“You cannot ride a fat tire bike and not smile.” Rob Shellhamer, avid cyclist (pictured)
by Clay Sidenbender, RPM Contributor
It’s hard to imagine that 15 years ago, the fat tire bike wasn’t even on any rider’s radar. Possibly a concept dreamt up by a hard-core rider or all-terrain biking enthusiast, but the idea didn’t even cross the casual biker’s mind. Today, fat tire bikes are one of the most popular bikes on the market. What makes them so appealing to the cycling public?
Explained solely by its namesake, fat tire bikes are simply bikes with larger tires. The design of the bike is used as an all-terrain vehicle and it also makes the bike rider work harder during a ride. As Michiana local and cycling enthusiast, Robert Shellhamer, puts it, “It’s another bike that’s slower on hard surfaces.”
Kip Miller runs the fat tire bike program at Love Creek Nature Center in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He has also noticed the popularity of the bikes within his own community. “Fat tire bikes have become popular in the last five years or so,” he mentions during a phone call interview, “Before we had fat bike trails, people wanted to use the cross country ski trails for riding fat tire bikes which we didn’t want happening. That’s when we decided to make the fat tire bike trails.” Since the trails have been finished, Miller reports the nature center to be free from any problems and stays off of the cross country trails.
What time of the year are fat tire bikes extremely popular? “During the snowfall, fat bike riding is extremely popular,” Kip said, “Last year, we had 10 rental fat tire bikes and they were all being used during the day.” However, the bikes are not only popular during the winter. “You can ride the bikes year-round,” Rob said, “Bikers can now devote more time to training because they can ride in the winter as well.”
Certainly an opinion, but the overall majority concludes that fat tire bikes are just plain fun. “You cannot ride a fat tire bike and not smile,” Rob said, “It reminds you of your childhood when you first rode a bike.” Kip said.
“Fat tire bikes are just one more way to enjoy the outdoors and get people outside.”
Clay Sidenbender is a student at IUSB.
Fat Tire 101—The winter sport that burns 1,500 calories per hour
Here’s a few fat-tire tips gleaned from a Men’s Health article by CRISTINA GOYANES November 26, 2014.
Don’t dress for the conditions
Wear clothing appropriate for temperatures 10 to 15 degrees warmer. In a sport that burns up to 1,500 calories per hour, sweaty clothing can set the stage for hypothermia. Dress in layers and skip moisture-retaining cotton. Wool or synthetic fleece with wick it away.
Start off with platform pedals.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned cyclist—if you are new to snow biking, you’re going to be putting your foot down . . . a lot. Start out with non-clip pedals and winter boots, you can always upgrade later.
Reduce Your Tire Pressure
To find the sweet spot between
traction and flotation, go between 4 and 5 psi when in snow conditions. Increase the pressure to 8 to 10 psi to maximize control on non-snowy, harder ground.
Stay in the Saddle
Avoid the temptation to stand up while pedaling uphill. When you stand up you transfer weight off the back wheel which weakens rear-wheel traction. Thus, tire spin and loss of momentum occur. Instead, stay in the saddle. As the hill get steeper, shift into progressively lower gears. Though you sacrifice speed, you maintain leverage and traction to climb the hill.