the usual Wanaka weather!), up high that’s sure to be snow. And yes, I know it’s MAY… and snow in May never stays. But what does snow make you think of? Fatbikes of course! Well that’s what it makes me think of anyway…
Last winter we had a blast riding up some big long New Zealand alpine valleys, bikepacking bags stuffed to the hilt with warmies, fine foods and hip flasks. We cruised over boulder fields coated in the white stuff, buoyed up by 4 inch fat tyres, putting in fresh tracks all the way to the door of Godley Hut.
Snow Farm NZ
Fatbikes are a big deal in North America and Europe, and many skifields there now have as many fatbikes on the cross-country trails as skiers. Last year we sent our small hire fleet of Surly Pugsleys up to the Snow Farm above Cardrona, to be ridden on their extensive groomed trail network – it was the first, and still is the only place in NZ where you can do this.
Nick from Activexposure put together this great little video for us last winter (before Snow Farm opened, hence the lack of groomed trails!), but it will give you a taster.
Riding on snow is a totally unique experience. When it’s cold the riding is firm and fast, and the extensive groomed trails at Snow Farm provide gradients to suit any rider – total beginner through to the experienced trail demon. Snow Farm also has several backcountry huts, well set up for an adventurous overnight fatbike mission with a cosy bed at the end of it. Snow Farm can even shuttle your gear to the hut so you can ride unhindered. Later in the season you can even trek all the way out to Kirtle Burn Hut (DOC) and way beyond onto the tops of the Pisa Range. If you have your own bike, it’s a great winter bikepacking mission, with amazing views!
We’ll be up there again this year, so come up and give it a go!
The bike, the bike, the bike!
Most true fatbikes will be all ready to go for winter, as long as they have at least 3.8″ wide tyres. Fatbike tyres go all the way up to 11, um, I mean 5 inches, and bigger tyres work like wider skis – you’ll have more ‘float’ over the terrain, and be less likely to punch through. The huge 5″ tyres and wheels do ride slightly differently – the footprint is massive, however the mass of the wheel gives a gyroscopic effect, so require a bit more rider input to steer where you want to go, so they are best kept for snow and sand.
Tyre pressure is an important factor of winter riding. Anywhere from as low as 4 PSI up to a maximum of about 12 is a guideline, but you need to tune your pressure to the conditions on the day for the best riding experience. Experiment, and see what works for you. Running your tyres at too high a pressure can damage groomed trails, and should be avoided if riding up at Snow Farm.
If it’s cold, hands and feet can suffer, which can turn a great trip into a trial. You’re not racing, so wide platform pedals are your friend here – they work great with snow boots. SPD pedals do make for more efficient pedalling, but they require less than toasty SPD shoes – cold is transferred through the metal cleats, and walking in snow quickly results in iced up cleats that don’t want to engage with your pedals any more. Go flat – you’ll be happier!
Operating under bar click shifters wearing big mitts is doable, but can be awkward. Old school thumbies, as found on our hire bikes, are easy to operate wearing the most gargantuan of gloves. If it’s really frigid, pogies (warm mitts that stay attached to your handlebars that you slip your hands into) are fantastic, and you can just wear light gloves inside them.
So, get yourself a fatbike and get amongst it (if you haven’t already)!
If you haven’t ridden one before, be prepared for a revelation. You can ride almost anywhere, and iron out terrain that would have your 29er bucking like an angry mule. Far from being a winter only phenomenon, fatbikes are just hugely capable allrounders that will bring you back to the joy of your first mountain bike experience. Yep, that good.
Find out more information on our fatbike page.
Bring on the snow – see you on the hill!