In Boulder, you can ride all year. Even if it’s snowing or icy, even if it’s freezing out, many of Boulder’s public trails and backroads remain open. And that’s when the fat bikes come out to play.
Fat bikes, named for their extra-wide tires that can maneuver on all kinds of terrain (from muddy to snowy), are ideal for winter through springtime, before the sunshine dries out the ground. Especially in the mountains, where weather conditions may be more extreme. The low-pressure tires make the bike feel like it’s floating over snow.
But you can enjoy fat bikes year-round, too. The wide tires can also assist with riding on gravel, rocky and sandy pathways and bumpy terrain. Some people commute to work on fat bikes.
Other benefits: Fat bikes can keep you active and outdoors all year, which might be able to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Fat bikes can help build balance, core strength and leg muscles and burn a lot of calories; it takes energy and extra pedaling (no pavement gliding here!) to push the bike through the snow.
Fat bikes tend to move slower than a road bike, and they make different demands on the body, as the unpredictable trail features varying conditions. Especially with winter rides, you never know exactly what the weather and conditions will bring. Fat bikes feel different than mountain biking, too, and can be useful cross-training for warm-weather mountain bike rides.
Take Out a Fat Bike Ride
If you’re new to fat biking and aren’t sure where to go, how to prepare or just visiting town, you may benefit from a guided tour. Sacred Rides Boulder, 4580 Broadway, offers guided bike tours that can be customized for your abilities and interests. Sacred Rides used to be called Fernie Fat-Tire Adventures.
Front Range Ride Guides also offers custom mountain bike and fat bike tours of the Boulder area. This outfitter offers winter fat biking tours and is dedicated to off-road riding.
Also check out the mountain bike skills clinics, brewery tours, family outings and group rides. You may be able to find group rides departing from the Boulder Cycle Sport Outlet, 629 S. Broadway. These rides are more independent than an outdoor tour; riders should be comfortable with intermediate trails, be dressed properly, have their own repair kits and be prepared. If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one from Boulder Cycle Sport Outlet.
You can find fat bike rentals at many other bike stores, too, such as Full Cycle. Note: Ask about bikes with wider tires (if you can find four inches, that is generally preferred). Also, take tire pressure into consideration. You can typically run these bikes with a really low psi, but the exact pressure that you prefer may require a bit of trial and error on the trails.
If you’re especially experienced or just want to watch the action, look for fat bike races, like the annual Aspen Fat Bike Race in February.
Know Your Lane
Make sure you know proper etiquette before floating the trails. (On that note, stay on the trails to protect nature and keep yourself safe.)
If you run across other people off-bike, whether snowshoers, hikers or cross-country skiers, the bike is expected to yield (even if you’re going uphill).
It’s best not to ride on trails that are super wet, soft and muddy. Not only because it will be challenging, but also because it can carve deep grooves and holes into the trail, making it dangerous for others.
Make sure you are well-packed before heading out. Dress in layers with a quick-drying base layer.
Depending on how cold it gets and how far you are going, you may want to bring hand or foot warmers, extra socks, extra clothes, a lighter, small blanket and water in an insulated bottle that won’t freeze over. You may even want to pack a warm beverage, like hot tea. Your phone may also lose battery quicker when it’s cold, so keep it in a warm, dry place.
Where to Ride
You can find trails great for fat bikes across the Front Range, and increasingly more ski resorts and Nordic centers welcome fat bikes on certain trails, but here are a few tips and ideas to help you plan your ride.
Fresh, fluffy snow isn’t ideal. Packed-down trails are much better.
In Boulder County, Hall Ranch and Picture Rock, both in Lyons, may be good trails. Another nearby: Heil Ranch’s singletrack. The hills are not too extreme, and the terrain isn’t overly technical.
Connect with Other Fattys
Get more tips on riding fat bikes in Boulder County by joining the various local groups. Here, you can find group rides, carpools, demos, sales, bike reviews, trail conditions and more. Check the Front Range Fattys, the NoCo Fattys and the Colorado Fat Bike Facebook page.