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Fat Tire Bike Tips for Beginner Riders

It was only recently that I tried a fat tire bike. Three opportunities to ride in the mountains in winter presented themselves over eight days and I was game to try.

I’m hardly an expert now but I do feel these 10 fat tire bike tips will help anyone keen to try this growing sport for the first time. Although it takes more energy to ride a fat tire bike, let me assure you that it’s a whole lot of fun.

Fat tire biking in Kananaskis Country
Fat tire biking in Kananaskis Country

Fat tire bike tips for beginners

Choose your day

The weather will play a big role in your experience. If it’s too cold or windy, you’ll be miserable. And if it starts to snow hard, it’s akin to riding in sand – energy zapping and demoralizing.

What is the ideal fat bike trail?

The ideal trail is hard-packed snow. If it’s deep you’ll waste so much time just trying to peddle. Small patches of ice are okay – but treat any ice longer than the length of the bike with respect. Otherwise your bike will slide out from under you.

Choose the right difficulty of trail

Trails are rated for difficulty. Choose easy or moderate trails when you’re just starting out, especially if you have no mountain biking experience.

Start with short trails. You won’t be riding fast so you don’t cover nearly the distance you would on a mountain bike in the same time period. Tire pressure is much lower on a fat tire bike so it takes more work to cover the same distance.

Fat tire biking the Spray River loop 
Fat tire biking the Spray River loop

Fat tire bike tips – dress appropriately

Wear warm winter boots and gloves or mitts with enough dexterity so you can change gears. You still need to wear a helmet so a thin hat or a headband is a good idea.

A padded butt makes everything more comfortable

Many fat tire bike trails are rutted so if the ride isn’t smooth you’ll feel it in your arms and butt. Even though you must dress for winter, a padded short with leg warmers under an outer shell would certainly make the ride more comfortable.

Stay hydrated

Bring water or a drink to stay hydrated – in a thermos if it’s really cold so it doesn’t freeze. Take more than you think you’ll need.

Refuel 

Don’t forget energy bars and snacks. Between trying to stay warm (which shouldn’t be too much of a problem) and working hard on the bike you use a lot of calories. You don’t want to burn out far from the trailhead.

Is the fat bike you’re riding the right size?

Make sure the fat bike you are riding is properly sized to you. Carry an allen key if the seat doesn’t have a lever cam lock system. It’s more work for you if the seat is too low – and if you’re having a hard time reaching the pedals it can be dangerous.

Biking in Sandy Park in winter
Fat tire biking in a city in winter is a great way to get around

Fat tire bike tips – get into shape!

The better physical shape you’re in, the more enjoyable the fat tire biking experience will be. Some people lose their fitness routine in winter but you can join a gym to get you in shape. My daughter who joined me on one of the rides credits her twice a week fitness class for making the ride enjoyable.

Share the trail

Many fat tire trails are shared with cross-country skiers, hikers and snowshoers. Stay out of the ski tracks and be prepared to pull over for others. Chances are the further away from the trailhead you get, the fewer people you’ll run into.

Fat tire biking in winter is a lot of fun – even magical – when the weather and the trail conditions are right. You’ll enjoy it even more if you’ve dressed properly, maintained your fitness level and follow the fat tire bike tips.

Snow so deep we gad to walk our fat tire bikes in places - but stil one of the great things to do in Hokkaido in winter
Walking fat tire bikes is sometimes the only way to go when the snow is soft

Further reading on winter adventures

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

10 Tips for Beginner Fat Tire Bike Riders

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. I have owned a fatbike for about 10 years and before that had some mountain bikes that had 3″ tires on 44mm rims sandwiched in to them.
    My number one tip would be to let some air out any time you don’t have enough float.
    Also, I have a question. Last year the Kananaskis park rangers were ticketing fatbikers for riding on any trail that had trackset regardless of whether they were riding on the trackset or in the lane down the middle, has that policy changed? If so, it opens up a lot of potential back country adventures.

    1. @Doug Thanks for your tip re: the air in the tires. We had bikes from Kananaskis Outfitters and were encouraged to use the trails up and down Ribbon Creek (one part has signage for fat bikes this year) and were told to make our way to Troll Falls via the Skogan Pass trails so this part of Kananaskis is okay. The West Bragg Creek Trails are fair game but not sure about other parts so you better check with a ranger ahead of time.Thanks for your great comment.

      1. Thanks for the info. I am really hoping they allow access over Elk Pass, even better if it were all the way from Pocatera.
        I really have a craving for a much longer trail, preferably with camping.

  2. On my 2nd year of bicycle snow plowing I decided to try a fatbike. They definitely feel much different than a regular bike.

    My first rides were on snow packed roads, grassy fields with pockets of slush, deep puddles, and riding over curbs.

    There is this fatbike’s ability to go anywhere is so appealing. There is so much yet to learn about tire pressures and places to ride that are far away from angry motorists.

    Cyclists often have to fight for meager scraps of safe places to ride. The fatbike does what cities have failed to do for a very long time with badly maintained cycling infrastructure and that is creating places where people can cycle all winter long.

  3. Awesome article about fat tire bikes! Thank you for emphasizing the importance of riding on a nice day. Someone just getting into riding can be discouraged by bad weather!

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